Under clouds both literal and figurative, the Bucs went back to work Thursday afternoon
On Thursday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expressed their support of the NFL's decision to postpone this weekend's game, it was out of respect for the emotional and logistical repercussions of Tuesday's tragedy. It was not delight at the thought of getting out of work.
As it turns out, the Buccaneers' work schedule, with the exception of Sunday, of course, has not been drastically altered. The Bucs stuck to plan on Thursday afternoon by heading out for its usual two-hour practice despite the sudden lack of an opponent this weekend.
The Bucs did head out about a half-hour early, as the threat of a storm loomed and game-planning meetings became irrelevant. With a light drizzle falling throughout the session, the Bucs worked on their own basics and schemes. They'll be back on the field on Friday.
"We are going to practice," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We'll probably be on the field at about 10:30 and should be done around noon."
The Bucs' usual Friday schedule calls for a 90-minute practice, followed on Saturday by a light walk-through in the morning and meetings at the team hotel in the evening. Those quick sessions on Saturday will not be necessary, but the team wants to use its usual Friday field time to stay sharp.
"We are going to treat it like a training camp practice and work our fundamentals," said Dungy. "The thing we've got to do is try to stay sharp now for 17 days without playing a game, which is a little unusual. Teams that are going to win a championship this season are going to have to deal with unusual things."
This week's events will not change next week's schedule, which is light already due to the Bucs' bye on Sunday, the 23rd. The team will have a short practice on Monday afternoon, then its usual two-hour sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, but then will have the next three days off. The lack of a game this Sunday will actually allow the Bucs to take a little more aggressive approach next week, practicing in full pads a bit more than originally planned.
Center Jeff Christy and cornerback Dwight Smith, both injured players who may have returned on Sunday had the game against Philadelphia been played, were held out of practice. Those two plus G Russ Hochstein, DE Ellis Wyms, WR Keyshawn Johnson and S Dexter Jackson will now have extra time to heal before returning to game action.
"That would be the hope," said Dungy. "That would be the one silver lining that would come out of this. We've got 17 days and we should get a lot of people healed up."