The Bucs will be hitting the sleds by early Saturday morning
Hillsborough County public school students are enjoying their last few days of summer 'freedom' before classes begin next week. There are some 30-something Tampa Bay Buccaneer players who know exactly how they feel.
Actually, the Tampa kids have at least one more weekend to goof off. Bucs like Kerry Jenkins, Shelton Quarles, Charlie Garner and Derrick Deese are all down to their final hours.
Thursday marks the last day before the Buccaneers' 2004 season begins in earnest; on Friday, all players are required to check in to training camp headquarters in Celebration Florida between noon and 4:00 p.m.
Ready or not, the season is here.
Head Coach Jon Gruden is ready. He'll be leading nearly 90 players into the broiling Orlando heat on Saturday morning, after a Friday evening organizational meeting-slash-pep talk. Only a few pieces of pre-camp business remain, including getting the last six 2004 draft picks to sign on the dotted line. Players are not allowed to participate in training camp until they are under contract.
"I'm anxious," said Gruden. "I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to getting these rookies signed, sealed, delivered, ready to go."
The Bucs will train at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex for the third straight year, after spending the better part of two decades in town at the University of Tampa. The first year the Bucs visited Disney, they ended the season in a magical place, on a podium holding up the Lombardi Trophy. Last year's recap didn't go as well, with the Bucs' falling to 7-9, but the organization has taken an extremely aggressive approach to getting back to the top in 2004. Training again at Disney, where the facilities are first-rate and the sense of isolation helps draw the team together, is just part of the process.
The basics of training camp are the same no matter where it is held, however. Most days include a pair of two-hour practices, hours worth of meeting and strength training and very little personal free time. It's a routine that veterans like Jenkins and Quarles have come to tolerate, if not love. As for the rookies, they might be in for a bit of a shock.
"I just think that they have to get ready for the grind," said Gruden. "It's a lot longer training camp then they are ever going to expect. A lot of these guys come out of the SEC, like (Michael) Clayton who has been to seven or eight two-a-day practices; you're going to get 27 or 28. Four weeks of consecutive two-a-day practices (including post-camp work) and they'll get 16 regular season games and four preseason games and there's no 20-hour-a-week rule yet in the NFL. So, we can meet 20 hours a day, so you have to get ready for the grind."
Gruden was kidding about the 20 hours a day, but two-a-days in Florida are no joke. The schedule heading into camp – it's always subject to change due to weather conditions or coaches' preferences – calls for 29 practices between July 31 and August 18. Twelve of the first 13 days of camp call for two-a-days, though a few of those include special teams practices in the afternoon, workouts that are generally shorter and don't necessarily include the entire team.
You can review that entire practice schedule, and make travel plans to Lake Buena Vista if you wish to see any of the workouts, in the special Buccaneers.com Training Camp section. All camp practices are open to the public and free.
Camp coverage is underway on Buccaneers.com, though it will swing into full gear when the team reports on Friday. Here are the few things you will find in the Training Camp section during the nearly three weeks the team is inhabiting Disney:
- Daily News. Everything that happens at training camp will be covered on Buccaneers.com, from injuries to lineup changes to player signings. * In-depth Practice Coverage. Check out our Quick Hits shortly after each workout for an insider's look at what took place on the practice field. * Will Allen's Camp Diary. Follow the journey of a rookie through his first NFL camp as Ohio State's Allen periodically shares his thoughts on the proceedings. * Practice photos. The Buccaneers' own photographer has access to every inch of the team's practice fields. See what he sees through dozens of action photos every day. * Feature Stories. Meet some of the new Buccaneers through the site's exclusive stories on the players and their goals for 2004. * Daily Videos. Listen to Coach Gruden and prominent Buccaneers as they examine the daily happenings at practice.
Camp is about to begin. Buccaneers.com is ready. Tampa Bay's players, whether they like it or not, are ready. Are you?