CB Deshone Mallard knocks away a Dolphin pass during one-on-one drills
"I don't think it was trash-talking. Everybody's just setting it up a little bit. You don't want anybody to come out here and think they're going to run over you for two days. Then you're going to have a long practice. We're just trying to show them that we're not going to let them push us around for two days."
-- Frank Middleton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard
Translation: it was trash-talking. But it was all in good fun, as both Middleton and his Buccaneer defensive counterpart, DT Warren Sapp, admitted.
Middleton, Sapp and the rest of the Buccaneers returned to the Florida Citrus Bowl Friday afternoon for a second joint practice with the Miami Dolphins. The two teams first came together at that same location for two hours Friday morning. On both occasions, the teams displayed a high intensity level, most likely brought on by their first chance in 2000 to face 'the enemy.'
Friday's afternoon practice was similar to the morning workout, though the Bucs' special teams switched from kickoff return to punt coverage. In both cases, the Miami and Tampa Bay defenses took control, though Dungy felt his offense showed progress in the second session.
"Round two was good," said Dungy. "A little more heat, which was good for us. I thought we made some improvements in some areas and I thought our tempo was a little better this afternoon. I thought we were just a little sharper and we competed a little better. Again, I watched the offense for the most part, and we were able to get our timing down a little better, throw the ball a little better. We still didn't pass protect as well as we need to, but they've got some good, quick rushers."
While Dungy spent most of both practices inside the Citrus Bowl watching his offense, Buccaneers.com ventured out to the adjacent baseball outfield in the afternoon to witness the work of the Tampa Bay defense. As they had in the morning, the Buc defenders displayed regular-season form, particularly in the one-on-one and two-on-two linemen drills.
Tampa Bay defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Steve White teamed up for some effective pass-rush stunts in those drills, showing that they plan to pick up where they left off in 1999. "We're working on it right now," said Sapp. "We're getting some kinks out of it. We're pretty good at what we're doing, and right now we just want to get better against a quality ballclub. The work that we're getting right here is going to be very valuable for us coming into the preseason."
Sapp relished the opportunity to try his moves on somebody less familiar.
"It's a great thing," he said. "We get to come work against a quality ballclub and get some quality work. It's refreshing not to look over and see Randall McDaniel."
Sapp and White weren't the only linemen to make an impression in the afternoon. DE John McLaughlin was seen executing a lightning-quick spin move on first-year G Ben Adams, while rookie DE Mawuko Tugbenyoh took a different route with a successful bullrush of rookie G Steve Herndon. Second-year DT Anthony McFarland was able to dart between two interior linemen into the backfield during a two-on-two drill.
While the morning edition of the one-on-one drills between the Dolphins receivers and Bucs cornerbacks was predictably tilted toward the offense, the Tampa Bay defenders came back strong in the afternoon. Among the defensive backs to make acrobatic batdowns during that drill in the afternoon were Brian Kelly, Floyd Young and Deshone Mallard.
When the units joined forces for team drills, the Buc defenders continued to shine, with CB Donnie Abraham intercepting the second pass of that session and S John Lynch breaking up the third. Rookie DE Aaron Humphrey even picked off a pass a few plays later, but had the ball immediately stripped and was admonished to 'put the ball away.'
It was a heated practice in the afternoon, and not just because the Central Florida temperatures continued to build into the 90s. Both teams treated the workouts as an important competition and went all out. Sapp contended that his defensive mates were operating at 100% effort.
"Either that or get dominated," said Sapp. "We've got a tyrant (Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin) working us, so that's the only way we know how to do it. We're talking about a championship around Tampa, and if we're going to do that, we've got to come out and try to dominate everyone we face.
At the end of the day, Dungy was left with a satisfied but exhausted roster. He feels that his team is where it should be after nine practices in one week. "We're about right for this time," he said. "We've worked hard. This is our ninth practice, and you get worn down a little bit that first week. It will come back. The guys have worked very hard, so I'm not concerned about that."
A few Buccaneers saw little or no action on Friday. FB Mike Alstott came out in the morning and went through individual drills, but sat out the inter-team activity due to a very slight hamstring 'twinge.' He would have played had it been the regular season. T Jason Odom sat out again due to lower back pain but is progressing, according to Dungy. He is considered day to day. RB Warrick Dunn was limited in the afternoon due to some back pain, but Dungy says he is 'fine.' T Pete Pierson continues to feel the effects of the flu and couldn't finish practice.