Head Coach Tony Dungy (center) told his team Saturday afternoon that they had taken a step forward over the weekend
There were no stats to report from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers meeting with the Miami Dolphins in Orlando – it wasn't even a scrimmage in the full sense of the word – but the numbers are in. Six days of camp down, 11 practices, zero long-term injuries and one satisfied head coach.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers concluded a two-day, four-practice joint session with the Dolphins in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Saturday afternoon, then piled onto five buses and drove back to their University of Tampa training site.
Overall, it was approximately eight hours of intense work under will-draining levels heat and humidity, featuring two of the best defenses in the National League. That means it was a tough weekend for both offenses, but Head Coach Tony Dungy thinks his group was better coming out than going in, and that's enough for him.
"Again, it was very good," said Dungy. "We got some work in situations that we don't get a lot of work in, some specialty areas. We obviously need a lot of work on our two-minute offense, especially, but that's something we hadn't worked on much. In the blitz period, too, we didn't execute as well as we wanted to. That will give us some things to go back and clean up, but overall it was great work for us.
"We did not execute at all in the two-minute drill, and Miami had some good people in there. The blitz period, we were hit-and-miss, and the team period we were okay. We made some improvements, but we've got some areas that we haven't really worked on."
The Bucs' five buses fired up just fine when the team was leaving around 6:00 p.m., but one of the original five stalled on I-4 during the team's morning drive to the stadium. Though it proved to be just a momentary glitch, there was talk from team conspiracy theorists that Dungy engineered the breakdown to put more adversity in their path.
Dungy claimed to have no hand in the event, but wasn't upset that his team had experienced it. He set up the weekend schedule to have the Bucs leave Tampa at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning and drive directly to the stadium for practice. The theory is that one can learn how to handle the adversity that will surely crop up as the NFL's long season wears on.
Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin was, jokingly, one of the conspiracy theorists. He didn't see much of Dungy at the Citrus Bowl because the head coach generally chose to stick to the field that the Bucs' offense was toiling on. Kiffin can report to the head coach that his defensive players responded to the difficult environment with sustained effort.
"We finished strong, I'll tell you what," said Kiffin, who remained animated even as two team's worth of exhausted players trudged into the locker rooms. "And we were sucking it up, we were dead tired. We had our 'threes' in there, guys that are rookies, free agents, trying to pass rush, spilling their guts, leaving it right here on the field."
Kiffin's defense, the only one in the NFL to rank in the top three each of the past three seasons, was as dominating as usual over the two days, particularly on pass rush and blitzing. The Bucs blitzed frequently during team drills on Saturday afternoon and did so with success, notching three 'sacks' during a 12-play team session.
"They got up at five o'clock yesterday morning," said Kiffin. "It's been a tough two days. It's been hotter than blue blazes down here. But that's just the way it is – the bus breaks down, we missed our exit for the Marriott, this and that – but we can't worry about that stuff.
"You've got to overcome it. You've got to overcome adversity. We thought the (practice) was over when Al Singleton intercepts it, but (Miami Head) Coach (Dave) Wannstedt wants to go three more plays. Let's go! Let's don't talk about it. We've got to go back out and do it. Went back out and stuffed them."
In the end, with the defense looking sharp and the offense still finding its way, the same conclusion was reached for both sides of the ball, with Kiffin speaking for the D and Dungy for the O.
Kiffin: "I've learned that they're tough, and they're sucking up, but we've still got a ways to go. We get better each day, but we've got to keep working. We've got a game week coming up."
Dungy: "We're a ways away. We're where we should be at this time of year. We're not ready for the regular season yet, but fortunately we have about five weeks left. I thought it was good work. I thought we made improvements while we were here, and that's what you want."
A handful of Buccaneers were not available for the afternoon practice, including TE Henry Lusk, who fractured a metacarpal bone in his left hand. That further thinned the Bucs' tight end ranks, which already had rookie James Whalen (hamstring) and veteran Patrick Hape (foot) sidelined. Lusk's hand will be X-rayed on Sunday and his status further evaluated on Monday.
Two defensive linemen stayed off the field in the afternoon after suffering groin strains in the morning. DE/DT Tyoka Jackson strained his on the right side and DT Marcus Jones did so on the left side.
Rookie G Cosey Coleman was held out of the afternoon session due to dehydration and FB Mike Alstott continued to sit out with his bothered left hamstring. S Damien Robinson once again sat out due to the hamstring strain he sustained on Monday, but he felt he was making quick progress.
WR Jacquez Green was diagnosed with a right hip flexor strain on Saturday afternoon but is expected to practice on Monday.
Though the team was given Sunday off by Dungy, injured players must report to the team's training room at 10:00 a.m. Buccaneers.com will provide an injury update on Sunday, and the team will be back on the field Monday at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.