Head Coach Tony Dungy wanted his team to look sharp even during pre-game warmups on Friday
Frequent visitors to football practice can quickly recognize a pattern, so when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' entire team huddled around Head Coach Tony Dungy at 4:10 on Thursday afternoon, it appeared to onlookers as if practice was ending half an hour early.
Not so fast. What looked like the finishing speech was in fact the beginning of pre-game warmup practice. Yes, pre-game warmup practice.
Players do not instinctively know when and how to take the field and move from stretches to drill to drill before a game. They are instructed on the team's way of doing these things, and those instructions were passed out on Thursday afternoon.
"You touch on those things, just to make sure we're all set on how we warm up, how we take the field, that type of thing," said Dungy. "Who's playing different substitutions; when this group is in, if someone gets hurt, who goes in. Punt team, who's backing up who. Just all of those things so that you can look relatively sharp during the game. You have to assume that it's all new."
That was an admittedly small part of a second Thursday workout that basically covered the same topics as the first one, held during the morning hours.
"Well, in both practices we were really just trying to go over those last-minute situations: third-and-ones, goal-line, just special plays that come up," said Dungy. "In the morning, we concentrated on that with our first group and in the afternoon practice, more on second and third groups. So we covered the same things, just tried to let everybody get a look at it. After all, in the two-minute drill this game, it will be the second group, probably, that runs it."
That worked out well for first-string wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was on hand for workout number one but was conspicuously absent from the afternoon followup. As it turns out, Johnson was back in his dorm room struggling with the flu. It's something that has gone around the camp a bit, but has not kept any player out for an extended period of time. Dungy appeared unconcerned when discussing the issue.
"We'll see how he is tomorrow, but it doesn't appear to be serious," said Dungy. "We have a few guys that have had that throughout camp. He's having trouble keeping food down. Bobbie Howard had it early on. We've had some guys that have had it and have really just missed a day."
A neat 24-hour cycle would allow Johnson to make his first game appearance as a Buccaneer when Tampa Bay takes on Washington Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. Hopefully, he'll take a few passes for QB Shaun King, who will definitely play despite skipping passing drills on Thursday afternoon. King's throwing arm felt slightly fatigued after the Thursday morning workout, so he was given a break in the afternoon in order to rest up for the game.
On Friday, the team will have meetings but no additional practices. After facing the Redskins in Raymond James Stadium that evening, the Buccaneer players will be given Saturday off.