We have football! Well, kind of. Wednesday marked the start of the NFL's 'ramp-up' period to training camp for the Buccaneers. As such, coaches were finally allowed out there with their players and both offense and defense got to practice simultaneously, albeit on separate fields.
The morning practice was made up of mostly individual drills with each respective position group and followed a very OTA-like format with the offense running through select pass and rushing plays while the defense simulated their own plays – with no contact of course. The pads don't come on until August 17 but we're getting closer.
See below for limited takeaways from today's Phase II practice.
- Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich helped conduct drills with the running backs and as a motivational tool, was encouraging his players to have an 'I gotta win every time!' mentality.
- Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen has a very specific way of saying when he wants his quarterbacks to throw the ball during drills. And I never realized how much I missed it until today.
- The running backs broke off into their own individual drills and in addition to various ball-carrying drills, they also got some reps in during a pass blocking drill. Knowing how much Bruce Arians utilizes his running backs in pass protection, it came as no surprise.
- On the other field, outside linebackers were not only working on agility, but also practiced ripping the ball out of Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote's hands. Foote is a very hands-on coach – more on that later.
- There was one point that the defensive coaches weren't quite satisfied with the way players broke the huddle in getting ready to run a play. So much so, that the players themselves insisted they huddle back up and do it again. The defense may be devoid of contact right now, but it doesn't mean they're bringing any less energy.
- During a drill in which Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles played quarterback and threw the ball to defensive backs aimed at simulating an interception and the ensuing response by the rest of the defense, rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. was one of those that caught an 'interception,' showing flashes of his ball-hawking skills. The drill even included Coach Foote in a cameo at receiver.
- In addition to upping the energy in their huddles, defensive players weren't allowed to walk at all in transition from one drill to another. No matter the position group, defensive players had to at least jog to their next station or to set up the next play. Even the coaches were jogging up and down the field with their players.
- It was quarterback Blaine Gabbert that threw the ball but after wide receiver Mike Evans caught the slant, it was quarterback Tom Brady that was quick with the praise, saying, 'Good catch, Mike!'
- You've heard of players 'attacking' routes and that couldn't be truer of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who lets out a 'Gronk Grunt' (I'm coining that phrase now) as he releases. The guy quite literally attacks his route with a yell… every time.
- Wide receiver Chris Godwinnabbed a long pass over the middle on an absolutely perfect spiral from Brady, taking it in to the end zone. And yes, I know no defenders were present, but it was still a beautiful sight to behold.
- You've heard that veteran running back LeSean McCoy has natural hands when it comes to the receiving game and he certainly proved that on some very smooth catches from Brady today.