S Damien Robinson suffered the first significant injury of training camp
Welcome Back: The Buccaneers kicked off their 25th training camp today at the University of Tampa today with two practice sessions featuring a morning and afternoon session. 87 players are in camp, including eight players who participated in NFL Europe this past spring. The defending NFC Central Division champions return 46 players from a club that reached the NFC Championship for the first time since 1979.
Rainy Weather: The reported temperature from the National Weather Bureau during the start of the Buccaneers' morning practice was a cool 77 degrees. But forecasters' prediction of a 60-70 percent chance of rain was accurate as a steady rain fell for the final hour and six minutes of the morning practice. Despite a steady rainfall prior to the afternoon practice, the Bucs were able to complete the workout without any delays.
Are You Ready for Some Football?: Bucs fans surely are. Team officials announced that 2,000 fans attended the morning practice despite inclement weather conditions. The Bucs escaped the rain through the first hour of practice, but a steady rain persisted during the final hour of the morning session. Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy said the excitement swirling around the opening of training camp is reminiscent of his days as a player and coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It's nice from our standpoint to see that type of crowd out there," Dungy said. "When I was with Pittsburgh, people would build their vacation around training camp and Super Bowl weekend. It's great to see the enthusiasm and excitement right from the start."
Blocking Drills: Plenty of blocking drills were emphasized during the first hour of the Buccaneers' morning practice today. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Les Steckel had the offense break into their respective units to work on array of blocking schemes and techniques. WR Keyshawn Johnson, known throughout the league for his physical play, drew the loudest ovation from the Buc faithful with his downfield blocking prowess.
Vying for a spot: Since his arrival in 1996, Dungy has emphasized the importance of training camp. The competition to crack the starting lineup was evident by the number of changes the Bucs made prior to the season-opener against the New York Giants last year. After finishing the 1998 campaign ranked second in the league in overall defense, Dungy and his staff tinkered with the club's front seven, opting for DE Steve White and LB Shelton Quarles. Entering training camp, 29 rookies and first-year players join the fray, looking to make an ever-lasting impression on the Bucs' coaching staff. Five of those newcomers were selected in last April's NFL Draft – G Cosey Coleman (2nd round), LB Nate Webster (3rd round), James Whalen (5th round), David Gibson (6th round) and Joe Hamilton (7th round). The club will have one new starter on defense with third-year player Jamie Duncan taking over the reins at middle linebacker.
A Productive Summer Overseas: Another first-year player vying for the backup running back spot is Aaron Stecker. Stecker, who spent the offseason with the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe, was named the league's Offensive MVP en route to leading the Claymores to the World Bowl 2000 title game. Stecker paced NFL Europe in rushing with 774 yards. He also led the league with 1,050 combined yards from scrimmage and finished second overall with 11 touchdowns.
Veteran/Rookie Comparison: The most seasoned player on the Buccaneers roster is P Mark Royals. A 12-year NFL veteran, Royals turned 35 this past June. Last season, Royals finished third in the NFC in gross average (43.13 – a Buccaneer season-record) and second in net average (37.4). So, who is the youngest Buc on the roster? That distinction belongs to the Bucs' first overall draft pick G Cosey Coleman who turns 22 on October 27.
Longest Tenure as a Buc: TE Dave Moore begins his eighth consecutive season in a Buccaneer uniform, marking the longest consecutive tenure on the active roster. Moore's accomplishments include 17 career TDs, tying him for fifth on the club's all-time list. Moore, who re-signed a new three-year extension this past offseason, boasts career totals of 115 receptions for 1,201 receiving yards.
Citrus Stop: The Buccaneers will join the Miami Dolphins in a joint practice on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29. The sessions are scheduled for Friday (9- 11 a.m. , 4 – 6 p.m.) and Saturday (9-11 a.m., 3 – 5 p.m.) Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children under 12. All proceeds benefit the Citrus Bowl Youth Foundation.
Robinson Out: Buccaneers FS Damien Robinson suffered a left hamstring strain during the morning practice and will be out of action for the next 2 to 4 weeks. Second-year player Dexter Jackson took over at the free safety position in Robinson's absence.