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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Perfect Conditions

Neither rainy weather nor self-administered crowd noise could keep the Bucs from putting together a strong “bonus” practice on Monday


WR Ike Hilliard was the only Buc who didn't practice Monday, but he should be back on the field Wednesday

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers practiced with speakers blaring on the sideline on Monday afternoon, better to simulate the conditions they will play in on Sunday in Minnesota.

They also practiced in a heavy rainstorm that, while relatively brief, continued on as a steady drizzle throughout the workout. That will bear little resemblance to Sunday's conditions, as the Vikings play in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

The Metrodome doesn't got a lot of indoor precipitation, but the stadium's locked-in sound does wash over one in ceaseless waves. There may not be a louder place in the NFL, as the Bucs know from their many years in the old NFC Central.

Thus Monday's speaker setup, blaring deafening and indistinct crowd noise that even drowned out the airport on the other side of the practice facility. The Bucs are trying to make sure the real crowd noise on Sunday doesn't keep them from running the right plays.

"When [the Vikings] are playing well and they're on top of their game, when things are going particularly well, that place is just devastating from a noise standpoint," said Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden after practice, as rainwater dripped from his visor. "It's hard to call plays and get your sideline communication organized, let alone communicate on offense, particularly on the road."

Gruden thought his team handled the noise factor well in practice, though it's difficult to fully simulate the Metrodome din. He also didn't mind the rain; in fact, he seemed to enjoy it, and he felt the lower temperatures, if not the rain, were also more like what the Bucs can expect in Minnesota.

"It was quite refreshing, really, to have a little cooler atmosphere," said Gruden, undoubtedly thinking of the dozens of scorching-hot practices his team has recently been through. "We got a lot of good work done today. We've got a long way to go but we're working hard."

Even though Monday, like Sunday, was what was called a "bonus day" on the Bucs' schedule, Gruden didn't consider canceling practice when the rain hit just as the team was getting started. In the end, the weather wasn't much of a factor.

"It doesn't matter if it rained; we didn't have any lightning and we were able to get a lot of work in," said Gruden. "I thought it helped us concentrate even more, given the fact that it was noisy and it was slick."

The Bucs had a full contingent of players out in the rain, including seven men who were released Saturday but are now back as members of the practice squad. Only one player missed the workout, as wide receiver Ike Hilliard took it easy on his mildly sprained ankle for the second consecutive day. Gruden said Hilliard would return to practice on Wednesday.

That's the beginning of the typical in-season work week, as the Bucs will hold their usual two-hour sessions on Wednesday and Thursday before a review day on Friday and a walk-through on Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon, the team will wing up to Minneapolis, home of the Metrodome. The loud – but dry – Metrodome.

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