It's less than 72 hours until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run through the tunnel for their Week One matchup against the Carolina Panthers, and for Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano it will be his first time on an NFL sideline in the regular season since 1998, when he was a defensive backfield coach for the Chicago Bears.
Schiano spent the intervening years as a defensive coordinator at the University of Miami for two seasons and then the head coach at Rutgers for 11. That means Panthers' scouts must scour old Scarlet Knight tapes if they want any clues as to his most recent offensive and defensive tendencies. The Schiano-led Buccaneers, in other words, are something of a new commodity for their early-season opponents, especially with two new coordinators in tow.
But as Schiano points out, that is a hurdle that all NFL teams must face before a Week One matchup with any team.
"Every first game there is an element [of surprise], because coaches don't sit around all spring and summer," he said, noting that the Panthers are sure to look different in 2012 as well. "They go out and investigate new ideas and come up with new things. So we're going to see new things."
So is there any advantage to being a little inscrutable? Perhaps a bit, at least in the season's first few weeks, before a whole lot of new evidence is generated by game tapes.
"There is a little more unknown with us, which is fun," Schiano conceded. "It won't be for long, but we'll take it when we can get it."
One might not expect to hear the word "fun" from a man three days away from beginning his own NFL win-loss record. However, when you have undergone an offseason full of change and growth the way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have, the nerves have a way of disappearing.
"I don't really have any apprehensions; games bring crazy situations," said Schiano. "That's why the games are the most fun part of the job. You've got think on your feet, you've got to make adjustments. And that will be fun.
"When you're unprepared you get nervous. If you're prepared, you get excited. And that's kind of the way I approach it. I've got work to do still. But I plan on being prepared and it should be exciting."