The Bucs' offense and defense squared off with the clock running on Thursday
After a week of general drills and formations, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent much of their second week of summer practices working on very specific situations. On Tuesday, it was third-down plays; on Wednesday, the red zone.
Thursday, it turns out, was reserved for the two-minute drill, simulating those frantic final seconds of each half when an offense has to beat both the defense and the clock. The Bucs ran the drill with their first team offense against their first team defense, then did again with the second and third units.
Head Coach Tony Dungy supervised the effort and was satisfied with the results. Dungy made his return to the field after spending the past two days at the NFL Spring Meeting in Baltimore. In Dungy's absence (six coaches actually missed the two days of work, including Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel), Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin ran practice.
Kiffin delighted the media after both workouts with his animated wrap-ups, but also pleased Dungy with the quality of practices. "He did a good job," said Dungy. "Watching the tape, they were two of the better practices, and I think that's a tribute to our team and our coaching staff that we could have six coaches gone and still have two excellent practices. That's good to see."
Thursday saw Kiffin back to his normal post-practice routine, jogging in the 90-degree heat shortly after the first-team offense was held to a field goal by the defense during the two-minute drill. Second-year kicker Martin Gramatica, who set a Buccaneer single-season record as a 1999 rookie with 106 points, calmly drilled the kick from approximately 45 yards out.
Dungy's defense seemed to have the upper hand in the two-minute drill, but that is often the situation during games, when teams can concentrate only completely on the pass. "We were in a two-minute situation, which is always a little bit easier on the defense," said Dungy. "It was a good learning experience for our offense. Next week, we'll start working on our blitzes, which again will be an advantage for our defense. But our offense is coming along real well. They're learning what Les wants them to do, and it's been very good so far."
The daily focus on specific game situations or sections of the playbook is designed to prepare the Bucs not necessarily for the 2000 season, but for training camp. The actual season will bring unavoidable discussions of the team's potential, as the Bucs have generally been pegged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Dungy doesn't think his players need to be thinking about that in May; instead, he has them occupied with the groundwork that he believes will lead them there.
"We came off the '97 season where we did well, and we didn't do well in '98," said Dungy. "Looking back at that, I don't think we emphasized our fundamentals enough, doing the little things correctly. That's what we're talking about this year: not looking at the big picture, not looking at the Super Bowls and all that, but just every day working on the fundamental things that we need to do to be good. That's what we talk about."
To that end, Steckel has instituted laps for certain practice transgressions, cardinal sins such as fumbling and jumping offside. "We're just trying to put a thought in their minds that ball security is important, penalties are important. We think it will send a good message.
"We don't feel we'll make too many mistakes. One year, we led the league in fewest penalties, last year we were second, so it's something that we emphasize. Everyone has a different way of emphasizing it and I think whatever you emphasize you get. Hopefully we'll end up leading the league again in fewest penalties."
There will be no laps for the next four days. In addition to the three-day Memorial Day weekend, the 80 Buccaneers in town for these voluntary workouts will be on their own on Friday. The third week of workouts, beginning on Tuesday, May 30, will include three practices, followed by a four-practice final week beginning Monday, June 5.