The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are afforded the opportunity to conduct one extra mini-camp this offseason because they have a first-year head coach; notably, attendance at that mini-camp is voluntary for all players.
As that new head coach, Dirk Koetter, put it on Tuesday after the first practice of the three day camp, the Buccaneers have some "eager volunteers." That was made obvious by the perfect attendance the team enjoyed on Day One.
The Buccaneers are currently carrying 73 players on their offseason roster, and that number was pushed to 75 by the participation of tryout players Nate Chandler and Brandon Mosley, a pair of offensive linemen. All 75 men were at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday, though a handful were not yet ready to practice while recovering from 2015 injuries or minor offseason surgeries. Thus, close to 70 players took the field for the first time under the direction of Koetter and his staff, and they were visibly excited to be back to work.
"It was fantastic to be out there," said Koetter, who hasn't been allowed on the field with the players during the first phase of the offseason program, which focuses on strength and conditioning. "The coaches couldn't wait to be out there, get out with the players. A little bit unique, you know. We go from Phase I right into Phase III, so we cut the reps down quite a bit today and then we also – a little bit warmer out there today than it has been. But it was great to be out there and exciting to be back to work."
Among the players who are not yet back to work, at least on the field, are offensive linemen J.R. Sweezy, Ali Marpet and Evan Smith, wide receiver Louis Murphy and defensive end Jacquies Smith. Sweezy, one of the Bucs' key acquisitions in free agency in 2016, has undergone an unspecified medical procedure that will delay his start in 2016, but it is not a long-term concern for Koetter.
"J. R. is here, he just wasn't on the field today," said the coach. "He's going to be out for OTAs. He will be back and ready to go for training camp. As I said on the front end, we're starting a bit earlier than some teams and you have to realize that there's tons of guys in the league that are having some offseason things cleaned up. J.R. falls into that category and unfortunately he's going to miss this OTA, mini-camp session but he should be good to go come fall camp."
Koetter said that there are no players currently expected to miss training camp, which is obviously good news. And for those who are already back on the field, the team is going to take pains to make sure they are not overworked in the sometimes difficult weather conditions of the Bay area. A rather hot and humid afternoon on Tuesday was a small preview of what the players will be dealing with in August.
"I think just in general we need to work smart and one of the reasons we need to work smart which may also be short, is because of the conditions we have here," said Koetter. "When it's warm out there – we need to get our guys fresh on game day and not kill them during the week. We will be very conscious of how much we work. That's just something that I've become very aware of from coaches and players that I've worked with over the years. I'll monitor our volume very closely and keep a real close eye on that."