QB Shaun King and the Bucs' offense had to deal with a fired-up scout team on Monday
Midway through Monday's practice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Frank Middleton turned to a teammate and asked, "What day is it?"
The teammate told him it was Monday and Middleton explained that the Bucs' unusual Monday game-bye week-Thursday game schedule had him all turned around.
If you're in the same boat, here's the equation, as explained by Head Coach Tony Dungy after Monday's workout concluded at approximately 4:15 p.m.
"Today, you've got to think that this is a Thursday, tomorrow's Friday and we're actually playing on Sunday night," said Dungy.
The calendar says the Bucs play this Thursday, but Tampa Bay has rearranged the schedule, pushing everything back three days in the week to make sure they get their normal slate of preparation in. By this conversion chart, today's practice was a Thursday session, meaning there was a lot to cover in just under 140 minutes.
"We had to get our short-yardage, goal-line, two-minute, red-zone, all our special situations," said Dungy. "I thought we had good, sharp work today."
Because the Bucs had their bye this weekend, following a Monday night game last week, there was time to get in all the necessary work. Thus, even if a few players lost track of the day of the week, there was no confusion as to what was being done on the field.
"It's really not bad, considering that we had the bye," said Dungy. "Thursday nights are tough when you're coming off a Sunday game, but we've had a normal week of practice and I know the guys will be fired up about playing at night."
Actually, the team was unusually fired up in practice on Thursday. There was much more vocal competition and it began during the team drills about an hour and a half into practice, when the second-team defense was on the field. The 'look team', as that unit is called, was emulating the Detroit defense but seemed to be taking the battle to heart.
"We put a lot of pressure on them, saying they had to do a good job simulating Detroit and the movement and enthusiasm they were going to have," said Dungy. "They got the practice going and then the second-team offense kind of took it from there and I think that helped."
The competitive nature of the practice then spread into the two-minute drills that finished the workout, which are already some of the most intense minutes on the field. Dungy was impressed by the fire his team showed on a Monday.
"Yeah, it was (enthusiastic)," said Dungy. "We had some of the young guys trying to get the crowd fired up and everything. It was good."
Even fired up, the Bucs' look team had to remember not to complete their tackles. Nobody suffered any significant injuries during the intense 45 minutes that ended practice, but there was a little more contact than usual.
"They kind of got enthusiastic in the two-minute drill and we had some collisions," said Dungy. "But I think those guys will be okay." Dungy was referring to players like WR Reidel Anthony, S Dexter Jackson and DE Tyoka Jackson, guys that limped briefly after a certain play or, like Jackson, required a little in-practice treatment. Jackson had an ice bag strapped to his right leg midway through practice but was back in action later in the hour.
Only a trio of players actually missed practice: LB Shelton Quarles, DE Steve White and WR Karl Williams.
"Karl Williams did some running," said Dungy of his injured receiver, who is listed as 'out' on the injury report. "But we're hoping to have Shelton and Steve for tomorrow's practice. Shelton's got the same groin problem, and (head trainer) Todd (Toriscelli) just felt if we rested it he'd really have a better shot of playing. He wanted to practice, but we think he'll be able to go tomorrow and get some work in.
"(Williams is) the only one out definitely right now, and then Steve and Shelton we should have better knowledge of tomorrow because they're going to practice a little bit."
If Quarles, the team's starting strongside linebacker, is unable to go on Thursday, the team has excellent depth in the linebacker corps to cover for his temporary absence.
"Basically, Al Singleton would play all the time in that spot and then on third downs, it would be either Jamie (Duncan) or Nate Webster playing in the middle," said Dungy. "We'd have enough people to do it, we just wouldn't have our normal rotations.
"If Steve can't go, that would mean Tyoka would play a little bit more end, and he would do well, I'm sure."
Jackson has played primarily inside as a substitute for Warren Sapp at defensive tackle, while Marcus Jones, Chidi Ahanotu and Steve White have formed the defensive end rotation. Jackson, however, has played the outside extensively during his tenure with the Buccaneers.