On Tuesday Dirk Koetter spoke to the media for his first post-practice press conference as a head coach, admitting that he was a little “nervous in a good way” but anxious more than anything else to get started.
The Buccaneers began their three-day minicamp prior to May OTAs, an opportunity granted only to teams with a new head coach. These practices, Koetter said, will give the Bucs an advantage heading into OTAs, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where the staff is entirely different from last year.
“This has been great for defensive players and coaches,” Koetter said. “If you were out there, the offense can go pretty fast right now because it’s not new. It’s all the same terminology. The defense has to catch up; they’re learning a new language as far as communication.”
Koetter explained that they would use this period to work on Phase 3 of their program, before shifting back to position meetings and lighter on-field exercises (Phase 2) during OTAs, which leads up to training camp. Voluntary minicamp is simply a break in the normal offseason routine for players to apply what they’ve learned from the new system in recent days onto the practice field. And although it’s brief, Tampa Bay will take it seriously and look to get as much out of it as possible.
“Just improvement,” Koetter said, asked what he’ll mainly be looking for over the three-day period. “As I’ve said, we have a new defensive system going in and a new special teams system. For our defensive coaches and players to be able to have that experience – those three practices and two walkthroughs – that’s going to help us so much.”
Tuesday’s session, as expected, resembled a team that was just getting back to playing football and working on basic technique. But it was a start.
“I’m not sure we were well-oiled today, but we’re going to work towards that,” Koetter said. “This is just a minicamp in shorts. Nobody is going to win or lose today, but we’re making progress to where we need to get to.”
Having a general understanding of the system and being able to install the playbook by training camp would be ideal progress.
One aspect of the April practice that already felt like training camp was the weather. Koetter said that they would be particularly conscientious of the temperature, for the purpose of limiting the amount of cramping and keeping players fresh for game days.
While sessions throughout the summer and fall will be up-tempo – which Koetter says, “Makes the players communicate and pay attention” – the Bucs can expect a lighter physical workload in the 90-plus degree weather.
“I think just in general we need to work smart,” Koetter said. “One of the reasons we need to work smart, which may also mean short, is because of the conditions we have here. When it’s warm out there, we need to have our guys’ fresh on game day and not kill them during the week. I’ll monitor volume very closely and keep a real close eye on that.”
Already without free agent addition guard J.R. Sweezy, who will miss OTAs before returning to the field for training camp, the Bucs had a mini-scare when Mike Evans cramped up towards the end of practice; though Koetter seemed confident that it wasn’t serious and that Evans would be back at full health by Wednesday. It was the first day of organized practice, after all, and guys are just getting back into playing-shape.
“If you’ve ever put a helmet on on an 85-degree day, it’s a little bit different feeling,” Koetter said. “I’m not exactly sure what happened to Mike at the end there, but they told me it wasn’t serious. I’m sure he’ll be good to go for tomorrow.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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