So much for the Lovie Smith philosophy about matching practice times with game times.
Rather than conditioning his team to the midday heat for early season home games, new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter is changing course. Tuesday’s first voluntary organized team activity session at One Buc Place began at 10:30 a.m. and morning start times will be the norm moving forward.
“We did a little study and in August when we’re out here it’s on average 11 degrees cooler at 8:45 [a.m.] than it is at 2:45 [p.m.],” Koetter said from the practice field, taking a moment to joke around with the situation as well. “So I did quick Idaho State math and I subtracted that out and said, ‘Geez, 11 degrees cooler, why don’t we practice in the morning?’ It didn’t take a brain surgeon. The last 10 years I’ve been coaching in the south, I really do believe there’s a cumulative effect over the course of a season from August until the end of the year when you’re out here – even if it’s for a walk-through at 12, 1, 2 and it’s 95 degrees and the sun’s beating on you. I just think there’s a cumulative effect. We’re going to do everything we can to try to chip away at that. There are some things you can’t get away from, but we’re going to do what we can.”
In terms of the former regime’s viewpoint that there’s an advantage to getting used to playing in the midday heat, Koetter believes his team’s saved-up energy holds more value.
“I think there might be something to that but I think you also have to pick your poison,” Koetter said. “I think everybody that says that probably doesn’t live in Tampa, Florida.”
When asked how long morning practice sessions will continue, Koetter said all the way up until the fourth and final preseason game.
Veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, speaking from an air conditioned press conference room a little later, said while the morning schedule is appreciated, it only does so much.
“It’s great and I’m excited about it because I’m one of those guys that prefers to get practice out of the way and then have the rest of the day instead of sitting around waiting to die, you know?” said McCoy, drawing some laughs from the Tampa media. “It’s like, just kill me now. But I think guys are really going to appreciate it. With me being here going on seven years and seeing the different times you can practice, I prefer to practice in the morning. But I tried to warn the guys who haven’t been here. Listen, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing that can prepare you for this. So be a professional and go at it.”
Considering on-field spring work is still just getting started, Koetter added that there are some extra things that can be done to help alleviate some of the heat stress, like portions without helmets, but only so much at times.
“That’s just one of those things that makes good common sense,” Koetter said regarding the helmets. “If you can get a couple 10-minute periods in there where those guys can get those hats off … you guys can all feel for yourself right now, it’s warm and this isn’t even humid yet. To get those helmets off for a couple periods, it just forces us to let them cool down for a little bit but still try to get some work in.”
Telling a full roster mixed with established veterans and undrafted rookies to dial it back, however, isn’t a quality solution.
“Easier said than done on that,” he said.” Any time you get 90 grown men going full speed on a football field I think it’s probably safer if everybody’s going the same speed than if some guys are trying to go [slower]. We try to manage the tempo and let them know what’s expected each period, but if you come out here and you’re fearing guys getting hurt, you’re in for disappointment, because it’s bound to happen at some point.”