The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offseason program is picking up steam as it rushes to its end, which is less than three weeks away. The final three weeks of the program will also be the busiest.
Over the next two work weeks, the Buccaneers will utilize the last eight of their 14 allotted "organized team activity days," or OTAs. That will funnel them directly into the only mandatory, full-team mini-camp of the entire offseason, an intense three days of work beginning on Monday, June 21. A vacation of about six weeks will follow for the coaches and players before the team reconvenes for training camp in late July.
The Bucs are working as hard as they ever have in the month of June, thanks to a new approach with that OTA allotment. The team used to scatter those organized practices throughout the offseason, sometimes starting as early as March and usually reserving just a handful for June. This year, the team put all 14 of its OTAs in a five-week period beginning in late May in order to make it possible for its new class of rookies to be involved in all of them.
That goal has been met, but the new format has been a blessing in disguise for the team's veterans, as well. Running back Earnest Graham said the new OTA layout has served to condense the offseason work, giving the players a little more of a break before the draft and making the work more focused after it. The schedule seems to be popular with the whole team.
"I feel really good about it," said Head Coach Raheem Morris. "The guys are embracing it. I feel really good about where we are and really good about some of our young guys' development."
Some of the team's rookies have been obvious standouts through the workouts so far, such as wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. A few, such as cornerback Myron Lewis, are being worked only sparingly at the moment due to very minor injuries. One, defensive tackle Brian Price, has not been able to report back to the team yet due to the length of the UCLA school year.
This week, the Bucs will conduct a four-OTA week for the first time. The Monday-Thursday run should be another important building block for the entire rookie class.
"You don't want to say the first week to the second week is a big jump because it's still the install phase," said Morris. "All these guys out here are still learning something new every single day, so they're still in that phase, still trying to acclimate themselves into being a part of this football team. But they've done a better job this [past] week. They've done a good job since they've been here. I'm really impressed by some of our young men having the ability to step right in there and just make a few mistakes. There have been some mistakes but they're very correctable. They're a fun group to be around and a group that really loves football."
Morris was pleased with the team's progress last week, particularly in such specific situations as the red zone. As is often the case at this time of the year, the defense occasionally looked as if it was farther along in its development, though there was enough give-and-take to keep it competitive.
"We had a really good week of practice as far as defense," said Morris. "We had a really good week of practice whole team-wise, but some days the defense is in the barrel and some days the offense is in the barrel. I felt good about the defense having some 'barrel days' and putting the offense in a barrel."
The offense will get its chance at putting together some barrel days this coming week, as the team practices every day from Monday through Thursday. Each practice will begin at 10:15 a.m. ET and last approximately until noon. As always, Buccaneers Insider will report from team headquarters with OTA updates every day.