WR Edell Shepherd catches a punt on the Bucs' brand new practice fields
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field Monday for the first official practice at their newly-constructed, state-of-the-art training facility, they couldn't help but be preoccupied by its stark contrast to One Buccaneer Place.
Maybe that massive change had something to do with what would prove to be a less than satisfying field session. If so, that is an effect Head Coach Jon Gruden is confident will be very short-lived.
"Yeah, there's no question they're excited about the facility – I hope they're more excited about the next game that we have," said Gruden, who on Sunday lauded the new complex effusively but by Monday had turned his laser-like focus back to Xs and Os.
"We've got to get over the buzz of the new facility," he said. "But everybody's excited, genuinely so and rightfully so. What we've got to do is we've got to concentrate on our football and take advantage of this facility at the same time. There are going to be some distractions here I'm sure the first day or so just to get familiarized with what all there is in here and where to go. This is shocking to some degree. I think once the shock treatment gets over we'll be alright."
That shock Gruden referred to is the product of a 145,155-square-foot facility – a complex more than three times the size of One Buc Place, the Buccaneers' previous facility since 1976 and one affectionately – and not entirely inaccurately – termed "The Woodshed" by Gruden. The new facility boasts three practice fields, a 7,000-square-foot locker room, a 16,000-square-foot weight room, team meeting rooms equipped with the latest television and video technology and a lavish players' lounge.
Those advantages, everyone agrees, will lead to a better product on the football field. Just not on Monday morning, apparently.
"Well, you know, it wasn't as good as I had hoped," Gruden said. "Offensively, we were not very sharp today. That's about all I can say."
Such an effect was not entirely unanticipated by Buccaneers management, and not necessarily the result of new-facility shock. Still, to protect against any hangover from the move, the Bucs made a point of getting into the facility in mid-August, not mid-September.
"I think that has to do with breaking training camp," said General Manager Bruce Allen. "Historically, when you break training camp you throw yourself out of a rhythm.
"A year ago, we thought the best time to come in would be right when we broke camp, so we could get acclimated to the new facility before the season started. Fortunately, with all the great work of the construction people we were able to do it right on time."
- Linebacker Marquis Cooper, who was injured on the first play of Saturday night's game, practiced Monday.
- Offensive guard Toniu Fonoti (wrist) practiced Monday.
- Running back Derek Watson, who has missed the team's first two preseason games, is still questionable, but Gruden said he hopes to see Watson in action Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Offensive tackle Torrin Tucker did not practice Monday.
- Linebacker Antoine Cash should return to practice later this week and play in Saturday's game, Gruden said.
More from Coach Gruden
On if players who are concerned about getting released are hoping other teams are watching them: "That's part of the agreement. If we bring you to the football team in April and you make it through the entire offseason program like some of these guys did, you're going to get a chance to play in the games. You weren't brought in here as part of our 80 for any other reason than to compete. If you do your job, you come to work, you're productive in the offseason program and training camp, you're going to have the right to play. We've done a good job if anything of substituting. Everybody's had a chance to play to some degree and some guys I'm sure have got a lot more playing time than maybe they envisioned."
On if he keeps tabs on the players who leave and end up elsewhere: "Oh yeah. We certainly try to help guys who we can't keep, or try to help guys hook on with other teams. Some of these guys we'll try to get back on our practice squad if possible. We want to see these guys have productive careers. There's a human side to everybody, Jiminy Christmas. We want to try to keep the guys who we think are the best fit for this year's football team and at the same time, there are going to be some tough calls."
On how Sean Mahan fared in his start on Saturday: "He did a good job. He was victimized on the holding call on the third-down play, but he showed athleticism, made some good calls in there for us and did some good things. It's a competitive situation, to say the least."