As the only passer on hand, rookie QB Joe Hamilton received some very focused attention
Four Buccaneer veterans – Frank Middleton, Damien Robinson, Dexter Jackson and Henry Lusk – got a view from the porch of Wednesday's workout on the fields at One Buccaneer Place. It's not likely they were envious.
While that small group of vets got in an extra workout in the outdoor weights area, a larger gathering of about 30 players took to the field under a broiling Tampa sun. All of the team's rookies and first-year players began a three-day session with the coaching staff that is intended to get the young players up to speed for Sunday's opening of training camp.
Among the notable attendees were the team's seven NFL Europe League players and it's only unsigned rookie, second-round guard Cosey Coleman. Despite Wednesday newspaper reports, Coleman was on hand and in the middle of the action for the entire workout, adding credence to General Manager Rich McKay's assertion that all targeted players will be signed in time for camp.
The heat was intense and the rookies, always trying to turn a coach's head, played hard. However, Head Coach Tony Dungy and his staff slowed down the pace somewhat in order to speed up the educational process.
"That was really the gist of this whole thing," said Dungy, who left the practice a few minutes early to attend a luncheon but couldn't evade Buccaneers.com. "We had about seven guys who weren't with us, and we wanted to give them a chance to learn. It's really a learning three days, just getting them familiar with what we're doing and what their assignments are. This gives us the chance to go very slowly, not at the pace we're going to have to go starting Sunday. It's really for those guys and the rookies to have an added chance to ask questions and get caught up on the fine points."
Coleman had four first-year offensive line teammates in attendance, just enough to form an offensive line and help the team stage a little seven-on-seven near the end of the practice. On the other hand, seventh-round draftee Joe Hamilton was the lone quarterback on the field, meaning dozens and dozens of throws for the Georgia Tech rookie.
While it was a tiring afternoon, however, it was also valuable for Hamilton, who received very focused attention during the individual drills. Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen worked Hamilton through a series of routes and got down to very specific details, from how Hamilton turns his body after play-action fakes to how he turns his shoulders to exactly where on or near a receiver's body he should be aiming. Christensen instructed Hamilton on how different routes required different target areas, including those routes designed to take advantage of the team's suddenly deep group of tall receivers.
"Yes, it was a little bit tough on Joe," said Dungy. "Last year we had Shaun (King) and Patrick Bonner and they were able to split the duties. It will be good for Joe, but we just have to be careful not to wear him out and wear his arm out. But he got a lot of work. It's easy when you've got one coach to one quarterback, you've got just four receivers…it's easy to be very specific, and that's what we think is the benefit of it."
In addition to the NFLEL veterans, another handful of players returned to the practice field for Tampa Bay. Safety Ashley Cooper, a rookie free agent from Mississippi State, had been unable to participate much during the offseason due to a knee injury, though he did get all of the classroom work. Cooper turned that into on-field action on Wednesday, along with a couple of fellow rookie free agents who had been sidelined by injuries during summer workouts.
"It was good for Ashley," said Dungy. "We've had some guys coming off injuries. Tavarus Hogans and Tarig Holman had hamstring injuries at the end of June camp, so they got the chance to do some work and get back in the groove. For Ashley, I think it was good just as a confidence builder after his surgery. We're not in pads and we're not going full speed, but we're getting some work and getting some confidence."