FAB 4. All Quiet At One Buc Place
Call me too old school if you must.
Call me unhip and old-fashioned if you say so.
Call me out of touch with today’s modern athlete if you want to.
I just didn’t like the music playing during practice over the past few years under former Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter – especially over the last two years in which the Bucs were 5-11. I thought this team was too loose, too carefree and not serious enough at the AdventHealth Training Center as the losses continued to mount.
Enter new head coach Bruce Arians, one of the hippest old school coaches around at age 66, and he agreed with my stance and turned off the music.
It’s all quiet on the practice fields in Tampa Bay these days and has been that way during the OTAs, mini-camps and training camp, too.
No rap music, no hip-hop, no rock and no metal. It’s all gone.
And that’s good.
I’ll remind you that the two most successful coaches in franchise history – Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden – didn’t use to blare music during practice, either. Contrary to some modern day opinions, it is not a key ingredient for success in football.
Arians decided against playing music during practice last year when he was working for CBS as a game analyst as he toured around the NFL to watch teams’ practices on Friday.
“I saw some things that I wouldn’t do,” Arians said. “We don’t have music, and that’s the biggest one. I just saw it as a total distraction everywhere I went. It’s just to please the players and there’s too much teaching that goes on in a Friday. A lot of teams just have it on Friday, but to me, teaching is more important.”
All of the Bucs players I spoke with agreed with Arians.
“I can’t lie to you – the music was a distraction sometimes,” said defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches. “Guys would sometimes lose themselves a bit when a certain beat would come on. But when there is no music you hear all the guys around you, and you hear your own heart beating. Sometimes you have to dig deep, lock in and be more mental. I would say that not having the music should give us an edge.”
Not playing music doesn’t mean the Bucs will automatically win more games, evidenced by Sunday’s 31-17 loss to San Francisco in the 2019 season opener.
But the hope is that the players are more locked in to the details and the teaching in practice – especially with a new staff in the first year of installing new offensive and defensive schemes – and that it eventually pays off on game days.
“It only affects guys that get caught up in the dancing,” Bucs tight end O.J. Howard said. “We didn’t really have a lot of that going on with our team – some, but not a lot. I can see where Coach would say it does, because it happens. We’re more focused now, and at the same time, no one is noticing that it isn’t playing. It’s not hurting us not having the music. We’re not mad it’s not playing because when you are in the middle of practice you are so locked in anyways. You hear the noise, but you’re not listening to the lyrics. It’s not a problem that we don’t have it.”
One of the players that loved to dance the most was cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, but even he understands Arians’ methodology.
Is there any coincidence that Hargreaves had a tremendous camp and started off the season with a pick-six against the 49ers? Maybe, maybe not.
“I love the music,” Hargreaves said. “It’s quiet now, but it’s football. We have to get ready to play. We have to practice. I love the music and I love to dance, but without the music you have to lock in. You can’t be talking or giggling about nonsense because everybody is going to hear you now. You’ve got to be locked in, and I don’t mind not having the music. I love music, obviously, but I don’t care if it’s playing during practice anymore.”
To some Buccaneers, they just shut out the noise out over the last couple of years anyways and didn’t even realize the music was gone.
“I really don’t notice it,” said nose tackle Beau Allen. “I didn’t even realize that there wasn’t any music playing until somebody told me it wasn’t. It might have been someone in the media. Think about it – there isn’t any music playing on game day when you’re playing. I think it makes sense, but I have more important [expletive] to worry about.”
Bucs running back Peyton Barber feels the same way.
“I don’t think we really notice it,” Barber said. “I noticed it at first at the start of OTAs. It was real quiet and you could hear the coaches. Now you don’t really notice it because you’re grinding the whole practice. Some guys might have been distracted by it before, but now it’s not being played, so there’s no distraction anymore.”
With the vast majority of Buccaneers players being so young and on a team that has yet to establish the culture of winning, being locked in to the details and focused at practice is now more important than ever with this new coaching staff.
And the ping-pong table and basketball hoop haven’t returned to the locker room, either.
The Bucs still have a game room at the AdventHealth Training Center with video game consoles, a pool table and card tables for the players to visit during some of their downtime at the facility. And that’s where the fun and games should occur.
Arians believes the team’s locker room and the practice fields should be all about business – and the only business Tampa Bay should be focused on is winning more football games and creating a winning attitude, which has absent for the better part of the last decade.