RB Warrick Dunn caught passes on Tuesday from fellow FSU Seminole Brad Johnson
With the NFL Draft occupying every minute of last Saturday and Sunday, and the season's first mini-camp threatening to do the same this upcoming weekend, these days in between might have seemed like a good occasion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to rest.
That wasn't the plan, however, for the 40-odd players who have been participating in voluntary on-field workouts this entire month. Tuesday saw them back in action, running many of the same drills they had engaged in the week before, continuing to lay the foundation for training camp.
There were a few new wrinkles. Pro Bowler Warrick Dunn joined in with the running backs on Tuesday, catching passes from fellow Florida State alum Brad Johnson for the first time. On the opposite end of the field, the offensive and defensive linemen finally combined their drills and did some one-on-ones. Already potent sack men Marcus Jones and Anthony McFarland used the session to try out some new rush moves.
None of the Bucs' 26 newest players – nine draftees and 17 undrafted free agents – were on hand, nor could they be until Friday. Rookies are prohibited from beginning work with their new teams until their college's school year is completed, with the exception of official mini-camps. So Kenyatta Walker and his fellow rookies will get their first work behind One Buccaneer Place this Friday. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a listing of the weekend practice times.
Tackle Jerry Wunsch was on the field, however, as he has been since the very morning that he signed his new contract two weeks ago. As the starting right tackle, he was the man countering Jones' new moves on Tuesday morning. Down the line on the other end was second-year man DeMarcus Curry, but that left tackle spot could be filled by Walker this fall.
Wunsch, who now ranks as somewhat of a seasoned veteran in his fifth NFL season, is ready to help Walker prepare for the season, if necessary.
"If he wants any kind of help trying to understand something, I'm here," said Wunsch. "We'll work together, get extra film study, whatever it takes. We've got a lot of veterans on the offensive line now, so there are a lot of guys that will be able to help him out."
Wunsch was not there, however, when Walker learned he was headed to Tampa. Rather than stay home for the NFL Draft this past weekend, Wunsch took the opportunity to engage in a favorite weekend activity.
"I was out fishing!," he said, happily. "You've gotta fish. That's one of those important things you've just got to do when you can.
"Right when I got in Dave Moore told me that we had picked up the left tackle, but that's all I heard."
Walker actually played Wunsch's position at Florida, but isn't a threat to the Bucs' right tackle in that he will be switched to the left side. Now, they will likely be starting linemates and Wunsch is sure that's a positive development.
"Judging from how elated the staff is around here, I'd say it's a good thing," said Wunsch. "I didn't personally evaluate any talent, but seeing the coaches, how happy they are, and the scouting staff and everything…this is probably the most excited I've seen them. I was ready to go no matter what happened in the draft, but from what the coaches tell us, this draft will really help us."
Jones, who used to start at right end and swing from one side to another as the need arose during a game, will be used exclusively on the left side this season. That means he won't be matched up against Walker during training camp. Still, he felt the excitement in the organization when the draft fell into place for the Buccaneers.
"I talked to a couple of the coaches, and they said that's what they were hoping to do," said Jones. "They didn't know if a really good tackle was going to be there at the 21st pick. When it happened to come up, I was talking to my agent and he said, 'You guys just got Walker.' I said, "No way, you've got to be kidding me.'
"If you go up in the draft to get somebody you really want, that's obviously a plus.'
Before the Bucs moved in on Walker on Saturday, before Arizona decided upon Leonard Davis or Cleveland surprised with Gerard Warren, 31 surrogate General Managers laid out the first round of the draft last Tuesday.
In the culmination of Buccaneers.com's month-long 'You Make the Call' contest, 31 trivia contest-winning fans participated in a mock draft on Tuesday evening in a private chat room. Each participant was slotted into a particular spot in the first round, from where they drafted in order, attempting to predict how the actual draft would unfold.
On Saturday, the real general managers made their selections, and the two lists were compared. Any contest participant who correctly predicted the player to be chosen in his or her slot was a winner, taking home an official, fitted Buccaneers hat. Those winners were also entered into a Grand Prize drawing, from which one lucky G.M. was chosen to receive an autographed football and a pair of tickets to a Buccaneers game.
And who were our most prescient general managers?
Four participants correctly predicted the choice at their slots. David Swanson declared that QB Michael Vick would go first, as he did, taken by Atlanta after a trade with San Diego. Jay Collman predicted that the Panthers would pick up LB Dan Morgan at number 11, and Carolina was happy to oblige. Four picks later, Washington General Manager Larry Sledge decided upon WR Rod Gardner at the 15th spot, just as the Redskins would do on Saturday. Finally, Oakland's representative, Clinton Miller, correctly predicted the Raiders' choice of S Derrick Gibson.
Since the Grand Prize drawing was weighted to give more value to a correct prediction later in the round, Miller had twice as good of a chance to earn the final prize than either Sledge or Collman, and four times as good of a chance as Swanson. However, in an upset reminiscent of the Orlando Magic in Shaquille O'Neal's draft year, the drawing was won by Collman.
All of the participants took their positions seriously and showed up on draft evening armed with serious information. Unfortunately, our group was no more aware of the coming run on defensive lineman than was Mel Kiper, so many of the predictions were off by just a slot or two. Still, Carolina G.M. Jay Collman could have a future in the business.
This weekend's mini-camp schedule is below. All practices are closed to the public.
Friday, April 27:
Practice No. 1 - 10:15 a.m. to Noon Practice No. 2 - 3 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 28:
Practice No. 3 - 10:15 a.m. to Noon Practice No. 4 - 3 to 4:50 p.m.
Sunday, April 29: Practice No. 5 - 10:15 a.m. to Noon