Second-year guard Cosey Coleman (right) is laying the groundwork for what should be a very important training camp for him this summer
Very few drills during football practice elicit laughter. Sweat, yes. Cramps, maybe. Improvement, let's hope so.
But laughter? Rarely.
However, there were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers on Tuesday morning, cracking up over a new drill that had them sprinting around a square marked by cones, twisting every direction to catch a series of passes. With two coaches firing balls in rapid succession from different angles, and with the receivers still trying to figure out the pattern of the drill, there were a few breakdowns, a few balls that went whizzing by untouched.
After a few practice runs, both coaches and players got it down and the workout provided the desired results. With Wide Receivers Coach Charlie Williams standing inside the box and Offensive Assistant Kevin O'Dea rotating around the outside, the wideouts received valuable practice making quick-reaction catches. Williams shouted encouragement to Keyshawn Johnson, Jacquez Green, Reidel Anthony, Karl Williams and Frank Murphy: "It's all about catching the ball."
Nearby, running backs Mike Alstott, Aaron Stecker, Rabih Abdullah and Charles Kirby ran through the same drill, then took passes off the Juggs gun. Quarterbacks Brad Johnson, Shaun King, Ryan Leaf, Joe Hamilton and Ted White took over the middle of the field to run footwork agility drills and work on quick outlet passes.
At the far end of this same field, Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster had just four players at his disposal – guards Cosey Coleman and Todd Washington and tackles Jerry Wunsch and DeMarcus Curry – but that was enough to run one-on-one run-blocking drills. The players in each pair took turns holding a pad and posing as defensive linemen for their counterparts.
This April's work may be particularly valuable for Coleman, who is the one player in that quartet likely to make the leap this year from backup to starter. The second-year player, drafted out of Tennessee last April in the second round, is expected to take over at right guard if unrestricted free agent Frank Middleton does not return. According to Foerster, these workouts are very helpful for any young player, whether or not he's slated for an expanded role.
"Any time a young player can be here at this time of the year, in my opinion, it's a great thing for them because they can work the kinks out," said Foerster. "They can get back into a rhythm, something they may have lost in the last two or three months since the season ended.
"A guy that's getting ready to play a lot, yeah, that helps…but until their skills become second nature, it's nice to just go, go, go now. Some guys need to go 12 months out of the year, some guys need a couple months off. It just depends on the player, but for a young player, it's huge to be here working, whether they're jumping into the (starting) lineup or not."
The far field belonged to the defensive players. The defensive linemen – including Simeon Rice, Anthony McFarland, Marcus Jones, Chartric Darby, James Cannida, John McLaughlin and Ron Warner – were the first group out on the field, and they began with snap drills, practicing getting off the line at the movement of the ball, not on the snap count. They then moved on to sudden change-of-direction workouts and followed with the ever-popular pass-rush drill through the dummies.
Though he participated in most of the drills, McLaughlin was sporting a short cast on his right hand and wrist. McLaughlin broke his right hand playing basketball shortly after the season and was put in a cast for about a month. Since the injury was healing somewhat slowly, the cast was recently reapplied.
New Linebackers Coach Joe Barry had his largest group yet on Tuesday, running Alshermond Singleton, Jamie Duncan, Nate Webster, Shelton Quarles and Jude Waddy through drills. Jeff Gooch was also on hand but was limited as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery.
Mike Tomlin, who tutors the defensive backs, is also new to the staff, and he took the far corner of the back field to conduct footwork and coverage drills. Among the DBs on hand Tuesday were Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, David Gibson, Eric Vance, Anthony Midget and Antonious Bonner. Like Wunsch, Barber is just joining into the voluntary workouts of April after re-signing with the team last week.
On the covered porch near the close field, punter Mark Royals, one of the most dedicated offseason workers this spring, worked his way through a weight-training sesssion. Nearby stood Executive Vice President Joel Glazer, scanning the impressive amount of activity spread about the practice fields. His assessment of the heavily-attended voluntary session was brief but on the money.
"This is good to see," said Glazer.