Pewter Report was first media outlet to report on the buzz word “we-fense”, which is coach Rich Bisaccia’s term for Tampa Bay’s special teams. After Friday afternoon’s special teams practice, head coach Jon Gruden brought the term “we-fense” to the mainstream in his post-practice press conference.

“Everybody’s talking about the offense and the defense, Bisaccia is talking about the ‘we-fense.’ They get all excited when he does that. It’s an inside joke, or inside humor, I guess.

“When you get into special teams, you always hear about a story about a player here or a player there that might not really want to be on special teams. He wants to be the linebacker or the starting receiver. We are going to use offensive and defensive players on special teams. We’re going to use 11 guys who are going to get the job done. The best 11 we can get – instead of referring it to offense and defense – we call it ‘we-fense.'”

Gruden said that the Bucs worked on some unique aspects of special teams in the short, afternoon practice, which lasted just over an hour.

“Today was a special, situational practice,” Gruden said. “We wanted to work on taking a safety backed up inside the 2-yard line. Strategy sometimes calls for you to do that. We worked on surprise onside kicks and some special occasions on special teams. I thought it was good.”

Former Philadelphia and Green Bay legendary defensive end Reggie White visited Bucs practice at the request of Gruden, and spoke to the Buccaneers after their morning workout.

“We had Deacon Jones in a few weeks ago in Tampa, and I think he was introduced as the greatest pass-rusher of all-time,” Gruden said. “Reggie got mad, to be honest with you. He came down here to set me straight. Reggie had a real impact on me as a coach. He single-handedly came in – he and Brett Favre – and ignited a franchise and united a football team with leadership and playmaking. I just think he’s a special guy, not only a great player but a special guy who has helped me a lot over my career. I wanted to share him with some of the guys.

“He misses the game. I think Reggie Will tell you that himself. You can’t get these days back. No matter what the critics say, whether you have a good year or a bad year, it’s still an unbelievable rush. It’s a great experience, it’s a lot of fun, these are the times of your life. Those are the reminders that he hit on today that hopefully struck a lot of the guys.”

Just two days after under tackle Anthony McFarland had to be carted off with a sprained ankle, fellow under tackle Ellis Wyms had to take the same cart ride for the same injury during Friday morning’s practice.

“Ellis Wyms sprained his ankle,” Gruden said. “He’ll be out a couple of days it looks like. But knowing him, he might practice tomorrow. He’s going to be okay. It looks like Todd Steussie is going to be okay. We’ll list him as day-to-day right now, but we expect him to be out here quickly. Michael Clayton aggravated his sternum area. He might be day-to-day and might miss a day of work. He’s sore right now.”

While left tackle Derrick Deese returned to practice in a limited fashion on Friday, right tackle Todd Steussie had to leave practice early with a little swelling and soreness in the back of his knee. Wide receiver Joey Galloway was also limited to just half of the morning practice to rest his legs.

“We just want to limit some of his running,” Gruden said of Galloway. “He’s okay. He’ll be ready to go again tomorrow.”

The special session of the Bucs’ morning practice on Friday involved operating and defending the two-minute drill. While Tampa Bay’s offense had some success running the two-minute drill last year in a couple of games, the usually stout defense was deficient in this area in some critical losses.

“Carolina went 80 yards with no timeouts to beat us,” Gruden said. “We broke some coverages there, which is uncharacteristic. What happened in that game happened. A couple of feature coverages for us in years past didn’t hold up. And again, we had some injuries. It hurts a little bit when [Brian] Kelly’s not there. And we were not as deep. We were not as complete in the secondary. You lose Dexter Jackson, you lose Brian Kelly, you lose Shelton Quarles and it’s probably not going to be exactly like it was. We lost Al Singleton. We just didn’t play as well, particularly in that situation a couple times, but at times we did. Against the Giants we were able to close the door and showcase what we could do.”

The Bucs first-team defense was tested by quarterback Chris Simms and the second-string offense in an 11-on-11 situation.

“I thought Simms did a pretty good job with the second unit,” Gruden said. “We dropped a couple balls. I thought pass protection with the second unit wasn’t very good. Certainly, we’re blocking some pretty good pass-rushers, but we’ve got to be more competitive. We had a couple penalties with the second group, very sloppy, not good. But defensively, it was an area that we wanted to make dramatic improvement on. We felt our two-minute defense wasn’t up to snuff last year. We’re off to a good start right now.”

When talking to the media after practice, Gruden didn’t deny a reporter’s assertion that the Bucs defense was further ahead of the offense at this point in time in training camp.

“Well, they’re a good defense, and at times they’re great. They’re really fast; they’re faster than I’ve seen them. But we’ve had moments where each side of the ball has had its way. Once again, defensively I thought they had a very good practice today. There still are some guys on the back end who have to pick it up, because they’re capable of it.”

Gruden said he has been pleased with the amount of effort his players have exerted during Tampa Bay’s first week of training camp. The Bucs head coach also said that despite a couple of injuries, the team is in peak physical condition.

“This is the first week of training camp,” Gruden said. “We’ve had a lot of experiences: goal-line, short-yardage, two-minute today. We’ve seen a lot of players in a lot of different situations, so we have had an opportunity to evaluate a lot of men. And the effort’s been great. I can’t say enough about the effort, the tempo, the finishing of plays has been outstanding. I think the conditioning of this team is better than I’ve seen it and we still have a long way to go to learn about some of these players in terms of selecting the right 53 for this year’s team.”

While Gruden has been pleased with several aspects of his team during the first week of training camp, he is still waiting for players to emerge as playmakers and ascend up the depth chart.

“I’d like to see improvement in every area,” Gruden said. “Obviously, it’s hard to see exactly where you are until you start playing the preseason games, but I’d like to see some of our newcomers pick it up and make a move. We’ve got too many people slashed [on the depth chart] and we don’t have anybody ahead of anybody. We’ve got a lot of guys who are even in the horse race. We need to start seeing some men step up and separate from the pack. That’s what’s got to happen in the next week to 10 days.”

Gruden has heaped a lot of praise on a couple of wide receivers during the first week of training camp. First it was Joey Galloway. Then it was Edell Shepherd. On Friday, Gruden continued to praise 33-year old veteran Bill Schroeder, who adds size, speed and playmaking ability to the Bucs offense.

“[He’s] been real good,” Gruden said. “For whatever reason, he’s got some critics, but he’s a guy wherever he goes he starts, he plays. He’s tough as hell; he catches the ball, he blocks; he can play on special teams. He’s right in the thick of things here. He’s been here one week, we’ve run about a thousand plays, he’s made some mistakes but he’s getting better. And he’s in really good shape. He’s in remarkable shape and he’s a physical football player, which fits our style.”

Gruden lauded Schroeder’s penchant for not repeating mistakes, and noted that he is quickly becoming acclimated to his variation of the West Coast offense.

“That’s a pro football player,” Gruden said of Schroeder. “As I said yesterday, there are some guys who take it very personally and are quick studies. The practice field’s a great teacher. We put them in some tough situations and hopefully the game becomes easy. If you can pick up these blitzes, if you can get open against these coverages, chances are you’ll have success on Sunday against somebody else. I think he appreciates that. He’s challenged by it and stimulates him to get better and jump in there and compete.”

Schroeder’s jersey number in Green Bay and Detroit was 84, but that number was taken earlier this spring by Galloway. Instead, Gruden gave him the number four, which just happens to be Schroeder’s old quarterback – Brett Favre’s numbers.

“I never thought of that,” Gruden said. “I’m used to 84 – that’s the best I could do. We’ve got 84 in Galloway. I thought about 84A or 84B or something like that. He’s just getting used to the single digit – I think he kind of likes it. He feels like he’s coming out of college once again as an obscure free agent or a late-drafted guy, whatever he was while I was there.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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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