QB Chris Simms and the Bucs will hold one mini-camp practice at the stadium but will also get in some last workouts at One Buc Place
In one short week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will slide quietly into the calm before the storm, the final lull in the schedule across the NFL landscape before the 2006 season begins in earnest.
It is customary, after a spring and early summer spent practicing and meeting as often as league rules allow, to take a solid month off before the onset of training camp. Players and coaches alike use that small window in the schedule to recharge their batteries and sharpen their wills for the grueling months that lie ahead. Even with football, absence makes the hear grow fonder.
For the Buccaneers, though, there is one final and important task to take care of before this extended vacation. The team will conduct its only mandatory, full-team mini-camp of the offseason next week, practicing four times over the course of three days and putting the final touches on their pre-training camp preparations.
Confident that the work of the last three months – including a rookie mini-camp after the draft and 14 "organized team activity" days – has gone well, the players are eager to finish on a strong note.
"We just continue to work hard," said quarterback Chris Simms, who will go into the season as the undisputed starter for the first time in his four-year career. "We've had a lot of guys doing a lot of great things. Our offensive line, especially, just comes out here and busts their butts. Then of course the new guys, the rookies, have been putting in some long hours so they can come out here and be successful, and it's definitely paying off."
The mini-camp, which will start with a two-a-day on Tuesday, will also be the team's last official work at One Buccaneer Place, the franchise headquarters since its inception in 1976. The Bucs will gather next in Central Florida for training camp, which is scheduled to begin on July 27 and break on August 17. Upon its return to Tampa, the team plans to begin practicing at its new, soon-to-be-completed and state-of-the-art training facility just to the east of Raymond James Stadium.
That anticipated move, combined with the players' desire to trade in their practice jerseys for some real game gear, should make that final month of down time count down quickly.
"I think everyone's antsy for the season to start," said Simms. "I know I'm always excited this time of year because you're getting close. There's only so much you can practice before you want to get out there and start playing games."
Each of the four mini-camp practices will last approximately two hours. The team will take the field at One Buc Place at 10:00 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, then head to the stadium for its one practice on Wednesday, beginning at 10:15 a.m.. The last field session of the camp, and the last official bit of business in the team's 14-week offseason training program, will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and conclude at noon.
Unlike training camp, these practices are not open to the public. However, the media have been invited to attend all four workouts in their entirety.
Of course, the organization doesn't go into complete shutdown during the month-long run-up to camp. Players scatter to their families or favorite vacation spots but still maintain conditioning programs, not wanting to hit camp at a disadvantage. The player personnel department stays busy tweaking the camp roster and getting the unsigned draft choices under contract in time for the reporting date. And coaches, while encouraged to vacation, are still coaches; there is always more film to be watched.