Bucs A.M. Camp Report - 7/30

July 30 - Buccaneer Magazine was on hand for the Buccaneers' first training camp practice of the 2001 season opening morning at Pepin-Rood Stadium. Click here for today's notes and observations.

TB MINUS TWO: All players were present at this morning's training camp practice-the first of the 2001 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, except for LB Derrick Brooks and RB Rahib Abdullah. Both players' absences were expected, although Abdullah is the only player of the two with an excused absence.

Brooks, whose current contract does not expire until after the 2002 season, is holding out for a new deal after being promised an extension for quite some time. The Bucs, who do not negotiate with holdouts until they report to camp, appear to be taking a hardline stance with Brooks. The ball is in Brooks' corner, but this stalemate may take days or weeks to be resolved.

Jeff Gooch took Brooks' spot in the lineup, despite reports which said that Shelton Quarles would move over to the starting weakside linebacker position. Quarles remained as the starting strongside linebacker.

FASTER TRAIN: Several Bucs' players have lost some weight since the last time we saw most of them at April's mini-camp. Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott has fully recovered from the MCL injury he suffered last season on the road against the Chicago Bears, and is in great shape. Alstott has slimmed down to a trim 238 pounds in order to increase his quickness on passing routes.

New offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen has said that his intentions were to use Alstott more in the Bucs' passing game, like Tampa Bay did in his rookie season when he caught 65 receptions in 1996.

Others who have lost weight include QB Ryan Leaf, who is down around 250 after weighing 270 at mini-camp, and DT Warren Sapp, who is 294 pounds - down from 330-plus.

On the first play from 11-on-11 drills, Alstott rolled out of the backfield and caught a swing pass from QB Shaun King. This will be something that the fans will be seeing a lot of this season.

KING HOLDS COURT: Speaking of King, he has also trimmed down to a lean 220 pounds. King is definitely in the best shape of his NFL career. King, who is starting in place of the injured Brad Johnson, started off very sharp in camp this morning, but became a little inconsistent as the practice progressed. King was throwing the ball much better than he did in mini-camp. He connected with Jacquez Green on a 70-yard touchdown bomb against corner Donnie Abraham.

After practicing for the first 15-20 minutes, Leaf had to take about a 15 minute break due to the dehydration or slight heat exhaustion. It will take some time for Leaf to get used to the heat in Florida, seeing as he has spent the last three years in San Diego, which some say has the best weather in the country.

After Leaf returned, he didn't appear to be affected by the heat. Leaf displayed his rocket arm. At mini-camp, his throws were wobbly, but today, he had a tight spiral. Leaf thew deep to WR Frank Murphy, but the ball stayed in the air longer than he planned and CB Ronde Barber intercepted him.

NOTABLES: Rookie LT Kenyatta Walker had very impressive footwork and held his own on the offensive line.

On special teams, wide receivers Karl Williams, Khori Ivy, Robert Kilow and Jacquez Green returned punts. This might be an indication that the Bucs are interested in using Murphy solely as a kick returner and not a punt returner.

In other 11-on-11 notes, we had a chance to witness Christensen's plan to use his TE Dave Moore more in the seams down the middle of the field. Moore caught a few passes from King in the seam and this is something the Bucs want to get used to.

Green had a tough time catching balls this morning, while CB Brian Kelly dropped two potential interceptions. Green did attempt to make up for his drops when he pulled in a King bomb and beating Abraham to the end zone for a long touchdown.

Quarterback Joe Hamilton warmed up with the quarterbacks, but did not receive many reps. It looks like Hamilton is going to be a practice squad candidate at best.

A surprising standout from this morning's practice was LB Byron Thweatt, who intercepted King and sprinted into the end zone for a touchdown. Thweatt also demonstrated good coverage skills from the Mike linebacker position.

Overall, the Bucs' first training camp practice was a good one. The only injuries were Leaf leaving the field to cool off, G Russ Hochstein broke a bone in his hand, WR Reidel Anthony missing practice due to an ankle sprain, and TE Todd Yoder was carted off with heat related problems and a pulled hamstring. Hochstein will be evaluated later today and will be fitted with a cast.

Be sure to check BucMag.com daily as we will be scouting every practice and posting daily updates.

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