G Davin Joseph says the team hasn't let up even with the end of the offseason looming
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have two practices completed and in the video storage banks on Wednesday before they were originally scheduled to even start the second workout.
As mentioned on Buccaneers.com on Tuesday, Head Coach Raheem Morris altered the schedule for the second day of the team's mandatory mini-camp in order to test out a rain-avoidance strategy for the upcoming training camp. That meant an earlier start to the field work on Wednesday morning, just shortly after 8:00 a.m., and a second practice that was moved up to just after noon. Given that Morris subsequently chose to shorten the second practice by 30 minutes, it's fair to say that the schedule maneuverings are also a reward for uniformly good work over the last six weeks.
An abbreviated practice and a third day of camp that eschews practice completely in favor of a team outing – few players would argue with that approach. What players do not like, according to quarterback Luke McCown, are extended lulls in the middle of a work day. For that reason, McCown has appreciated the way Morris has handled this brief but important mini-camp and he sees the offseason program as a whole coming to a successful close.
"It was a little different this spring from the last five years because we're learning a new system," said the veteran passer. "Now, all the concepts and routes are the same, but it's a different vision that the coaches have, that Coach Jags [Jeff Jagodzinski] has of how he wants it to look. Instead of polishing up the things we have known for five years we're kind of re-learning, so we've used it more as kind of a growth period and learning to do it again. And I think yesterday and today, we'll continue to see a little bit better timing, a little bit better feel, especially from the quarterbacks' and receivers' standpoint, of being on the same page."
Both of the Buccaneers' Wednesday practices were aimed at playbook review and specific game situations. Morris lost one of the four fundamentals-oriented practices he had planned for the offseason when Tuesday's second session was chased by lightning and Wednesday got its subsequent revisions. Morris wanted four such practices to mirror the four losses suffered by the Buccaneers to end a once-promising 2008 season; even if that plan was snipped, the team has still made an effort to learn from that disappointing finish.
That continued on Wednesday morning when the Bucs focused on a series of specific situations. For instance, Morris sprung another "sudden change" period on the players midway through the workout, drawing them away from a group install period to run a last-second field goal drill. The offense and defense were sent on the field for a single running play to position then ball and then the kicking unit had to get into the game and get the field goal try off under the gun.
"Any person, any football player, any team that goes through an adverse situation like we went through [in 2008, there are always answers to that," said defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "Coach Morris has been stressing on that with situational football throughout these OTAs and these mini-camps, the last four games, what happened last year, whether it be a two-minute drill, whether it be backed-up, whether it be last-second field goal. That's the benefits of having all these OTAs and all these mini-camps."
The shortened afternoon practice was scheduled to conclude at 1:40 p.m. ET. Though there will be plenty of individual runs and weight room gatherings and film study sessions in the coming weeks, that second Wednesday workout will mark the last time the entire Buccaneers team is on the field together until the morning of August 1. The mini-camp that tied a bow on the team's 14-week offseason program seemed to be a blur, flashing by in about 36 hours. But for a team trying to install brand new systems on both sides of the ball and integrate a host of new players, it was as significant as all the work that came before it. Buccaneer players chose to treat it that way.
"No, no, you still strive to get better every day," said guard Davin Joseph, when asked if there was a lack of urgency about the camp. "We may be ahead of schedule but we still haven't reached our final goal yet and we won't know that until the end of the season. Right now we're just working to get better, competing, but as a collective effort, yes, everybody's doing really well."