FB Mike Alstott started the week with a weights session, as normal, but will end it with the team's full-scale workout, which is atypical for a Monday
It's 10:30 a.m. and Mike Alstott is alone on the back porch behind One Buccaneer Place, going through a bench-press set with strength assistant Aaron Komarek.
Inside One Buc, the training room is empty save for Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli's crew. There is a group of players in the locker room, including DT Warren Sapp, but they're simply hanging out and talking, waiting for a turn in the weight room. There's no media in sight.
Typical bye week, huh?
Well, not exactly. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are indeed at the beginning of their one bye week of the season, but it won't all be rest and leisure. Even Monday is about to see a quickening of the pace, as the team will head out for a full-scale practice at 2:15 p.m.
Had the Bucs played on Sunday, as was originally scheduled, Monday would have been a light day, as usual. Sore and bruised players would have been asked to seek treatment, get in a workout and participate in a brief, late-afternoon practice. Even after learning of the cancellation of this weekend's games due to last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, the Bucs had planned to follow the normal Monday routine.
That changed, however, after Tropical Storm Gabrielle blew through town. The team's planned practice on Friday morning was cancelled due to Gabrielle's presence, so the team simply moved its heavy workout to this week. Thus, Monday's workout will most closely resemble a Wednesday session.
"It's going to be a typical Wednesday practice in terms of length and what we do," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We just won't be planning for anyone. We'll get some good work in."
Every team will get a bye this season, and the whole league got another week off this past weekend, for unanticipated and unwelcome reasons. However, those two off weeks fell back to back for only four teams: Arizona, which had a bye in Week One, and Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Pittsburgh, all of which will be idle during the weekend ahead.
The Bucs thus have a 21-day period between their opening-day win over Dallas on September 9 and the resumption of their playing schedule in Minnesota on September 30. That's a unique situation for Tampa Bay players, who must try to maintain their edge through this long period of inactivity.
"It's kind of a new phenomenon for us, something we haven't had to deal with," said Dungy. "We can't lose our edge, so we've got to do some things to try to maintain that. What we're going to do is try to practice hard when we practice, but give them some breaks in the routine. I think we'll be ready to go when it's time to play."
After Monday's rescheduled workout, the players will be off on Tuesday, as originally planned. The team will reconvene early Wednesday morning for meetings and begin a two-hour practice at 10:45. Tampa Bay will also practice for two hours Thursday morning; both sessions will be in full pads and at full speed.
Presumably, three weeks between games would give the Bucs' coaching staff extra time to game plan for the team's next opponent, Minnesota, but Dungy claims that's hardly necessary.
"We're really not," he said. "It's a division opponent. We know Minnesota almost as well as we could know anyone, so we're just going to focus on what we do and try to get ourselves functioning well as much as anything else."
A few players are working on functioning, period. Monday's practice will mark the full-scale return of starting center Jeff Christy, who was aiming to return to the field on Sunday against Philadelphia before the game was postponed. Christy instead took it easy last week to give his sprained left knee a few more days to recover, but he will not be restricted when practice begins Monday afternoon. The same holds true for WR Keyshawn Johnson, who was struggling through a deep thigh bruise last week after taking an unfortunate hit in the Dallas game.
There are four Bucs that will not practice much, if at all, this week, though three of them should return to the field next week when the team begins its preparations for the Vikings. DT James Cannida's knee sprain may take a few more weeks to heal, but CB Dwight Smith (foot sprain), S Dexter Jackson (hip flexor) and G Russ Hochstein (foot fracture) should give the Bucs an almost full complement of players during next week's work.
After Thursday's practice, Buc players will be given Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before returning for a normal work week the following Monday.