So you've decided to come out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp at One Buccaneer Place this year. Maybe bring the whole family, make a day of it, get a front-row seat to scout your team's preparations for the 2010 season.
Outstanding! Here are the first two places you should visit while you're logged on to Buccaneers.com: our Training Camp information section and the One Buc Club. The first click will give you the basic details - dates, times, parking directions, etc. - you'll need for your visit, and the second will explain how to get practice tickets in advance.
Perhaps you've already taken care of those first two steps. If so, great...and now we have a little more friendly advice for you. Here are seven ways you can make your camping trip with the Buccaneers as entertaining as possible, and we're not talking bug spray and Bunsen burners.
1. Arrive early. Stay Late.
If you've already lined up your tickets or just checked out the open practice schedule, you know the basic times for the Bucs' field work. The morning practices on Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday all begin at 10:20 p.m. ET and should end at about 12:30 p.m. The afternoon workouts on Sunday and Thursday run from 2:30 p.m. to either 4:35 or 5:00 p.m. Practice times are subject to change but the team generally sticks very tightly to its prearranged times, barring inclement weather.
So why extend your visit by getting to One Buc early or hanging out after the last pass is thrown? One word: Autographs!
The team's goal for this year's open practice sessions is to make the camp experience better than it has ever been for visiting fans. The Bucs see their open camp practices as an opportunity to connect directly with their fans, and one way to do so is to bring the players out to the field early and have them stay late when the workout is over.
There will be pre and post-game autograph sessions at all six of the camp practices at One Buc Place. Fans won't have to look for special places to meet their favorite players - the Bucs will be coming directly to the edge of the stands to interact with them.
So if part of your motivation for coming to training camp is to meet your favorite Buccaneers, make sure to allot a little extra time before and after practice.
2. Check out the Treasure Cove.
As you leave the parking lot and enter the Bucs' backyard for practice, you'll stroll through a special area known as the Treasure Cove. Make sure to stop and check it out, or come back at some point during your stay.
There's a lot to see and do in the Cove. You can browse through the latest Buccaneers gear in the merchandise tent, purchase concessions (including $1 hot dogs) and meet the Buccaneers Cheerleaders and get autographs. You'll also find restrooms in the Cove.
And if you time it right, you can get a very close look at the biggest Buccaneers in action. Though most of practice is held on the three fields behind One Buc (and all six open practices will be conducted almost exclusively on Field 3, right next to the grandstands), the offensive and defensive linemen occasionally jog out to a small area outside the field's fences and just inside the Treasure Cove. That's where the blocking sleds can be found.. You can stand just a few feet away as players such as Davin Joseph and Gerald McCoy test their strength against those imposing pieces of equipment.
3. Grab a roster.
Pop quiz: What jersey number is rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn sporting? Who will be running around with number 66 on his back?
The answers, respectively, are 17 and Keydrick Vincent, but don't worry. There won't be any more tests. No matter how much of a diehard Bucs fan you are, it can be hard to keep track of the players this time of the year. If you want to know exactly who just made that great catch or how to sort out the action in the OL/DL one-on-one drills, you're going to need a roster.
That's another thing to do on your way into the main practice area: Snare a copy of the team's 80-man training camp roster. These lists will be updated each evening for distribution at the following day's practice, so they will reflect all the latest roster moves. And, of course, they are free.
4. Pick your best vantage point.
As mentioned, virtually all of the action during the open practices at One Buccaneer Place will be conducted on Field 3, which has been lined with covered bleachers to provide up-close seating. Once you exit the Cove and step onto the grass, you'll need to decide just what viewing angle you want to have on the action.
Do you like the end zone view, with red zone and goal-line drills almost right in your lap, or do you want to watch passing plays unfold from the sideline? Do you want a front-row seat or a higher angle to survey the various drills? Do you want to be closer to One Buc Place or the Treasure Cove?
The viewing areas surrounding Field 3 will also include a section for guests with special needs. This area will include a section of risers that will allow visitors to get a clear view of practice without obstructions from passing foot traffic. If the grandstands become full, the Buccaneers will open additional standing-room-only areas along adjacent fields and some of the practice action will be located to those areas.
5. Get an ice pop! (And bring sunscreen.)
What started out as a bit of whimsy during one practice last summer became one of the most popular aspects of the first training camp at One Buccaneer Place: Ice pops! Cheerleaders, team mascot Captain Fear and other camp helpers spent each practice wandering the stands and handing out free ice pops to anyone who needed to cool down. And, yes, the ice pops will be back in 2010.
Consider this a reminder, too, that the One Buc practice fields can be quite hot in July and August, even with ice pops and covers on the bleachers. Water and other drinks will be available for purchase at the Treasure Cove concession stand, of course, and applying sunscreen is always a good idea.
6. Get out your camera.
Yes, you most definitely can bring cameras in to the Bucs' training camp to take still photography of your team in action. Just leave the extra-long lenses at home; no lenses longer than 12" will be allowed into practice. Also, you may not bring video cameras into any of the practices.
This may be your best opportunity to get your own up-close shots of the Buccaneers in action. Like all teams in the NFL, Tampa Bay keeps its regular-season practices closed to the public but during camp you are as close to the action as you are going to get. Do you have hidden shutterbug skills? Sports photography is not easy, but you won't get many better opportunities to hone your talents.
Okay, true: It's practice. There is no score. Some of the receivers' routes are "against air," in coachspeak. And every "win" for the offense or defense is a "loss" for the other side.
But there is still plenty of reason to cheer, not the least of which is the boost it gives to the players on the field. Practice, especially two-a-days, can be grueling in Florida's unforgiving summer heat, and there is the added tension created by the competition for roster spots. Hearing the crowd respond to a good play can help a receiver find his legs for another crisp route or a linebacker focus more clearly on his assignments.
Don't worry, Captain Fear and the Buccaneers Cheerleaders will be on hand to help lead cheers and entertain kids. The Buccaneers believe they are poised to vault back into playoff contention this season; if they're right, the cheers at Raymond James Stadium on Sundays are going to be deafening. Come to camp and you can say you were among the first to root the 2010 on to new heights.