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Tampa Bay took the field at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex for a practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets on Wednesday afternoon.

Several players sat out the afternoon practice today, including wide receivers Joey Galloway (rest) and Michael Clayton (turf toe), offensive tackles Torrin Tucker (knee) and Kenyatta Walker (knee), cornerback Juran Bolden (rest) and defensive end Charles Bennett (hamstring). Cornerback Brian Kelly (unknown) did not attend either practice today.

Because Kelly and Bolden were out today, Torrie Cox, who has been having a solid camp and is the favorite to beat out James Patrick for a roster spot, started opposite Ronde Barber this afternoon. Rookie Alan Zemaitis was the nickel back this afternoon.

Guard Toniu Fonoti is showing no ill effects from a sprained ankle that sidelined him earlier in the week. There was no limping or favoring his ankle as he fully participated in all periods at practice today.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was a bit irritable today with certain players, and one that he singled out was wide receiver Paris Warren, who is in an uphill battle for a roster spot with such depth at the position. Warren was running a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone and gave up on the route just as quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was progressing through his reads and found him.

“Don’t stop running, man,” Gruden said. “Hells bells! Don’t stop running. Urban Meyer wouldn’t tolerate that and neither will I!”

Gruden, who briefly turned into “Chucky,” was referring to Meyer, the head coach of the Florida Gators and Warren’s former coach at Utah in 2004.

Backup fullback Carey Davis was a surprise ballcarrier in a couple of instances on Wednesday afternoon. The Bucs were practicing fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line and Davis lined up at halfback with Mike Alstott as the lead blocker. Davis scored behind the block of Fonoti.

On the next play, the Bucs offense and defense switched places and the offense was backed up on their own 1-yard line and had to blast the ball forward. Again, Alstott was the lead blocker for Davis, who was able to punch the ball out to the 2-yard line.

Davis was a darkhorse at the backup fullback spot heading into training camp, but neither Rick Razzano nor Jerald Sowell, who was practicing as the personal protector on punts on Wednesday afternoon, has done enough to put a stranglehold on the position yet. The most versatile fullback who excels on special teams will ultimately win that job. But as of right now, no one is coming close to filling Jameel Cook’s shoes.

Just when you think Tampa Bay’s receivers are cleaning up their act, a few of them disappoint you by dropping passes. Bucs WR David Boston dropped a routine pass while running a slant pattern in warm-ups, and WR Ike Hilliard dropped a pass from Gradkowski down the left sideline. Hilliard did a great job of getting himself open against Zemaitis, but he lost his concentration and dropped the ball.

Bucs rookie WR Maurice Stovall is one tough dude to cover. He’s got a huge frame (6-5, 220) and tremendous leaping ability. On one play during an 11-on-11 session, Stovall out-jumped safety Dwight Ellick in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Stovall made it look easy. The Bucs called quite a few “U Stoval” packages, which called for the Bucs to have two tight ends, two backs and a receiver (Stovall) on the field with the offensive linemen and the quarterback.

The Bucs dedicated most of Wednesday afternoon’s practice to scout team work as they continue to prepare for the Jets. If Wednesday afternoon’s workout is any indication, Tampa Bay’s defense should come out firing on all cylinders on Friday night.

With Bucs QB Jared Allen operating the scout team offense, Tampa Bay’s first-team defense dominated the 11-on-11 session. Defensive end Simeon Rice worked his way past tackle Scott Jackson to sack Allen on two consecutive plays, and DE Dewayne White also sacked Allen during the drill.

Tampa Bay’s first-team offense fared well against the scout team defense. Bucs QB Chris Simms was throwing passes mostly off of three-step drops, which might be wise since rookie tackle Jeremy Trueblood will be charged with the important task of blocking his blind side on passing plays on Friday night.

Gradkowski was pretty productive off of play-action on Wednesday afternoon. During the 11-on-11 goal line session, Gradkowski pulled off a great play-action fake and threw a perfect strike to rookie tight end Tim Massaqoui in the back of the end zone for a score.

The rookie signal caller executed another great play-action play call a few plays later by rolling out to his left and hitting TE Anthony Becht, who was covered by linebacker Marquis Cooper, in the end zone for a touchdown.

Bucs WR Chas Gessner bailed Gradkowski out during a 7-on-7 session by making a great catch on a ball thrown well over his head in the middle of the field for a big gain. Gessner has made some incredible catches in camp thus far.

Believe it or not, Tampa Bay was using the shotgun formation during Wednesday afternoon’s practice. But don’t get your hopes up, Bucs fans. The scout team offense, led by Allen, who was impersonating New York QB Chad Pennington, was using the shotgun since the Jets use this formation in their offense.

Allen’s best play came off of a bootlget in an 11-on-11 session when he hit newly signed TE Leonard Stephens, who had beaten Zemaitis on a crossing route, for a 12-yard gain. But from there, things got rough for Allen, who had a pass intended for Warren intercepted by CB James Patrick.

Safety Steve Cargile did a great job of sniffing out Allen’s pass in the flat to Davis, who would have been lit up on the play had the pads been on. Barber nearly intercepted a pass thrown by Allen that was intended for WR Derek McCoy during an 11-on-11 session.

Tampa Bay spent a lot of time working on personnel packages and substitutions, and the players seemed to have a very good understanding of what was going on. That’s obviously a plus since the Bucs are just two days away from playing their first preseason game of the year.


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 PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com 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: sr@pewterreport.com
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