Head Coach Raheem Morris continues to present his players with new situations with which to become familiar
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will report to training camp in 51 days, take the field for the first camp practice in 52. NFL guidelines allow a team to open its camp no more than 15 days before its opening preseason game, and the 2009 Buccaneers will put on the uniforms for the first time on August 15 in Tennessee. Even if teams could report to camp earlier, it's likely the Bucs would still take that one last break following next week's mandatory mini-camp.
But if the Bucs had to start training camp tomorrow, they would be ready.
That was Head Coach Raheem Morris's assessment as he walked off the practice field on Wednesday shortly after noon, having directed an efficient two-hour workout under a stifling and thick heat. Morris, who is just under five months into his first year at the Buccaneers' helm, was asked if his team was in the place he had expected it would be on June 10.
"The "place" we're in right now is just getting ready for training camp, and we are ready," Morris responded. We've been ready for training camp for awhile, and right now we're just trying to refine some things before we get there. That's where we're at, and I can't wait for [camp] to start."
Note that Morris isn't planning to cancel the final "organized team activity" (OTA) on Thursday nor call off next week's mandatory gathering. As the Buccaneers have progressed through their five consecutive weeks of OTAs, they have become more and more focused on specific situations, preparing for conditions and challenges that will certainly, at some point, arise on game day. The suddenly sticky weather on Wednesday was one such example, and Morris for one welcomed it.
"That was awesome," he said with a wide grin. "That's what it's like on Sundays around here and that's what it's like for our opponents. We've got to learn to love to be miserable, to steal a Rod Marinelli quote. That's just the nature of the beast when you play in Tampa, or when you come to Tampa to play us, and that's how we love it. This was a good day to be out practicing."
It should also be noted that the thick air didn't keep the usual smattering of players from staying on the practice field for an extra 20 or 30 minutes and getting in some extra, voluntary work.
Sabby Piscitelli, for instance, convinced an equipment man to fire off a succession of passes from the Jugs gun so the safety could work on difficult interceptions, something he has done on several occasions this offseason. B.J. Askew, Jameel Cook, Earnest Graham and Kareem Huggins ran an extra series of sprints sidewise across Field One. Quarterback Luke McCown got in a throwing session with tight end Kellen Winslow and cornerback Aqib Talib, all of whom were clearly winded but also clearly satisfied at the end.
And the Buccaneers will continue working on Thursday and through next week, trying to maintain the momentum they have established before hitting that long, six-week break. The coaching staff and the hardworking players may have already succeeded in laying the foundation for training camp that Morris knew was essential, but there is still room for daily improvement.
"Everything we're working on right now is important, especially when you talk about this team," he said. "We have a brand new staff, a lot of new players working for a brand new staff…really, we have a new regime starting here. We want to establish the type of football we're going to play — we're going to play together, play fast and play smart."
Most of all, the Buccaneers want to avoid any unnecessary surprises this fall. Whatever challenges come up during a football game in September, the Buccaneers hope to have already faced off against it in June, and then again in training camp.
"It's really about us getting on the same page, like we're trying to do right now," said Morris. "All the coaches are getting their thoughts together and sharing their opinions. All the coaches and players are getting ready to deal with any situation that could come up in a football game. When something happens on game day, we don't want it to be the first time we've seen it, or even close to the first time. We'll have something in place that we can refer to, something we've worked on. We'll be ready."