Pictures from the Buccaneers' training camp practice on Saturday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2017 training camp is taking place in the shadow of an enormous construction project, as the team's new indoor facility is taking shape just to the south of the practice fields. Upon its completion, the facility will allow the Buccaneers to escape oppressive heat and inclement weather any time they choose to work out indoors.
Heat and fast-moving rainstorms are summer staples in Tampa, of course, and the Bucs got their first taste of rain in this year's camp on Saturday morning. Most of the 102-minute practice was dry, but a storm rolled in quickly near the end, turning the final 18-play full-team period into an impromptu "wet ball" drill.
Head Coach Dirk Koetter said that the Buccaneers would have stayed out in the rain on Saturday morning even if the indoor facility was ready for use. The lightning detector behind One Buccaneer Place never went off.
"If there's not lightning and the fields aren't in danger of ruining the fields, we'll probably stay out, just because this is South Florida, right?" he said, referring to the conditions that might greet the Buccaneers when they play the Dolphins in Week One of the regular season. "This is Miami. We have preseason games. We need the work. We can pump in artificial crowd noise, we can do a lot of situations. We can't do artificial rain, so it's good work. Hopefully not every day."
In addition to their opener in Miami, the Buccaneers have three home games between September 17 and October 5, when the Bay area can still expect frequent rain. Last year, Tampa Bay's home games against the Rams (Sept. 25) and Broncos (Oct. 2) featured lengthy delays due to lightning-heavy storms. Koetter figures his players might as well get used to those conditions and figure out how to succeed in them.
"It's good work for us to work in the rain," he said. "It's really good work for us. And we didn't handle it great on offense, had a couple issues, but that's part of training camp."
Third-year lineman Ali Marpet, who is shifting from guard to center this year, found himself snapping a slippery football, which was a relatively new experience.
"I'm sure he got a lot out of it," said Koetter of Marpet. "One of those first ones, it came out of his hand wrong. He's got to concentrate on it. So again, that's one of those guys it was good for."
- The Buccaneers next two practices will have some new conditions of their own making. After two practices in shorts and jerseys, the players will put on shoulder pads on Sunday and then have their first full-padded workout on Monday. The NFL requires teams to follow that pattern at the start of a training camp.
The first padded practice of camp will also be the first one of the entire year, as contact is prohibited during the offseason. The addition of pads will add to the intensity of practice, particularly in the matchup of the offensive and defensive linemen. If Lavonte David is representative of his teammates, the defenders in particular are looking forward to a chance to thump shoulder pads.
"It's very hard [to practice without pads]," said David. "When you are out there on defense, you are just trying to impose your will. We go out there and try to play physical and, like I said, try to impose your will the very first play because that's what we do. It's hard right now, the way the league is being run right now, but we've got smart guys who go out there and play the same the right way and do it the way we want to do it."
Of course, an added layer of garments will only make the Tampa sun more punishing, as is the case every summer in Bucs' training camp. The team got a bit of a respite with Saturday's cool practice, but David thinks the players are ready to handle the heat at its worst.
"Yesterday when the sun was out for the most part, everybody looks good," he said. "Everybody had a great offseason working out and everybody came back ready and in shape to get this thing rolling."
- Jameis Winston walked out to practice on Sunday morning wearing a brace on his left knee. If that sentence got your pulse racing, well, you're a Buccaneer fan. Now take a couple deep breaths; there's actually nothing here to get worked up about.
It's actually relatively common in the NFL for a quarterback to wear a brace on his plant leg as a precautionary measure against injury. Winston has decided to try it out. He would have worn one on the opening day of camp but the first one didn't fit so a new one had to be ordered.
"We're demo-ing it out," said Koetter. "A lot of quarterbacks in the league wear knee braces on one leg. That's the latest and greatest technology. He's demo-ing it out to see how it goes. He doesn't have any injury, there's nothing there. It's all preventive and precautionary and we'll see how it goes.
"On a lot of those guys, especially those big guys, when they stride into it they lock out that front leg. That could be a problem. We'll see how it goes, like I said. He's just trying it out."