Quarterback Brad Johnson put in his first day of work in the Bucs' locker room on Tuesday
Brad Johnson arrived at One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday ready to soak in his new environment. Consider him soaked.
Tuesday was, for all intents and purposes, day one of 2001 preparations for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks Johnson, Shaun King, Joe Hamilton and Ted White. Just minutes into Johnson's first on-field action as a Buccaneer the rains came, as the drought that had been plaguing the West Coast of Florida picked an inopportune time to break. New Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell kept his charges on the field through a light shower but sent them scrambling inside when lightning quickly followed.
Recent meteorological history suggests the rain won't stick around for long. It's a different story for Johnson, King, Hamilton and White.
Caldwell has devised a schedule to get his pupils together on frequent afternoons between now and the Bucs' first mini-camp, after April's draft. All four dove into their work with enthusiasm on Tuesday, but Johnson doesn't believe that makes this group terribly unique.
"You have to be (serious about working)," said Johnson. "At every organization, quarterbacks are there, players are there preparing for mini-camps, getting ready for the next year. This is what it takes."
Not every organization has a new starter under center, however, so Johnson's early-spring attendance might be more important than that of some other quarterbacks around the league. "Obviously, the more you're in a system, the more you've been around the other players in the long haul, you become a better player," he said. "I think what helps me now is that I have a little bit of experience with people and with playing the game. But, again, I have to go through a new learning process. I feel like I'm kind of rejuvenated as far as being in a new place with a chance to have a great year."
Like any first day on the job, Tuesday wasn't overly strenuous for Johnson and his teammates. The lightning cut short their time on the field, the group started out slowly, mainly working on base technique. Wide receiver Frank Murphy and tight end Todd Yoder were on hand to catch passes and demonstrate routes and Caldwell studied his hurlers' fundamentals.
"It was a good opportunity for us to just get familiar with one another," said Caldwell of the first day's work. "We were basically working on footwork and technique. That's really all we were trying to get accomplished today. We feel like we can improve on some phase of the game or another any time we go out there, so we're trying to get an early start on that. It was primary just work on fundamentals."
Caldwell was hired as the Buccaneers' new quarterbacks coach in February, after Clyde Christensen was promoted from that post to offensive coordinator. The former Wake Forest head coach is known as a very effective teacher of QBs, and he probably got more out of an hour-long film session on Tuesday than the abbreviated run on the field.
"We did some classroom work as well," said Caldwell. "Really, we were getting started on some introductory things, in terms of general information, basic rudiments of our offensive scheme. As we're developing the offense, I'm kind of feeding it to them."
Because Christensen is maintaining much of the terminology and some of the base schemes of his predecessor, Les Steckel, but fiddling with the implementation, the Bucs' offense is still a work in progress this early in the spring. That means not only is Caldwell learning the offense as it is developed, his players are getting in on the ground floor as well.
"We spent a lot of time today getting familiar with the playbook," said Johnson. "It's a lot of the same system they've been running the last couple of years, but they've added some stuff. It works well for me because I'm kind of catching up to ground zero with them. I pick things up fast, as far as learning a system and the different terminology. I've gone through this process once before in Washington and I did pretty well with that. I'm just actually learning people's faces and stuff like that."
Johnson also took the time to find his way around the building – "I figured out how to walk from the training room to the weight room to the locker room," he quipped – and get introductions to a few more staffers. He had an extended stay in the weight room with Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Asanovich as he was taken slowly through the Bucs' conditioning regimen. Think of it as a new employee's orientation.
Mother Nature may have cut his first day of work as a Buccaneer short, but it didn't dampen Johnson's enthusiasm.
"I'm excited, real excited to be here," he said. "I feel very good about this."
Caldwell was also pleased at the attendance of the four quarterbacks and their readiness to buckle down.
"Any time you can have all four of these guys here, working early before things really get started, that's a sign that they're serious about their progress," he said. "They are all excited about the opportunity."