G Jeb Terry will be at the NFL Rookie Symposium, a mandatory event in San Diego in late June
By now, most football fans know the significance of June 1 on the league calendar. A provision in the collective bargaining agreement allows teams to spread the prorated salary cap hit of cutting a player into the following season if the player is cut after that date. For years, that has led to a second stage of free agency, though the flow of June players has slowed to a trickle in recent years, thanks to better cap management by the teams.
There are many procedural dates such as this sprinkled around the league calendar. Some of them are lower profile, of interest only to general managers and their henchmen, really. This very Tuesday, in fact, is one. In league terms July 15 is this: 'Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year's salary.'
Like we said, only a select few would find that terribly interesting. Basically, a player whose contract expires after his third season becomes a restricted free agent as long as a team submits to him a qualifying offer before the beginning of free agency. That player can then negotiate with other teams during free agency but his original team has the right to match any offer or accept draft-pick compensation from the team signing him away. At the end of free agency, if the player has signed with nobody, his original team gets exclusive negotiating rights back. The June 15 deadline refers to the final day a team can exchange one type of offer for another.
All of the Bucs' restricted free agents have already re-signed, so it is an irrelevant date in Tampa. You are free to go about your own June 15 pursuits without another thought to this bit of NFL business.
There are, however, some interesting days coming up on the 2004-2005 league calendar. Let's take a look at a few of them.
June 27-30: Rookie Symposium
This annual event has come to be considered very important by the NFL. It is mandatory for all players drafted in April, and it is meant to give the league newcomers a solid foundation for dealing with everything that comes with being a professional athlete.
The first rookie Symposium was held in 1997; this year's version will be in San Diego and will feature, as always, respected guest speakers and a series of round-table discussions. Players learn of the possible pitfalls of fame and fortune and are directed to a support system that will help them manage their career, money and time.
Mid-July: Training Camps Open
The Bucs, who will hold their first training camp practice in Orlando on July 31, will not be one of the first teams to report, as they were last year thanks to their participation in the American Bowl in Japan. No team will be allowed to open camp before July 5, and most will wait until later in the month.
Veterans cannot be compelled to report to camp more than 15 days before their teams' respective preseason openers. In the Bucs' case, that would be – you guessed it – July 31.
July 22: Free Agency Ends
That is, unrestricted free agents are no longer free after 4:00 p.m. on that date, as long as their original teams extended a June 1 tender offer. After July 22, those players can once again only negotiate with their original teams. This is another date that goes by with little fanfare, as most unrestricted free agents have either re-signed with their teams or found new homes well before July.
August 12-16: First Weekend of Preseason Games
Actually, Denver and Washington – those recent Bailey/Portis trade partners – will play the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Monday, August 9 to kick off the preseason. The rest of the teams will get under way the following weekend. The Bucs' first contest is a home game against Cincinnati on Saturday, August 14.
August 31: First Roster Cuts
Exactly one month after the Bucs begin their training camp practices, the team will have to make its first significant round of roster cuts. On this date, teams must pare their bloated rosters down to 65 players, though NFL Europe exemptions still count at this point, so it's more likely the Bucs will still be at 71 or 72 men at this point.
September 5: Second Roster Cuts
After the final preseason game is played, the roster has to be trimmed to its regular-season size of 53 players. NFLEL exemptions will no longer count, so that's a hard 53.
It is not unusual for teams to make cuts before either of those dates; those are merely deadlines. In addition, it is common for teams to make additional moves after those 'final' cuts if interesting players show up on the waiver wire.
October 19: Trade Deadline
Whoops, we said interesting dates on the NFL calendar; this one rarely qualifies. Unlike the frenzy of action in the final hours before Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline, the NFL's version usually passes with little or no action. Player trades in the NFL are rare as it is, and most of them occur in the spring, before or during the draft.
January 8-9: Playoffs Begin
This weekend will hold the Wild Card Round, and the Divisional Playoffs will take place on January 15-16. The two Conference Championship Games will both be played on Sunday, January 23, and that all leads to...
February 6: Super Bowl XXXIX
This year's game will be held in Jacksonville, and the Buccaneers are hoping they have a reason to make that short trip. By finally giving in to the move to February, the league will be able to use its preferred schedule of two weeks between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl.
In Their Own Words
Mike Alstott's feels as if his neck injury never happened.
Michael Clayton wants to make sure his actions affect his teammates in a positive way.
Jeb Terry is surprised at how complicated the Buccaneers' offensive playbook was, at first glance.
Three notes of interest from three different corners of Tampa Bay's depth chart, and in each case we learned them from the best possible source: the players themselves.
Along with hundreds of players around the NFL, Alstott, Clayton and Terry have recently updated their personal journals on NFLPlayers.com. Those three took a few minutes to share their thoughts about what is currently going on in their lives and how their preparations for the upcoming campaign are coming along. Other Buccaneers update their journals periodically and will throughout the season. For instance, last year quarterback Brad Johnson popped in during October to talk about the play of the Bucs' offensive line and Shelton Quarles took a moment in December to evaluate a critical game with the Atlanta Falcons.
Here's an excerpt from Alstott's entry about his rehabilitation from neck surgery:
"As far as my health and the way I feel, I feel 100 percent -- like it never happened. We go through such intense rehab right now and we do a lot of things to me that could possibly make the neck sore, or maybe re-injure the injury, but nothing has come about, and I feel good after intense workouts and my body feels good. Ever since the surgery took place, I haven't felt any pain in my neck."
Clayton's mind was focused more on the transition from college to the pros:
"Coach Saban at LSU taught me how to be a leader and a team player and how to pass it on to others. I really haven't been surprised by much lately. I've been through a lot. As far as coaches yelling in your face, I had quite a bit of that at LSU, not that it's a bad thing. It's what I respond to, and it's what I know. I'm surprised that it feels like yesterday that I was in high school, and now I've stepped up two notches from college to the NFL."