Tampa Bay took the field at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista on Wednesday morning for a two-hour practice in full pads.
Weather conditions were hot and humid with clear skies and temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s.
Bucs cornerback Juran Bolden, who was held out of consecutive practices with an undisclosed injury, returned to practice on Wednesday morning.
Defensive end Charles Bennett (hamstring) still is out, and veteran cornerback Ronde Barber and defensive end Simeon Rice were given the morning session off.
Tampa Bay’s practice was quite spirited, starting with a team gathering in the middle of the closest field after calisthenics. The players did a Ray Lewis-type chant/dance for a few minutes before breaking off into their respective positions for individual warm-ups.
Bucs quarterback Tim Rattay hasn’t had a great training camp, but he might have had his best effort on Wednesday morning. During warm-ups, Rattay threw a beautiful pass down the right sideline to wide receiver Edell Shepherd for a 30-yard gain. During a 7-on-7 drill, Rattay threw a nice pass down the right seam to rookie tight end Tim Massaquoi, who surprisingly had beaten Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks by a few steps. Still, a few of Rattay’s passes fell short of his receivers, especially in the flat.
Starting QB Chris Simms continues to show that he’s the best signal caller on the team. He’s really improved his skills as a play-action passer and fooled Tampa Bay’s entire defense in the 11-on-11 session by faking the handoff to Cadillac Williams and launching a pass deep downfield to WR Michael Clayton, who had beaten cornerback Justin Phinisee. However, Simms’ pass was just out of the reach of Clayton’s fingertips. During an 11-on-11 session in red zone drills, Simms made a bad decision by forcing a pass to WR Paris Warren, who was covered by Bolden. Bolden nearly intercepted the poor pass from Simms.
But Simms made up for this near-mishap later in an 11-on-11 red zone drill when he threw a perfect fade into the right corner of the end zone for WR David Boston, who did a great job of hauling in the perfectly thrown against Bolden.
The Bucs have really been working on moving Simms around more. He ran several bootlegs on Wednesday morning. Simms appears to be comfortable running these plays as he completed several passes while scrambling.
While he’s still making progress, rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski hasn’t been as sharp over the past few practices. During a 7-on-7 drill, he threw a pass into the flat that was nearly intercepted by Bolden, who is showing great instincts and is having a phenomenal camp.
With Tampa Bay’s players taking the afternoon session off to see the movie “Invincible,” Bucs WRs Joey Galloway and David Boston both participated in the morning session.
Both Galloway and Boston had impressive practices. During a 7-on-7 drill, Galloway appeared to do a nice job of breaking off a route and catching a short pass near the sideline from Simms. However, Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly and Brooks felt Galloway pushed off and questioned the official who was standing on the sideline right near the play.
“That’s unsportsmanlike,” Kelly said smiling.
Kelly walked over to the official and pulled the yellow flag off of his belt and threw it, and then proceeded to walk over and grab the flag and hand it back to the official as both of them laughed.
Fullback Jerald Sowell received a significant amount of reps and hauled in several passes on Wednesday morning. Sowell has soft hands and is fairly quick with the ball in his hands.
Second-year FB Rick Razzano is challenging Sowell for a roster spot, but he needs to hold onto the football if he’s going to stand a chance of making the team. It seems like Razzano has dropped more passes than the number he’s caught in camp, and he dropped another easy one in the flat during a 7-on-7 drill.
By giving his players the afternoon off, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden had high expectations for the morning practice. He was quite vocal throughout the workout.
At one point, Gruden started riding the offensive line, particularly first-round pick, guard Davin Joseph.
“Let’s go, Davin Joseph,” Gruden yelled as the offensive linemen walked to the line of scrimmage.
Joseph responded by pancaking defensive tackle Kevin Lewis on the next play in 11-on-11 drills. Joseph also showed his strength by opening up a hole for Cadillac Williams in an 11-on-11 red zone drill.
Joseph wasn’t the only player Gruden got on during the morning practice. Tight end Matt Kranchick felt the wrath of Gruden during a 7-on-7 drill after he failed to look for a pass from rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski in a timely manner on a three-step drop. Gradkowski was forced to dump the ball off to his second option on the play, which irked Gruden.
“It’s a 382 three-step drop,” Gruden yelled to the tight end in frustration. “One, two three. Come off the [expletive] ball. Please.”
Bucs backup left guard Toniu Fonoti had a decent practice. He was quite effective pulling as was starting right guard Jeb Terry.
Bucs running backs Cadillac Williams and Derek Watson found some nice holes to run through during the morning session. However, Watson needs to do a better job of securing the football. Watson did a nice job of catching passes and making yards after the catch this morning. He fumbled in an 11-on-11 session after Brooks popped him pretty good.
Tampa Bay held a brief special teams session during this morning’s practice. Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia focused primarily on substitutions and having the field goal unit run onto the field to attempt a last-second field goal. The drill didn’t start off pretty as several players were out of place, which disappointed Bisaccia.
“That’s why we’re doing this – because you’re not listening!” Bisaccia said. ”
The Bucs cleaned up their act in this department on the next few attempts. Once they got the personnel packages right, the Bucs attempted some field goals.
Kicker Xavier Beitia was 2-of-2 in this session. In fact, Gruden said after Wednesday’s practice that he doesn’t think Bietia has missed a field goal yet. Bucs K Matt Bryant drilled his first field goal attempt. The team decided to make it even more of a challenge on his second try by having assistant to head coach Jon Gruden Paul Kelly blow the horn as Bryant lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt, which fell just short.
Tampa Bay middle linebacker Shelton Quarles turns 35 in September, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him on Wednesday morning. Quarles was outstanding, especially against the run, where he blew up several plays throughout practice. Barrett Ruud is having a good camp, but Quarles doesn’t look like he’s ready to give up his starting job just yet.
Brooks made up for the pass he allowed Massaquoi to haul in earlier in practice by making a great read on a receiver in 7-on-7 drills, which drew praise from defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Gruden.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Kiffin said.
Added Gruden: “That’s why he’s getting paid millions of dollars.”
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan jumped offsides during an 11-on-11 session, but the coaching staff didn’t need to get in his ear as he cursed at himself the entire time leading up to the next play.
In addition to Bolden’s pick earlier in the practice, cornerback James Patrick and safety Donte Nicholson made impressive pass breakups during 7-on-7 drills. Bucs starting FS Will Allen did a nice job of defending the run and pass in the 11-on-11 red zone drill, and S Kalvin Pearson managed to sniff out a reverse to WR Mark Jones in this same session.
Bucs DE Dewayne White, who was playing at right end in place of Rice, had a good showing. He was quick off the edge and fared quite well against the run, which is what he needs to do on a consistent basis in order to unseat Greg Spires at the starting left end job.
Tampa Bay saved the best for last on Wednesday morning when it held a goal line period toward the latter part of practice. This session, which called for Tampa Bay’s offense to line up at its own 1-yard line and drive itself out of the end zone, was easily one of the most entertaining of Bucs training camp this year.
With the offensive players’ backs facing toward the bleachers in the back of the end zone, Gruden’s assistant, Paul Kelly, got the crowd to give the defense a homefield advantage by throwing his arm up in the air and getting the fans on hand to make some noise.
The crowd noise worked. Bucs rookie right tackle Jeremy Trueblood false started on the first play, and Gradkowski was forced to call a timeout on the very next play with hundreds of fans behind him screaming and pounding their feet on the bleachers.
Despite the fact that his offense was struggling, Gruden helped to get the crowd into it by raising his arm in hopes that the crowd would make even more noise.
Gradkowski didn’t fare much better on the next play when his pass was tipped by Ruud, who caused the incompletion.
Even with all the crowd noise, the offense did have some success. Cadillac Williams broke off a big run through a hole opened by Joseph and Trueblood.
Tampa Bay is scheduled to hold a two-hour practice in pads on Thursday morning followed by a special teams workout in the afternoon.
Visit BucGear.com today to view and choose from the largest selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers merchandise in the world.