Shots from the Buccaneers' first OTA practice of the 2016 season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have held 40 training camps, and every one of them has been conducted in the sweaty cauldron of a Florida summer. The Buccaneers have gone to camp under 10 different head coaches, and every one of them has looked for ways to protect his players and get as much out of them as possible in that often oppressive environment.
The Bucs will soon go to a 41st training camp under an 11th head coach, and Dirk Koetter will be just as dedicated to achieving that balance as his predecessors. And in Koetter's mind, one of the ways to do that is to practice in the morning.
On Tuesday, Koetter's team opened Phase 3 of its offseason program with the first of 10 OTA practices. It was a two-hour session that began at 10:30 a.m., and afterward the Bucs' coach indicated that would be the beginning of a trend. Not only will the remainder of the OTAs start before noon, but the team will take the same approach into training camp and the preseason.
"We're actually going to go all the way up until the fourth preseason game," said Koetter. "We're going to practice in the morning."
Obviously, the heat and humidity can build pretty quickly at all parts of the day in the Bay area. As a local expert pointed out after my overly simplistic tweet following practice, there's no guarantee late morning will be more pleasant than late afternoon.
Indeed, even if he doesn't share the scientific background of a meteorologist, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy thinks any attempt to escape the heat and humidity might prove futile, for more superstitious reasons.
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"I feel like the weather has a personality and it knows when we move practice," joked McCoy. "So I don't think the heat in Tampa cares. It's like, 'We're going to practice in the morning, guys. 'Great!' And then the temperature is like, 'Well, I don't care when you practice, it's going to be 175 [degrees].'"
Superstition aside, Koetter believes the Bucs have a better chance of getting relatively more bearable weather by putting most of their work in the a.m.
"We did a little study and in August when we're out here it's on average 11 degrees cooler at 8:45 a.m. than it is at 2:45 p.m., so I did quick Idaho State math and figured that out and said, 'Jeez, it's 11 degrees cooler. Why don't we practice in the morning?'" said Koetter with a laugh. "So it didn't take a brain surgeon."
If the Buccaneers can get more favorably weather for most of their practices during the summer, the incremental day-to-day gains could pay off in the fall.
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](http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-1/Statement-on-Super-Bowl-Selection/1cad352a-916c-4f22-a378-58e3eafa37d1)"The last 10 years I've been coaching in the South I really do believe there is a cumulative effect over the course of the season, from August until the end of the year, when you're out here, even if it's for walkthrough at 12, 1, 2 [p.m.] and it's 95 degrees and the sun is beating on you," said Koetter, whose two previous NFL stops were in Jacksonville and Atlanta. "I just think there's a cumulative effect. We are going to do everything we can to try to chip away at that. There's some things we can't get away from, but we're going to do what we can."
Koetter, Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith all like to set an up-tempo, energetic pace for practice. That's obviously tougher in the heat, so they counter that by building several periods into a two-hour session that are more like a walk-through, with helmets off.
"That's just one of those things that makes good common sense," said Koetter. "To get those helmets off for a couple periods, it just forces us to let them cool down a little bit, but still try to get some work in."
No matter how much cooler the a.m. proves to be than the p.m. this August, most of Tampa Bay's players will probably appreciate the morning-centric schedule. McCoy is definitely on board with the switch.
"I'm excited about it, because I'm one of those guys who prefers to get the practice out of the way and then have the rest of the day, instead of just sitting around waiting to [deal with the heat]," he said. "I prefer to practice in the morning, but I tried to warn the guys who haven't been here, 'Listen, it doesn't matter. There's nothing to prepare you for [the heat]. So just be a professional and go at it.'"