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Heat Wave: Advantage Bucs?

Posted Dec 5, 2013

Thursday Notes: Unseasonably warm weather made practice less enjoyable for the Buccaneers on Thursday but might turn into an edge this Sunday against Buffalo…And other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Though it's usually not a factor in December, the Bucs' training in the Florida heat could be an advantage Sunday against Buffalo
  • WR Vincent Jackson returned to practice Thursday but in a limited fashion as he deals with a hamstring strain
  • The Bucs lead the league in interceptions, and some of that is a credit to an underrated pass rush
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' annual training camp is a crucible of sorts, as players harden themselves with day after day of practicing in intense heat and humidity.  Throughout the franchise's nearly four-decade existence, coach after coach has pointed to that as an advantage – training in the oppressive summer weather has the team more prepared than most of their opponents to handle the conditions at Buccaneer home games in the still very hot months of September and October.

This year, it might even help during the winter holidays.

On Thursday, almost a week into December, the Buccaneers practiced in heat that reached the low to mid-80s and felt more like 90.  They did the same on Wednesday, and while the next few days will feature lower-tempo work, the forecast for Sunday is almost the same as Thursday.  The Buccaneers will take on the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

"As we all know, it’s really heated up here the last couple days and it’s going to be very warm on Sunday," said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano.  "Today, we were simulating the no-huddle with running a couple huddles and running guys in and out. I’m sure we’ll have some IVs flowing in the training room. Real feel out there, it was close to 90 [degrees]. That’ll have an impact I’m sure."

Successfully dealing with a steamy game day is a process that begins long before that afternoon.  The Buccaneers (and undoubtedly the Bills, as well) know that proper hydration has to start days earlier and not when dehydration symptoms – primarily, cramping – arise during the game.

“What we try to do and have really emphasized is we have to stay hydrated," said Schiano.  "Our guys will do that. Guys understand that when you live down here, you learn how to handle it. Now, from this point forward, we’re not going to go real hard. I think we’ll be fine by Sunday.”

Geographically, Sunday's game is a mismatch in terms of dealing with heat.  Some might question whether a team that trains in Florida really does have an advantage in these situations, but Buccaneer cornerback Darrelle Revis insists it's a real issue.  He spent his first six NFL seasons playing for the New York Jets, who made an annual trip to Miami to face their AFC East foes.  Revis was asked Thursday if such a climate change is a difficult adjustment.

-- The Buccaneers practiced in weather more typical for a September afternoon on Thursday
"Yes it is," he said.  "I remember a number of times going down to Miami and the whole week the coaches were telling us to hydrate as much as we can and make sure we get our rest.  This weather down here is a beast, it's a monster.  It can sneak up on you very fast, and the next thing you know guys are getting IVs or guys are cramping.  The way to prevent that or avoid that is to just try to hydrate and rest as much as you can."

Complicating the issue is the fact that the Bills tend to run an up-tempo offense, often going no-huddle.  In normal conditions, that can create several advantages for the offense, in terms of substitution problems and fatigue for defenders.  The question this weekend is, will Sunday's heat actually make the no-huddle a fatigue issue for the offense against a team that is used to the heat?

“They do run the no huddle we know that, we know they’re going to be very up-tempo, but we’ll see how it goes. Like I said I think it’s to our advantage and when we see them guys gasping for air, that’ll be the reason why, especially being no huddle as well. We’ll see.  I think at this point, we're used to the heat.  I think it's an advantage for us when teams come down here, especially a team like Buffalo coming from the cold."

* Revis is one of seven players on the Buccaneers' injury report, thanks to the chest/shoulder injury he sustained last Sunday in Carolina, but it doesn't look as if he is in danger of missing Sunday's game.  Revis participated fully in that hot Thursday practice and says he's feeling as good as can be expected.

"It's still bothering me a little bit, but I'll be alright," said the Bucs' starting left cornerback.  "I also banged my head on the play [that led to the injury] so I had to go through the whole concussion testing.  I'm fine now.  I passed the test."

Revis a portion of the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter after hurting himself while nearly making an interception in front of Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith.  He had started that game despite sustaining a groin injury the weekend before in Detroit.  Revis said that latter injury is no longer bothering him.

"No, it's fine," he said.  "I'm happy that's out of the equation, because as a DB we need our legs, especially, to run.  So, no, that's not a factor."

Each team added two players to its injury report on Thursday, though neither list is particularly extensive.  The Bucs' main concern may be at wide receiver, where leading pass-catcher Vincent Jackson and reserve Chris Owusu were both limited on Thursday by hamstring strains.  The full injury reports for both teams are below.

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

DT Gary Gibson

Calf

Limited Participation

WR Vincent Jackson

Hamstring

Limited Participation

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Full Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Did Not Participate

WR Chris Owusu

Hamstring

Limited Participation

CB Darrelle Revis

Chest/Shoulder

Full Participation

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Full Participation


Bills:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

TE Scott Chandler

No Injury

Did Not Participate

WR Marquise Goodwin

Calf

Limited Participation

DT Kyle Williams

Achilles

Did Not Participate


* Buffalo's rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel, has done a fine job of protecting the football this season, with a 9-4 TD-INT ratio, but he'll be tested on Sunday against the Buccaneers' defense.  Tampa Bay has 11 interceptions over its last five outings, and that surge has moved the team to the top of the NFL rankings in that category.  The Bucs have 17 interceptions so far, one more than three other squads, including the Bills.

It's clear that Buffalo's 16 interceptions have been the product, at least in part, of the excellent pressure the front seven has applied.  Buffalo leads the league with 43 sacks.  In the same vein, while there is a general sense that Tampa Bay's pass-rush has underperformed this year, ranking 28th in sacks per pass play, the Bucs' high INT total is an indication that the pressure up front has been better than advertised.

"Indirectly, a lot of those are the quarterback being pressured in the pocket and having to … make impulse throws or get off the spot a little bit and move around and not be just sitting back there," said Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan.  "A lot of those have had to do with the quarterback being moved off his regular launch point."

Individually, the Buccaneers don't have anyone ranked among the NFL's top 15 in interceptions.  The team leaders aren't any of the four starters in the secondary but linebacker Lavonte David and reserve safety Keith Tandy with three apiece.  Six different Buccaneer defenders have at least two picks.

"I guess the reason why it’s been spread around, we’ve had a bunch of guys play back there," said Sheridan.  "But the other thing, too, is I think they’re just getting more comfortable playing the coverages and they’re doing a better job of playing them.  [They're] playing the techniques, especially on the back end, and so when that happens, combined with the pressure from the front, a lot of times that stuff just falls into your lap. Like we were talking about earlier in the year, sometimes you get a dry spell; you can go a couple weeks and you can get shut out of turnovers but other times when you’re playing fast and you’re confident in the coverages and you’re familiar with the offensive game plan that you anticipate from the team, you can play your routes a little bit better. A lot of times, that stuff, it comes right to you.”
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers