Buccaneer defensive backs took away the long ball on Tuesday thanks to the cover-two defense
Day Two of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2000 training camp started with the same overcast sky and steady drizzle that plagued the first day of camp on Monday, but the sun broke through at about 9:35, turning the day suddenly muggy. The team didn't seem to notice either weather extreme, once again alternating sharply between individual position drills and sessions that got the offense and the defense on the field together.
Even though the team wore shells on Tuesday rather than full pads, the morning workout was characterized by some surprisingly hard-hitting play when the two units battled it out.
"I think our guys are playing very aggressively, and that's the way we're coaching it offensively and defensively," said Dungy, who was not concerned by the contact. "We've talked about maintaining that intensity and that tempo, so I thought it was pretty good."
On Monday afternoon, those full-team drills were highlighted by a string of crowd-pleasing deep passes. On Tuesday, the concentration of passes seemed to shift more towards the short and intermediate routes, involving the backs more often. Dungy credited that shift not to the soggy field or tired legs but to a shift in defensive schemes. While Monday's bombs were a positive sign for the Bucs' new offense, their absence on Tuesday was equally pleasing to the coaches.
"That's always a double-edged sword every day in training camp," said Dungy of his unit's offensive success. "You want to see it happen from an offensive standpoint, but one of our big things on defense is not to give up big plays. Defensively, our coaches don't ever want to see the ball completed downfield.
"We only had one coverage in yesterday, so it becomes man-to-man and easy reads, and the receivers were a big part of yesterday's practice. We started working on our cover-two zone today, and now the backs and tight ends have to become more of a factor. It is tougher to get the ball up the field when we start playing our zone."
WR Keyshawn Johnson, who was cheered repeatedly for a run of tough catches on Monday, was still heavily involved in the short game on Tuesday, as the team expects him to make catches on all areas of the field. After practice, a discussion with the media turned to the acquisition of Johnson and the receiver's eagerness to come to Tampa. Dungy pointed out that the team attracted a wealth of big-name talent over the offseason.
"It's exciting that we've gotten to this point," said Dungy. "Five years ago, we probably would have had a little trouble talking Pro Bowl guys into coming here. Now it's a little different. Guys feel like they can come here with a chance to be with a winner. A number of our guys in the Pro Bowl went over there and told other guys how much they enjoyed playing in Tampa."
Even though it was only the second day of camp, there was a growing list of players who were relegated to the sidelines, mostly due to muscle pulls. TE James Whalen, who suffered a left hamstring strain Monday afternoon, did not return to action on Tuesday, nor did LB Shawn Stuckey (turf toe). S Ashley Cooper, who is recovering from knee surgery and skipped Monday afternoon's workout, was back on the field Tuesday morning. TE Pat Hape, who is considered day-to-day, did not join in the drills but mirrored much of the action on the sidelines and reported more success on Tuesday making his cuts.
As expected, S Damien Robinson also sat out the workout. Robinson also strained his left hamstring on Monday and was originally expected to miss one to two weeks. On Tuesday, that estimation was changed to two to four weeks in order to keep the injury from becoming a recurring problem.
"Because of the fact that he did it originally in July and now it's kind of like a re-injury," said Dungy, "(Head Trainer) Todd Toriscelli wants to be very careful with it so that we don't pull it again in another short period of time and then be out five or six weeks. We'll probably keep him out two weeks, then evaluate from there."
Toriscelli was busy on Tuesday attending to another defensive back starter, Donnie Abraham, who also felt a slight hamstring strain. However, Dungy indicated that it was apparently not serious, and Abraham did finish Tuesday's morning session.
If you're surprised by the seeming epidemic of hamstring strains, don't be. This is typical not only of the time of year but of the conditions the Bucs have encountered.
"It can happen," said Dungy. "That's one of the negatives of the (wet) field. A lot of times, you're trying to get your footing and it can be a little bit of a problem. You get them, you just hope they're not serious."
Two weeks before camp, before he could know of the rains that would greet the team in week one, Toriscelli predicted this kind of start.
"In the offseason, you deal mainly with two things: offseason surgeries and muscle pulls, because all we do is run and lift weights," said Toriscelli in early July, explaining how NFL injuries go in cycles. "During the first week of training camp, we deal with a lot of pulls, because now we're running twice a day. Then we transition into what I call 'combat injuries' during the second week of camp. You start playing games, and you get the bruises and bumps, burners, concussions. By that second week, all those muscle problems are taken care of, because now they're used to running twice a day."
So the sight of a handful of players on the sideline during this first week of practice is not an unusual one and should take care of itself as camp progresses.
The team will hit the field again on Tuesday afternoon for a session in shorts that will be devoted strictly to special teams. The afternoon practice begins at 3:30 p.m.