After a couple days of nearly unbearable heat, the Buccaneers got some reprieve on Wednesday as the skies clouded over and rain started at first in the form of a consistent drizzle for the first half of practice. A veteran day for quarterback Tom Brady, center Ryen Jensen, tight end Rob Gronkowski and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, the team moved into the indoor facility at AdventHealth Training Center as the lightning sirens sounded, signaling that severe weather was in the area right before the kicking period. It meant that the practice was cut short for fans in attendance, but players finished drills on one field and with the bonus of being in the air conditioning.
Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke following practice about giving the four aforementioned players essentially 'load management days' to borrow a phrase from the NBA.
"Yeah, I mean when you have guys 30, 32 – or 43 – you've got to manage it for them and help them," said Arians. "For us right now it's not how important it is right now, it's getting them to those games healthy and fresh […] It is I think a very smart thing for those guys who hit that certain age and experience. It might be a repetition day of something that's already in. They don't really need it."
View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Here are a few things that stood out in the rain of day four:
-The rain may have slicked the footballs a little bit but that didn't slow down the receivers. Antonio Brown made a diving catch over the middle on a ball from Blaine Gabbert that picked up a good 30 yards or so.
-After an up and down day on Tuesday, receiver Travis Jonsen redeemed himself on Wednesday with a diving catch over the middle himself from Gabbert. He laid out for the ball and managed to get ahead of the defender while securing it before he hit the ground.
-Running back Giovani Bernard showed off his pass catching skills, as well. He made a leaping grab on a short slant from Gabbert on the sideline closest to the stands, much to the enjoyment of the fans in attendance.
-With Gronkowski on a rest day and both Cam Brate and O.J. Howard working their way back from injuries, it gave tight ends like Codey McElroy, Tanner Hudson and De'Quan Hampton the chance to step up and that they did. In red zone drills, Gabbert connected with Hudson for a touchdown on a slant to the sideline right at the goal line. It was a great ball and an even better catch.
-McElroy had 'a hell of a day' according to Arians after practice. He had a couple of long catches throughout the day, one coming once the team moved indoors in very tight coverage with two defenders on him but he outstretched his arms to make the grab in stride.
-The defense had a day, too. They stopped a 'big third down' as Arians called out before the play in a series where rookie quarterback Kyle Trask was at the helm. The front managed to get in Trask's face with simulated pressure while the back end held up their end of the bargain, not giving Trask any options. He ended up firing a last ditch effort to the back of the end zone but it was well out of bounds.
-Trask was able to make up for the earlier series with a beautiful back corner throw to wide receiver Josh Pearson in the end zone during red zone drills.
-Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is seeing things faster and it's very apparent. His recognition has allowed him to consistently get to the ball and, in some cases, ahead of the receiver, to break up a pass and it seems like only a matter of time before he gets his hands on a ball.
-The defense didn't let Trask off so easy though, with safety Javon Hagan nabbing himself a diving interception on the goal line on the following play.
-That wasn't the only pick of the day as inside linebacker Joe Jones tipped a ball from Gabbert up in the air which then fell in the arms of cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. You know what they say: turnovers come in bunches.
-The defense refused to let up after that, recording three consecutive pass breakups from two different quarterbacks.
-Gabbert then had an excellent series with the help of wide receiver Mike Evans, first connecting with him on a crossing route, after which Evans made a few good moves to evade defenders and pick up more yards after the catch. It was followed by another throw to Evans on a post route that Evans again caught in stride.
-Quarterback Ryan Griffin had a beautiful touchdown pass to wide receiver Scotty Miller where he placed the ball perfectly at his chest as Miller turned around at the perfect time to make the catch and cross the goal line.
-The series finished on the next play, which was a touchdown to Evans over the middle from Griffin this time. Just call him 'Automatic Evans.'