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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held one public practice on Sunday, which took place at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. Tampa Bay practiced in shells (shoulder pads, helmets, jerseys and shorts) under hot and sunny conditions.

Several members of the Bucs were held out of today’s practice, including safety Will Allen (fractured thumb), who was wearing a cast, defensive end Charles Benett (hamstring), offensive tackles Kenyatta Walker (knee) and Torrin Tucker (knee), nose tackle Chris Hovan (rest) and wide receiver David Boston (rest).

Running back Michael Pittman (tooth) and tight end Alex Smith (hamstring) returned to practice this morning and participated fully in all periods.

After stretching and calisthenics, the offensive line, tight ends and quarterbacks raced to the seven-man blocking sled to work out in front of the crowd this morning. Offensive line coach Bill Muir and head coach Jon Gruden wanted the unit to get to the line quickly, call the play quickly and fire off the ball as soon as it was snapped.

Muir and Gruden were furious when an unidentified lineman got out of his stance too soon and was flagged for a false start.

“You’ve got to concentrate!” Gruden screamed. “Have some poise and some confidence in what we are doing.”

I spent the first part of practice watching the skeleton passing drills, which means that there was no defensive players present. In the training camp practices I have watched this year, the execution of the wide receivers today was probably the best it has been since camp began on July 28. The receivers were running crisp routes and catching every pass. In the skeleton period, not one pass hit the ground that I could see.

The quarterbacks, especially Chris Simms, were also dead on. Simms was in a zone during the skeleton period, and that carried over into 1-on-1’s and the 7-on-7 drills.

The Bucs were installing the plays and formations during the skeleton period for use in 11-on-11 drills, and even mixed in the “Rocket” backfield of Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman. The “Rocket” personnel grouping consists of two halfbacks, one tight end and two receivers.

Simms and the quarterbacks spent part of the skeleton period working on audibles and hand signals with the wide receivers.

Edell Shepherd made some great catches in individual, 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods. His concentration level was off the charts and he had a sensational practice. Michael Clayton was also quite today in terms of running routes and catching the ball. It seemed as if Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks and wide receivers were feeding off each other this morning. The more catches they made, the more accurate the quarterbacks became.

In 1-on-1’s, Shepherd made a great, full-extension sideline grab in front of cornerback Ronde Barber, which prompted receivers coach Richard Mann to say, “Like Fred Astaire, Edell!” after Shepherd just got his feet down in bounds.

Just when you think that Maurice Stovall seems poised to earn some serious playing time during his initial NFL season, he’ll line up in the wrong spot or run the wrong route. That’s to be expected, though, as he is a rookie. It doesn’t happen too often, but it happens too often for Gruden’s liking. The bottom line is that if Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard and David Boston know the plays better, Stovall will have to wait his turn to get on the field.

Stovall did win two battles against Patrick and rookie cornerback Alan Zemaitis. Zemaitis recovered though, and jammed Chas Gessner at the line of scrimmage and provided great coverage on that particular play. Some have called Zemaitis a Barber clone, but in actuality, he is really a Brian Kelly clone. At 6-foot-1, Zemaitis more closely resembles the 5-foot-11 Kelly, and he has an impressive, line-of-scrimmage jam, just like Kelly has.

During the 1-on-1 session between receivers and defensive backs, the receivers put on a clinic. The defensive backs, for the most part, weren’t playing fast enough and were too cautious. That’s been the theme with cornerback James Patrick, who does not make enough plays. Even Derek McCoy, who won’t make the team, beat Patrick badly in 1-on-1’s.

Because of Patrick’s inability to make plays and rookie Justin Phinisee’s inconsistency, Torrie Cox has the edge on winning the fifth cornerback spot. Cox is having a very good camp, but struggled a little bit today.

Because he is a gifted pass-catcher, running back Michael Pittman joined the receivers in the 1-on-1’s and lined up wide. Pittman made several nice catches in front of cornerback Juran Bolden, and juked Cox on a stop-and-go route, although Cox recovered quickly. The problem was that Pittman wound up dropping the pass.

Phinisee got schooled by Clayon on a nice out-and-up move that produced a touchdown.

New cornerback Dwight Ellick drew a pass interference call when he got his hand up in the face of receiver Terrence Stubbs and then tripped him up as the pass was coming to him.

The one thing I have noticed is that defensive backs coach Greg Burns is much more quiet and reserved than the confident, fiery Mike Tomlin was. It doesn’t seem like he’s doing as much coaching out there as Tomlin used to, but to be fair, this is Burns’ first training camp with the Bucs and he needs time to find his way.

However, in talking to some players, they are responding coolly to Burns’ coaching style, which leads Pewter Report to believe that he has not completely won over the defensive backs room yet. This situation bears watching as the Bucs head into the 2006 season.

In 11-on-11 drills, Barber made a nice pass breakup on a ball intended for Stovall, who waited for the ball instead of going towards it.

After a butt-chewing from Gruden and tight ends coach Ron Middleton in 7-on-7 drills, rookie tight end Tim Massaquoi had a nice run after the catch in the 11-on-11 period.

The backup fullback battle continues to be interesting as veteran Jerald Sowell showed off his receiving skills and run-after-catch ability today, while Rick Razzano continues to perform well on special teams as Tampa Bay’s personal protector.

Punter Josh Bidwell launched some missiles this morning as the Bucs were practicing kicking into the red zone. Several of Bidwell’s kicks landed inside the 5-yard line. Hilliard and Mark Jones were the punt returners, who were either fielding the punts inside the 10-yard line or letting them go into the end zone.

In 7-on-7 drills near the end of practice, middle linebacker Barrett Ruud made some phenomenal plays in coverage, which drew heavy praise and high-fives from linebackers coach Joe Barry.

After some initial struggles against the blitz in 11-on-11 drills, Simms regained his rhythm in the 7-on-7 drills and threw two touchdown bombs to Gessner and Galloway. Gessner outraced Cox and safety Steve Cargile and made a great play on the ball near the goal line. That play got the crowd going.

Because of his physical resemblance to former fan favorite wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, the 6-foot-5 Gessner is developing quite a following at training camp with the fans.

Simms’ pass to Galloway was actually overthrown a little bit, but after blowing past Cox and safety Donte Nicholson, Galloway turned on the jets and made a fingertip touchdown grab.

Clayton and Shepherd ran great routes and made some outstanding catches during the 7-on-7 session, but the catch of the day goes to the 5-foot-9 Jones, who became a skywalker to make a leaping catch over Phinisee. Jones must have jumped two-three feet off the ground to make the grab over Phinisee’s shoulder.

The notable plays from the final 11-on-11 period were Clayton dropping what should have been an easy catch across the middle and Smith making a tough catch over the middle and then getting walloped by safety Blue Adams. The only problem for Adams was that 265-pound Smith got the better of the collision and that the safety was knocked backwards to the ground.

This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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