As the final voluntary summer workout came to a close, Head Coach Tony Dungy led his players into a team meeting on the field
Fourteen days. That sounds like two weeks, but in Buccaneer-land it was a month, and it felt like two thanks to the heat.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers conducted the last of 14 voluntary summer workouts, spread out over four weeks and intensified by the broiling Florida summer. Though Head Coach Tony Dungy was extremely pleased with his team's attitude from the first day to the last, he still feels that they were ready for a break. That break comes now, with no scheduled activity for the players until training camp opens on July 23.
"I think it was a real good three weeks for us," said Dungy, "and I think it's about time for it to end. The guys are excited about that. But they've worked hard, and I think it's been very, very positive."
The hard work continued right on through Thursday until approximately noon, as virtually the entire roster remained on hand for all four weeks of work. Not only was everyone there in person, but Dungy felt they were locked in mentally as well. Asked for a wrap-up of the surrogate 'camp', Dungy focused on his team's approach.
"I was happy that we had everyone here working," he said. "I think that sets a good trend. Also, the concentration that we had, and the effort, that's really what you're looking for this time of year, and we had it. I think it will (carry into training camp) as long as the guys take care of business in these next five weeks. I have every indication that they will. Everything that we've done up to this point – conditioning, rehab, the work on the field – has been great. If we carry that over into the six weeks that they're on the own, we'll come in ready to have a great camp."
The team's specific focus during the full-team portion of practice was the two-minute drill, and the Buccaneer offense showed clear signs of improvement for the third straight day. As Dungy has explained, the first three weeks of the summer workouts were designed to install a major portion of new coordinator Les Steckel's attack, while this last week was reserved for review. As things were repeated, the offense, which was featured in this week's edition of The Sporting News, caught on quick.
"We kind of expected that as we cut back on the installation," said Dungy. "Most of the offense was in and now it's just review, going over plays again and again. That's when you get sharper. Now, training camp has to be that way, where it's not hearing this for the first time but they've got it and they're just fine-tuning it."
Quarterback Shaun King, who felt good about his own performance in Steckel's offense in the latter part of camp, agreed that the voluntary sessions had given the Bucs an edge going into camp. "It was good for us," he said. "It was what we needed, especially on offense. Now when we get back together on July 23, we'll be a whole lot more ahead of it than we would have been."
Dungy sent them off after a brief team meeting at midfield after practice plus a catered barbecue lunch. Though he surely wants them to take the time to clear their minds, the Bucs' coach also believes the interim between now and camp can be productive.
"The biggest thing they need to do now is get away from the coaches a little bit and stop hearing us brow-beat them," he said with a smile. "They pretty much know where they're at. Each guy has to individually get himself ready to go as best he can be on July 23. If we have 80 guys that do that, we'll be in great shape.
"That's what we want to do. If we can keep that energy going and keep that work ethic going, we've got enough talent to get where we want to go. I really like where we're sitting right now. It really becomes coaches, players, everyone getting themselves ready to have a great training camp."
The Bucs' coaching staff will also have an opportunity to take a little time off – Dungy hopes to relax on a couple of fishing trips – but will use part of the pre-camp period to build off what they have learned in the last four weeks. Steckel's main focus during the summer workouts was to get his system installed. With that task mostly accomplished and 14 practices worth of videotape to review, the Bucs' staff can now decide how the system best fits onto the current personnel.
"What he did was try to bring his system here and put it in," said Dungy. "Now it's up to us as we go into camp to find the right spots for guys and fine-tune and really narrow that system down to do what these guys can do.
"Who needs to be where? What Shaun does well; what Eric (Zeier) does well; what Joe (Hamilton) does well; what Scott (Milanovich) does well; what Warrick (Dunn) can do in the running game; what Mike (Alstott) can do; what Rabih (Abdullah) can do; what we want to emphasize with each player. That will really be (a process of) scaling down, cutting back. You can't run everything, but that's up to us, the coaches, to find out and take this system and tailor it to what we have."
That is, of course, the promise of more work even as he was being asked about time off. Still, Thursday was more an occasion of looking back at what had been accomplished than looking forward to the task ahead. And on that issue, Dungy felt very satisfied.
"We've had a lot of learning go on, and that's been a plus," he said. "We didn't get anyone seriously hurt. We have a couple minor things we have to overcome, but I think we're in good shape coming out."