The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shaved about an hour off their original practice schedule on Monday afternoon, took their work inside the indoor facility and, in a show of magnanimity from the coaching staff, even left the air conditioning on. It was pretty clear that Head Coach Bruce Arians was aiming to keep his troops fresh for a pair of very valuable joint practices with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After the 90-minute practice, Arians said the team was still "right on schedule" despite the shorter work and that Monday was something of an "extra day." The team still got in good work in that compressed time and then left the field with Miami on its mind.
"[It was] a really good, sharp, fast practice," said Arians. "I'm really looking forward to tomorrow; hopefully we can get outside. It's two days working with Miami. We'll meet with their coaches tonight and finalize everything, how we're going to do it, if we end up having to go inside or outside."
The Buccaneers and Dolphins will work together from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on both days before taking a break and then reconvening at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night for their preseason contest. Structurally, the workouts will be much like a typical camp practice, with individual, seven-on-seven and team periods, but of course the competition will be heightened with the two teams going at it.
Arians would like to see that intense competition without any of it leading to extracurricular activity after the whistle.
"Everything is just to get each other better, not to get anybody hurt," he said. "There will be absolutely no fighting. If you fight, you're out of here. It's just a matter of practicing against somebody to make them better and having good respect for each other."
As Arians noted over the weekend, a joint practice against another team can in some ways be more beneficial than a preseason game because you can build specific situations into the script rather than hoping they occur in the natural flow of a game. In addition, you can get your starters more work against another opponent in a less risky atmosphere and then adjust their playing time during the full-contact game accordingly. And, as Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added on Monday, the opposing team offers a more realistic evaluation opportunity.
"It’s really good to go against somebody else because sometimes going against yourself, you get a false sense of security or you don’t really get a true evaluation until you see it against someone else," said Rodgers. "Then, you can really assess what you have or what you don’t have and go from there, or see where the improvements need to be made, but the work against somebody else is truly invaluable."
Arians noted that each of the two practices would include a pair of live-tackling drills, one on the goal-line and one to work on two-point plays. Otherwise, the players will "thud" each other instead of tackling, and he's not expecting anything to get overly physical. A joint practice only gets rowdy "if you let it," he said.
"Nothing ever good comes out of it. The teams I've been on, I think only one of all the practices have we had a problem – Saints and Chiefs – and you never get anything done. It's all about helping each other get better, not [proving] who's tougher."