Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians didn't have to work too hard to impress upon his team how dissatisfied he was with Thursday night's practice performance. One number might he point for him quite succinctly.
That number was 64 and it signified the number of times that Arians and his coaching staff, having reviewed tape of the entire 150-minute workout, felt that a mental error had been made. To put it in scientific terms, that's a lot of "MEs."
"They said it themselves. I really didn't have to say much in the meeting. Put the sheet up and there's 64 mental errors…we've never had more than 32 [in a given practice], you know? A lot of penalties, a lot of grabbing, so it was just not being ready to go after that day off. And we learned from it, so we bounced back tonight."
Fortunately, as Arians noted, Friday night's effort was a reasonably good rebound. It was the middle of three straight practices scheduled for 6:30 in the evening, which is good for approximating what a day will be like when the Bucs play on Thursday night in Carolina in Week Two. Prior to that, the team had been starting at 4:00 p.m. ET, as they will do on a lot of early Sundays, and next week they'll begin with an 8:00 a.m. practice in front of a group of visiting military guests.
The rough showing on Thursday came after the players enjoyed their first day off since the beginning of camp. That might have been a factor, but Arians is changing things up throughout camp in order to make sure such things are not a factor when the games start to count. The rebound on Friday was a good sign.
"I'm really anxious to see eight o'clock in the morning after the day off next week and see how go then, see if we learned our lesson.
"This was probably one of our best practices, coming off the worst practice we've had. Whether you take it for a day off then a practice, day off then a practice, now they're just excuses. Our schedule doesn't allow us to sit at one o'clock every Sunday, so we've got to play at different times. We've got to get up and be ready to play, so that's why we're doing this. That's why we're at eight o'clock in the morning next week. Overall, I thought it was good."
In particular, the offense was less mistaken-prone on Friday, with the receivers and tight ends doing a much better job of holding onto the football. Starting quarterback Jameis Winston had a good showing overall and was particularly strong during a red zone session in which the first-team offense scored multiple times. Arians agreed that it was probably Winston's best practice yet.
"I would say [so] just because the red zone was just lights-out," said the coach. "Seven-on-seven was lights-out. I thought the team period was lights-out. The two-minute, he overcame some things [and] got us down there with a chance to throw it in. So, yeah, I would say yes."
The defense had plenty of good moments, too, including two late-practice interceptions by rookie safety Mike Edwards. One ended the Winston-directed two-minute drill, but Arians didn't ding his quarterback too much for that one because the situation was relatively desperate. The clock was winding down, there were no timeouts, the ball was at the 30-yard line and Winston had to try something aggressive. Even so, it was another really good play for the impressive rookie safety.
"Oh, it was huge," Arians agreed. "He read it right, stayed deep within the defense then broke on it and made a heck of a play."
The Buccaneers are a week away from their first game action, as the preseason begins next Friday night in Pittsburgh. More to the point, though, they're still five-plus weeks away from the first regular-season contest. There are bumps along the road in every training camp, and the Bucs hit a pretty big one on Thursday. Fortunately, they smoothed out the ride on Friday.
"We're still installing. So it's all a growth period right now and we've got a long way to go until September the eighth. I like where we're at as a team, just the effort, the speed of practice. They'll be mistakes, we'll live with them. But if you're making too many, it's time to go."