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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Grind Out First Practice in Pads

Tampa Bay players put on "full dress" for the first time in 2023, dialing up the intensity at training camp as special guests from the military looked on


Fittingly on a day that featured guests from the military, some of them in uniform, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also went "full dress" on Monday, Day Six of their 2023 training camp. That's the term the team uses when it puts on football pants, jerseys and pads, graduating from what Head Coach Todd Bowles likes to call "shorts and t-shirt" football to a more game-like setup.

As is required by the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the Buccaneers started camp with two practices that featured no pads and then two more in "spiders." There's no doubt, though, that the first day in pads is a tentpole moment in every training camp, particularly when the heat index is well over 100 degrees on the practice field.

At the end of the two-hour workout, Bowles complimented his players on staying mentally sharp throughout a taxing morning.

"Some technique things we've got to clean up, obviously, but I thought the alertness was there," said Bowles. "We're starting to understand some situational football things, so I thought we put in good work."

The addition of pads also prompted the Buccaneers to add some new drills to the practice schedule, most notably the one-on-one set between receivers and defensive backs. On a separate part of the field, the running backs and tight ends also did head-to-head battle with the safeties and linebackers. Among the notable reps was yet another diving catch by camp darling Deven Thompkins, who got separation deep down the left sideline before stretching out to haul in a pass that appeared to be out of his reach. In a later rep, Thompkins lined up in the slot and gave a sharp stutter-step to rookie defensive back Josh Hayes before breaking his route across the middle, but the sixth-round draft pick mirrored the route well and was able to know the pass away.

At other moments during team drills, the defense seemed to make a few more big plays, with safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and rookie outside linebacker Yaya Diaby both snaring interceptions and safety Nolan Turner breaking on a ball near the goal line to almost haul in a pick of his own. This came after a Sunday morning in which receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin led a string of big plays for the offense.

"It's camp, it's going to be give and take," said Bowles. "It's a grind. I'm not going to say we have up-and-down days or good-and-bad days. It's a work in progress. Obviously, as a head coach, if one side does well the other side doesn't. You can't be pleased one way or the other. I can't come off the field and say both sides had a great day; that doesn't make sense. But there's a lot of give and take. As long as the work is there and they're making each other better, I'm happy with that."

As for those in a different sort of uniform taking in the action, it was Military Day at the Bucs' training camp, a valued annual tradition. With the heat soaring and the competition ramping up with the addition of pads, it helped those on the field put there ups and downs in perspective.

"It makes you understand that this is only a game," said Bowles. "There are people out there risking their lives for you, and the things we get upset over is minute compared to the things that they do for this country and do for us. It just makes you appreciative of the job you have and you're just happy to do anything for them that you can."

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