RB Aaron Stecker eludes a tackler during another goal line drill on Wednesday morning
In just nine days of training camp practices, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have held an even dozen workouts in either full pads or semi-pads, called shells. On Wednesday morning, with the Tampa heat dialed up once again, the Bucs held the 12th practice of that variety, working again on goal-line situations.
This is not by accident. Two games between Wednesday and the next Thursday will leave very little time for full-fledged two-a-days, the days in training camp that promote the most progress. The Bucs needed to get in their toughest work early, and they have done so without seeing any drop in intensity.
As the players came off the field at approximately 10:45 a.m., they appeared fatigued but not exhausted. Training camp is designed to be a test of endurance, among other things, and the Bucs are passing with flying colors.
"At this point in camp, you start to get weary a little bit," said DE Chidi Ahanotu. "Personally, I feel like I'm in great shape. Still, the turf is soft, it's been raining, and whenever you have that soft turf and you're running around it's kind of like plodding in the mud. It takes a little bit out of you. But Tony's camps are pretty smart, he gives us breaks here and there. So we're not dead tired. But normal camp wear and tear, seeing the same guys, living in the dorm is taking its toll."
Maybe that's why the one-on-one drills during camp practices become such heated affairs. Individual battles between defensive and offensive lineman, running backs and linebackers, receivers and defensive backs, are compelling enough to be crowd pleasers from a distance. Buccaneers.com gets close to the action, and it's clear at that range that the players take that competition very seriously, even among teammates.
"We take a lot of pride in that," said Ahanotu of the drills pitting his linemates against offensive guards, centers and tackles . "That's one on one and the spotlight's on you. That's your time to shine and you make the team or get cut from the team often in one-on-one drills.
"That's where you see what you've got. Maybe not so much your pass-rushing skills but your heart, seeing if you can finish, seeing if you have that drive. There's a lot of pride on both sides of the ball."
On Wednesday, the Bucs continued to focus more on continuing their own training camp progress than dissecting the Washington Redskins, Friday's opponent. With each team's roster sporting 80-plus players who will be cycling in and out of the game, that's probably a wise approach. Still, Dungy and his staff have begun to focus on the immediate task ahead, particularly in terms of the playing time that will be doled out to the starters and their backups.
As of Wednesday morning, Dungy had not finalized the plan for Friday, but he did think that the team's somewhat inexperienced starting quarterback, Shaun King, and the remainder of the offensive unit would get more playing time than usual.
"They may play a little more," said Dungy. "We've got some new guys that we have to get acclimated to what we're doing. It's a new system for us all, offensively. We may see them a little more than normal in a first game."
So it won't be the usual one-series-and-they're-out debut for the starting offense, apparently. That unit has a little extra work in store for it, which is fitting, since they've been working overtime in training camp so far.