You couldn't possibly appreciate the way Bucs head coach Jon Gruden runs his training camp unless you had observed former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy's. Yes, Gruden eased the players into training camp by having them sport mini-camp gear for the first two days, but once the pads were on, the team went full-speed. Wednesday was a very physical practice. Players got down and dirty in a hurry.
After the team finished stretching, Gruden had his entire team run sled drills. Offensive and defensive linemen typically run through this drill, but Gruden didn't want his players to wait any longer for their first hit. He had five players line up at a time and on Gruden's command, the players would hit and drive the sled back about five yards.
One offensive lineman jumped before the command, which Gruden was not pleased with. He made the entire sled team (five players) huddle again and do the drill over.
Tampa Bay's defensive linemen ran dummy drills while Bucs running backs coach Kirby Wilson had his backs hold pads and hit each designated back after the running back hauled in a pass and sprinted by each player.
The team used its first 11-on-11 drill primarily to focus on the running game. Tampa Bay's offensive line had an outstanding outing during this drill. They opened up some huge holes for running backs Mike Alstott and Travis Stephens. Bucs fullback Ken Walker played well as a lead blocker. On one particular play, Walker blew through Tampa Bay's defensive line and opened up a nice hole for Stephens, who followed the block and sprinted up the field for a touchdown.
Gruden mentioned how pleased he was with Stephens' performance after Wednesday morning's practice, but the former Tennessee Volunteer dropped quite a few passes. This was not rare occurrence, either, as Stephens had a tendency to drop balls throughout the mini-camp workouts.
Alstott and Stephens split playing time at tailback while Bucs RB Michael Pittman nursed a sprained ankle. Pittman did, however, participate in the afternoon practice. Both Alstott and Stephens suffered from heat-related injuries later in the morning practice, which probably can be attributed to the extra carries. But Stephens was sidelined temporarily while Alstott's cramps were not considered serious.
Back to the offensive line -- Tampa Bay's starting offensive tackles -- Kenyatta Walker and Jerry Wunsch -- ran with the second-and-third-team offense for a good portion of the morning practice so the team could get a look at Lomas Brown at the left tackle position and Roman Oben at the right tackle position. In fact, Walker, who played right tackle at Florida, played at right tackle opposite Brown with the first-team offense during practice.
"We're going to have some legitimate competition as this camp unfolds," Gruden said about his offensive line. We've got a lot to prove up front. We've got to run the ball and we've got to protect the passer. We've got to come off the ball with some thump. We're going to play the best five guys, regardless of their position."
Bucs starting quarterback Brad Johnson is not known for his mobility, but Gruden has implemented designed bootlegs for his quarterbacks, including Brad Johnson, who ran the first bootleg of the day up the field for a 15-yard gain. It wasn't pretty, but the play worked. The crowd of abouy 2,000 erupted as Johnson strolled up the field. On his way back to the huddle, Johnson, who is not known for his flashy personality, played to the crowd by putting his hand on his helmet and posing in the Heisman Trophy stance. The crowd erupted even more.
Bucs second-string QB Rob Johnson ran the bootleg later in practice, and it worked just as well. No offense, Brad, but Rob looks much better running the bootleg.
Rob Johnson looked sharp during 11-on-11 red zone drills. Rob Johnson successfully placed the football in some tightly covered areas. Rob Johnson definitely has the strongest arm of all the quarterbacks. He consistently puts zip on his passes, which allows him to get the ball into his receivers' hands, even if they're double covered. Johnson hooked up with wide receivers Joe Jurevicius and Keenan McCardell for touchdowns on slant plays.
Speaking of McCardell, the Bucs received a scare during the afternoon practice when he fell to the ground holding his ankle in obvious pain. McCardell limped over to his teammates, but returned to action a few players later.
Tampa Bay QB Shaun King didn't receive many reps during Wednesday's workouts. He's been inconsistent and the fact that his playing time is being limited does not bode well for King, who is in a contract year. King told the media on Wednesday that he had the right attitude, but he seems disinterested out on the field. Or, with Johnson and Johnson pulling further and further away from King, perhaps the fourth-year quarterback simply is deflated from a confidence standpoint.
Tampa Bay cornerbacks Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith had solid practices on Wednesday. Neither had any interceptions, but both made several pass breakups.
Tampa Bay spent time practicing kickoff returns and kickoff return coverage on Wednesday afternoon. Bucs wide receivers Frank Murphy, Aaron Lockett and Karl Williams along with running backs Travis Stephens and Aaron Stecker returned kickoffs.
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