WR Keyshawn Johnson returned to practice on Monday despite a red-eye flight from Los Angeles that left him little time for sleep
After practice on Monday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy warned his team against a last-week letdown, sort of an NFL summer version of 'senioritis'. It was an important admonition, but hardly necessary.
Approximately 80 Buccaneers reported for the last of four weeks of voluntary summer workouts in an exceedingly good collective mood on Monday, working hard but seeming to enjoy every minute of it. This despite the ever-increasing humidity and heat of the Florida summer.
Dungy believes that the team has gained a sort of positive looseness by being around each other and getting an idea of the talent that is on hand. "I think we are having fun," he said. "I think guys know what we're capable of doing. I think they feel like we can be a very good football team, and that's when you do have fun. When you're not sure how good you can be, or you have a lot of question marks, it's not easy. I think we're just at the point where guys enjoy being out here with each other and they know we have the chance to do something very special."
You could also, perhaps, chalk the looseness up to the players seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; as of Monday afternoon, there were only three of the 14 summer workouts remaining before an extended off period began. Some players, however, had more reasons to be in a jolly mood than others.
Take Keyshawn Johnson, for instance. The already-gregarious wide receiver could just have been pleased that his Los Angeles Lakers won the deciding game seven in their series with the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday night, a game Johnson saw in person in L.A. Or, perhaps, he was punch-drunk after a red-eye flight that got him into Tampa at 4:30 a.m. and left only a few hours for sleep before it was time to report. Johnson could also have just been happy to be back on the field after missing the last three workouts with back spasms.
Dungy opted for the first choice. "I think he is doing a lot better," he said. "I'm not sure he would have made it here if (the Lakers) hadn't come back (to win)."
Indeed, Johnson provided the media with a lengthy analysis of the Lakers' game before getting to the matter of his return. When he did discuss his back ailment, the 6-4, 212-pound receiver shrugged off the injury.
"I'm good, I'm alright," he said. "It's just feeling a little slow and I'm not able to bend fully. The back spasms are pretty much gone. I'll be alright. If I had to play today, I'd play."
Johnson also provided the rest of the roster with a little levity when he was forced to run a lap near the end of practice after being stripped of the ball following a reception. That is one offense that earns any player a lap during one of Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel's workout, and it was a 'punishment' Johnson readily accepted, even if it came with a round of catcalls from the rest of the team.
"I don't have a problem with it at all," said Johnson. "It's all fun. It's something to teach you some discipline.
"Me fumbling at the end right there? I've never fumbled - ever, ever, ever - in a game before. That kind of disappointed me, because I know I'm going to have a good grip on the ball.
Johnson's attitude was part of the enthusiasm that Dungy has seen, and been pleased by, throughout the series of summer workouts, even if Monday was a particularly jovial day. That has helped the head coach feel like the month of pre-camp preparation has been worthwhile.
"It's been good for us," said Dungy. "I think this is going to be pretty much a review week, but we've been very, very pleased with the work that we've gotten in. I think our young guys have made a great effort to learn what we're doing, and that's the most important thing to come out of this."
Even though the Bucs' practice attendance remained pretty steady, there were a couple of comings and goings which Dungy discussed after the workout. For instance, TE Patrick Hape, who had not practiced during the first three weeks due to a foot fracture suffered in early April, returned to the field on Monday but did not make it through the entire session.
"He's just having a little trouble with his foot," said Dungy. "We're trying to get the right treatment to get everything going, but I don't know what the next step is. The plan was to have him do some limited stuff, as much as he could do, then go from there. I think Todd will re-evaluate and we'll see what the next step is."
S Shevin Smith (knee) also returned also made his first appearance in team drills, but G Randall McDaniel and DE Chidi Ahanotu were not on hand. "Randall McDaniel actually had some things set up before knowing that he was coming here," said Dungy. "He has some charity things that he takes part in this week; he let me know that and that was no problem. Chidi just has a little illness. We think it's a stomach flu or something, but hopefully he'll be okay. We really don't know (when he'll be back), but it's not anything life-threatening."