LB Derrick Brooks and the Buccaneers have approached this week of practice with a very good attitude
Two days of morning workouts and two days off isn't exactly boot camp, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did go back to basic training this week.
With an unusual bye week trapped between a Monday game and a Thursday contest, the Bucs basically have two small byes, this weekend and after next week's home game against Detroit. That means no Rams-esque week off for the players, but it does afford the team a chance to focus in on its problems.
Tampa Bay is 3-3, having won three straight then matched that with a three-game skid. In each of the three losses, potentially winning efforts were detoured by one or two crucial missteps. That's why the Bucs are using this short week as a chance to bring the mentality back to training camp. Just six weeks into the season, the team is drilling itself on the fundamentals of the game.
"Fundamentals," affirmed Head Coach Tony Dungy. "No game plan, no work on Detroit, no working on anybody else. Just doing what we do. Kickoff return, punt coverage, offense, defense…just what are we supposed to do? If we get that squared away, we'll be okay. Assignment detail, technique detail…just being on top of the little things."
Thursday morning's practice had a mellower feel than the intense workout the team put on between 11 and one on Wednesday, but it was sharp enough to be pleasing to Dungy and his coaching staff.
"I thought we had two good days, really, for being non-game preparation days," said Dungy. "They were very much like training camp and I think that's what we needed."
Dungy's staff was helped in its efforts by a Buccaneer team that appears to have shaken off Monday's lost rather quickly. "Our attitude's fine," said the Bucs' coach. "I think we just have to get focused in on the details. That's the difference…when you play good teams, you can't afford to make those critical errors, especially in the fourth quarter. The way you avoid those is to make sure you're on top of the little things."
Perhaps the Buccaneers are going about their work so calmly because they have been in this position before. No one anticipated nor relished a three-game losing streak, but similar downturns in each of the last three years have convinced this team that the sky is not falling. The constancy with which the coaching staff approaches each week reassures the team that everything is still on track.
"That's been one of the things that I think we've done well as a coaching staff," said Dungy. "We've stayed on the routine and that has generally pulled us out of the slumps. Unfortunately, we have experience at coming out of slumps. We seem to go through them every year at some point, whether we start 5-0 or 0-2. We just can't seem to smoothly go along and make it a nice road. When you do that, you've got to be just a little more determined, and you've got to zone in on those fundamentals, and that's what will pull you out of it."
The Buccaneers finished practice at approximately 11:10 a.m., and by noon the locker room was mostly empty. Players have the luxury of two days off before returning on Sunday to begin game-planning for the Lions.
Dungy had no specific advice for his players during their short break.
"Whatever gets them to relax and enjoy themselves," said Dungy. "We have a few injured guys that have to come in and get treatment, but for the most part, the rest of the guys we want to just get away and enjoy it."
Mostly, Dungy will be pleased if they come back in the same frame of mind with which they finished the week. The Buccaneers have struggled in games leading up to bye weeks, but have won three of their last four post-bye contests.
"Well, we need to keep that going," said Dungy. "Really, I think if you give the guys a schedule far enough in advance, don't take them by surprise with anything, they should be able to come back and function accordingly. I think it will give us a good chance to rest up from our injuries after a couple of physical games. I think it's coming at the right time, even though it would be nice to play a game today."