The Buccaneers closed out their first week of training camp under the new regime with their first night practice, under the lights at Raymond James Stadium on Friday. Fifteen thousand fans packed the house, many filling the stands for a full-team autograph session at 5 P.M.
Before practice got underway, Gene Deckerhoff, the Voice of the Buccaneers, introduced a video honoring former Tampa Bay LB Derrick Brooks, before his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame Saturday.
Head Coach Lovie Smith hit the field at Raymond James for the first time at the helm, saying the fans have been nothing short of spectacular.
“It’s been great. That’s how they’ve been all along. It’s a fan base that deserves to see a good football team on the field and we plan on giving it to them,” said Lovie.
At 7:30 P.M., each player position and its coach were announced as they took the field through a smoke-filled haze while the cannons thundered. Veteran WR Vincent Jackson hopped up to the stands to high-five several fans. And the crowd got an introduction to each coach on the jumbo-tron before each section of practice.
Linebackers Coach Hardy Nickerson, TE Coach Jon Embree, CB Coach Gill Byrd and WR Coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker explained period one: a 9-on-7 drill in addition to a one-on-one QB vs. WR drill. The defense worked on running drills, though were ready for a pass play. Lovie evaluated the offense from mid field. QB Josh McCown connected with WR Solomon Patton, who beat CB Danny Gorrer to the end zone. McCown also handed the ball off to RB Bobby Rainey, who then ran in the touchdown.
Period two was introduced by D Line Coach Jeff Cullen and O Line Coach George Warhop. On the sideline, Cullen coached up DTs Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald as well as DEs Michael Johnson, Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers through tackling techniques. For the special teams portion, Assistant Special Teams Coach Carlos Polk vocally directed plays on the field. WRs Eric Page, Robert Herron and Patton as well as Rainey and CB Keith Lewis all were receiving. Herron had a dropped ball during the drill.
Finishing out the period, Rainey, Herron and Page competed in a JUGS Machine contest. Page won the contest, catching four balls while holding the three previously caught.
QB Coach Marcus Arroyo and Safeties Coach Mikal Smith announced period three, explaining the offensive drill, which tested timing and space that matched speed vs. speed. McCown connected on several passes, ran in a TD on a keeper, but also threw out the back of the end zone with Vincent Jackson as his intended receiver. QB Mike Glennon was hit and miss, while TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass from both QBs that he ran in for a touchdown.
The fourth period began with a field goal challenge, with kickers Connor Barth and Patrick Murray kicking from several different distances. Both made a 50-yarder. The two ended in a tie, both making and missing “trick shots” near the sideline from 38 yards out.
One of the highlights of the practice came in the fifth period with the quarterback challenge. McCown, Glennon, Mike Kafka and Alex Tanney threw the ball at moving targets from 10, 20 and 30 yards out. McCown missed the target from 30 yards, while Glennon’s passes sailed over both the 20 and 30 yard targets. Tanney, whose trick shot viral video has amassed more than four million views, as well as Kafka nailed all three targets.
Glennon said of McCown, “It’s been really good to be with Josh and kind of pick his brain and see his side of things. A guy that has been around for that long and has as much success as he has, you can always pick things away from him.”
Perhaps the best play came during period six, which OC Jeff Tedford and DC Leslie Frazier introduced. The defense’s goal was to keep the offense from getting a first down on this full-field drill. The highlight-reel play of the day happened when McCown pitched the ball to RB Mike James, who threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. If that trick play looked familiar, it’s because James performed a similar TD play against the Seahawks last season.
“Vincent was in the right spot, all the credit goes to him. Josh made a great toss, the line blocked. I just put the ball where it needed to be, ended up with a touchdown so I was happy about it,” said James.
Another notable play during the session included Glennon’s deep pass to WR Chris Owusu for the 74-yard pay dirt.
“It was all due to the line up front, they’re blocking well. Mike threw a great ball and I got under it and caught it, tried to run fast,” said Owusu.
Owusu also cited the game-like atmosphere for giving him a little extra speed.
“You’ve got to step your game up, especially under the lights. I think our whole team did. Special teams-wise, offensively, defensively, we all came with the mindset that we’re going to come out here and dominate even in front of a crowd like this. They were wild and rocking and we loved it.”
Most of the offensive plays employed a shotgun, spread formation.
The final period, announced by RB Coach Tim Spencer and Senior Defensive Assistant/Nickel Backs Coach Larry Marmie, was the two-minute drill between the first-team offense and defense followed by the second team. With three seconds left on the clock, McCown spiked the ball, and Barth nailed a 34-yard field goal for the first-team offense win. On 4th and 2, Rainey caught a pass from Glennon; with two seconds remaining, Murray hit the 41-yard field goal to give the second-team offense the win.
“You got to be good in those situations. Two-minute drills in this league, 3rd downs in this league are so important. For the most part we did really good on those situations, that’s where we excel,” said McCown.
While Lovie is known for his defensive mind, he liked what he saw from the offense.
“It’s about scoring points,” Lovie said of the two-minute drill. “Love what the offense was able to do. Most games come down to that two-minute drive at the end of the game. Josh and Mike both did a great job with it.”
Sitting out of practice with injuries were: C Evan Dietrich-Smith, who reportedly had his toe stepped on at practice Thursday, CB Alterraun Verner with a hamstring injury, S Dashon Goldson who’s dealing with a lingering ankle issue, CB Mike Jenkins with a lower right leg injury and CB Rashaan Melvin who’s currently in a boot.
The Bucs return to training camp on Sunday at 4:30 P.M. at One Buc Place.
98.7 The Fan reporter, Trevor DeGroot, contributed to this report.