NFL coaches are required to give their players at least one day off a week during the regular season. That day is almost always Tuesday, on a normal Sunday-game week, with Monday being used for review of the previous game and Wednesday marking the start of a new round of preparations.
Many coaches also employ a practice commonly known as "Victory Monday," especially in the second half of a long and grueling season. Win on Sunday and you get both Monday and Tuesday off to start the next week. It's a nice bit of added incentives.
There was no call for Victory Monday at One Buccaneer Place this week, after last Sunday's shutout loss in New Orleans. Still, Head Coach Greg Schiano elected to give his players the extra day off, believing it was the right way to create the proper frame of mind for the last two weeks of the season.
"I felt it was time that everybody just kind of get away from each other and came back here ready to put on a great effort this week in our preparation," said Schiano on Wednesday. "And that's what they did today and that's great. It's a start."
The Buccaneers put on pads for Wednesday's workout, something that becomes less and less common during the final two months of the season due to NFL restrictions and coaches' efforts not to overtax their players. There was hitting and there was intensity on the practice field, perhaps not rivaling an early training camp day but a good sign for a team in Week 16 that knows it won't be playing beyond Week 17. Schiano made particular reference to a "9-on-7" period during practice that focuses on the physical aspects of the running game, something the Buccaneers want to reestablish over the final two games.
"I thought we had a good practice today," said Schiano. "There's a lot of belief in those guys, a lot of togetherness, there's a lot of, 'We're going to do our best.' That's all you can do is do your best, as you all know. You do your best and then see where it stacks up against your opponent. What gets you is when you don't do your best, that's where you get aggravated and frustrated. We all didn't do our best [in New Orleans]. We've talked about that; that's water under the bridge."
The extra day off helped move that stream along. The coaches and players discussed what needed to be discussed about Sunday's game in the Superdome, then made an effort to move on, as is critical in the compressed NFL schedule.
"It was big," said tackle Demar Dotson. "It gave us a chance to rest, think about that last game and prepare ourselves for this week. [We had to] just throw that last game out of our minds. It's over with and we can't do anything about it. We flushed it, and now we're thinking about the Rams."
Added linebacker Mason Foster: "It was definitely good to get a chance to rest, clear your mind and think about how you're going to finish these last two games."
Of course, few people in any profession are going to object to an extra day off, especially when a typical day in the office involves some rather intense physical labor. But Schiano didn't just prescribe an in-season vacation for his men; rather, he gave them a physical break but a mental directive. It appears to have worked.
"We came back focused, definitely," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "We put in the work today. Coach issued us a challenge to take a few days off and then come back and be on it. I think we did that. We came out with some hard hitting. Everybody was locked in and focused, flying around, and everybody was doing what they needed to do."