WR Karl Williams was able to catch the ball in practice on Wednesday despite a sprained and bandaged left thumb
We won't go so far as to call it cold – that would be an easy invitation for ridicule from our more northern NFL rivals – but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice conditions on Wednesday were a far cry from last week's strange, sweltering heat.
With temperatures dipping to 46 degrees and occasional surges of wind moving over the team's practice fields, the Buccaneers began preparations on Wednesday for their season finale in Green Bay. Many of the Bucs wore sweat pants, but it wasn't truly uncomfortable.
"It was cold this morning, but this is football weather right here," said Dungy afterward with a laugh.
His team got off the field at close to 3:45, almost 15 minutes quicker than usual on Sunday. The brisk pace apparently had little to do with the cold, although there was less post-practice activity than usual, also. Several running backs spent extra time with the 'Juggs' gun catching passes, but the field emptied quickly because the Bucs had meetings scheduled for afterward. That is also a break from the normal routine, but the team had to make up for missing out on the usual Monday afternoon preparation.
"We're still a little sore, a typical two days after the game," said Dungy. "But I think our concentration was good. It really helps that we're playing Green Bay and not playing, maybe, an AFC team that we haven't played in three years. It wasn't so much trying to get knowledge and understand what they were doing. We had a better idea than you would most weeks because we just played them five weeks ago."
Dungy also allowed his team to take the field in just shoulder pads, rather than the full regalia, for the third straight week. In this case, that was a nod to the team's shorter week schedule, and that also contributed to the abbreviated practice.
"They got through it quick," said Dungy. "Sometimes with no pads it goes a little faster, they're moving a little quicker."
The Bucs also had nearly full participation in practice on Wednesday, which helped with the collective body heat.
FB Charles Kirby was the only player on the roster to completely skip the workout, as he is recovering from a pulled hamstring. Although he is listed as probable on the team's first injury report, Kirby drew the most concern from Dungy. "Charles Kirby didn't work, and that looks like it might be a little bit of a problem, so we're going to have to look at our alternatives there," said Dungy. "Maybe we'll work Patrick Hape a little bit back in the backfield."
Dungy felt better about tackle Pete Pierson, who missed Monday's game due to a left calf pull, and WR Karl Williams, who suffered a sprained left thumb against the Rams. In addition, LB Alshermond Singleton began the first on-field steps toward returning from his knee sprain, though he didn't go through team drills.
"Pete Pierson looks like he's doing better and will be fine," said Dungy. "Karl Williams actually caught the ball okay today, and that's what we were concerned about.
Al Singleton did some light running but did not practice."
One player that started the workout did leave halfway through, however. Guard Frank Middleton was limping noticeably due to a right ankle sprain sustained on Monday and was eventually pulled off the field by Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli. Toriscelli indicated that Middleton could be added to the injury report on Thursday.
Thursday's practice is likely to run a bit longer than Wednesday's because the team will finish with several two-minute drills. They do the same thing on most Fridays, and have placed even more emphasis on that situation and red zone drills this season.
That may be paying off, if one considers the Bucs' touchdowns during the end of each half Monday against the Rams. In particular, Tampa Bay will long remember its game-winning touchdown drive, with no time outs at their disposal, that pushed the Bucs into the playoffs.
Dungy believes that experience will help in the maturation process of his team and his quarterback.
"You practice it," he said. "During the two-minute drill (period), (King)'s probably done 50 of them in practice since he's been here. But doing it in a game and making those throws, making those plays and calls in a pressurized situation, that's what it's all about.
"We've been good in our two-minute. We've scored quite a bit before the half. We actually scored before the half in this game Monday, also. Those ended up being big scores."