The first practice in pads of 2013. The first live scrimmage. The first pilgrimage to Raymond James Stadium. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are taking their preparations for the 2013 season to a new level on Saturday night, and you're invited.
In fact, everyone is invited. The Buccaneers are throwing open the stadium games on Saturday for their annual Night Practice, easily the most popular event of each summer's training camp. Last year, more than 30,000 fans attended the team's camp session at Raymond James Stadium, and with another offseason of dramatic roster moves building anticipation for the upcoming season, this year's Night Practice should be the biggest one yet.
And, dare we predict, the most fun Night Practice yet? Greg Schiano's Buccaneers are known more for their intensity on the field, their practice tempo and their attention to detail. According to Schiano himself, however, it is possible to mix business with pleasure, even during a football practice.
"Number one, I want our fans to have a great experience," said the coach. "This is huge for us, huge for the fans to get in the stadium. We can get better and still have some fun doing some different things, so we're going to do some fun things for the fans. We're also going to practice; we're going to do a two-minute drill, we're going to run our offense and defense up the field, do some kicking-game stuff, but there'll be some competitions and that will be a little bit of fun. I think the fans should come on out and see it. It'll be a lot of fun."
And, truly, the night will be full of fan-friendly elements, such as:
- Autographs!...Lots and lots of autographs. The Bucs' entire roster of players, along with Buccaneers Cheerleaders and select team alumni will sit down at 4:00 p.m. ET for a lengthy autograph session in true FanFest style. Fans can begin collecting vouchers for the various autograph sessions at 3:00 p.m. at the stadium box office located in the South Plaza.
- Discounted food and drink…Very affordable refreshments are the perfect complement to watching the Bucs compete against each other.
- Expert analysis of the practice drills…Butch Davis, Greg Schiano's special assistant and a veteran coach with three decades of experience, will be on the field Saturday night, explaining the purpose of each new drill to the fans as practice progresses.
- Music, Entertainment and Trivia on the BucVision videoboards…The Bucs will create a game-day like atmosphere throughout the evening, entertaining fans with songs, exciting videos and even several rounds of Buc-related trivia.
- QB Competition…The Buccaneers' quarterbacks will take a break from firing darts in Vincent Jackson's direction to stage a friendly competition as further entertainment for the fans. Josh Freeman, Dan Orlovsky, Mike Glennon and Adam Weber will take turns trying to hit moving targets and rack up points.
- Live Scrimmage…Not only will the Bucs put on their pads for the first time in 2013 and actually hit each other, at the end of the night fans will even see some live tackling. For the first and perhaps only time during training camp, the Bucs will conduct a fully-live intra-squad scrimmage to cap the action on Saturday night.
- The Voice of the Buccaneers…Butch Davis won't be the only expert talking to the fans from the stadium's field on Saturday night. Gene Deckerhoff, who has been thrilling Buc fans on the radio for more than two decades, will have a microphone in his hand during Night Practice, adding his own special flair to the proceedings.
- A Fireworks Show…Continuing a Night Practice tradition, the Bucs will dim the stadium lights after the final drill is complete and put on a fabulous fireworks show for the fans. As always, it will be the perfect ending for an exciting evening at Raymond James Stadium.
"We love it when people come out and support us," said new Buc wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. "We have great fans. To be in that stadium, not for the first time, but for the first time as a Buc, will be really exciting. We're going to make the most out of it. We're going to have some fun. We're going to make some plays and be running around and you guys will like it too."
Nothing matches a Buccaneer game day at Raymond James Stadium. However, if you can't wait for the games to arrive and want to experience the next best thing, come down to Night Practice on Saturday evening. Parking and admission are both free. Parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. and stadium gates at 4:00 p.m. (3:30 p.m. for Members). Click here for more information.