Rookie TE David Newman runs a pattern into the left flat during Wednesday's voluntary field session
On Tuesday, fullback Charles Kirby had a nice little place to himself. On Wednesday, he suddenly he had a pair of roommates.
Well, locker-mates, at least. When the offseason roster bulges to 80 or 90 players, many players double or triple up in the Bucs' locker room. Kirby's locker is also used by tight end David Newman and linebacker Byron Thweatt, but since both Newman and Thweatt are rookies, Kirby was alone in his space this spring.
Until Wednesday, that is.
May 16 was the first day, by NFL rules, that rookies around the league could report to their various team headquarters (with the exception of post-draft mini-camps). If a particular rookie's college spring semester was still in session, than he would have to wait until it ended, but none of the Bucs' newcomers were in that situation.
That means a maximum of 28 rookies could have hit One Buc Place on Wednesday morning, and not a day sooner. Impressively, 27 of them were there. The only rookie not yet 'on campus' was Akron CB Dwight Smith, who chose to drive to Tampa and is still in transit. Smith will join the rest of his new teammates shortly.
Head Coach Tony Dungy is pleased that his entire rookie class has chosen to participate in workouts over the next month, as the current stretch of activity is strictly voluntary.
"We had quite a few guys here," said Dungy. "We don't have any guys that are still in school, so they were all able to at least head this way. It's going to be good for them. They'll get a couple of weeks where the teaching is slow and there's not a lot of pressure."
Mixed in with the current group of dedicated veterans training at One Buc – including Warren Sapp, Brad Johnson, Shaun King, Keyshawn Johnson, Donnie Abraham, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott and many others – the first-year men give the Buccaneer coaches a full complement of players for individual drills.
Players started their Wednesday work with morning classroom meetings by position, then took the field at approximately 10:30 a.m. EDT. For the next 90 minutes, they gathered at various corners of the team's two practice fields to do position-specific drills. Near the end of the session, the quarterbacks did get together with the backs, wideouts and tight ends for some route-running, but the work being done did not yet resemble a normal practice.
In less than a week, however, on May 22, the Bucs will begin a series of 14 sessions of NFL-sanctioned 'organized activity'. The workouts will span four weeks, with three or four sessions each week.
"This is all individual work, just working with their coaches, watching tape and getting fundamental and technique work," said Dungy. "Then, those 14 days when we actually do drills, we'll get the offense going against the defense and that type of thing. But this was all really just slow, fundamental work and it's very good for them."