SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT One of the biggest challenges facing the players participating in Tampa Bay’s rookie mini-camp this weekend is the Florida heat.
The first two practices have featured high humidity, temperatures in the 90s and little cloud cover.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has been quick to remind his players that these hot and humid conditions are just a taste of the conditions the Bucs will train in when they head to Orlando for training camp in July and August, which means they must work to get acclimated, and in a hurry.
“This is just a warm-up in terms of the sun,” said Gruden. “It hasn’t even begun to swelter yet. We talked about that a lot. Our players need to educate themselves in terms of how to play at a high level in this kind of weather. If they don’t they won’t make this team and they won’t play because conditioning is critical at this level of football. If you’re tired or you’re sucking gas a little bit you’re going to get your ass knocked off. I think that’s clear to these guys. They have a lot of work to do in their conditioning.”
DAY 2 IN THE BOOKS The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field Saturday to conduct their second of three rookie mini-camp workouts at One Buccaneer Place.
There was a noticeable difference in how the players performed on Saturday compared to the first rookie mini-camp practice, which was held on Friday.
“It was much better today,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “The execution was much better on both sides. The guys understand how we practice in shorts. It was good work.”
Putting 53 players out on the practice field and installing significant portions of the playbook while getting the players acclimated to life in the NFL isn’t an easy task, but the coaching staff and players have embraced it.
“It’s a tough game when you bring in 53 guys from all over the country and try to get them organized for a practice,” said Gruden. “But it’s a credit to these guys and our coaching staff. They met later in the evening last night and they were here early this morning. That will be the case again tomorrow.”
GRUDEN WORKING SHOTGUN AROUND PERSONNEL One of the new wrinkles in Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s offense this year is the shotgun, which he’s actually had installed in his playbook for years, but hasn’t unveiled until this offseason.
How or when Gruden decides to use the shotgun formation remains to be determined. According to Gruden, that will depend on his players’ ability to execute plays out of the shotgun formation.
“We’ve had the shotgun in every year,” said Gruden. “We’re going to continue to look at it. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how the roster finishes off. We’ll see if Jeff Garcia has a shotgun comfort level and we’ll see if any of our other quarterbacks do or not. We’ll continue to work on it and we won’t make it a bigger deal than it is.”
Tampa Bay’s offense might not be the only unit that has some new wrinkles this year. Gruden suggested defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin could be adjusting his defense around some of the new players that were added to the Bucs’ roster this offseason.
“Every year we try to adjust our schemes to fit our personnel,” said Gruden. “We expect to have some more experience on offense and perhaps some more youth on defense. Hopefully at the end of these OTAs and offseason program we will have stimulated our team with some new things that feature our best players and most athletic group of men and let them go out and play.”
MORE PLAYERS IMPRESSING Shortly after Friday's practice concluded, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden had glowing remarks for some of the draft picks that had caught his eye.
On Saturday, Gruden threw a few more names into the mix, including seventh-round draft pick, running back Kenneth Darby, who has made a strong impression on Tampa Bay's coaching staff so far.
“He’s really had two good days," Gruden said of Darby. "He’s an outstanding receiver. He’s a very instinctive runner, and I think when the pads are put on you’re going to find a guy who knows how to play. I believe he had some real problems with his dad’s health last season, and there were some things off the field that really distracted him, but this is a good football player. He’s a great kid. I think he’s witnessed the heat a little bit down here, and he feels like he’s got to get into a lot better shape. But we’re happy to have him.
"We think the three seventh-round draft choices have really done well here the first two days. ‘The Mortician,’ our right tackle [Chris Denman] – they call him – and Marcus [Hamilton] has done a pretty good job on the corner, so we do like the draft choices quite a bit so far.” Â
NUMBERS GAME Two players walked onto the practice field Saturday at One Buccaneer Place sporting different jersey numbers.
Bucs second-round draft pick, guard Arron Sears, has switched from jersey No. 67, which had previously been worn by former Bucs tackle Kenyatta Walker, to No. 78.
Seventh-round pick, offensive tackle Chris Denman, switched from No. 78 to No. 64.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden when asked about the origin of "The Mortician" nickname for rookie tackle Chris Denman:
"He’s very serious. It’s not because he buries people or kills anyone. He’s a very serious guy. I guess that’s how morticians are. A mortician I know is kind of a loose, happy guy, but this mortician is very serious and quiet – kind of a subdued guy. He’s from a small town in California, and he’s been nicknamed ‘The Mortician.’ We’re going to keep that alive – I like that one.” Â
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