During every NFL preseason, there is a natural progression from one contest to the next, with playing time for the starters gradually increasing and rookies getting more and more used to the professional game. This week, however, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots effectively took a shortcut from Step One to Step Two.
The Buccaneers and Patriots will meet on Friday night for the second game in each team's respective 2013 preseason schedule. It won't exactly be a cold introduction, however. For the past three days, the two teams have been sharing a practice field just outside Gillette Stadium, ramping up their training camp work by competing against each other in a variety of game situations. That has been a valuable experience for the Bucs' young players, and a good lead-in to tonight's game against a strong opponent.
"I think our young guys, it was great for them to be around another team and see that, hey, everybody practices the same way," said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano. "Everybody gets after each other. It's Tom Brady, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, throwing the pass and Johnthan Banks is getting a chance to cover that. I think that's excellent, and it serves us well in a lot of different areas. But now we've got to go out and play. That's the thing for rookies – to transfer it from the meeting room to the practice field, and then from the practice field to the game field. That's the challenge tonight."
Banks, the Buccaneers' second-round pick out of Mississippi State, started the preseason opener against Baltimore last week and is likely to be on the field with the first 11 again on Friday night. Tampa Bay also plans to have starting right defensive end Adrian Clayborn back in action against the Patriots after the 2011 first-rounder missed the Baltimore game with a groin strain. However, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks will not play, even though it appeared during the week that he was headed for his 2013 debut after missing the last nine games of last season with a toe injury.
The decision to rest Nicks for another game is not a reaction to any problems incurred during the week in New England, and it appears likely that he will see a fair amount of action next week in Miami.
"Carl Nicks won't play tonight," said Schiano. "It's no big setback or anything; we just feel like it's better that we get him better for next week to play a considerable amount of time. He got some really good work up here during the week, so we feel like he's gotten enough already for this time in his recovery and return. We feel good about that. There are a couple of guys who will be either rested completely or play very little."
Tampa Bay lost its preseason opener against the Ravens, and while August W/L results have little connection with the regular season, Schiano still pinpointed some aspects of his team's efforts that have to improve in Week Two.
"Number one, we have to take care of the football," said the Bucs' coach. "We didn't do a good job of that in Week One and that's our core covenant of this whole team. And then I want to see us really compete. I'm not so concerned about schemes. We're not game-planning and we're not trying to out-scheme anybody. We want to see who can play hard – who can run, who can tackle, who can hit, who can block, catch the football, throw the football. All those things that are fundamentally a part of being a successful team."