There was no sign of defensive tackle Warren Sapp. No Keyshawn Johnson, either. Derrick Brooks and John Lynch were done for the day, as were Mike Alstott and Tampa Bay's quarterbacks. The Buccaneers held their first exclusive special teams practice on Thursday afternoon and focused solely on punt and kick coverage and return drills.
Special teams coach Richard Bissacia took control of practice as head coach Jon Gruden watched and was seen, but rarely heard during the team's 45-minute workout under cloudy skies at Disney's Wide World of Sports at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Bucs have only three exclusive special teams practices scheduled for training camp, which concludes on August 21. Under the Tony Dungy regime, Tampa Bay typically had double that amount.
But the Bucs players gave Coach Bissacia's workout a thumbs up, and said that they favored his simple, aggressive approach as opposed to Joe Marciano's tendency of always mixing it up.
"This system is simple and straight-forward," Bucs receiver and kick returner Frank Murphy said of Bissacia's approach. "Plus, he just wants us to be real aggressive out there. Just go full speed, be aggressive and hit somebody."
Linebackers coach Joe Barry, defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin, tight ends coach Art Valero, and receivers coach Richard Mann assisted Bissacia during the special teams workout.
MURPHY, LOCKETT TOP RETURN MEN
Speaking of Murphy, the third-year player out of Kansas State was the Bucs' primary kick returner during Thursday's special teams practice. Murphy returned several kickoffs lining up alongside Aaron Stecker on the team's starting unit, and displayed excellent acceleration and top level speed as he darted through would-be tacklers en route to a 100-yard kickoff return that ended in the end zone.
Murphy's former college teammate, rookie Aaron Lockett, handled most of the punt return duties on Thursday. Lockett fielded all of his punts clearly and showed good quickness and movement upfield once he had the ball secured. Lockett also had some kick returns, as did running back Travis Stephens and receiver Karl Williams, who is in a battle with Lockett and E.G. Green for the punt return duties.
SINGLETON CONTINUES IMPRESSIVE CAMP
New starting strongside linebacker Al Singleton has had a strong week of practice -- highlighted by a smashing hit on Stephens that had the rookie running back flat on his back in an instant. Singleton continued to make the Bucs' practice highlight reel by blocking a David Leaverton punt during Thursday afternoon's special teams practice.
Singleton, who has been one of Tampa Bay's top special teams performers for several years, knifed through two blockers to smother the football the second it came off of Leaverton's foot. Leaverton was knocked to the ground, and was a bit shaken up, but later returned to practice.
Like all of the Bucs' workouts, even the special teams practice was intense and full of heated trash-talking. Rookie fullback Ken Walker shouted encouragement to his group of blockers after Singleton got to Leaverton's punt.
"Don't let them block that (expletive)!," Walker said.