Head Coach Tony Dungy is expecting more intense media scrutiny for his team in 2000, but no more pressure from within than in recent years
By next Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' entire equipment room will be relocated to the University of Tampa, site of the team's training camp. Virtually every piece of strength-training equipment in the weight room will be hauled over as well. The massive lifts that scissor the video staffers into the air will be loaded on a flatbed, and much of the team's sophisticated video equipment will make the trip, too.
Most importantly, 80-something heads will make the journey from offseason relaxation to training camp intensity. Head Coach Tony Dungy expects all of his players to complete that trip on time.
"We want to have everyone ready to go so that we can go full speed when we got there," said Dungy.
"I think we're ready. We've had very good work this offseason. The quality of work has been good, we've had a lot of guys here, our attitude is right where it should be. I think we're going to be set to go."
Dungy himself is already revved up and ready to go. After returning from Africa, where he was for 12 days with Derrick Brooks' historic 'Brooks' Bunch – Africa 2000' group, the fifth-year Buc coach headed up to Minnesota with his two sons, James and Eric, for their annual fishing trip. It will be Dungy's last vacation for quite awhile.
On Monday, the Bucs' entire coaching staff will be back from their various vacation sites, ready to make final preparations. There will be two days of organizational meetings with the coaches, player personnel men and various football staffers, then three days of light, pre-camp work with the rookies only. Then it's time to report to camp on Sunday. Most of the other NFL teams will have already gotten under way, but Dungy sees no point in messing with his annual schedule.
"You just work backward," said Dungy, explaining how the Bucs arrive at their late starting date for camp. "You start at the first game and decide what needs to go in before that. Just because everybody can go in earlier doesn't mean we have to. We try to just go in with what we need. We think that, basically, 12 days (before the first game) give us the amount of time that we need. With the amount of offseason work that we have and the number of guys that are here throughout May and June, we think that's all we need."
Not that camp will be a leisurely three weeks, by any means. Like most teams, the Bucs will make liberal use of two-a-days before camp breaks in mid-August, and they won't head to a northern local to escape the heat. Dungy explained that two-a-days, while certainly no favorite of the players, allows teams to get in all the necessary work without further eating into an already shrinking offseason.
"You have a certain number of practices that you need to prepare for all the situations that you can get in the course of a season," said Dungy. "With the season being so long, if you just did it once a day, you'd extend that many more weeks onto the beginning of the year. It's just a matter of deciding what the body and mind can take and doing it in as concentrated fashion as you can, but still feeling like you've covered everything."
It is also the most concentrated evaluation period of the year, as the roster must shrink from about 85 players to 53 before the regular season starts. Even though camp is just a week away, Dungy hopes he can wait a little longer before he starts to form judgments.
"I kind of go through the first two weeks and try not to make any assumptions," he said. "But you do – you start to get ideas in your mind as guys catch your eye, especially the new guys. Where you see them fitting in, what different roles they can play. You're trying to sort out who gives you the strongest 53-man team, who can do what.
"But I really try to fight that tendency and try to let guys go through two weeks and get there feet on the ground, let them get into a game and see what they can do. It's kind of natural, though, when a guy catches your eye to think, 'Well, he might be able to do this,' and 'I'd like to see him in this role.'
Even those that feel confident about their place on the team might be feeling a little added pressure thanks to the high expectations that now surround the Buccaneers. After a trip to the NFC Championship Game last January and a remarkable string of offseason acquisitions, the Bucs are considered a legitimate contender for Super Bowl XXXV, which will be held right here in Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.
"There might be a little more pressure, because other people have that optimism that we've always had," said Dungy, though he doesn't think his team or his staff has a drastically different attitude this year than it has in recent camps. "I think we're going to get more exposure. I know we're going to have more people coming into camp and doing features on our guys, that kind of stuff. So there will be more tendency to distraction, but as far as what we expect and how we think the season's going to go, I don't think it will be any different than the last few years."
And if there's more pressure from the outside, so be it. In fact, Dungy wouldn't have it any other way.
"No, I kind of like it," said Dungy of the high expectations. "It's what I'm used to. When I was in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Kansas City, we expected to do well. We expected to go to the playoffs, we expected to contend for the Super Bowl. That's the way you want it, and I welcome it."
In just one week, he'll be welcoming all of his players to the University of Tampa for another grueling training camp. Just seven more days to get ready.