The Bucs had only a short walk from their hotel to get to the theater for a showing of the new Batman movie
NFL players are often described as "heroic" for making outstanding plays — a last minute touchdown grab or game-saving interception, for example.
On Monday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a chance to witness the exploits of another type of hero — a superhero by the name of Batman.
Movie Day — it's an annual tradition in which the team takes an afternoon off from its grueling training camp schedule to go catch a flick as a team. This year, Movie Day gave the Bucs a chance to relax, escape the brutal Florida climate for a few hours and watch America's number-one movie, "The Dark Knight."
"It was a great time, without a doubt," linebacker Ryan Nece said after the movie ended. "It was a great story and we saw somebody do some heroic things and we think we do heroic things on the football field, so that was pretty cool."
After returning to the team hotel following Monday's morning practice, the Bucs made the short walk around the corner to the AMC Theaters Celebration where they were greeted with an all-you-can eat bonanza of movie grub. Bags of popcorn, Icees, extra large sodas and candy galore all awaited the players, and they loaded up before heading into the theater.
The Bucs have been the big show in town in Lake Buena Vista lately, as fans have filled the bleachers to watch them practice, but wide receiver Brian Clark said the chance to kick back and have someone else do the hard work was a welcome respite.
"Oh, this was absolutely better than practicing," Clark said. "Any time that you can sit in a movie theater and be entertained by someone else and have all the snacks and drinks that you can eat and pop to consume, that's always better than going out there in the Florida sun and letting Jon Gruden yell at you."
"The Dark Knight" has been a major box office hit since its release, and the Bucs seemed to agree. The team probably would have given any movie that gave them a day off from practice a positive review, but the general consensus seemed to be quite positive.
"'The Dark Knight' was a great movie," Nece said. "A long movie, but the characters did a great job and it was entertaining — a good little day off."
Added Clark: "It was interesting. I think the plot, bringing the Joker back from the first movie, was a good thing. I liked to see how they didn't really just play to a typical movie. The Joker was a different villain and they really portrayed that in the movie and I thought it was really interesting."
More important than the chance to relax for an afternoon was the camaraderie the outing helped build.
"All we do right now is talk about football," Nece said. "This gives us something else to talk about and we'll compare what we think is our favorite movies. It's just a chance to get with the guys in a relaxed atmosphere and it's great."
Nece has been a Buccaneer for all of his seven-year career, but this was Clark's first movie day with the team after joining the Bucs midway through the 2007 season. He thought movie day, similar to other team-building events such as the bowling trip the Bucs took back in May, was an excellent idea.
"I think coming from Denver, not to knock that organization, but I think it was different to see how the Bucs play on team fellowship," Clark said. "Even though we were in a less intimate setting and couldn't really talk to each other, at the same time we were able to do something together. We all walked down here to the theater, we all sat and laughed before the movie started, so I think it just builds team camaraderie and I pray that it shows when we get to the Super Bowl in February."
In all, it was a fun afternoon and a nice vacation from football, if only for a few hours. Nece and Clark couldn't help but play Ebert and Roeper and give their own review, however.
"I liked it," Nece said. "I liked the movie a lot. Out of five stars, I'm going to give it four-and-a-half."
Meanwhile, Clark was a little less generous, but still came away entertained.
"I would definitely have to give it four, just because I'm not a real five-star guy," Clark said. "I haven't really found a perfect movie."