Buccaneer players were unaware at the start of practice on Thursday that both Head Coach Raheem Morris and Mother Nature had surprises in store for them
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were driven off the practice field at 10:45 on Thursday morning – about 30 minutes into a two-hour organized team activity day practice – by a fast-moving thunderstorm. The players kept their gear on, however, and eventually took the field again at 11:10.
The rain wouldn't have disturbed the Bucs' work but Head Coach Raheem Morris called for the break after seeing lightning over nearby Raymond James Stadium. Morris signaled for a blast of the air horn that signals period changes and then instructed the players to "take it to the house."
There were actually several surprise blasts of the horn in the few minutes before the storm arrived. That's because Morris sprung the first "sudden change" period of OTAs on the approximately 80 players in attendance. A sudden change period is always sprung on the players by surprise, and it is intended to see how quickly and how well they can react to a quick change in a game situation.
In this case, the players were in the middle of an individual position drill when Morris called for the sudden change, yelling loudly and repeatedly for all of the position groups to head to the south end of field three. Morris was intensely serious; in fact, he sent the players back to their original spots on the two fields when he was unhappy with how quickly they got to his spot and made them do it again.
A sudden change period can be of any specific content, and in this case it was a two-minute drill with the offense about halfway into the defense's territory. It was a full move-the-ball drill with the reserves and the coaches on the sidelines (with the exception of Morris, who stayed in the middle of the action and tried to keep the assistant coaches from coming too close to the huddles.
With the second-string offensive and defensive units squaring off, first-year defensive end Louis Holmes scored the first big play with a pass deflection on first down. However, the offense responded two plays later – after a delay-of-game flag lost them five yards – when quarterback Byron Leftwich threw a pretty flag pattern to wide receiver Kelly Campbell on the left edge of the end zone. Even though the drill was non-contact, as they all must be in the spring, the offense was thrilled with its "win," bumping chests and playfully taunting the defense. Safety Sabby Piscitelli called for the "ones" (first string) to get a shot at redemption for the defense, but Morris ended the sudden change period and sent the players back to their individual drills. Moments later, the decision was made to send the players inside.
Even before the sudden change period, Buccaneer coaches were drilling players hard on the details, trying to lay the foundation for training camp and the regular season. For instance, Linebackers Coach Joe Barry was momentarily unhappy with one of his charges when he failed to show proper tackling form during an individual drill. The linebacker came up with his arms together, rather than spread out, ready to wrap up the ballcarrier. Of course, it wasn't a real tackle and the opponent was a pad being held by another linebacker, but getting the technique right was critical to the coach. Said Barry: "You can't forget how to tackle in May, men."
The Buccaneers were able to restart practice shortly after 11:00 a.m. Buccaneers.com will provide a more detailed wrap-up of Thursday's OTA, complete with Morris' end-of-the-week thoughts, later in the afternoon.