The highlight of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice session on Friday was the goal line drill during the morning workout, which was in full pads. That drill was the first in which there was full, live contact complete with tackling by the defense and cut blocks by the offensive linemen.
"We had a live goal line period and there were some high stakes," Gruden said. "The (first-team) offense knocked it in, the (second-team) offense was denied by the (second-team) defense, and we're going to have to see the tape to see if Shaun King got that pass off on third-and-goal (for the third-team offense). But it was in good spirit and there was a good finish to practice today as well."
The high stakes Gruden referred to included letting either the defense or the offense stay out one hour later past the 11:00 p.m. curfew on Friday night.
"The defense won," Brooks said. "They scored twice on us, but we stopped them on five straight plays. Although (Coach Gruden) never gave us the official winner."
Gruden finally declared the contest a draw after the afternoon practice session.
"We're going to call that a push, give them all an extra hour of curfew tonight, they deserve it," Gruden said. "It was a good period, spirited, lively, a good practice this morning. The defense came out again this afternoon and we need to finish better as an offensive football team, we need to finish practice in the afternoon better and we are going to do that."
But Brooks was right. Out of seven plays, the Bucs defense won five of them during the morning session. The first play from the 2-yard line was a leaping touchdown from Mike Alstott.
But then the number one offense was replaced by the number two offense and Aaron Stecker was stopped short three straight plays. Linebacker Al Singleton provided the hit on Stecker's first run, followed by a wallop from linebacker Jack Golden on Stecker's second rushing attempt. Rookie safety Jermaine Phillips provided the stop on Stecker's third run.
Byron Hanspard got two attempts to run it in, but the defense got too much penetration and stuffed the upright runner twice for no gain.
But on the seventh and final play in the goal line drill, King executed a play-action pass to perfection and found Tracey Wistrom in the left part of the end zone for a touchdown, which drew the ire of an agitated Warren Sapp, who was on the sidelines watching the third team defense.
It was clearly the most intense part of Bucs practice since the full pads came on on Wednesday.
"That was the first time that we went live at each other," Brooks said. "It was nice to get live a little bit. We got after it a little bit."
"It's about matching intensity," Gruden said. "We try to talk about that every day. No matter who's in the game, we expect a certain amount of intensity on both sides. It was a very intense, physical practice, particularly in the early part, and we finished off in the blitz period. We liked (the intensity) today."
OFFENSE A BIT FLAT IN THE AFTERNOON PRACTICE
While the defense remained strong in the afternoon practice session, Tampa Bay's offense could find the rhythm that they found in the morning workouts. Gruden, the team's play-caller, wasn't satisfied with the results.
"I didn't like enough," Gruden said when asked what he liked about the afternoon practice. "I don't think our offensive team did either and that's the bottom line. We've just got to finish stronger and execute better late in the afternoon practice like it's the fourth quarter."
The afternoon practice was much hotter than the cooler morning session and there were several mental breakdowns and mistakes that prevented the offense from getting into rhythm.
"They're absorbing (the offense)," Gruden said. "You've just got to minimize the individual errors. It's a team game and there have been guys who have made great strides learning this system. When you are playing a lot of guys on offense and a lot of different personnel groupings you've got to keep working hard at the system. It's a very unforgiving system if anybody makes an error, anybody's system is so you are never satisfied, but we are making strides."
KING GETS EXTENSIVE WORK
Gruden continued to rotate his quarterbacks on Friday, giving the lion's share of reps in the morning session to Rob Johnson and Shaun King, who both worked with the starting unit. In fact, it was probably King's most extensive work with the first-string offense. King made the most of his opportunity and was mobile and accurate in the morning workout, and generally made good decisions with the ball.
"Everybody is getting turns," Gruden said. "We've got three groups working in our rotations right now. We are trying to spread up the reps fairly evenly and everybody is getting a chance to showcase their abilities. Before long we will have to pare that back a little bit."
For the third-straight day, Kenyatta Walker was taking reps at right tackle while Lomas Brown and Roman Oben platooned at left tackle.
HOWELL STILL MISSING IN ACTION
Second-year free safety John Howell is still MIA at training camp. Howell's absence is family-related and he is excused. However, rookie safety Jermaine Phillips has been getting additional reps and has looked impressive. David Gibson has also taken advantage of Howell's absence to make some plays.
BUCS INJURY UPDATE
Running back Michael Pittman participated in all drills except for the goal line period on Friday morning. He classified himself as 90 percent, but was able to go full speed and was careful not to plant too much on his sprained right ankle.
"I was very upset (about being held out on the goal line drill)," Pittman said. "Mike Alstott came over and calmed me down a little bit. He said that everything would be alright, but I wanted to get back in there. I understand that somebody could have rolled up on my ankle, but it was just frustrating not being able to get in there."
Backup middle linebacker Nate Webster missed the Friday morning practice and did not dress due to a left leg injury. Webster rode the stationary bicycle before receiving some additional treatment to his leg, which was swollen as a result of an allergic reaction to an insect bite. He is expected to return to practice on Saturday.
"E.G. Green strained a calf muscle," Gruden said. "We don't think it's serious, we think he'll be back this afternoon. And John Stamper, our rookie defensive end, has a hamstring strain. He also will be day-to-day."
Stamper continues to be bothered by a hamstring pull that occurred earlier in camp. He participated in practice but it seemed like the hamstring got worse as the morning workout wore on.
Defensive end Simeon Rice was helped from the field by trainers after apparently receiving a blow to his left leg during team drills. It was unclear if the injury was a cramp or a bruise. Rice's leg was wrapped by trainers and he spent some time riding on the stationary bike.
CNNSI'S PETER KING VISITS BUCS CAMP
Peter King, senior football writer for Sports Illustrated and CNNSI.com visited the Bucs' training camp facility at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Friday. King was in town to primarily talk to wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and defensive tackle Warren Sapp about their on-going feud among other things.
NO SATURDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE FOR BUCS
Because of the solid effort by the Bucs during their morning practice on Friday, Gruden decided to give the players Saturday afternoon off. The Bucs will practice in pads on Saturday morning, but won't practice again until Sunday.