Head Coach Jon Gruden kept his team moving in the right direction Sunday, even without a morning practice
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a break from the heat and the physical toll of training camp on Sunday morning, but Head Coach Jon Gruden wanted to stress one thing about his decision to skip the early workout: It was not a day off.
That was Saturday. Coming off a rousing start to the preseason in a 16-3 win over the New York Jets on Friday night, the Bucs had the next day to themselves. They came back ready to go on Sunday morning and Gruden chose to stress mental work in the morning.
"Every one of them showed up on time Sunday morning for breakfast and we had a good two-and-a-half to three-hour meeting and we really isolated the film," said the coach. "We emphasized some things that we did well and we emphasized things we didn't do so well. We had a lengthy meeting and it was beneficial. We had a good lunch then came out here and made some corrections on the practice field just like we normally would."
In a sense, it was a three-step process of learning from the opening game and then putting it in the past: Rest, analysis and correction. And though the Bucs were mostly impressive during their victory over the Jets, it's hard to play 80 men in one game without encountering some slip-ups.
"There were some things that were glaring that we didn't like," said Gruden. "We tried to analyze those things on both sides of the ball and on special teams. The best way to get it right is to immediately make the corrections. We can all learn, even if it was a backup player playing in the third quarter. We can all learn from the good things that we did and from the things we didn't do so well.
"Again, it was the first preseason game. We did some good things on offense and defense and in the kicking game. So, yeah, I was pleased with a lot of things that happened, and yet I also see a lot of room for improvement."
The Bucs have four more days to work on those areas of concern at training camp before packing up and heading back to their gleaming new headquarters in Tampa. The focus seems to have subtly shifted from the inward gaze of early camp days to game preparation – on Sunday afternoon, for instance, the Bucs spent most of their two hours running against Dolphin scout teams – but Gruden is going to push his team hard to make the most of this last week in Central Florida.
"Obviously, the last few days of training camp, you've got to just really emphasize concentration and mental toughness," he said. "You've got to get your work done, man, you've got to get your work done. There are going to be some distractions later this week – breaking camp obviously, moving back to Tampa. There's a rumor that we have a new facility that's unbelievable, so guys are getting a little excited.
The Bucs will hold three more two-a-days before closing camp with a single practice on Thursday morning. They will follow a pattern similar to that of late last week: Use the morning to continue their own foundation work and follow up with scout-team work in the afternoon. As the preseason progresses, opposing teams will begin game-planning a bit more extensively, if still nothing like the regular season. In regards to Saturday's home game against Miami, Gruden indicates that's a tough task on top of the typical camp work.
"We've got to concentrate on Miami," he said. "These guys are a very good team. They're going to blitz from all over the place. Offensively, they've got a great back and they've added a couple quarterbacks who can fling it around. So we've got to get our work done here and concentrate and finish what we started."
A Fuller Line
Gruden acknowledged last week that the Bucs have had greater fortune with injuries than in most of his previous training camps with the team. The one position that had lost a little weight, though, was offensive tackle, where veterans Kenyatta Walker and Torrin Tucker missed a good chunk of the three weeks of work.
That put an added burden on the remaining tackles, including rookie second-rounder Jeremy Trueblood. Bumped into the starting lineup, Trueblood had to deal with a heavier workload, but he also got a valuable opportunity to work with the first-team unit, right up through Friday's game against the Jets.
On Sunday, however, Walker and Tucker returned to the practice field, which is good news for the team as it attempts to sort out a deep group of candidates along the front line.
"[Walker] and Tucker returned today, which we expected," said Gruden. "We do expect them to pick up the pace here in the next couple days. Hopefully, they'll be available in this game. They need to play."
Walker started every game at right tackle in 2005 and was re-signed as an unrestricted free agent in March. Tucker, who has worked primarily at left tackle since joining the Buccaneers as a restricted free agent from Dallas in the spring, started 10 games at that spot for the Cowboys in 2005.