Emotions Running High In Practice

About an hour into practice coach Gruden gathered the entire team in the middle of the field. Although I wasn't privy to what was said, it must have fired the team up. After the huddle broke, all the players sprinted down to the goal line.

Before the ball was even snapped, trash talking, along with real game type goal line intensity, was evident on both sides. 

The offensive line dug in. Brad Johnson started his cadence. But wait. What are those two red defensive jerseys doing on the offensive line? It was Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland, both lining up at tight end. Quarterback Brad Johnson lead the first unit to the line of scrimmage as the defensive shifted. The give was to Mike Alstott as he was stuffed at the one-yard line.

Man that defense was fired up. High fives, slapping on the helmet and trash talking soon followed. On the following play, second year full back Darian Barnes plowed through the line into the end zone behind a Sapp block. The offensive seemingly taunted the defense in their praise. 

"Both Warren and Anthony played in our goal-line attack and they were productive. So we will continue to work on that. But it doesn't mean that it will become a reality," added coach Gruden about the drill. "All three (offensive) groups were successful today. When you get the ball down on the goal-line, you need to score touchdowns."

With McFarland and Sapp now out, the third snap was again given to Barnes. Newly acquired linebacker Dwayne Rudd delivered a bone crushing hit at the one-yard line, sending the ball flying in the air and sending Dwayne's helmet to the ground. 

Talk about a collision! In addition to stopping Barnes in his tracks, Rudd caused a fumble that was recovered by the defense. I could see the weariness in his eyes however after impact. Rudd was shaken but not stirred. He walked along the sidelines and sat out for a few minutes only to return for full contact drills later in the morning.

Now the defensive players were the ones with the fire and momentum. Little did I know that the fire would be the foundation of extra-curricular activities that would follow. 

Make no mistake Buc fans this guy can hit! 

As practice wound down, the first team offense started on its own 20-yard line. "Here we go," yelled coach Gruden as Brad Johnson stepped to the line of scrimmage.

Johnson completed consecutive passes with the first team offense when a fight broke out in the trenches. I couldn't see any numbers just a mix of offensive white and defensive red jerseys. Right in the middle was Buc defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Tempers were flaring as the jarring and pushing ensued. Now the second team offense lead by Shaun King gathered in the huddle. After a few plays Shaun felt the heat from the defensive line on a five step drop and promptly scrambled down the field when #58 Jack Golden took a heavy swipe at King and the ball in his hands. King took exception feeling that the play was over and when he stopped running he turned around and threw the ball at Golden's back. 

The two met helmet to helmet with Golden pushing King's helmet almost completely off as Warren Sapp separated the two. Talk about intensity. 

When asked about the extra curricular activities coach Gruden offered these thoughts. "Spirits were getting a little too hot towards the end of practice but this is football and I understand there are going to be altercations. We just have to keep them to a minimum."

One reporter in the mob that surrounded the coach inquired, "Was there some kind of prize you used as incentive to fire the guys up?"

"Yeah," Gruden replied, "the prize of winning the drill. Pride is very much at steak here and we try to throw a few incentives in there to sweeten the deal."

Gruden wouldn't comment on the incentives. However at the end of practice all the defensive coaches ran sprints. So what, they ran only two sprints. But coach quickly pointed out that Monte (Kiffin) was slacking. It was a great way to end an intense practice not to mention it was hilarious.

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