Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scheduling Conflicts

Tampa Bay's hectic Thursday routine is yet another acid test for Tony Dungy's Buccaneers

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WR Tavarus Hogans (right) and the rest of the Buccaneers had a busy day of travel before reuniting with the Dolphins

It's one hour before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' second preseason game, but the team has already put in a full day. The Bucs gathered at 9:00 a.m. for offensive and defensive meetings at the team's training camp at the University of Tampa, then left on a series of buses at 11:30 a.m.

A little before 2:00 p.m., the Bucs arrived at a hotel in Tampa, where there were more meetings, a team meal and a little down time. At 3:30, the buses were packed up again for the ride to Pro Player Stadium. Warm ups, taping and treatment followed. After the game, the team will immediately fly back to Tampa.

This isn't your normal pregame routine, though Tampa Bay has used this schedule before in trips to Miami. It makes for a long day and, whether intentional or not, another adversity test for Tony Dungy's Buccaneers.

Buccaneers.com, your only team source that can enter the locker room during pregame, spoke with Dungy just minutes ago and didn't get the impression that the coach was too concerned about the schedule. For him, and presumably for his team, it's a non-issue…and that may just be the point. Dungy wants his team to shed possible excuses and approach each game with the same focus.

"There are different ways that you could go about it, but we wanted to do it this way," he said. "We had some work that we still had to get done, and it forces you to concentrate a little bit more."

Once the team hit Pro Player, it was business as usual, though the crowd seemed to be filling up quicker than most stadiums in the preseason. In fact, the Bucs last few trips to Miami have drawn preseason crowds in excess of 50,000, which gives the players an early taste of the hostile environments they will have to deal with.

"It really does," said Dungy appreciatively. "That's one thing we're hoping to get tonight, too – the feel of a road game with a nice noisy crowd, so we have to deal with that."

Those are peripheral issues, of course, to the real test of Thursday night: the Miami Dolphins. Most blatantly, the Dolphins bring an aggressive and speedy defense into play that should be a tougher challenge than last Friday's Washington unit. This is a squad that permitted the Pittsburgh Steelers a frightening negative-five net passing yards last week.

"They've got a lot of quickness," said Dungy. "They're very much like our defense with a lot of speed. They play tight bump-and-run coverage. They actually force you to try to make big plays in the passing game. They want to take away everything short and intermediate and force you to throw deep. That's why we want to be able to run the ball and get that going, then take some shots down the field."

Buccaneers.com will speak with Coach Dungy again roughly 30 minutes before the game and report more specifics on the team's game plan. Then, once the game is underway, this space will provide quarterly wrap-ups and stat updates, lineup changes and injury information as it is reported from the field.

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