Cornerbacks Ronde Barber (left) and Aqib Talib know that training camp is going to be like Wednesday: Extremely humid
Tampa Bay Buccaneer players will soon begin a six-week period of rest (which the smart ones will punctuate with enough exercise to stay in top shape) before the beginning of Training Camp 2009. On Wednesday, however, those players got a little sneak preview of what they will experience come August.
The practice conducted behind One Buccaneer Place – also the site of training camp this year – on Wednesday morning wasn't appreciably different in structure than the one held the day before. The main difference was in the air, and it was noticeable from the moment one stepped out of the back doors of One Buc.
Namely: the humidity. With a much thicker air descending on Tampa than had been the norm over the previous four-plus weeks of workouts, the Buccaneers resumed their final week of "organized team activity" days, or OTAs, shortly after 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Soon, red and white jerseys were soaked through, but the coaching staff worked hard to maintain the same tempo it had established during the first 12 OTA practices. If anything, training camp will be more intense, and the simple addition of pads will ratchet up the discomfort. The sudden arrival of Tampa's infamous summer humidity may not have been exactly welcome on this second week of June, but it is undoubtedly a good teaching tool for the staff.
The Buccaneers have just one more practice, on Thursday morning, to finish up their 14 allotted OTAs. That will lead the team into the three-day mandatory mini-camp next week that caps Tampa Bay's 14-week offseason training program. After the players are dismissed next Thursday, there will be no more scheduled activities until the reporting day of training camp on July 31. The first day of camp practices will be August 1.
So, with the offseason work days becoming very scarce, the Buccaneers' staff was eager to get the most out of this muggy Wednesday. As Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn told his charges as they began the familiar pass-rushing drill through a line of five tackling dummies, "Get better every day, men."
Linebackers Coach Joe Barry used a moment from Tuesday's practice to convey the same message to the men in his group during an individual-position drill, or "indie." During a full-team session the day before, second-year linebacker Geno Hayes had executed a particular play perfectly in a red zone drill. Hayes had shown "perfect positioning and technique" as he turned to cover a potential pass-catcher streaking down the middle of the field towards the goal line. The only thing Hayes hadn't done was catch the errant pass, which would have taken an impressive effort.
Barry wanted that effort. As difficult as the catch might have been, Barry stressed the importance of "finishing" the play on Wednesday morning. To that end, he ran the linebackers through a drill simulating that exact scenario. The 'backers ran the play correctly to a man, but Barry added difficulty by throwing passes anywhere but at their chest. Some were caught, some were not. When linebacker Jamall Johnson made an acrobatic, spinning, one-handed catch, Barry praised him and reminded the linebackers that the pass isn't always going to be exactly where they expect it.
Similar lessons were being learned across Fields One and Two on Wednesday morning, despite the oppressive air. The team was scheduled to practice for approximately two hours, finishing shortly after noon. Buccaneers.com will have more in-depth coverage of Wednesday's work later in the afternoon. As always, the site will also provide a video peek at the action through the daily Buccaneers Insider, OTA edition.