The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held most of their week-ending practice on Friday inside their new indoor facility, but not because they were trying to escape any weather issues outside. Rather, this decision was more about the environment the team could create with four walls, a roof and a rocking sound system.
The Buccaneers head to New Orleans on Saturday and will play the Saints on Sunday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That is annually one of the loudest places the Buccaneers have to experience, and it's likely to be at peak volume this weekend with the Saints sporting a 5-2 record and the top spot in the NFC South standings.
"It serves a lot of different purposes," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter of the indoor facility, which the team first used in late September. "This week we wanted to go in one day with the dome effect and you get kind of that echo with the crowd noise. It could be weather some days, including heat, or wind or rain. It's a great facility. We are going to take advantage of it when we can."
With the rainy season past and daily temperatures in Tampa gradually sliding into the lower 80s, the Buccaneers will continue to enjoy their three well-manicured grass fields situated between One Buccaneer Place and the new facility. From a weather standpoint, the indoor practice area will be particularly useful next summer and into September. This week, the main attraction was the closed-in sound environment, as well as the turf field emulating what they will play on Sunday.
A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Saints.
Jameis Winston dealt with that noise on Friday as he threw passes for the third day in a row. That's a step forward for the quarterback, who has been recovering from a sprain to the AC joint in his right shoulder suffered in Arizona in Week Six. Leading up to games in Buffalo and at home against Carolina the next two weeks, he was held back from throwing on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In each case, he threw all the first-team passes on Friday and then played the entire game on Sunday, producing one stellar outing in Buffalo and one less successful one against the Panthers.
"I thought he had a good week of preparation," said Koetter. "As we've said the last two weeks, of course you would always want your starting quarterback out there all three days, but at every position you have to do what you have to do to get your guys to Sunday. It hasn't been how we would love it the last two weeks, but that is just the hand we've been dealt. Jameis came out and has thrown the ball good this week and has had a good week of preparation."
Opposing him were defensive backs Robert McClain and Josh Robinson, both of whom exited the league's concussion protocol on Friday. Both players practiced fully all week and should be available on Sunday.
Robinson missed three games due to his concussion, to just one for McClain. His return will be a boost to the Bucs' kick-coverage units. He is Tampa Bay Buccaneers' special teams captain and he led the team in kick-coverage tackles last year.
"Our coverage team has played okay in his absence, but he is one of the best cover guys in the league," said Koetter. "Just like we say [with] any other guy that's coming back from injury, of course you want your best guys out there. Josh takes his special teams very serious."
Both McClain and Johnson were officially removed from the injury report. Cornerback Brent Grimes did not practice all week, however, and has been ruled out for Sunday's game due to a shoulder injury. Winston is one of five players listed as questionable for the game, though he was considered a full-participant in practice on Friday. The same was true for wide receiver Adam Humphries (rib) and defensive tackle Chris Baker (ankle).
Linebacker Kendell Beckwith was limited in practice for the third straight day with a knee injury. Defensive end Robert Ayers was added to the injury report due to an ankle ailment and is considered questionable for the game.