Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Test by Fire

Another week of camp sandwiched between two games is no easy task for Buccaneer players, but it’s a good trial for tests still to come…And other notes

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Some Bucs played more than others on Friday night, but all needed to be ready for one more difficult week of camp

The progression of an NFL team from a loose collection of players in March to a ready-for-action team in September goes through these four steps: offseason, training camp, preseason, regular season.

The thing is, while there is a clean break between offseason work and the beginning of camp, and between the last preseason game and the first one that counts, there is a bit of overlap between steps two and three. In the NFL, the beginning of game play usually doesn't mean the end of camp life.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their first preseason game on Friday, putting their 2006 team on the field for the first time and beginning a rapid run-up to opening day. After that game, however, the Bucs swung back around, hit I-4 and headed back to training camp for another week. It feels a little incongruous, going back to two-a-days after the season has begun.

Well, said Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden, you might as well get comfortable with it.

"That's how we play; that's how the NFL is; you'd better get used to it," he stressed. "This is not a game for the guys who can't handle it. We've got to respond to this. A lot of these guys only played eight or nine plays [in Friday's game]. You've got to keep working your trade, you've got to keep working your game and sometimes that's harder than others."

The grueling nature of training camp, with two-a-days piling onto two-a-days, may seem arbitrary, but it's not. Camp is a test by fire – especially under Central Florida's clammy blanket of heat – designed to prepare the players to face whatever may arise during the regular season. And, looking just a bit ahead, Gruden can see a challenge potentially tougher than anything the team has faced in a while.

"We're going to play three games in [11] days this year," said Gruden, referring to the November stretch that includes a road Monday-nighter and a road Thanksgiving game sandwiched around one tough home matchup. "We've got to deal with a very difficult schedule – Monday night at Carolina, Sunday against Washington, Thursday at Dallas. You'd better get used to it."

Gruden doesn't plan to dial back the intensity of the final week of camp, either, though he has worked creatively since the start of the three-week period to insert extra stretches of rest into the schedule. Monday marked the first of three straight two-a-days before a morning workout on Thursday caps off the stay in Lake Buena Vista. He'll still raise his voice, if need be, and he thinks the players understand the motivation for his urgency. He's sure they know that the two roster cut-downs to 53 are looming on the horizon.

"I just want these guys to be great," he said. "I want them to be great and I don't want them to lose an opportunity to get better because, to be honest, time flies. We've got to make some tough decisions here in about two weeks. Very tough. Hopefully they appreciate the fact that all the coaches are yelling and that there's a crisis, there's an urgency to pick up the execution and perform at your best, even when you're tired or a little bit distracted for whatever reason."

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In Good Shape

The Bucs escaped their preseason opener with very few fresh injuries, another reason to call the 16-3 win over the New York Jets a success. Cornerback Torrie Cox is still resting an injured ankle, but Gruden says the roster is mostly healthy as camp draws to a close.

"We've got some guys who are just kind of day-to-day, but nothing too important," said the coach.

Defensive tackle Chris Hovan was absent from the practice field on Monday, but Gruden described his issue as a "mild infection" that is receiving treatment. Hovan is expected back on the field within a few days.

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Grants Awarded

The Glazer Family Foundation has awarded seven Bay area non-profit organizations with grants that total more than $25,000. On Monday, August 14, the grant recipients were on hand at Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, where Gruden presented each of the organizations with their grant checks and a commemorative plaque immediately following the morning practice.

Organizations receiving a grant included Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Inc. - Florida Chapter, Bess the Book Bus, Inc., Camp Boggy Creek, Children First, Fostering Hope Florida, Harbor House - Orange County Center Against Domestic Violence and Plant City Children's Theatre.

The grant presentation was part of the Glazer Family Foundation's bi-annual grant program that awards approximately $50,000 annually to charitable organizations in the Greater Tampa Bay and West Central Florida areas. For more information on the grant process or to apply for a fall grant, visit GlazerFamilyFoundation.org.

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