In one of the shortest and, possibly, one of the least intense practices of Camp Gruden in Orlando, the Bucs and the Fins spent approximately 30 minutes working on special teams specifically punts and kickoffs.
The only casualty of the day was reserve linebacker Nate Webster. While covering a punt it looked like No. 52 somehow banged helmets with one of the blockers for the return team of the Fish. He was on the ground for a couple of minutes but walked off under his own power. The third-year veteran was kept out of the rest of the practice session for precautionary reasons.
In the area of kickoffs, Rob Hart continued to hit the pigskin high and deep. The one unique portion of his game is that the 27-year old native of Great Britain is a shoeless kicker. In fact he tried his first kick with a shoe on and botched it terribly. After removing his footwear, No. 2 hit the next kickoff out of the end zone.
On kickoff returns, wide receiver Frank Murphy looked the best. It seems that the former Kansas State Wildcat is starting to feel comfortable with his move from running back to wide receiver so he can concentrate on the return game that's up for grabs.
The most diminutive Buccaneer, Aaron Lockett, brought the crowd to its feet with a scintillating punt return. The 5-foot-7 rookie out of Kansas State University caught a low punt on the dead run and showed the fans why the Bucs drafted him. No. 8 made one move and then hit the afterburners and was gone to the house in an instant.
The last thing on the mind of head coach Jon Gruden is beating the Miami Dolphins Monday night in the home preseason opener for the Buccaneers. In fact a game plans specifically for the Fins has not even been done.
"We not even beginning to prepare for anybody," Gruden stressed. "We are just trying to concentrate on trying to evaluate our football team. We're trying to cover all the various situational aspects of football that is going to come up, week in and week out, no matter who you play. We'll start specifically zeroing on a game plan for New Orleans about 10 to 12 days before that ball game. Right now we're not specifically game planning anybody. We realize that we are going to use our complete roster in all these preseason games. It's very important in terms of how we practice when we're practicing with ourselves."
The main concern of Gruden is to take a look at the players that are listed from 54 to 90 on the depth chart. He wants to make sure he gets a good look at the people "on the bubble" to make sure that he and his coaching staff doesn't release a player that they haven't thoroughly evaluated.
"There's a roster cutdown coming up here," Gruden said. "Obviously, before that date, you want to make sure that you have done everything that you can do to give people a chance to go out and play so you can evaluate them. This is a big game for some of the guys that people aren't talking about than maybe some of the front line guys."
Running back Michael Pittman may be the happiest of all the Buccaneers. Coming from a perennial loser in Arizona, the five-year veteran feels like he's been given a new lease on life in Tampa Bay. No. 32 also feels that his pass catching skills will be exploited especially if he runs combination routes with Tampa Bay wide out Keyshawn Johnson.
"Teams are going to double team Keyshawn," Pittman stated. "He's a dangerous threat in the passing game so teams can't just concentrate on me. I saw this guy try to cover me and it was all over with. Johnson made a perfect throw and I caught the ball. Hopefully, that's how it happens in the game."
Another factor in Pittman's decision to come to the Gulf shore of Florida was Mike Alstott. The presence of Johnson on the perimeter will not allow teams to double the Fresno State Bulldog in the passing game and, with the A-Train in the same backfield, defenses will not be able to load up against one of the running backs.
"It great to see Alstott across from me," Pittman expressed. " He's a big part of this whole offense. Just being in the backfield with Mike, a big time Pro Bowl guy, is great. I'm just trying to get to his level. I want to try and make a couple Pro Bowls myself. I want to try and become one of the elite backs in the league."
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