View pictures of the Buccaneers arriving for 2019 Training Camp.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially reported for training camp on Thursday, with all 90 players on the roster showing up on time. The last bit of roster business was completed the previous weekend when first-round rookie Devin White signed his contract, and there was nothing to keep any of his 89 teammates away from the AdventHealth Training Center for the start of camp.
"Everybody is here, ready to roll," said Head Coach Bruce Arians.
Of course, that doesn't mean that 90 players took part in Thursday's conditioning test or will be ready to practice on Friday afternoon, but it's close. The Bucs open camp with three players on the active/physically unable to perform list (PUP) and two on the active/non-football injury list (NFI). The PUP group is made up of safety Justin Evans, inside linebacker Jack Cichy and outside linebacker David Kenney. Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and rookie quarterback Nick Fitzgerald share the NFI designation. The other 85 players on the roster should be on the field on Friday, and after two days in shorts the team will finally put on the pads on Sunday.
"You know, we had the tragedy of the accident early with JPP, and everything else has been just smooth," said Arians. "And these guys put their heads down and just go to work. And as a coach that's all you can ask for."
Pierre-Paul appears to be the longest-term consideration in that group, thanks to the neck injury he suffered in a May auto accident. Arians does not anticipate that Pierre-Paul will need surgery and believes he's still on a timetable to return at some point during the season.
"I think [surgery] is ruled out," said the coach. "I can't swear to the doctors, but seeing him yesterday, he was in great spirits. It's improving. It's making progress, and I think everything is on course."
Arians didn't have as specific of an idea on the return of Evans, who finished last season on injured reserve with a toe ailment and was not able to participate in the offseason program. When Evans returns he'll be joining a crowded and wide-open competition for the two starting safety spots, along with third-round draft pick Mike Edwards, second-year player Jordan Whitehead and free agent signee Kentrell Brice, among others. Evans has started 19 games in two seasons and is still a promising young player, but he'll obviously have to catch up quickly when he gets back on the field.
"If he would have practiced all Spring and was penciled in as a starter, I'd be concerned," said Arians. "But I haven't seen him play. So I've seen all the other guys play, and I'm okay. If we get him back and he's what I hope he is, that's adding to the picture."
Fitzgerald, an undrafted rookie signed out of Mississippi State, could miss about a week with a hamstring injury that Arians said was sustained during a game of beach volleyball. When he returns to the field, he'll continue trying to carve out a niche as a Taysom Hill-type of reserve who can play quarterback but also help on special teams and possibly get reps at another position, such as tight end.
Cichy also did not practice during the offseason following the ACL tear that ended his rookie season after six games. He also overcame two knee injuries in college at Wisconsin to become a sixth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2018. Kenney sustained an unspecified injury during the offseason after impressing with his speed and quickness during a tryout in the Bucs' rookie mini-camp.
As for the 85 players who won't be limited to start camp, they should be able to hit the ground running. Apparently most of the players did a good job of avoiding any setbacks during the long break between the offseason program and mini-camp. Arians called the annual conditioning test just a "formality."
"Just looking at the guys who have been here the last couple of days, [they] are in great shape," he said. "Retention was outstanding, especially the young players. I'm looking forward to getting everybody out. Everybody else came in in great shape."