QB Chris Simms was sharp on Sunday morning, particularly on the deep ball, which led to mixed emotions for Head Coach Jon Gruden
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' calling card may be their defense, but Sunday morning's practice gave Head Coach Jon Gruden reason to praise quarterback Chris Simms, whose accuracy and deep touch tested that vaunted defense and left the head coach expecting more from that unit.
"Simms threw the ball great today, and we had some very good work in the passing element, from an offensive standpoint," Gruden said. "Defensively, we've got to do a much better job than I saw today in that period."
Typifying the practice Simms turned in were two deep balls the young quarterback delivered in stride to receivers Chas Gessner and Joey Galloway on consecutive plays during the 7-on-7 drills. That the completions came at the expense of cornerback Torrie Cox is an indication of how sharp Simms was, as Cox has typically been outstanding during the first 10 days of camp. Gruden, however, wasn't in the mood to cut the defense any slack.
"If you're going to play man-to-man on defense, you've got to cover," said Gruden. "You've got to cover better than that and our defense knows that. We've got too much pride around here for that to happen. We had some good routes, Simms threw the ball tremendously today, and that's what happens in the NFL. They've got guys on the other team that can really throw and receivers that can really run. I have mixed emotions.
"That's tough on Torrie Cox. He was the right corner on both plays, and Torrie's had a great camp, a great camp for us. Galloway is a guy that strategically we'll try to get down the field – it's hard to do. Everybody expects him – and respects him – down the field. A couple times a day, we'll take our shots, and today we hit a couple."
It wasn't a complete struggle for the defense on Sunday; it rarely is. Gruden acknowledged the unit performed well during the nickel blitz period, a period where cornerback Ronde Barber always thrives. Today was no exception. On one play, Barber penetrated the backfield, untouched, and closed in on Simms for a would-be sack. On another, he maneuvered his body around the 6-5, 220-pound Maurice Stovall, to viciously slap the ball from the big receiver's hands before it could be secured. Linebacker Barrett Ruud also had a strong showing, drawing praise for his coverage and effort on pass rush. During one play, Ruud managed to hurdle his blocker, stay on his feet and hurry Simms into an incompletion.
"Our defense looked great in the blitz period," Gruden said. "[The offense] had some indecision and some confusion at times in the blitz period."
Sunday afternoon the Bucs will conduct practice at an undisclosed facility, and the session will not be open to the public. After Sunday morning's practice, Gruden addressed his reasons for the private practice.
"I have a lot of reasons," he said. "We want to get something done privately – that's a big reason. No disrespect to anybody, but I don't know everyone who comes here. We want to try and get some privacy today. We feel there are certain things that we don't want to show, we don't want to do publicly. Because of the facility that is available to us, this was a good time. We also want to work in some intense noise. There are other aspects that played into this today as well, but those are the two primary ones."
Buccaneers, Gatorade and NFL Launch Educational Campaign on Heat-Related Illnesses
Teams around the National Football League and schools across the country are engaged in two-a-day preseason practices, many in hot-weather locations. The Gatorade Company has joined forces with the NFL to launch a nationwide campaign aimed at educating parents and football coaches about the importance of hydration in order to keep athletes safe on the field during the annual summer sessions.
Gatorade, as part of this effort, will oversee a league-wide "Two-A-Day Safety Donation Day" initiative with NFL teams during training camps to raise money to further the awareness and educational efforts of the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation (KFMF). The foundation was formed by Mike and Rhonda Fincher in memory of their son, Kendrick, who succumbed to complications from heat stroke during the summer of 1995. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will set up a collection booth for the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation at their training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista on Monday, August 7.
In addition to the "Two-A-Day Safety Donation Day" initiative, Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden will address the media about the Buccaneers' proactive approach to keeping players hydrated during two-a-days. Gruden is scheduled to speak at 10:45, directly after practice. For more information on the partnership and heat illness prevention and treatment, please visit www.gatorade.com.
More from Coach Gruden
- On if he expected his team to be fresh Sunday morning after receiving Saturday afternoon off: "It was the afternoon off. It wasn't like we gave them the day off. We had a long two hour-and-12 minute practice yesterday morning. We've had eight days in a row outside, so nobody's whistling Dixie right now on their way to the shower. We've got some sore guys. Several guys are gutting this out right now, but we did expect them to come out here this morning with some renewed energy and mental rejuvenation." * On guard Toniu Fonoti, who limped off the practice field Sunday morning: "I think he sprained his ankle. I don't know the severity of it. He might be back this afternoon, he might be out – I don't know." * When asked to comment on players who stood out during Sunday morning's practice, Gruden said he was reluctant to do so without first having watched tapes of practice, but he did single out WR Joey Galloway, saying the receiver looked "quick, fast and explosive." * Tonight, the team will begin analysis of the New York Jets, in preparation for its game Friday night at Raymond James Stadium, Gruden noted. While he emphasized that he never overly prepares for a preseason game, he said he wants his players to have an understanding of the opposition.