Training Camp Rookie Diary

July 31 - Buccaneer Magazine will follow a rookie through training camp to give the fans an up-close-and-personal look at the rigors of training camp from the eyes of a player who has never been through this experience. Our Pewter Pirate guest of honor for this year is seventh round draft choice Dauntae' Finger. He's a communications major who will take us through the day-to-day working of Tampa Bay's training camp. Here's the first installment of the 2001 Training Camp Rookie Diary.

What did it feel like going through your first NFL practices?

"It felt good. I was anxious and nervous all at the same time. I got out there and did what I had to do and I felt good about it."

Did you get any sleep Sunday night?

"I got a whole lot of sleep the first night. Everyone was complaining about the beds but I brought a little egg crate in to throw on mine. I brought my blanket with, too. I slept like a baby."

Have you had to sing any songs yet for rookie indoctrination?

"Not yet. I have heard a lot about that but I haven't been honored by having to sing a song. I am looking forward to it."

Now that you have put on the pads, what's the main difference between college and the pros?

"The speed, size and quickness. Everybody is as fast or as strong as college players. In fact, most of them are stronger and faster. The competition is a lot more heated as well."

How are you doing with the playbook?

"Everything is starting to come to me now, slowly but surely. We're doing the same things we did in mini-camp just now we're doing it in pads. I've become accustomed to it but I still have some learning to do. Monday morning, for example, we had a check play where we called two plays in the huddle and the quarterback chooses the best one. The only problem was that I jumped offsides. Everything is coming to me and I feel good about where I'm at now."

Have you been able to adjust to the heat of Tampa?

"That's a whole different issue. We had a rookie camp last week and we went out in just shorts and a shirt. We didn't even have helmets and the heat got me then. It's something I'm still trying to get used to and it's starting to come along well, too."

Is this a little different than the weather in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at this time?

"Very different weather. In Chapel Hill we get a couple breezes every now and then. It's humid but not as humid as it is in Tampa. It is a different experience."

Does Coach Ricky Thomas run as hard a practice as we have heard from the other tight ends?

"It is hard. Coming into mini-camps I was expecting it to be tough and hard but not as tough and as hard as it was. Coach T is kind of a quiet guy but when he gets on the field it all comes out. He lets us have it. I had one college coach that was as tough as he is and I got through him for two years. I figure if I can get through him at North Carolina and Coach T for a couple more years I should be all right."

Other than the normal bumps and bruises, do you have any other problems physically?

"Not right now. I feel good. I try to take care of my body. I get plenty of rest and plenty of fluids. I try to eat well so I feel real good."

Your strength is blocking but are you looking forward to being a part of the Buccaneers passing game?

"I'm really looking forward to it. That's one of the reasons that I played football early in my career because I love to catch balls. Over the years I've been in offenses where they made me block a whole lot. I'll do it and I don't mind because I love to block, too. I'm also happy to catch passes and I'm looking forward to it." Do you have anything to compare your first days of professional football or are you going place where you haven't gone before?

"You are exactly right because I have nothing to compare it to especially as a rookie. Here I am in a new place, new teammates and a new atmosphere. I was on the field and we would break from one drill and I would have to see where the rest of the tights were going because I didn't know where to go. It is a place like no other that I have experienced."

Among the players, can you feel the high aspirations that this team seems to have coming into training camp that if they don't go to the Super Bowl it's a bad year?

"Everybody has the same goal and that's to go to the Super Bowl especially the veteran guys who have been here since Coach Dungy has arrived. They are out there working hard and you can see that they want to go the distance. When you see that those guys that want to go the distance and are working hard to get there it makes me want to work hard as well. Everybody is ready to win it."

Were your first couple days a success?

"We've only been at it for two days but I'll know after the Wednesday practices in full pads. The night scrimmage will tell whether the early days have been a success or not."

With his first few practices under his belt, the former University of North Carolina Tar Heel is looking forward to showing off his abilities at the night scrimmage in front of an expected standing-room-only crowd of Bucs fans at Pepin-Rood Stadium. Only time will tell but No. 82 has started out on the right foot. Stay with us for the next installment of Training Camp Rookie Diary.

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