Four days into training camp, Tampa Bay Buccaneers are feeling it in their legs, but they aren't showing many signs of mental fatigue.
The Buccaneers began practicing on Wednesday morning and by Saturday had completed the ramp-up period mandated by the NFL for the start of training camp. Now the players will get a rest on Sunday and when they return to practice on Monday it will be in pads. Assessing that first mini-week, Head Coach Todd Bowles felt his team had accomplished what it needed to in the run-up to the more physical work that starts next week.
"The mental part was very good," said Bowles. "You're going to get heavy legs the third and fourth days until they can get used to the heat. I think those guys are attentive, they're hustling and the communication has been good."
After the first players day off, the Buccaneers will have nine more training camp practices over the next two weeks, including one on Friday, August 5 that will be attended exclusively by the families of players and staff members. Seven of those workouts will be in pads; the players will wear spider shells in the other two. League rules only allow for one hour and 45 minutes of work in the first padded practice and two hours in the second one; after that the team can run practices as long as two and a half hours.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Even with the pads on, the Buccaneers will be careful with their contact in order to keep each other as healthy as possible. Bowles has not yet indicated if he will run any fully "live" drills, with real tackling, or how many of those there would be. Regardless, the intensity will go up a notch on Monday and the action will look a little bit more like real football.
"Well, a lot of supposed sacks may not get there, and a lot of supposed runs may not get there," said Bowles. "We'll see what comes of what. We're trying to make each other better and get ready for the season. We understand we're on the same team. We want heavy competition, but we want to play smart and figure things out."
All of the remaining practices are currently scheduled to take place on the three grass fields behind the AdventHealth Training Center, as the first four did. The team also has an indoor facility beyond those fields that comes in handy when there is foul weather or lightning in close proximity. The coaching staff could also choose to use that facility to give the players a break from the heat on any given day, but Bowles doesn't yet know if that will be necessary.
"Depends on the day," he said. "We'll play it by ear. You get a feel, a pulse for the team and you'll always take a look at the temperature. We may, or we may go straight through or give more breaks. We'll fluctuate."
The Buccaneers have enjoyed, relatively speaking, a decent amount of cooling breezes during the first week of camp, though the second half of Saturday's workout settled into a still and stifling heat. That heat will become more of an issue when the pads are added in, which means it will take a little more effort for players to remain healthy and hydrated going forward.
"That's the only way you can be professional," said Bowles. "You've got to hydrate, you've got to rejuvenate, you've got to stretch. You've got to do all the things to get you ready for the season. We'll take care of our part when they're in the building; they have to take care of their part when they're out of the building. That's part of being a professional."