Bucs News And Notes From Day 1 Of Mini-Camp

June 13 – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held two practice sessions on Thursday in the team's third and final mini-camp of the offseason. What were Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's impressions of new wide receiver Keenan McCardell? What does defensive tackle Warren Sapp think of Camp Gruden? Find out which Bucs quarterback moved up in the rotation. Is Tampa Bay interested in signing future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this detailed report.

Tampa Bay wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who signed with the Buccaneers last week, made his debut on Thursday. He sported jersey No. 87, which is also currently worn by WR Frank Murphy.

Although he has been learning Tampa Bay's offense for less than a week, he was running first-team offense opposite WR Keyshawn Johnson. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is happy to have McCardell, but he knows he has a way to go in terms of learning the offense.

"He (McCardell) looks good physically," said Gruden. "He's a little bit sluggish from a terminology standpoint. He has a hard time lining up. The terminology section is a real adjustment for these pro players who go from team to team. But when he gets his rhythm, you see the life in his legs. He's a great addition to our team."

Tampa Bay quarterback Rob Johnson took third-team reps in the Bucs' first two mini-camps, but on Thursday, he was taking reps with the second-team offense. Johnson, who Bucs head coach Jon Gruden personally recruited, has apparently climbed over QB Shaun King in the rotation and has his sights on the starting position, which still is occupied by QB Brad Johnson.

"That's (the quarterback position) getting very interesting," said Gruden. "The guy that's really stepping up is Rob Johnson. Just athletically and from a play-making standpoint, Rob is consistently pushing the right buttons and making the right decisions. I've been impressed with the three quarterbacks and they've been pretty steady from the beginning. We need that to be strength of our football team. We have a long way to go to get it where we want it to be, but they are working at it."

Word out of Carolina has former future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White being recruited by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to sources in Carolina, White told the local Carolina media that Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wanted to sign him, but White said he wasn't in football shape and said it would take him at least a year to get into football shape, so he declined Gruden's offer. Pewter Report received word of Gruden's interest in White after Thursday's practices concluded, so we were not able to inquire further.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp was a big fan of former head coach Tony Dungy's, but he's been very impressed with Camp Gruden.

"The biggest difference between the two (Gruden and Dungy) is there's no hold on what you can say out there," said Sapp.

So, why has Gruden earned Sapp's respect so quickly? Sapp says it's his determination.

"He (Gruden) is a madman," said Sapp. "He wakes up while I'm rolling over."

The Buccaneers were missing a few good men on the defensive side of the ball for the first two mini-camps, but outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and middle linebacker Nate Webster all participated in Thursday's practices. All three were held out of the first two camps while they recovered from offseason surgery.

Needless to say, Gruden was pleased to have Brooks and Sapp back in action.

"Well, they're two of our best players," Gruden said about Brooks and Sapp. "They're great leaders and great practice players. And they've been out here a while, so this isn't really a Christmas morning for them. We've had a chance to work with them out here for the last few weeks. They bring so much to this team – not only from a playmaking standpoint, but from a work ethic and leadership standpoint."

Cornerback Brian Kelly also participated in both of Thursday's workouts. Kelly had been sidelined with a broken hand he suffered during an earlier mini-camp.

Bucs defensive end Marcus Jones had participated in a few of the team's voluntary workouts, but he did not participate in either of Tampa Bay's practices on Thursday. Wide receiver Keith Poole remained sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury. Poole has not participated in Tampa Bay's mini-camp since the first mini-camp practice under Gruden.

Bucs rookie DE John Stamper, LB Derrick Brooks, kicker Martin Gramatica, DT Mike Mackenzie, FB Mike Cerimele and WR Joe Jurevicius didn't participate in the afternoon practice. Jurevicius was resting a minor toe injury.

"We're in good shape, knock on wood," Gruden said about his team's overall health. "Everyone that had an offseason ailment or surgery seems to be fully recovered. With the exception of Keith Poole, we're in pretty good shape as a football team."

The Buccaneers got off to a bit of a late start for their second practice on Thursday afternoon. Despite the late start, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden decided to cut the practice short by about 10 minutes. Although he allowed his players to sport black shorts instead of the white practice pants they had worn during the morning practice, the scorching temperatures likely had something to do with his decision to shorten the practice.

"We shortened practice a little bit this afternoon for the right reasons, I think," said Gruden. "As long as it's spirited and lively and we get our work done, we will shorten some of our periods, particularly in the second practice of the day. The execution was pretty good and I thought the effort was very good."

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is pleased with the progress his team has made since the first mini-camp. He praised his players on Thursday for their work ethic and near-100 percent participation in voluntary workouts throughout the offseason.

"We're further along from a structure standpoint than we expected to be," said Gruden. "Guys have been here on a voluntary basis -- I mean a lot of guys. Just about the entire football team (has been here) for a long time. We feel good about where we are but we also respect where we have to go."

When asked who was impressing him during the offseason thus far, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden replied:

"I don't know. Everybody is impressing me because I'm an easy guy to impress. But it's not about individual performance anymore -- it's about collective football. Everybody stands out on occasion individually."

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