CB Deshone Mallard (36) and the Bucs' defense were in fine form during Wednesday's short practice
Meteorologically, the day started out with promise. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started practice two hours later than usual on Wednesday morning, trotting out at 10:30 for a workout of approximately one hour. While that gave the heat more time to build, it also allowed for a cloud cover to move in, and it appeared as if the Bucs would have a cooler than average practice.
No such luck. The cover quickly burned off and it soon was as oppressive as usual. However, the Bucs left the field at the end of the hour knowing that they had finished their work for the week. Tomorrow, the team will head to Miami for preseason game number two.
It was a short but intense week. The team worked on Sunday, usually an off day, then had their only full-pads practice on Monday morning. While the players came out in shorts on Tuesday, they were subjected to a long day, with two workouts of over two hours. Wednesday capped it off, and G Frank Middleton felt afterward that the team had accomplished what was necessary.
"The playbook is so short right now," said Middleton. "What we did the last two weeks we're basically going to do the same tomorrow, so there's not too much we have to practice. We just have to get better at those things we are doing."
Of course, that shortened playbook is a deliberate practice followed by most teams in the preseason, as they attempt to walk the line between achieving success and keeping some things under wraps.
"We play them again later in the season, so we as a staff looked at it and said, 'These are some things we are definitely not going to put in because we think they will work.' But we put a few of them in anyway, and if it gets down to it in the fourth quarter, then I guess we'll have to show them. But we're basically going to go down there and run our base defense."
The team portion of practice, which again featured some two-minute work, was perhaps not as sharp offensively as it had been on Monday and Tuesday, but that is usually as much a reflection of the team's defense as anything else. Before one-on-one team drills, the four quarterbacks – Shaun King, Eric Zeier, Scott Milanovich and Joe Hamilton – did some extra passing work alone with Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen. On Thursday, it's likely that only three-quarters of that group will see action.
"If it's a normal game situation, we're probably going to get to only three quarterbacks," said Dungy. "We play Shaun about 30 plays, and that's going to be most of the first half, more than likely. We want to play Joe Hamilton a quarter again. We haven't decided who's going to be the odd man out, but unless the game goes overtime, it will probably be just three quarterbacks."
Dungy indicated that Hamilton's quarter of play would again be in the fourth period, though he's hoping it's a more normal game routine, rather than the pass-heavy, come-from-behind situation the rookie was thrust into last Friday. In fact, Dungy hopes the Miami game will be a new experience for all of the quarterbacks that play.
"Those guys are doing well," he said. "They're still not totally familiar with everything, in terms of game conditions, but they're doing a good job. We had a few errors – you don't like to see the fumbles or interceptions – but overall, they've looked good."
Dungy also shared a list after practice of the players that have already been ruled out for tomorrow. There are no real surprises on the list, though DE John McLaughlin is a fairly recent addition, having developed an infection in his knee. Dungy indicated that McLaughlin should be ready for action by Friday evening, at the latest.
Others mentioned by Dungy included FB Mike Alstott (hamstring), S Damien Robinson (hamstring), T Jason Odom (back), RB Jerry Ellison (elbow), S Ashley Cooper (knee) and DE Mawuko Tugbenyoh (ankle). TE Patrick Hape (foot) is a reasonable bet to join that list.
"Hape has a chance (to play)," said Dungy. "We're not going to play him unless he's feeling really good, but we're hoping he will be."
After Thursday's game, the Buccaneers have only two more days of training camp practices. Friday and Sunday are off days for the players, leaving Saturday and Monday for two-a-days. The Bucs break camp on Tuesday and will pick up the action on Wednesday at team headquarters.