The Buccaneers will put in one more week of hard work on the practice field before taking a six-week break
Organized team activity days (OTAs), as offseason practices are called these days in the NFL, are non-contact, one-a-day and totally voluntary.
Training camp, as it has been for ages, is full-contact, mostly two-a-day and completely mandatory.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' mini-camp, which begins on Tuesday next week, lies somewhere in between those two conditions, which is what makes it particularly intriguing during the long months between the end of one season and the beginning of the next.
To be sure, the Bucs' mini-camp, though it is mandatory, falls much closer to the OTA structure than the feel of training camp. There will still be no contact or pads, as per NFL rules, and the overall atmosphere isn't likely to match the intensity of training camp. But the players will be at team headquarters for a bit longer each day, putting in some extra time in the film room and continuing to lay the foundation for a successful season.
The modified two-a-day format will stress fundamentals in the morning and situations in the afternoon.
"I want to go out and have a bunch of fundamental periods in the morning, end them with a little bit of team, go get some lunch in and then come back out and be ready to go," explained Morris. "Cooling off, having to get it back on again, getting more mental reps in the meeting room and on the field…we're looking forward to working on all of that."
The Buccaneers began their 14-week offseason training program in mid-March and will finish it next week. It was a particularly critical offseason stretch, given that the team hired a new head coach and a new general manager and made several bold moves on the trade and free agency markets. The Bucs could have splintered, but instead they drew together. When the coaches criticized, they did it with the expectation that the players would listen and things would get better.
"If you give them something, they'll do it, and when they don't you can rip their faces off and they can accept it," said Morris. "We've had incidents as far as people not listening or people not getting stuff done, and when it's brought to their attention you get them to respond. You'd be surprised at how much they do care. NFL players and pro players period just get a bad rap of not caring when they do. You just need to bring it to their attention and tell them what you want and they'll do it.
"I've got a young team, I've got guys flying around. They're positive, they're upbeat. We have our problems just like everybody else but it's awesome to go through them. They're becoming grown men. They're standing up and doing good things."
The situation will become more serious in training camp, when jobs are on the line and the new offensive and defensive schemes become more completely ingrained. Next week's mini-camp will be a low-impact preview of that camp atmosphere.
"We'll get our chance to come in and re-hit some things, go back to a little bit more fundamentals so you can get some more teaching done," said Morris of the purpose of mini-camp. "I'll have them in a little bit longer, I'll have them in the building more, we'll do more fundamentals, go back just to hit it before we go to training camp. And then once we go to training camp we'll have all the stuff we talked about at the beginning, all our core beliefs, and we'll be ready to go."