Ohio State FB Stan White was one of three tryout players who got to keep their helmets after the weekend camp
Nearly 60 young men spent the weekend at One Buccaneer Place giving their best effort out on the practice field and trying to make an impression on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coaching staff.
Unfortunately for most of these rookies, the conclusion of the team's rookie mini-camp on Sunday signaled the end of their short stint as Buccaneers, a fact that Head Coach Jon Gruden calls a painful reality of the limited roster sizes afforded to NFL teams. Despite the need to say goodbye to many of its participants, Gruden still considered the weekend mini-camp a success.
"We were real impressed with the players and coaches," Gruden said. "We got a lot of work done and guys really worked hard. I'm just really disappointed that we won't have the opportunity to take as many of these guys to training camp, because they sure deserve it. The number that we're allowed to take is all the way down to 80. That's going to deny some of these guys an opportunity to compete. It really makes me sick, in some ways. I really feel bad for them."
Gruden was especially impressed with the intensity and high spirits the rookies carried with them over the weekend.
"I think young people have to at least have enthusiasm," Gruden said. "This is their first exposure to the National Football League and obviously they're very excited and probably nervous a little bit, but they fared pretty well here."
A select few of the rookies will have earned themselves a chance to return for training camp, however, and Gruden said those players, along with the team's draft choices, will have some homework to do before they return.
"We'll try and give them some information to study," Gruden said. "We'll also give them a program – a physical conditioning program to follow. But while they're gone, they'll have some information to study and a program to work on their training."
In all, Gruden said he was pleased that the team's seven draft choices were able to gain some valuable experience, and was also excited that the team would be able to select a few more talented rookies from the event to bring back for training camp.
"Our draft choices in particular had a chance to digest a lot of system and put it to work and start to build some unity amongst their class," said Gruden. "And there were four or five guys we're going to try very hard to put on our football team."
Draft Class Rundown
After getting his first glimpse of the team's seven draft picks competing against each other on the practice field, Gruden came away excited about the crew of newcomers.
Linebacker Geno Hayes, the team's sixth-round pick out of Florida State, certainly caught Gruden's attention with his play over the weekend.
"He has athletic ability," Gruden said. "He's what's advertised. He's going to be a good contact player, I think, when we start putting pads on. He's instinctive, he has good functional speed and he appears natural. He appears comfortable in this defense, and we're excited about that."
Gruden joked that the Bucs' "logjam" at quarterback will make practice reps hard to come by for fifth-rounder Josh Johnson. He was not kidding when he said he sees a lot of promise in the San Diego product.
"I like him," Gruden said. "I'll say it again and again – it's going to be an exciting process. Reps at the quarterback position – I keep reading how we have seven or eight triggers, so he might not get any reps, but we'll do our best to get him ready. We're excited about him."
In defensive tackle Dre Moore, Gruden said he also sees plenty of potential, but also plenty of hard work in the fourth-rounder's future.
"He's an explosive big man," Gruden said. "I think he'll be the first to tell you his stamina is going to be an issue. He's got to get in much better condition, and that's why we have that factory over there, that industrial, weight room machine factory over there. We'll get him in there. He is strong, very powerful, but I think the stamina needs to be addressed and it'll be addressed. Hopefully he starts it himself here as he leaves the building."
Running back Cory Boyd and wide receiver Dexter Jackson were bothered by some minor injuries over the weekend, so Gruden's assessment of those two was somewhat incomplete.
"[Boyd is] alright," Gruden said. "Some of these guys, maybe we're just doing a little bit more than they're accustomed to this time of the year. But Boyd is fine. Dexter Jackson was limited here, but I think they understand that they better be ready to go on May 16."
A Special Reward
Continuing an annual tradition, Gruden and the coaching staff presented three players from the rookie mini-camp who impressed them with their effort and hard work with a special memento from the weekend.
"We have 58 or 59 guys [out here for the weekend], but we had a linebacker, Ron McCullough from Bethune Cookman, Stan White, a fullback from Ohio State, and John Rochford, a center from Miami, three guys that the staff voted on that really stood out in terms of their effort," Gruden said. "I have a lot of respect for those guys. We gave them their helmets to take home with them and use as a piece of motivation to hopefully keep things working where they get an opportunity some day."