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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Road to Orlando

The Bucs began their rookie and first-year mini-camp on Friday with 50 young players, including many who are fighting for a spot on the training camp roster


Florida Atlantic QB Jared Allen had an impressive practice Friday as he began a three-day tryout

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' ultimate goal this season is to get to Detroit, site of Super Bowl XL. The more immediate target destination for the coaches and veteran players is Minnesota, where the 2005 regular season will begin.

For about half of the young men who conducted the Bucs' first mini-camp practice of the year on Friday, however, the place to be is Orlando.

In late July, the Buccaneers will head up I-4 to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex for their fourth straight training camp in Central Florida. They won't have any more players than they do now – the roster is bursting with over 90 men, including NFLEL-exempted players and unsigned draft choices – but they might have a somewhat different crew.

The draft is now done and the meaty part of free agency is past, but the Bucs are not done putting together their training camp roster. That, in part, is what they were doing on Friday, the first afternoon of a three-day mini-camp for rookies and first-year players only. Twenty of the 50 players on the field were in town on tryout contracts, meaning they have three days to impress someone enough to get a more permanent deal.

"There are a lot of guys who are trying to make this team, just to get into the locker room to go to training camp," said Head Coach Jon Gruden, who subjected the scrambling group of newcomers to a practice as fast-paced as a typical Buccaneer in-season workout. "We've got a long way to go to finalize our roster before we head to Orlando, and this gives us an opportunity to do just that."

The other 30 players were comprised of the dozen new draft picks, nine first-year free agents who were signed earlier in the year and nine undrafted free agents inked on Tuesday. In other words, only nine of the 50 players in camp had stepped inside One Buccaneer Place before Thursday evening.

That would make some confusion on the practice field an unsurprising sight, but the Bucs tried to maximize the impact of the short camp by conducting cram sessions on Thursday night and early Friday morning. By the time the team took the field at 2:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the coaches were ready to let it fly and see who could keep up.

"We're throwing a lot at them," said Gruden. "We're trying to see who has the ability to learn quickly. Obviously, we want to see your skill level. Can you take it from the meeting room to the grass and can you make some plays out here? What kind of physical condition are you in?

"If you can make plays out here, there's a good chance you can make them in Orlando."

Of course, there's a limit on what a young player can digest in half a day, so the Bucs weren't expecting miracles, and they weren't throwing the playbook wide open. In fact, Gruden wanted it that way, which is why the team adopted this new offseason schedule last year, with the rookies-only work right after the draft and a full-team camp in late June. Those young men who make the roster will eventually get a chance to learn from the John Wades and Ronde Barbers on the roster, but for now they can just be the center of their coaches' attention.

"What we've tried to do is isolate these young players and coach at a level that's good for them," said Gruden. "Let's not advance the coaching to a [level befitting] Derrick Brooks or Brian Griese or a guy who's been around here. Let's try to get back to the very basic fundamentals, the origin of some of these plays and defenses, where they start, and go from there. We'll see if these guys can gradually build blocks on their foundations."

Gruden praised the new Buccaneers on their energy level and attention to detail on Friday, but perhaps that is to be expected from a group with so many players who have to make a good impression in a short period of time. Even those who are currently signed to the active roster may feel the need to justify their spot, with the other young players trying to work their way in.

"We can't necessarily keep all these players who are here today, you see, so if someone shows us something here in the next three days, we could have to make a roster move to try to accommodate that," said Gruden. "So we're evaluating a lot of guys, not only the ones we drafted but the guys who are here on a voluntary basis. There are still some good players who are a little bit overlooked and we want to try to make sure that we don't overlook anyone."


Hidden Stories

The 20 players working under tryout contracts come from as close as the University of South Florida in Tampa (defensive end Craig Kobel) and as far as New Mexico State (linebacker Rich Glover). There are men from huge, high-profile programs like Oklahoma (cornerback Curtis Fagan) and others from much smaller schools like Stillman (cornerback James Patrick)

That's the extent of our scouting report from a black-and-white, bare bones camp roster. The Buccaneers' scouts and coaches obviously have more information on these 20, but perhaps not everything there is to know.

"Some of these guys have interesting bios, interesting backgrounds," said Gruden. "So we're going to continue to dig in and research on those guys before we make a final decision."

Here's one such story.

Glover, the New Mexico State linebacker, is the son of a former NFL player by the same name. The elder Glover, currently the defensive ends coach at NMSU, played his college ball at Nebraska. In 1972, his senior season, Glover won the Outland Trophy and finished third in the Heisman balloting.

The senior Glover was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round in 1973. He played one season in New York and one in Philadelphia (1975), appearing in a total of 27 games.


A Good Start

Maybe its in the name.

Last fall, defensive end Jared Allen, a fourth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs, was one of the league's best rookies. The Idaho State product started the Chiefs' final 10 games and finished the season with an impressive nine sacks.

One of the noticeable standouts on Friday afternoon in the Buccaneers' rookie camp was one Jared Allen, a quarterback from Florida Atlantic. Allen, who led the FAU Owls to a 9-3 record last year and an 11-3 mark in 2003, was one of two quarterbacks brought to camp by Tampa Bay, along with Valdosta State's Fabian Walker. Both are on tryout contracts.

"I thought Jared Allen, our quarterback, did a heck of a job," said Gruden. "I was really pleased with him. Some free agents did some nice things today, some guys who were a little bit under the radar. It was a good start."

Gruden also noted some good work by rookie tight end Alex Smith, a third-round draft pick out of Stanford. In addition, he named four rookie captains for the weekend. On offense, it is the team's two drafted linemen, third-round tackle Chris Colmer of North Carolina State and fourth-round guard Dan Buenning of Wisconsin. On defense, it is second-round linebacker Barrett Ruud and Lynn McGruder, an undrafted free agent defensive tackle from Oklahoma.

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