The lightning alarm mounted on the back of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' headquarters went off on Wednesday, just as the first few players were strolling onto the field for practice. Everyone immediately headed back inside One Buccaneer Place, but they didn't stay there long.
The sounding of the alarm requires a clearing of the practice fields for at least 30 minutes and in this case seemed to portend the arrival of a fast-moving storm. In years past, the Bucs would be faced with two options if that storm arrived or lightning persisted: Cancel practice or find a facility off-site that could house their practice. That latter option was a logistical hassle and it could extend the day of work by hours.
This time, the Buccaneers didn't even have to leave their own grounds when lightning struck. Instead, they called a quick audible and got their team into the indoor facility that now stands at the back edge of the outdoor fields. There were several hundred invited guests on hand for practice, and they were ushered into the indoor facility as well, where they could watch from bleachers in air-conditioned comfort.
The Buccaneers will occasionally make use of the indoor facility on non-rainy days in order to get a break from the heat, but they will still do most of their practice work on their high-quality grass fields. The best thing that the facility provides the team, however, is a good option for practice when nature forces it to call a sudden audible, as it did Wednesday.
In this particular case, the storm missed One Buccaneer Place but there were additional lightning problems. The Bucs spent their entire two-hour field session indoors.
"Today's a great example," explained Head Coach Dirk Koetter. "So, 10 minutes before we came out, the lightning horn went off. So, if we didn't have the indoor, that's an automatic wait for 30 minutes. Right when that 30 minutes was up, we got another lightning [alarm] so we would have been back inside for another 30 minutes. So what happens when you don't have an indoor is you just keep getting pushed back and we don't have lights either. So if we were practicing in the afternoon, we might miss a whole day of practice. So we just come inside and keep working. Everybody's happy."
Players generally prefer working on natural grass to field turf, but they surely appreciated the very effective air conditioning of the indoor facility on Wednesday, particularly after an especially hot practice on Tuesday afternoon. The building is also outfitted with many other things that make practicing easier, including permanently-mounted cameras that the team's video department controls remotely.
"It's a great facility," said Koetter. "We got to see first-hand today how awesome this thing is with the air conditioning. We can still get the scoreboards, we have the cameras. It's a really great facility."
The Buccaneers will wrap up their three-day mini-camp, and their nine-week offseason program, with one more practice on Thursday morning. They'll probably do so outside, under the sun and clouds. However, if nature forces another change of plans, the indoor facility will be waiting to oblige.