Every coach in the NFL will tell you that practice is critical to finding success on game day, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' workout at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night will be no different. Raheem Morris and the Buccaneers will be getting some very important work done during that two-hour session under the lights. Still, Morris knows from his first two summers at the Bucs' helm that, thanks to the tens of thousands of fans in attendance, Night Practice is a creature all its own.
"It's an exciting practice; we ended up being a lot of fun last year," said Morris on Saturday morning, after a walk-through that preceded the full-speed night session. "The doors open at 5:00, we'll start at 6:30, get the thing cranking. We'll have a little live goal-line period tonight, do a little two-minute. We'll see a little red zone. We'll get a chance to work a little situational football, so we're fired up. And we have the quarterback challenge back. That was fun last year, Rudy [Carpenter]* *almost won that thing but Josh [Freeman] pulled through at the last minute, kind of like our season. He had a bunch of come-from-behind victories. It was fun."
The Bucs, in fact, are going to have a lot of fun Saturday night, and you're invited to join in.
As Tampa Bay's 2011 training camp enters its second week, the team is going to take its practice to its game day home field for the third annual Night Practice, presented by Bright House Networks. The Bucs held similar nights for the fans at Raymond James Stadium each of the last two years, since relocating camp from Orlando to One Buccaneer Place, and both proved extremely popular. This year's Night Practice should be the best one yet, as it will feature non-stop interactive entertainment involving the team and the fans.
Night Practice at Raymond James Stadium is free and open to all comers. Stadium gates open at 5:00 p.m. ET, in-stadium entertainment will begin just minutes later and players will begin taking the field at approximately 6:30. Here's a look at some of the things you can expect if you attend this year's Night Practice on Saturday:
Videoboard and On-Field Entertainment
Fans who show up early will enjoy a look back at the Buccaneers' breakthrough season last fall with the first-ever public screening of the NFL Films-produced 2010 Highlight Reel. The 25-minute production is packed with the best moments for such young stars as Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. Early-arriving fans will also be treated to a performance by the fabulous new 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders.
Fans will want to keep an eye on the BucVision videoboards throughout the evening, as a constant stream of added entertainment will add a gameday-like atmosphere to the evening. The videoboards will keep fans informed about the team's current players, too, with a large collection of statistics and fun facts about individual Bucs. The Buccaneers Cheerleaders will also stage another on-field performance during the cool-down period of practice.
Bright House Networks Photo Booth
Once inside the stadium, fans may want to seek out the concourse at the South End Zone for a special opportunity to put themselves right in the middle of the action…photographically speaking.
Presenting sponsor Bright House Networks will be operating a free photo booth for all comers. Fans will stand in front of a green screen and can choose to have their image combined with a wide variety of background elements, from players to team mascot Captain Fear to the tunnels from which players enter the field. Bright House Networks will also be giving away football-shaped stress balls in the same location.
Select fans will have a chance to win 2011 Buccaneers game tickets and other prizes through an assortment of trivia questions throughout the evening. Former Buccaneers Cheerleader Tiffany Jimenez will be heading into the crowd to select both adults and kids who want to test their knowledge of Bucs trivia. Tiffany's first trivia challenge will come before the players take the field, giving fans yet another reason to arrive early.
Raheem Morris' Welcome
Feeling hyped-up for the start of the 2011 season? If not, you will be after Morris addresses the crowd with the sort of fire he usually saves for his players before a big game. Morris will explain what the fans mean to the team and how they can help create victories on Sundays at Raymond James Stadium.
Buccaneer players will be introduced at the end of Morris' welcome, but they will actually be on the field prior to their formal entrance for practice. That's because the entire team is going to arrive at Raymond James Stadium between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. and head out to the field, where they will meet and greet the fans already in attendance.
The players will fan out around the entire perimeter of the field, at the walls that separate the grass from the stands. Over the next 20-30 minutes, the players will slowly rotate around the circle, meeting as many fans as possible.
Position-by-Position Player Introductions
Also adding a game-like feel to the evening will be the dramatic entrance of Buccaneers players at approximately 6:30. Each position grouping on the team – from running backs to linebackers to tight ends – will be led out of the tunnel and onto the field by a position leader. Each group will then take a lap around the stadium, greeting fans and exchanging high-fives with those on the rail.
Coaches' Explanations of Drills
An NFL practice can sometimes be confusing to the untrained eye, so Buccaneers coaches will provide detailed explanations of what to expect before each drill. For instance, Linebackers Coach Joe Baker and Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts will break down the classic 7-on-7 drill, explaining what players are involved and what the purpose of the period is. Explanations will also be provided for periods such as special teams, indies, one-on-ones and special cat.
Look to the BucVision videoboards as each drill begins to learn more about what is to come.
Bringing back the most popular addition to Night Practice from last year's event, the Buccaneers will stage a series of one-on-one challenges between many of their key performers.
The challenges fall into two categories: 1) One-on-one pass routes between pass-catchers and defenders; and 2) One-on-one pass-rushes between offensive and defensive linemen.
One-on-one periods are usually some of the most entertaining of any practice, and these premium challenges will shine a spotlight on the best matchups. The rest of the team will gather around and cheer for their side as each individual matchup takes place. Among the one-on-one matchups currently scheduled in the passing game are Mike Williams vs. Aqib Talib, Kellen Winslow vs. Quincy Black and Earnest Graham vs. Mason Foster. In the pass-rushing portion of the one-on-ones, fans will enjoy such matchups as Davin Joseph vs. Gerald McCoy and Donald Penn vs. Adrian Clayborn.
In addition to the premium matchups, players will also take part in a series of contests designed to test specific skills. These include:
- The Jugs Machine Challenge – Wide receiver Micheal Spurlock will try to defend his 2010 victory in this contest, in which a kick returner sees how many footballs he can catch and hold onto before dropping one. The footballs are shot from the Jugs machine to emulate punts; last year, Spurlock amazingly caught a seventh football while holding the first six he had fielded.
- Quarterback Challenge – The Buccaneers' four quarterbacks – Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson, Rudy Carpenter and Mike Coughlin, will take turns trying to hit a group of moving targets attached to golf carts. The targets range from short to medium to long distance and are constantly on the move.
- BUC – The team's version of the classic basketball game of HORSE, BUC will pit kickers Connor Barth and Josh Jasper in a game of calling their shots. Barth or Jasper can line up for a field goal from absolutely anywhere on the field, and if they make it, their opponent will have to match the shot or gain a letter. First one to B-U-C loses.
Players and coaches are usually in their own world for two hours during a practice, but on this evening fans will be treated to interviews with prominent members of the team while the workout is in session. Head Coach Raheem Morris, General Manager Mark Dominik and several players will all answer questions for the crowd…some of which will even be submitted by the fans. Those in attendance who follow the Buccaneers on Twitter (tbbuccaneers) will be prompted to send in questions for specific interviewees prior to the interview, and the Bucs will choose at least one of those to include in the Q&A.
As it did last year to the fans' delight, the 2011 Night Practice will conclude with a spectacular fireworks show over Raymond James Stadium. Stay to the end at approximately 9:00 p.m. and the team will send you off with a thank you punctuated by a colorful show in the sky.
Fans will also find great deals throughout the stadium all night during Saturday's practice, including the ever-popular $1 hot dogs. Season and individual-game tickets will be on sale for those who haven't locked up their tickets for 2011 yet, and fans can also purchase a wide variety of team gear and the always sought-after Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders Calendar.
As you can see, there are countless reasons to join the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday for this year's Night Practice. The 2011 season is almost upon us, and the Buccaneers are setting their sights on a championship. This Saturday night is your chance to share in that excitement, and to give your team a boost as it heads into action.