RB Earnest Graham and the Bucs practiced at walk-through speed Sunday afternoon, but it was fast enough
The turf was a speckled purple, overlaid with an intricate design of dark green, light green, gold, orange, blue, magenta, off-white and orange. The dome hung a mere 40 feet overhead and was laced with track lights. The two-yard line was green and jagged like a mountain range. The air conditioning was on high.
In other words, it wasn't, your typical football setting, and it certainly wasn't the energy-sapping surroundings of a normal training camp practice. It was, however, just what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed on Sunday afternoon.
Looking for a little privacy from prying eyes and a little break from the heat, the Buccaneers took their second practice of the day indoors, invading an enormous ballroom at the Coronado Springs Resort on Disney's grounds. The "turf," of course, was carpet and the dome was actually a ceiling, but the space was plenty big enough to hold the team's surprisingly long and surprisingly fast-paced walk-through. Afterwards, Head Coach Jon Gruden was pleased with what his team accomplished in the unusual setting.
"It was a lot of football – goal line, two-minute, blitzes," said Gruden. "We did a lot of situational aspects of football, both sides and special teams. We probably got more reps in than we do in three practices combined. So there were a lot of positive things that we got done there."
The Bucs ran nine full periods and stayed in the ballroom for close to two hours, nearing the length of a normal practice. They took 137 snaps and have now run approximately 1,400 plays through the first 10 days of training camp. That's more plays than the team will run on offense during an entire season.
Obviously, these particular reps were more challenging mentally than physically, as the players wore shorts and jerseys, no helmets, and loped through their routes and assignments. Deep passes and punts were restricted by the ceiling, but the team had plenty of room on both sides to simulate a full field. Most importantly, they had four walls, which allowed them to work on some aspects of their development that they would rather keep private for now.
"You can't get everything done in there, but we had a lot of things we couldn't accomplish out on our practice field, too," said Gruden. "We did some things that we don't want anybody to know that we're doing. We're not going to do that often."
Four speakers along the west wall blared exceedingly loud crowd noise during about 60% of the snaps, creating a din that made hand signals absolutely necessary. It was something the Bucs didn't think they could accomplish at their usual Wide World of Sports Complex setting, and it was quite a bit louder than their past efforts to pipe in noise at the One Buc Place practice fields.
"We got to simulate crowd noise to see if we could communicate in it," said Gruden. "That's hard to simulate outdoors; it's not realistic. So we got a lot of things done."
Guard Toniu Fonoti, who suffered a sprained ankle during the morning practice, leaned against a wall during the walk-through and wasn't asked to take any reps. (Fonoti is still considered day-to-day with the injury, Gruden indicated on Sunday afternoon.) Just about everybody else on the roster was put in the mix, however, as the walk-through speed and soft carpet made it feasible for mildly-injured men to take part. That included tackles Kenyatta Walker and Torrin Tucker, who have missed a good part of the last week of action due to minor injuries. Even safety Will Allen, who currently has a cast on his right arm due to a thumb injury, was able to participate.
"That's another thing," said Gruden. "There were some guys who hadn't been practicing who can take 60 or 70 reps to make sure they're making the communication and their assignments are sharp. You can't do that on the practice field; they would have been inactive totally. That was good for us."
Disney, in general, has been good for the Buccaneers. Gruden considers Wide World of Sports the best training camp location in the NFL, and Sunday's impromptu move indoors, accommodated so well at the Coronado Springs Resort, was another advantage to the Lake Buena Vista setting.
"Yeah, this is pretty big-time here," said Gruden, looking around. "This was nice, very nice."