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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for their Sunday morning training camp practice at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in just helmets, jerseys and shorts. Head coach Jon Gruden gave the players some rest from the pads after seven consecutive days.
There was some cloud cover over the practice field, but the sun did manage to make an appearance several times during workout. The weather remained hot and humid, with a slight breeze to cool down the spectators.
Tampa Bay linebackers Derrick Brooks, Ryan Nece, fullback Mike Alstott and guard Davin Joseph were once again the practice captains and led the Bucs in calisthenics to start the workout.
For the second consecutive day, offensive tackle Luke Petitgout was very limited on the field, basically doing some running during warm-ups. He then became a spectator. Safety Sabby Piscitelli, linebacker Barrett Ruud and defensive tackle Ryan Sims were also spectators for Sunday’s practice. Wide receiver Joey Galloway got a normal day off for rest during training camp.
With Petitgout out, offensive lineman Anthony Davis was back at left tackle and rookie Aaron Sears was at left guard. Sears and Davis have taken advantage of their opportunity to work together on the left side of the offensive line and are starting to gel in that role.
With the competition for starting spots on the left side of the offensive line wide open, Sears and Davis just might be starting together when the Bucs travel to Seattle for the season opener.
“Anything is possible right now,” Gruden said.
After stretching concluded, players broke to different sections of the field to work on individual drills. The running backs ran through the gauntlet getting nailed with blocking pads as they run down the line. There were no fumbles during the drills as the backs kept the ball close to their vest.
The tight ends were working on the cone drill and were putting their hand down on the ground to simulate keeping their balance in the open field. Jerramy Stevens and Alex Smith looked smooth during the drill, but Anthony Becht looked like an eight-year veteran. Becht struggled in the cone drill with putting his hand down on the ground, but made it through the drill.
The wide receivers worked on the strip drill with players coming from behind trying to strip the ball. Wide receiver Maurice Stovall was the only player to fumble during the strip drill. The wide receivers also worked on the balance drill, jumping over pads that were laying on the ground and catching the ball.
A new drill was implemented a couple of days ago for the receivers and was used again on Sunday. The wide receivers jump on one foot over the pads and must catch the ball as they are coming down over the last pad. Receiver Chad Owens dropped two balls during the different drills.
The offensive line worked on the two-man sled just as they did on Saturday morning with the same quick hands drill, forearm shivers and goal line work. The offensive line also worked on blocking their initial man and then breaking off to the second level of defenders.
The key to a good running game and successful offensive line is the ability to get the running back to the second level of defenders. If the Bucs can get their offensive linemen to the second level of defenders, it will mean more running room for running backs Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman.
During warm-ups, Gruden was seen jogging over to watch the defensive side of the ball. Gruden has made a constant effort during this training camp to watch many defensive sessions. Gruden spent the entire warm-up period with the defense carefully watching every drill.
Quarterback Chris Simms did some more throwing in warm-ups and individual drills, but saw no action in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Simms looked good throwing the ball early in warm-ups and then had a couple of bad throws at the end of the drill. One of his passes was snagged by Stovall with a nice one-handed catch.
Simms was seen after practice throwing different routes to three different receivers in running back Kenneth Darby and WRs Kyle Smith and Jovon Bouknight. Gruden spent more than 10 minutes watching Simms throw passes before he chatted with the media. Simms showed some signs of returning to the form than he had before his spleen injury last season. However, Simms will have to start translating that kind of accuracy to the practice field.
During the offensive installation period, Gruden was very vocal, barking out comments to his receivers. During a drill that was practicing running out patterns to the sideline – what Gruden calls a gimme pass pattern – Gruden said, “I don’t even want the ball to hit the ground, these routes are a given”.
In the same drill, Gruden yelled to Stovall and wide receiver Michael Clayton, “You have to come off the ball”. The offense began running slant routes and Gruden told the receivers, “If you can’t run the slant, then you can’t play in this league”.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia connected with wide receiver Chad Lucas for a deep pass pattern down the middle of the field during this drill. Lucas, however, had to slow up on his route to catch the pass from Garcia.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers worked on a couple of trick plays to wrap up the installation period. One play was a direct snap to running back Michael Pittman, who threw back across to Garcia, who hit wide receiver David Boston with a deep pass heading toward the sideline.
The second play was a handoff to Clayton, who was coming in motion, and he threw the ball to wide receiver Mark Jones. However, Clayton hasn’t thrown the football much in his career and this pass was a wounded duck. The pass didn’t even reach Jones, who was 20 yards down the field.
The wide receivers and cornerbacks matched glares during a one-on-one drill and the cornerbacks never gave in. Cornerback Brian Kelly did a good job of breaking on an out route by Boston and was inches away from an interception. Kelly did knock the ball away, keeping Boston from making the reception.
Rookie safety Tanard Jackson, who stands at 6 feet tall, took on 6-foot-5 wide receiver Chas Gessner and was able to go up and knock the ball out of Gessner’s hands on a pass from Simms. The ball was underthrown by Simms and Gessner had to slow up on his route to try and make a play on the ball.
Stovall drew some cheers from the crowd when he went up against veteran cornerback Ronde Barber. Stovall ran an out pattern to the far sideline and quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw the ball high to the sideline. Stovall, using his size and leaping ability, was able to go up and make the catch while getting both feet down before going out of bounds.
There was a comical moment given by wide receiver Ike Hilliard during the one-on-one drill with the cornerbacks and wide receivers. A flag was thrown by one of the referees that are out at Bucs practice on one of the routes run by Hilliard. On his way back to the huddle, Hilliard grabbed the flag and proceeded to wipe his backside with it and throw it back to the referees.
Second-year cornerback Alan Zemaitis received most of the reps with the second team on Sunday and had mixed reviews. Simms found Bouknight, who was covered by Zemaitis, down the seam with a pass that hit him right in the hands, but he couldn’t bring it in. Zemaitis was burned on a deep sideline route by wide receiver Chad Lucas, who ran right by Zemaitis to catch the Garcia pass.
Zemaitis made up for his early showing in practice during the 7-on-7 drill toward the end of practice. Zemaitis knocked down a pass from Garcia to Gessner and tipped a pass that was thrown by Gradkowski to wide receiver Chad Owens.
The special teams worked out with punter Josh Bidwell looking consistent as he has the entire training camp and Matt Bryant making up for his miserable showing on Saturday. Bryant made 2-of-3 field goal attempts from 45 yards out. Bryant was seen practicing the pooch kick and put it to use on what seemed to be a 50-yard field goal attempt. Bryant did a good job of landing the ball inside the 5-yard line.
During the punting session of special teams work, wide receivers Chad Owens and Mark Jones were catching punts. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who received work at wide receiver again on Sunday, was also catching punts.
Quarterback Luke McCown continues to take advantage of his opportunities and remains impressive throwing the football. McCown took most of the snaps with the second team offense and keeps getting more and more reps from head coach Jon Gruden. The only mistake that McCown had was an interception by safety Will Allen after the ball was tipped by Barber.
Gradkowski ran the two-minute drill at the end of practice with the third team offense. Gradkowski found wide receiver Chad Lucas across the middle of the field as Lucas made a nice sliding catch in traffic. Lucas caught every pass that was thrown to him on Sunday and Gruden took notice.
“He has impressed me and he’s a young guy that can run, we got him on our practice squad last year,” Gruden said. “When Joey Galloway doesn’t go he emulates him pretty good. He can run fast, he’s playing more physical and he’s making plays on the ball. At the end of the day that’s what we need. We need guys that make the acrobatic play every once in a while and he clearly did that a couple times today.”
The punt team and the first team offense ran drills at the goal line with noise incorporated to get used to a raucous crowd on the road. During the goal line drill, Allen knocked away a pass that was intended for Becht.
As practice was winding down, Sims was seen pushing one of the many golf carts that are used to carry footballs, Gatorade buckets or blocking pads. He was pushing the cart as though it was a blocking sled.
After practice concluded, head coach Jon Gruden and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Executive Vice President Bryan Glazer presented six grants on behalf of the Glazer Family Foundation totaling more than $26,000. When interacting with Justin Johnson, who was representing Canine Companions for Independence of Orlando, Gruden gave the youngster, who was in a wheelchair, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers visor that he wore on Sunday.
Gruden showed a softer side of himself when meeting with five other representatives that were there to accept the grant awards.
“That’s another thing that kind of puts things into perspective for you,” Gruden said.
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