Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going Camping

With anticipation for the 2000 season running at an all-time high, the Bucs announce a starting date: July 23

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After 12 seasons in Minnesota, Randall McDaniel will get his first taste of a Tampa training camp

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had one of the most startling, invigorating offseasons in franchise history, a spring of roster maneuvering that reshaped what was already one of the best teams in the NFL. Raymond James Stadium is nearing sold-out status for the entire 2000 season and Buccaneer fans are eager to get a look at the team's exciting new additions, including WR Keyshawn Johnson, C Jeff Christy and G Randall McDaniel.

For many, that chance will arrive in July, when the Buccaneers celebrate their season of change…by doing everything exactly the same. Training camp will open on July 23, at the University of Tampa like usual, and it will be the same efficient, intense three weeks as it has been for the each of the past four summers.

Tony Dungy's arrival as head coach in 1996 brought the return of morning and afternoon practices in the July and August dog days, as Dungy and his staff prefer to use Tampa's sweltering heat to the team's advantage. The first such workout will be held on Monday, July 24, one day after the entire team reports to camp on Sunday.

Though a closing date for camp has not been completely finalized, it is likely to be Tuesday, August 15, midway between the team's two pre-season road games. The Bucs travel to Miami on Thursday, August 10 to face the Dolphins at 7:00 p.m. in Pro Player Stadium, then head up to Foxboro on Sunday, August 20 for a contest against the New England Patriots. The Bucs-Patriots game is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. and will be televised nationally by Fox.

Less than two weeks after reporting to camp, on Friday, August 4, the Buccaneers will open the much-anticipated 2000 campaign with a replay of their last home game of 1999. The Washington Redskins come down to Raymond James for a 7:30 rematch of last season's divisional playoff game between the two clubs, which Tampa Bay won 14-13 to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

As usual, all Buccaneers' training camp practices will be open to the public and free of charge. Though the daily schedule has not been completely finalized, it will closely resemble Dungy's last four camps, with most practices being held in the morning at approximately 8:30 and in the afternoon at approximately 3:30. There will also be several evening practices scheduled to allow greater fan attendance.

At the University of Tampa, practices are held at Pepin-Rood Stadium, on North Boulevard just north of Kennedy. The stadium has an approximate capacity of 3,500. As training camp nears, Buccaneers.com will provide more information for fans wishing to attend practice.

Since all other offseason mini-camps and workouts are closed to the public, training camp usually is regarded as the beginning of the season by NFL fans. What it no longer is, however, is a starting point for the players. Where training camp was once a time to whip oneself into shape, it is now more of a period of learning, refinement and competition. The offensive and defensive schemes are fully implemented, players increase their stamina and endurance for the long season ahead and final roster spots are determined. Teams use the pre-season period to trim their rosters down from roughly 80 players to the final roster limit of 53.

At least three starting positions will have new faces in camp this year and Buccaneer fans should expect to take an instant liking to the newcomers - Johnson, Christy and McDaniel. By all accounts, that trio has reached the elite level at their respective positions in large part because they share a determined work ethic and a passion for the game, traits that are likely to be evident during the grueling three weeks of camp.

Johnson, Christy and McDaniel should fit right in with that approach. Dungy's Buccaneers have attacked training camp with a purpose each of the past four years, which has led to a well-conditioned, well-prepared team. Evidence of that comes in the team's December record; in four seasons under Dungy, the Bucs are 10-6 in the regular season's final month (including one January game) and 7-2 over the past two years. In other words, even with the new faces sure to cause a stir, 2000 training camp will be business as usual.

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