The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started their 2012 training camp with two days of non-padded practice, as per NFL regulations. Since then, every single workout has featured pads, not to mention an unforgiving standard of running, from one play to the next and from one drill to the next.
Head Coach Greg Schiano doesn't plan to let up yet. Defensive end Michael Bennett is glad he won't.
Asked on Tuesday if he had considered easing up on the padded practices before the end of training camp, given the general fatigue across the roster that Schiano had himself acknowledged, the Bucs' coach answered with a simple no.
"Not right now," he said. "We will. I'm not trying to be a hard guy or anything. As I tell them, we'll make sure we're ready September 9th, we'll be feeling good and ready to play. Right now, we're building the foundation of our 2012 team, and part of that foundation is built by suffering together."
Schiano is trying to build a hard team, one that has the conditioning and the will to stay strong in the key moments of a close game. Bennett, who is in his fourth season with the Buccaneers, can already see the difference.
"If you train hard and you play better when you're tired, eventually the games are going to get easy," he said. "We're continuously running, and eventually you find yourself in [a] two-minute [situation] and you're not getting tired. A lot of times the game comes down to the last couple plays. In the NFL the margin is small between wins and losses. If a guy wouldn't have gotten tired on this play, we would have made the play. I think our conditioning has really changed this year. You can see the people buying in, you can see people's attitudes. It's just the little things in our minds that he's taking away from us and making us better."
In Bennett's opinion, the 2012 Buccaneers were a team ripe for Schiano's approach. The Bucs are young, but they've already been through some struggles, and they'll do what it takes not to repeat them. Bennett and his teammates want to regain the league-wide respect they think they deserve.
"The hunger is what's driving us right now," said Bennett. "Everybody's doubting us and that's just feeding our fuel. Everybody wants to go and everybody's pushing themselves to the limit that they usually don't push themselves to. People that usually are lazy are not being lazy, and people that work hard are working harder, so that's going to help the team in ways we don't even know yet."