Bucs, Gruden Ready For Challenges Of Training Camp

July 17 – Tampa Bay will report to training camp in less than two weeks and but Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden had plenty to say about his team's upcoming excursion to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando on Wednesday at a media gathering at Raymond James Stadium.

According to Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers passed its first tests of 2002 by making significant progress during the team's three mini-camps and voluntary offseason workouts. Gruden's troops will face its next challenge when the Bucs report to training camp on July 28. While training camp is more demanding and intense than mini-camp, Gruden feels his team is ready for the next challenge on the agenda, which they will meet head on at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

"There won't be any excuses for us to not have a great training camp," said Gruden. "This (Disney) is an unbelievable setup. Not only the hotel, but the facilities. I think the environment for the fans will be outstanding. We plan on taking advantage of our surroundings and hopefully we can walk out of Orlando with three solid weeks of training camp."

Tampa Bay released its 2002 training camp schedule on Wednesday. The schedule features two-a-day practices for almost the entire training camp, which runs from July 29 through August 21. Tampa Bay's players are scheduled to receive just two days off during the three-week workout session and while he will work his players hard, Gruden is confident that he and his coaching staff will not burn the players out.

"(I'm) not really (concerned)," said Gruden. "This is a training camp format that I learned as a young coach with the 49ers and some of what I learned with Mike Holmgren in Green Bay. The schedule was modified a little bit in Philadelphia and Oakland with the salary cap and number of players you can take to training camp. Certainly the heat is something I'll have to learn about in terms of how long we can practice and things of that nature. I think this is a proven training camp format that has won championships. I'm excited to implement it here."

Gruden and Co. will, however, change things up for the players by having the Bucs scrimmage with the Miami Dolphins on August 10 and 11. But this is nothing new to the franchise as Tampa Bay frequently scrimmaged its in-state rival under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy.

"Well, I've never done that (scrimmage a team during training camp)," said Gruden. "This is the first time for me doing that. It's something I'm interested in trying and the Buccaneers have felt strongly about those inter-squad practices in the past. We're not going to do it for as long this year, but we are going to do it for a couple of days. I'm counting on that being very competitive and it's just a real creative way to change it up during training camp. We're looking forward to it."

Tampa Bay's training camp schedule doesn't feature as many exclusive special teams practices as Dungy's practices did, but Gruden has set aside time during each day's practices for special teams drills in addition to the three practices that will be dedicated exclusively to special teams.

"We will practice special teams in every practice," said Gruden. "We'll take an afternoon and devote it entirely to special teams on three occasions. Special teams will be a big part in our daily training camp regimen."

The Buccaneers actually will be the last team to report to training camp, but that's not by choice. Since Tampa Bay's preseason game was pushed back from Aug. 8 to Aug. 12, the team had to report to training camp later than it would have preferred.

"Earlier is always better," Gruden said of the Bucs being the last team in the NFL to report to training camp.

Although they have a new head coach and underwent a renovation on offense, the Buccaneers still have been mentioned by several media outlets as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2002. But Gruden is quick to point out the fact that most of the recent Super Bowl predictions haven't come to fruition.

"`No one predicted New England to do what they did (in 2001) or Baltimore to do what they did (in 2000) or St. Louis to do what they did the year before that," Gruden said, referring to the last three Super Bowl champs.

Gruden insists training camp is where Super Bowl runs are started, not in newspapers or on television.

"Let your shoulder pads do the talking," Gruden said.

So, what can Tampa Bay do while they pass the time during the 11 days that remain until the start of training camp?

"Button your chinstrap, get your shoelaces ready to roll and pack your belongings," said Gruden. "It's going to be exciting."


Wondering which position(s) Gruden will have his eye on during training camp? Is it any surprise that Gruden's eyes will be glued on the offense?

"Well, we have a long way to go to get resolve on the offensive side of the ball," said Gruden. "There's some positions on the offensive line that are going to be scrutinized carefully. The quarterback situation is something I think is going to be very exciting in training camp. We have to have somebody step up and become our long snapper and punt and kick returner. There are a lot of individual battles that will be decided in training camp."

It's not unusual to hear and/or read about rookie rituals and/or hazings in the NFL. Whether it's a tradition or not, Gruden doesn't tolerate such behavior.

"We don't believe in hazing," said Gruden. "There will be no rituals or rookie orientation or anything like that. We'll have a mutual respect amongst our ballplayers and let them concentrate on their assignments and what they have to do to make our team. I've occasionally discovered some players that have gone over my head and had a little fun with the young players. But we're not going to have a lot of hazing."

HBO's "Hard Knocks" television show debuted last year and became popular rather quickly. The show followed the Baltimore Ravens through training camp and brought cameras to meetings, onto the field and even to the room where players are told they have been released. Hard Knocks will feature the Dallas Cowboys this year, but would Gruden be open to allowing HBO to follow one of his teams through training camp?

"I wouldn't be interested in doing that," said Gruden. "I enjoy watching Brian Billick. I'll be excited to see Dave Campo and some of his episodes. But that's not for me."

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