After the most unpredictable opening weekend in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got back together on Tuesday night for a 64-play walk-through. On Wednesday morning, the Buccaneers practiced at full speed for the first time in a week.
After that practice, with some sense of normalcy returning to the Buccaneers' routine after Hurricane Irma's track across Florida, Head Coach Dirk Koetter took a moment to reflect on that welcome development and how it contrasted with the ongoing struggles of many Floridians.
"Obviously, it's great to get back to thinking a little bit about football," said Koetter. "We know that a lot of people got it worse than we did and we were very fortunate here to have as little misfortune in this area as we did in some other parts of the state and the region. But, we're thinking about those people. We are thinking about those still hurting [and] still inconvenienced, but at the same time it's good to get back to football."
And maybe the Buccaneers getting back to football can help in some way for those who had a tougher time with Irma, at least by providing something around which everyone in the Bay area can rally. Buccaneer players would certainly like to turn Sunday's opener at Raymond James Stadium into a community celebration.
Pictures from the Buccaneers' practice on Wednesday.
"Can a city rally around football? Yeah, we're not us without our city," said defensive tackle and team captain Gerald McCoy. "I think everybody is just excited to see football in Tampa again. We're excited, fans are excited and it's a getaway. I know for me, football is a getaway from my everyday life. It's my escape, even though it's stressful at times because you've got to focus [and] your body is hurting sometimes, mentally you know nobody cares what you're dealing with, they just want to see you perform. When you've got all that on your mind it gets stressful, but it's still my getaway."
The Buccaneers didn't find out for sure that they would be playing at home on Sunday until Tuesday, when it was announced that the game would remain at Raymond James Stadium. Obviously, had Irma hit Tampa with the ferocity that many were anticipating earlier in the weekend, the stadium could have sustained damage that made it unfit for a game, much as Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans Saints to leave the Superdome in 2004. McCoy was thrilled that his team's home was still in good shape, and would have wanted to stay there this Sunday even if there were some technical glitches.
"I think for everybody, fans, maybe people who were affected – we've got a game coming to town," he said. "I believe the power is on at the stadium. If it's not, we've got smart phones – somebody can keep score on their phone."
For those who did get hard by Irma, there are issues more important than a football game on Sunday, and McCoy is working to pinpoint how he and his teammates can help in a substantial way. "We're going to make some moves," he said. "I love my city."
Helping those in need will be an ongoing effort, just as it is in Texas after the even more destructive impact of Hurricane Harvey. In the grander scheme, that's more important than football. But Buccaneer players are back at work now, and their job is to get ready for Sunday. They hope to do so in a way that brings comfort to their fans and fellow Floridians.
"Sporting events bring people together, brings the city hope, brings a lot of people hope," said wide receiver Mike Evans, another team captain who has been involved in the efforts to organize hurricane aid. "We're excited to get out there and give our fans something good to watch.
"We want to win no matter what, but I guess this will be good under the circumstances for us to win."