After having their morning practice cancelled by head coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers took to the fields at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex for a one-hour special teams practice on Friday afternoon.
The practice, which featured the players in shorts, jerseys and helmets, was held under cloudy skies and a steady rain. The team had about half of its players and coaches on the field while some of the key veterans were left behind at Celebration Hotel for film study, meetings, treatment and rest.
Bucs special teams coordinator/running backs coach Richard Bisaccia led the practice and had assistance from linebackers coach Gus Bradley and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. The players were required to run through the special teams drills at half and full speed, and not tackling was involved.
While the players stretched and began the special teams practice, Bucs quarterbacks coach Greg Olson and QBs Chris Simms and rookie Josh Johnson worked together over on the far field.
Simms and Johnson, who have received a limited amount of reps in training camp thus far, threw passes to wide receivers Chad Lucas and rookie Dexter Jackson for about one hour while the special teams practice was taking place.
Oddly enough, Jackson, whom Tampa Bay used a second-round pick to select in April and is projected to be the team's primary return specialist while he learns the receiver position, did not field punts or kickoffs this afternoon. Jackson has also been limited in fielding punts and kickoffs during practice over the last couple of days.
Instead, WR Micheal Spurlock, cornerback Phillip Buchanon and running back Clifton Smith have been fielding the majority of punts and kickoffs.
Before Bucs fans read too much into this, it's important to note that in previous years the Bucs have not given a lot of work to their primary return specialists during select practices. This might just be a case of the Bucs wanting to give Jackson, who is considered raw at receiver, some more reps since he hasn't been getting a lot of reps at receiver in practice. Pewter Report is in the process of trying to determine whether that is the case with Jackson.
Spurlock, who became the first Buccaneer to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown in a regular season game with his 90-yard return for a score vs. Atlanta last year, fielded quite a few kickoffs and punts this afternoon, but he dropped one punt during the special teams practice.
Tampa Bay's first-team punt coverage unit consisted of punter Josh Bidwell, long snapper Andrew Economos, linebacker Ryan Nece (personal protector), safety Donte Nicholson, tight end John Gilmore, linebacker Adam Hayward, tight end Alex Smith, defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, linebacker Quincy Black, wide receiver Maurice Stovall and safety Tanard Jackson.
Rookie cornerback Aqib Talib and Buchanon subbed in quite a bit with Stovall as gunners.
The Bucs' kickoff return unit consisted of kicker Matt Bryant, Nicholson, Nece, Hayward, Wilkerson, Smith, Gilmore, fullback Byron Storer, Stovall and Spurlock.
Stovall and Buchanon took turns serving as the lead blockers on kickoff returns. Clayton is also in the mix as a lead blocker on kickoff returns.
Tampa Bay's starting kickoff coverage unit was made up of Buchanon, Jackson, Hayward, Nicholson, Wilkerson, Stovall, safety Will Allen, Nece, Gilmore, Black and Bryant.
Clayton, fullback Byron Storer and Spurlock rotated in with the starting kickoff coverage unit quite a bit.
The Buccaneers spent a significant amount of time working on onside kickoffs with Bryant and the recovery process with its players. Hayward and linebacker Matt McCoy stood out in terms of their ability to recover onside kicks.
Tampa Bay also spent some time working on fake punts. Per NFL credential rules, we cannot share the details of those particular plays, but what we can tell you is Bidwell displayed a fairly accurate arm this afternoon.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen endured the rain to watch the special teams practice from the field on Friday afternoon. It was interesting to see him watch the punt team closely, but really no surprise since Allen entered the NFL as a punter in the 12th round of the 1978 NFL Draft with the Baltimore Colts. Allen earned All-ECAC and All-South Independent honors during his junior year at the University of Richmond by breaking a school record with a 42.9-yard average.
Safety Sabby Piscitelli, who has a mild knee sprain, also watched Friday afternoon's special teams practice from the sideline. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Bucs are scheduled to conduct a two-hour practice in full pads at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Saturday morning for "Family Day." The team does not have an afternoon practice scheduled for Saturday.
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