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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for a two-hour practice on Tuesday morning.
The Bucs players sported full pads for the training camp workout, which was held at One Buccaneer Place and under sunny skies and in hot and humid conditions with temperatures in the 90s.
Tampa Bay welcomed back one of its injured players Tuesday when running back Derrick Ward suited up and participated in practice. Ward had been sidelined for several days due to a foot injury, but looked good on the field this morning.
Unfortunately, most of the Bucs' injured players did not join Ward in returning to action.
Running back Clifton Smith (hamstring), center Jeff Faine (groin), right tackle Jeremy Trueblood (back), linebacker Angelo Crowell, defensive tackle Greg Peterson (knee), center Sean Mahan (calf), receivers Michael Clayton (hamstring), Antonio Bryant (knee), Joel Filani (hamstring) and Kelly Campbell (quad) missed practice again this morning.
In addition, Bucs LB Geno Hayes was held out of this morning's workout with a hamstring injury.
The injury bug kept biting during a special teams portion of practice. Kicker Matt Bryant, who missed most of the first week of training camp with a hamstring injury, had a rough outing this morning.
Bryant attempted three field goals and made all of them, but one of his successful kicks struck a young Bucs fan's face in the stands at One Buc Place. The boy, whose nose was bleeding profusely, was quickly surrounded by concerned fans and Bucs personnel, including head coach Raheem Morris, who gave the young fan a ball.
After Bryant's third and final field goal attempts sailed through the uprights, he took his helmet off in frustration. Morris said after practice that Bryant re-injured his hamstring injury.
That does not bode well for Bryant, who is in a stiff competition with Mike Nugent for the kicking job. Like Bryant, Nugent was 3-of-3 on field goal attempts this morning.
During the special teams portion of practice punter Josh Bidwell had a good day of punting. He had good hang time on his kicks, and nailed a kick at about the 10-yard line. One punt was almost blocked by wide receiver Maurice Stovall. If it was a game Stovall may have laid out to make sure he got the block.
With Tampa Bay's Pro Bowl return specialist sidelined due to his own hamstring injury, Bucs running back Cadillac Williams, wide receiver Dexter Jackson, RB Kareem Huggins and WR Sammie Stroughter took turns fielding punts this morning.
Williams, who has displayed better hands this year, muffed a punt from Josh Bidwell. With the exception of that fumble, the players did a good job of fielding punts.
The former NFL Rookie of the Year wasn't the only player guilty of dropping a ball this morning. During warm-ups, WRs Brian Clark and Mario Urrutia had dropped passes.
However, WRs Pat Carter and Clark stood out towards the end of the warm-up sessions by making their own respective one-handed catches, which drew applause and cheers from the crowd.
Early in practice the linebackers worked on disengaging from blockers using the blocking sled. Morris paid special attention to this drill. The linebackers worked in groups of three. The Sam (strongside) and Mike (middle) linebackers would hit the pad and the Will (weakside) linebackers would loop around the outside. Linebackers coach Joe Barry worked with converted safety Jermaine Phillips on staying tight with his fellow linebackers, and not looping around too far behind them.
In the one-on-ones between the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and cornerbacks the offensive players had a dominating session. The offense should win these one-on-ones because they know the route that is being run, and there is no pass rush or safety help.
The players started at the 30-yard line and gradually moved up. Quarterback Byron Leftwich started the session with a deep pass to wide receiver Brian Clark that was hauled in over his back shoulder. Cornerback Ronde Barber had good coverage on the play, but it was a better throw by McCown. Leftwich also had a nice completion in the session to wide receiver Cortez Hankton, who was covered closely by Barber. It was another over-the-shoulder completion into the end zone from 20 yards away.
Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman got in some reps and had some nice completions. He hit wide receiver Mario Urrutia for a few completions. Urrutia had one of the receptions while being covered by Barber. Freeman benefited from a great catch by fellow rookie Sammie Stroughter on a pass in the end zone along the sideline. Cornerback DeAngelo Willingham covered Stroughter closely, and Stroughter cradled the pass in with one hand, and fell down in the end zone for the score.
From there, the Bucs conducted a 9-on-9 goal line session. The offense, which deployed mostly running plays in this drill, didn't fare well, but that shouldn't come as a big surprise since one of the weaknesses of a zone blocking scheme is running the ball effectively inside the red zone.
After a nice run by Earnest Graham behind tackle Demar Dotson and fullback Jameel Cook, the Bucs offense saw little success via the ground game. Fullback B.J. Askew, RB Kareem Huggins and Graham were each stopped in their tracks on consecutive running attempts up the middle.
Tampa Bay held a competitive 1-on-1 (offensive lineman vs. defensive lineman) period this morning. It produced mixed results.
This particular 1-on-1 period was a little different than ones featured in previous practices. In most instances, the players squared off two straight times in this session instead of just once. The coaches were looking for consistency and variety from the players. The drill also featured some of the tight ends, who were at a disadvantage against some of the faster defensive linemen.
Rookie tight end Ryan Purvis got the offense off to a solid start, holding off defensive lineman Style G. White.
From there, tackle Donald Penn used his hands and Louis Holmes' momentum to push the defender to the ground short of the quarterback.
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan and guard Jeremy Zuttah had a really nice series, with Hovan winning the first and Zuttah holding off Hovan on the second.
Rookie offensive lineman Robert Bruggeman was dominated by DT Ryan Sims on the first of their two matchups. To Bruggeman's credit, he responded nicely and held the big man off on the next 1-on-1 play.
Defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson shined in this drill, and against one of the tougher opponents in G Davin Joseph. On the first matchup, Wilkerson easily beat Joseph. While the second time wasn't as easy, Wilkerson got past Joseph to get to the quarterback again on the next 1-on-1 play.
Tackle Demar Dotson showed why he has been running some first-team offensive line in place of Trueblood. During the 1-on-1 session, he handled DE Gaines Adams and made it look quite easy.
Rookie T Xavier Fulton was also impressive here, holding off White on two consecutive rushes.
One of the most impressive plays of the 1-on-1 session came courtesy of rookie DT Roy Miller, who used a wicked punch to shed tackle James Lee and get to the quarterback.
In the seven-on-seven red zone session quarterback Luke McCown caught fire. Leftwich was solid as well, and the offense overall rebounded much better after a bad performance on Monday.
McCown started the session by hitting tight end Kellen Winslow for a touchdown on a slant in the middle of the defense. McCown threaded the pass to Winslow between linebacker Adam Hayward and cornerback Marshall McDuffie.
McCown's next pass went for a touchdown as well. His receivers were covered, so after a few seconds McCown scrambled. Wide receiver Cortez Hankton broke off his route and found an open spot by the front pylon in the end zone. McCown threw a dart into Hankton's stomach. McCown also threw touchdown passes to Urrutia on a slant in front of Barber, and a touchdown to Stovall.
McCown went back to Winslow, who caught the pass a yard or two in front of the end zone. Linebacker Quincy Black put a big hit on Winslow and stopped him short of the end zone. A lot of coaches and players praised Black. Winslow gave Black a hit a few seconds later. The duo had been doing some talking, and Winslow's bump seemed to be more congratulatory and motivational.
Black had a good session, including a pass breakup on a pass from Leftwich to running back Kareem Huggins. Leftwich took advantage of the size on tight end Jerramy Stevens for a touchdown catch. Stevens stretched out and caught the ball in the back corner of the end zone in front of safety Donte Nicholson. Leftwich hit Hankton on a crossing route that Hankton turned up field. It may have been a touchdown in a game. Safety Will Allen was trailing Hankton on the route.
In the 11-on-11 session Leftwich tried to dump off another pass to Huggins, but the pass was too high and was deflected up into the air in the middle of the field. Luckily for Leftwich it fell incomplete. The pass may have never gotten off because defensive end Kyle Moore could possibly have sacked Leftwich.
During the middle of practice, the Bucs ran an 11-on-11 red zone drill, but at half speed. This particular part of practice resembled more of a walk-thru.
However, the tempo picked up from there when the Bucs engaged in a live goal line session.
Miller set the tone for the defense early by penetrating the offensive backfield and stuffing Huggins on a goal line run attempt. He was stopped well short of the goal line.
On the next play, safety Donte Nicholson broke through the backfield to tackle Graham for a loss.
The offense decided to throw to the end zone after seeing little success via the ground game, but to no avail. Quarterback Byron Leftwich's fade pass towards the back of the left corner of the end zone sailed out of bounds.
On the very next play, Ward's run attempt along the perimeter was completely shut down by defensive lineman Jarriett Buie and cornerback DeAngelo Willingham. While he was stuffed for no gain, Ward put up one hell of a fight and came close to breaking a few tackles before going down.
Morris has challenged his players to become more mentally tough, especially in the heat and humidity. He wants to use the running game – and the no-huddle offense – to wear down opposing defenses at Raymond James Stadium.
That explains why Morris called for the final 11-on-11 session of practice to feature the no-huddle offense. That strategy worked at times, including the first play, which saw Ward break off a big run up the middle of the field. The crowd erupted in cheers on that particular play.
But the offense had poor execution on the next two plays, being called for a false start penalty and having Graham stopped in his tracks in the offensive backfield by middle linebacker Barrett Ruud.
Tampa Bay's offense, which was led by McCown to start the 11-on-11 drill, found success in the passing game, too. McCown connected with WR Brian Clark to pick up a first down on a third down play. Clark was covered by CB Ronde Barber.
After finding success in the passing game, the Bucs went back to the ground game, where they found success. Williams ripped off a nice run along the right perimeter, and Ward followed that play by picking up a first down on a third-and-3 run off the right side of the offensive line.
The series didn't go as well for Leftwich, who fumbled the first snap from center during the 11-on-11 drill.
On the next play, Huggins' run attempt up the middle was stuffed by LB Adam Hayward. Bucs LB Matt McCoy had similar success vs. Huggins on another run attempt up the gut.
On the final play of this drill, defensive lineman Rashad Duncan blew up offensive lineman Marc Dile to stop Williams in the backfield for a 1-yard loss.
PEWTER REPORT QB REPORT CARD McCown had a great practice, especially the 7-on-7 session where he had four touchdown passes. He did not throw any interceptions, and completed a very high percentage of his passes.
Leftwich had three touchdown passes in 7-on-7, and avoided interceptions. Leftwich did fumble a ball, and did not have as high a completion percentage as McCown.