-The Bucs have now entered into Phase III and with that, came the first week of OTAs. The team got to practice together for the first time as a group that includes the 2019 rookie class and start to put what they've been learning in the classroom out on the field. The team gets a total of 10 practices in OTAs ahead of mandatory mini-camp during the first week of June. They burned through three this week and will come back next week for another three. By Thursday, the answer I got in the hallways from every guy when I asked how they were was 'tired' but the energy on the field never waned. The players were excited to be back to something that closely resembles football, even if there isn't any contact allowed.
-That excitement was palpable this week and was probably aided by the fact that there are two practices going on simultaneously. Head Coach Bruce Arians said all along this is how he structures practice, but until you actually see it, you don't exactly know how it's going to go. I felt like I didn't have enough eyes. It never failed that my back was turned on a big play that I would hear and then whip my head around, only to miss another big play on the field I just turned my back on. The coaches then go back and review both fields and are therefore able to evaluate every single player even with the inflated 90-man roster.
-There was a huge emphasis on special teams just in the first three practices. Each day began with special teams drills for a significant amount of time before moving onto individual drills where each position group broke out on their own. There was also a period toward the end of practice each day for each kicker to practice kicking field goals. There were also field goal blocking drills, too. Special teams was something Arians emphasized early on and he's made good on the promise to try to improve the unit even this far out from the season.
View the best photos from the third day of Bucs OTAs.
-How much this year's rookies have stepped up has been one of the most impressive things to watch through the first three days of practice. They've had a lot less classroom time than the veterans but are holding their own very well. Two of the three best plays I saw this past week came from rookies, in fact. If you want more takeaways from OTAs this week, I have you covered here, here and here.
-Before OTAs got underway, left tackle Donovan Smith hosted his Second Annual Bowling for Autism event. Over $36,000 was raised for Autism Speaks in support of Autism awareness. Plenty of Donovan's Buccaneer teammates were on hand, too, including Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin and Lavonte David. It was a night full of fun and games all for a good cause.
-Friday morning was the Jr. Bucs Field Day, which welcomed over 600 students and administrators from Hillsborough and Pinellas County Schools. "Jr. Bucs Field Day" is an event recognizing the most improved students in the Jr. Bucs Fitness Program that launched at the beginning of the 2018 season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation impacts over 130,000 elementary students in Hillsborough & Pinellas county schools through the Jr. Bucs Fitness Program with educational activities that infuse football skills and monthly player-led video drills in current physical education curriculum.
– Safety Jordan Whitehead was one of the players on hand playing around with all the Jr. Bucs in attendance. In a fun little moment, he shared that he used to love events like this as a kid, which is why he participates now. Jordan grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania as a big Steelers fan and remembers getting to meet some of his favorite players. One of those favorite players? None other than former Steeler wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, whose jersey Jordan had and who also happens to be on Arians' coaching staff now. Funny how the world works, isn't it?