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FAB 1. Bucs’ 20 Critical Camp General Questions

Despite this country – and the world – battling the effects of COVID-19, Buccaneers training camp is finally here somehow someway. I’ve got 20 Critical Camp Questions for the Bucs – and the answers – to help you get ready for Tampa Bay’s 2020 training camp, which will be held at the AdventHealth Training Center without any fans this August.

Let’s start with six general questions about the Buccaneers before we delve into six on offense and six on defense before concluding with a pair of special teams questions to round out this training camp preview in SR’s Fab 5.

1. Will The Bucs – And The NFL – Play A Full Season This Year?

Yes. There is too much money at stake for the NFL owners, NFL players and the broadcasting companies with the TV contracts and the advertising revenues that the NFL generates for those broadcasting stations and platforms for there not to be a 2020 season. The rest of America has learned how to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic to reopen the economy with precautions, and the NFL is no different with the testing and safety protocols the league and the NFL Players Association has put into place over the last month.

There will be players that miss some games this season due to positive COVID-19 tests. That’s a given, especially as some players, including Bucs rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, have already tested positive prior to the start of training camp. But head coach Bruce Arians is confident that the NFL – which will have reduced stadium attendance this year or no attendance at all in some stadiums – will be able to start and finish the 2020 season.

“I’m very confident,” Arians said. “Like I said, the protocols that are in place are extremely safe. It’s going to [take] coaches, players and staff being smart outside the building. Nobody is going to get sick over here because everybody’s got a negative test that’s in the building, so you’re going to get sick somewhere else. We’ve just got to have a lot of discipline this year and I have a lot of confidence we’ll get it done.”

The league can push the postseason back a week or two if necessary to have a makeup week should an NFL team have a severe COVID-19 outbreak that forces the postponement of a game or games during the season.

2. Will Arians Be Safe From COVID-19 This Season?

Yes. At age 68 and recovering from previous bouts with skin and prostate cancer, Arians is definitely a high-risk candidate for COVID-19 complications, should he acquire the coronavirus, but he feels very comfortable with the NFL-mandated safety precautions that the Bucs have enacted at the AdventHealth Training Center.

“I’m very comfortable with our protocols now that I’ve gotten used to the protocols,” Arians said. “I’m very, very comfortable with it. As far as on the field, I’ll maintain a mask and probably a shield just for personal use, and coach like I’ve always coached.”
On a Zoom conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Arians shared that he will continue to coach from the sideline and will not be coaching from the press box this year.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“No, there’s no chance of me coaching from a box,” Arians said. “Once we get a [face] shield that I like, I’ll have my mask and shield on. I won’t be able to spit on [the players when communicating with them] anyway.”

The offensive-minded Arians, who will work closely with new quarterback Tom Brady this year, also said that he never considered opting out for the 2020 season over COVID-19 concerns.

“There was never a doubt that I was going to coach, especially once I had seen the protocols and everything that’s taken place. Whether it was Tom or whoever the quarterback would be, I’m going to get excited. I really like our ball club. Knock on wood we can stay healthy this year and do the things we want to do. We want to get in the playoffs. Having Tom adds to the excitement, obviously, but I would have been all in either way.

“I’ve got my [contact tracing device] on right now. It tells me how close I am to anybody and is tracking. We’ve all got them. I think you’ve got to be smart. You’re not going to find me out at any of my favorite restaurants or bars, so you’re welcome to come over to the house. That’s about the only place I’ll be – in the office and in the house. You’ve got to be as safe as possible. It’s going to take a lot of discipline.”

3. Will Any Buccaneers Opt Out For 2020?

No. As of this writing, the Buccaneers have not heard from any of their players that are considering opting out over COVID-19 fears. This includes left tackle Donovan Smith, who just became a father to a newborn, as he hinted weeks ago on social media that he was weighing his decision. Smith has spoken with the team and told the Bucs that he will suit up as Brady’s blindside protector.

Smith and all other NFL players have until Tuesday, August 4 to decide whether they are going to opt out of the 2020 season over COVID-19. If Smith changes his mind, the Bucs have a contingency plan at left tackle.

“Well yeah, we’d work out a bunch of guys,” Arians said. “Joe Haeg has played over there. Tristan [Wirfs] could play over there. Brad Seaton [too] – we’ve got some guys that if he (Smith) decided not to play, we’d be ready to go.”

4. Will Any Undrafted Free Agents Make The Team This Year?

Yes, but there will be one player who makes it. Last year only one undrafted free agent – guard Zack Bailey – made the Bucs’ 53-man roster. With a largely veteran team returning intact with very few starting jobs up for grabs in Tampa Bay, don’t expect more than one undrafted free agent to make the initial 53-man roster to start the season – especially without the benefit of any preseason games.

“I think it’s definitely hurting the younger players – especially undrafted free agents, also,” Arians said. “In the past we’ve always had one or two make our club, especially on special teams. All the rookies missed over 400 snaps in the spring. We’ll try to catch back up and do two fields of practice when we’re in limited, 90-minute to 125-minute practices – we’ll probably do a lot of two-field stuff like we did in OTAs. It’s going to be very hard for them and I don’t have anybody penciled in as starters until I see them play and not make mistakes.”

Bucs WR Josh Pearson
Bucs WR Josh Pearson – Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State

So what will an undrafted free agent have to do in practice to impress enough to make the 2020 Bucs this year?

“Say it’s a wide receiver – ‘Could he be a core special teams player and get into the top five or six on game day?’ Those kids aren’t going to have those options this year because we probably won’t do special teams full speed other than once [in training camp]. I think it’s a shame for all of them. It’s a nice thing that the practice squad went so high to 16, so you might be able to keep them around longer and continue to evaluate them.”

So which undrafted free agent will make the team out of the 13 that the team signed back in April? Offensive linemen John Molchon or Zach Shackleford have the best chance, as do wide receivers Travis Jonsen or Josh Pearson and outside linebacker Cam Gill. But the early guess here is that former LSU linebacker Michael Divinity sticks as the 53th player on the roster due to his ability to play both inside linebacker and outside linebacker as an edge rusher.

5. Which Buccaneers Will Be Hurt The Most By Not Having The Preseason?

Aside from the from the undrafted free agents, who are long shots to make the team this year without preseason games to impress the coaches and scouts, it’s unquestionably Tampa Bay’s draft class.

The Bucs were hoping that Wirfs, the team’s first-round pick, would start right away at right tackle in place of Demar Dotson. But will he be ready to protect Tom Brady against five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan in New Orleans in Week 1 after just 14 padded practices? Or will the Bucs have to start the more experienced Haeg? Don’t be surprised if it’s Haeg early with Wirfs rotating in for a series or two each half against the Saints on September

Antonie Winfield, Jr., Tampa Bay’s second-round pick, was supposed to be in the running to start at free safety, but will he be ready to face off against future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas without any preseason games? I would be shocked if Winfield starts over Andrew Adams or Mike Edwards, who have far more experience, in Week 1.

Bucs RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Bucs RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers

Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay’s third-round pick, could miss the first couple of weeks of training camp as he’s tested positive COVID-19. That will stunt his growth and it may be a month into the season until he sees a meaningful number of snaps on offense. As a result, Dare Ogunbowale is a lock to make the team and will likely be the No. 2 back behind Ronald Jones II at the start of the season, in addition to his role as the team’s third-down back.

Rookie receiver Tyler Johnson, the Bucs’ fifth-rounder, could have been in the mix to compete for the No. 3 wide receiver role in camp, but without the benefit of any offseason work or the preseason, Scotty Miller and Justin Watson, who have a year’s worth of experience in Arians’ offense, have a big leg up. Johnson should make the team, but likely as the fifth or sixth receiver because he’s behind the learning curve.

6. Will Tampa Bay Be Ready For New Orleans Without A Preseason?

No. The Bucs’ 2020 season opener at New Orleans just got more difficult due to the league’s cancellation of the preseason on the heels of all offseason workouts being canceled in the spring due to COVID-19 concerns.

As PewterReport.com’s Jon Ledyard pointed out in his latest Bucs Briefing column on Wednesday, Wirfs, the team’s first-round pick, will be squaring off against five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan in his first NFL game, assuming he is named the starting right tackle. It would certainly benefit Wirfs and the rest of the rookies, in addition to new additions like Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, to have played in at least one or two preseason games before battling the two-time defending NFC South champion Saints in the season opener.

Without the benefits of the preseason, Arians said that the quality of play across the league would suffer this year.

Saints WR Michael Thomas and Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Saints WR Michael Thomas and Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: Getty Images

“I think it’s definitely going to take a hit,” Arians said. “You’re not going to be in the same football shape you [would have been in if] you had all the learning that takes place in the spring and a true training camp with four preseason games to look at a lot of young players. So yeah, it’s going to take a hit.”

The area that will be hurt the most at the start of the season will be the quality of tackling – or the lack thereof. The Bucs and all NFL team will only have the benefit of 14 padded practices in training camp before the season starts, and Tampa Bay won’t be doing live tackling in all of those sessions.

“Yes – as far as tackling to the ground, we did it a couple days last year,” Arians said. “We had some live stuff with Miami and then preseason games. You have to be very careful tackling yourselves, but you’ve still got to tackle somebody. We’ll probably have more than we’ve had in the past – maybe one or two days where we’re actually scrimmaging each other just to get the contact, facing cut blocks and all those things you’re going to see in the first ball game.”

With the Saints returning more starters on offense and defense than any other team in the NFC South and perhaps the entire NFC Conference, they are certainly favored to beat the Buccaneers due to their continuity, talent level and the fact that the game is played at home in New Orleans.

Now that some of the general Critical Camp Questions are out of the way, we’ll examine six Critical Camp Questions on offense and defense and then conclude with two that pertain to special teams. The most memorable moments of my 24 years covering the Buccaneers that are usually featured in the Fab 4 section will return in two weeks with a brand new SR’s Fab 5.

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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: [email protected]
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Horse

This season has so many “what if'” questions because of Covid-19; it’s all a wild guess as to how it plays out as to team performance. I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff. Go Bucs!

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drdneast

Reynolds writes, “The rest of America has learned how to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic to reopen the economy with precaution.”  To which I reply, BS. I know Reynolds was a Trump supporter, but to continue to spout misleading propaganda without a reply is dangerous and extremely misleading. Florida is currently registering around 10.000 new case of Trumps Virus every day for the last month. At the same time we are averaging nearly 200 deaths a day from this alleged “hoax.” Florida is now ranked second to California in the nation with the number of Trump Virus cases despite being… Read more »

Dbuc63

To people who think independently, another words, people who are not part of a flock or herd, read your posts and lose 20 IQ points. You are laughable to anyone who actually exhibits critical, logical, and rational thinking. I went to speak at my daughter’s classroom (3rd Grade) this past January. It all came to be because her teacher and I discussed at parent/ teacher conference before last Christmas topics she wanted me to share with the children. It is one of the most amazing experiences in my lifetime and I’ve seen a lot. The questions afterwards were a delight… Read more »

Horse

President will be at the Pelican Golf Club in Belleair soon. I live on the 4th fairway and the helicopters have been buzzing around here since yesterday and today.
Tell Scott to come over here and he’ll be able to meet him. Oh, I forgot the fundraiser is $100,000 a person. Maybe some of you can chip in for Scott to meet him?
This Vietnam Veteran will never shake the hand of that Bone Spurs coward!

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drdneast

Thank you for your service Horse, especially during a very unpopular war. I voted for Dick Nixon in 1972, my first vote in a Presidential election and when the Watergate investigation began I was completely on his side. But by the time it ended, I had changed my mind and vowed to never give anyone my loyalty when they didn’t earn it and when it was proved they had acted in such a way to betray my trust. It was difficult for me to admit I was wrong for defending him at the onset, but I would rather admit that… Read more »

Horse

Don’t feel alone I voted for Nixon too because he said he was going to get us out of Viet Nam as quickly as possible. That took another additional 30,000 American lives to happen. Also voted for Reagan; just to let some know that I’m not Party affiliated with any. Belleair is loaded with Aristocrats and many had no empathy or understanding how people are suffering especially for someone who is not white. I grew up in this area; there are many good people living here, but there are also a lot of naive selfish people around too. Rate this… Read more »

matador

Another 30k dead Americans was a mortal sin back then. To Trump supporters today the loss of five times that many AMERICAN LIVES is something they wake up deciding to pretend doesn’t matter, is a deep state fake news conspiracy, etc. Until it happens to someone they care about or themselves, after which the hypocrisy playbook says to go radio silent. Pathetic.

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Dave

So because Florida sucks, and is run by a clown who couldn’t be bothered with preparing his state to handle covid properly? That means that Scott’s comment about the rest of the country learning to live with covid and opening up safely is false? I live in Massachusetts, and we’ve opened up the state just fine. Every store has mandatory mask rules, social distancing marks on the floor, no large gatherings, and we’ve had low cases, deaths, and hospitalizations since april. There are PLENTY of states that have opened up safely and are doing fine. At some point, life has… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
drdneast

The rest of the country encompasses Florida. Sounds like MA. has some legitimate leaders but the Bucs don’t play or practice in Boston. We also don’t have mandatory mask rules or anyone who will go into a bar and shut it down when they are still serving liquor and not enforcing social distancing. Unemployment rates will continue to skyrocket not because we are doing the necessary things to quell the virus, but because we don’t have leaders who insist on the public doing the necessary things. Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

Dave

So you pretty much proved my point. Florida is 1 out of 50 states. Florida handling covid poorly doesn’t mean the entire country can’t open up and do it safely. The state has nothing to do with the Bucs. The Rays play in Florida, and have had ZERO covid cases. The Panthers, Lightning, Heat, and Magic all play in Florida, and also have had ZERO covid cases. The Marlins, had their entire team get it, because they’re treating covid like a joke. Point is, the Bucs can play their games, even at home, and have a covid free season, if… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
e

You’re absolutely right, drd. Scott likes stir the pot, but facts are facts. Florida has been the model for how NOT to beat back a pandemic. Sadly, the rest of the world, including out enemies, now how to beat us down without dropping a bomb or firing a bullet…Back to football, If the season is completed; there are going to be major roster adjustments because of covid and it’s anyone’s ballgame at this point. Certainly, the team that practices the most safety precautions will have an advantage over other teams as the season wears on. I can’t say that I… Read more »

drdneast

Dave, you better check the map of the US again, over half the states in the nation have seen a dramatic rise in Trumps Virus case.
You are right about the states that haven’t though. Many of those followed the guidelines of the CDC and are wearing masks.
And you are also right about a good deal has to do with personal responsibility.
By the way Horse, I voted for Reagan too.I also voted for Ford.

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Dave

This is why I can’t take you, Naples, BuccaneerNW, and a few others seriously. What about any of my post or any of this conversation, has to do with Trump. Yet you find a way to bring him up in EVERY single one of your posts. This isn’t a political conversation. It’s a conversation about how misguided your post is, by trying to claim that everything should be cancelled, and nothing should ever open up again because Florida can’t get their act together. And I’ve seen the stats. Not every increase is the same. You have a small handful of… Read more »

drdneast

You are entitled to your own opinion Buc63, but not to your own facts. Especially when they affect the health and welfare of others. Speaking of facts, I see you didn’t address any of the ones I cited, instead you resorted to a personal attack which is a favorite tactic among weak minded individuals without a platform to work from. As far as speaking to third graders, even a third grader with a basic limited understanding of science would follow the guidelines of medical professionals who have a vast knowledge in the field rather than an idiot who suggests they… Read more »

BigSombrero

It’s the same situation for all teams. The Bucs are a veteran team with Brady at the front.

There are no excuses why this team can’t be ready and beat New Orleans week 1.

I’ve got my popcorn ready.

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surferdudes

Horse, you didn’t want to play a round of golf with him? Don’t blame you, he cheats! Thanks for your service Horse. If your daddy was rich, you could’ve danced away the war at studio 54 like commander and chief bone spur! To bad Scott can’t see the man for what he really is. The antichrist!

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matador

Nailed it. Draft dodger. Racist. Congenital liar. Fake Christian. Cheated on his wife, well one of them anyway, with a porn star right after his son was born. Then bribed her to stay quiet. Likely a tax fraud. Clearly a fraud in business with multiple business bankruptcies leaving others holding the bag. At least he has the support of people like DucheBag63 and Scott to cling to.

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Last edited 1 month ago by matador
76bucsfan46

Just wanted to thank you guy’s for ruining our football conversation’s with your politics.

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Naplesfan

There is nothing that is not political when the politician in chief decided to treat a worldwide pandemic as a political event and therefore refused to do his job to protect America and as a result ruined all of our lives and our economy and killed off hundreds of thousands and gave hundreds of thousands more permanent organ damage that they will never recover from.

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scubog

Once again, I awake, but not sure if that qualifies as being “woke” early on Saturday to read the Fab 4 plus self-pimping. I enjoyed the article, but sadly, one little remark about COVID-19 and that opens the lid of the cesspool for you people so intent on spewing your political views instead of your thoughts about the football team you profess to love.

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Dave

It’ll never end. I said this a few weeks ago, and I’ll say it again. PR is every bit as responsible for the constant political posts. Because they throw the bait. In their line of work, they’d rather 50 comments be about political bs, than have 10 comments be 100% about football. It’s sad. They throw in covid talk or questions in almost every single article. But the political bs apparently will never go away from this site. It got old 3 months ago. Like you, I’m just tired of it. Talk football or don’t talk. If you want to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Naplesfan

What you call “spewing” is what normal people call serious discussion of live altering events and policies that caused them to be literally thousands of times worse and more harmful than was ever necessary You are welcome to keep living in your Trumplican bubble of unreality. More than likey you are old and retired and collecting a pension and Social Security so you don’t need to worry about losing your job and your home and many tens of millions of Americans are forced to do now because of political malpractice that you preferto ignore. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

scubog

You’ve never read anything regarding my political views. I don’t care what you politically focused people think. I just want to discuss football on this forum.

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Horse

scubog, I usually like your comments, but you live in a different bubble than me. Scott lives in your bubble too and see nothing wrong about his world. i have much concern we are heading in the direction of a police state and dictatorship. I am concerned when the head of sheriff departments forget there purpose. We all want law & order and to continually to promote the fear otherwise for political reasons is dangerous for our democracy. Many of us are no longer going to be silent! Scott might take me off this site as I have no intentions… Read more »

scubog

Me writing that I don’t want this to be used as a political forum has nothing to do with my own politics. Don’t know what “bubble” you think I’m in. Probably similar to yours. I even go to work every day right in your neighborhood there in Belleair.

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Naplesfan

Scott still cheerleading for the COVID-deniers, all of them being Trumplican reality deniers. If the nation is learning to live with COVID, it is also learning to die with COVID. Every day this week Florida broke its all time death record. I live in southwest Florida, which is the Trumpiest part of the state (Trump by 26 points in 2016). Yesterday, I went to my local favorite pizza parlour/Italian restaurant to pick up our usual takeout order. Since COVID I have refused to dine in at any restauraunt. I wore a mask, and 100% of the restaurant employees were masked.… Read more »

Horse

The same is still going on in this area too. I went to Verizon Wednesday and was shocked to see some customers not wearing a mask. I said something to the employee who was helping me about it, and he just shrugged his shoulders. I will no longer go to Verizon on the corner of East Bay and Belcher in Largo again. I was wearing a real certified N95 mask too, but it’s still not right for people who don’t wear masks think it’s okay for them to spread the virus unknowingly. Yes Scubog, even on this sight, this has… Read more »

scubog

I have three Bucs masks that I wear when I’m out.

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matador

Well said Naples.
If you support a racist, or play a role in enabling him, then you too are a racist. If you fail to take precautions and help spread the virus, you too have the blood of dead Americans on your hands, whether or not you have the guts to acknowledge it. If you don’t care about that, go the heck to Mother Freaking Russia.

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