Bucs running back Michael Pittman warmed up with the team for the second consecutive practice, but Bucs head coach Jon Gruden pulled him out for again and said Pittman needed to rest his sprained ankle some more.
Bucs fullback Mike Alstott saw significant action on Thursday morning, but he was pulled out with cramping for the second consecutive day.
With both Pittman and Alstott sidelined, the door was opened for rookie RB Travis Stephens.
But Stephens received a rude welcoming when he took a huge lick from Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp during the first 11-on-11 session. Stephens was knocked down five-yards behind the line of scrimmage by Sapp.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Tampa Bay's 2002 fourth-round draft pick, Bucs strongside linebacker Al Singleton drove his helmet into Stephen's and knocked him flat on his back a few plays later. Both plays got Tampa Bay's defensive spectators and participants fired up.
"There's some good contact out there," said Gruden. "It's good for Travis Stephens because he's got to face the defensive backs and linebackers himself. But there was some good licks out there today, and that's what we expect in padded practices."
While Stephens did well, Bucs RB Byron Hanspard was the one that caught the eye of the coaching staff. While Hanspard runs a little too high at times, which could get him decapitated by a defender one day, he had a very impressive outing during 11-on-11 drills. Hanspard broke a handful of runs for nice gains and made his way into the end zone for a few scores. Hanspard showed a knack for breaking tackles, too.
Bucs RB Aaron Stecker didn't receive many reps, but he is listed in front of Stephens on the depth chart.
Tampa Bay practiced one-on-one, wide receiver vs. cornerback drills in the red zone. Tampa Bay wide receivers Frank Murphy and Milton Wynn stood out from their impressive performances.
Murphy made the play of the day when he put both of his hands up into rookie cornerback Tim Wansley and knocked him flat on his back right at the line of scrimmage after the ball was snapped. Murphy, who expected Wansley to press him at the line of scrimmage, scored an easy touchdown.
On the very next play, Wansley lined up against WR E.G. Green and crushed him in obvious frustration from the play before. Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin shouted to Wansley, "Why do you have to wait, Tim? Why do you have to wait for something to happen before you get that attitude? Bring that attitude every play."
Murphy has been impressive, and he showed the technique to work around press coverage on Thursday morning. This was one element of Murphy's game that Pewter Report was waiting to evaluate.
Both Murphy and Wynn used their bodies to bring down passes for scores in the end zone over Tampa Bay's talented cornerbacks.
Bucs WR Marquise Walker didn't fare well in this drill, and he has struggled since the start of training camp. Walker looks frustrated and wide receivers coach Richard Mann has been riding him hard for running the wrong routes, dropping catchable balls and lining up wrong. Walker may be Gruden's first draft pick in Tampa Bay, but that doesn't mean he's a lock to make the team. He's got a lot of work to do.
Bucs starting quarterback Brad Johnson threw quite a few interceptions in this drill, but in his defense, Tampa Bay's corners were making nice plays on the balls. Bucs CB Dwight Smith got great position against WR Keyshawn Johnson on one play in the end zone, which allowed Smith to haul in the interception.
In 11-on-11 drills, Bucs CB Ronde Barber, who is 5-foot-10, outjumped WR Joe Jurevicius, who is 6-foot-5, in end zone for an interception.
Gruden continued his experiment at the tackle positions. Tampa Bay's starting left tackle was Roman Oben while Kenyatta Walker anchored the right tackle position. Oben did a great job of protecting the blindside of the quarterbacks. Walker played at left tackle with the third-team offense. Gruden still insists that he's just getting a better look at all of his players in different situations.
Bucs center/guard Todd Washington saw plenty of action at center this morning. He blocked well against the run. He ran with the second-team while Jeff Christy started at center for the offense.
Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica had a chance to showcase his skills by kicking field goals during the morning practice. But Gramatica was a bit inconsistent and kicked the ball wide-right on a number of his field goal attempts. Gramatica did, however, finish this session strong.
Tampa Bay finished the morning session with another round of 11-on-11 drills. Tampa Bay's quarterbacks had several passes batted down by the defensive line. The defensive line also penetrated the offensive line quite well.
On the first play of this drill, Bucs CB Ronde Barber read QB Brad Johnson's mind and jumped in front of Johnson's target and intercepted the ball. Barber easily strolled into the end zone for a touchdown.
Bucs QB Rob Johnson took the majority of the snaps in the final 11-on-11 session, but Gruden told the media not to read into it much. Brad Johnson still is the starter. Bucs QB Shaun King's reps were limited for the second consecutive day.
Don't think Gruden has been ignoring special teams. Although the team only has three practices dedicated to special teams on its training camp schedule, the team has practiced different special teams drills after every practice since training camp started. The sessions have typically lasted about 20 minutes.
The Buccaneers will hold a special teams practice on Thursday afternoon and Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds will have the news and notes from that session on PewterReport.com later in the day.
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