Here's an inside look at the on-field workout on Wednesday morning at Raymond James Stadium, the second day of the Buccaneers' three-day mini-camp.
WR Michael Clayton is going for a new look this offseason, a mini-afro. I guess whatever it takes to erase the past two seasons.
DE Simeon Rice alert: He had a jersey on today! He stretched! He did ONE slalom drill! He even helped reset blocking dummies during defensive line drills (way to get something out of that $10 million cap figure, Bucs!) But alas, no talk. Rice stayed for the full workout but blew by the media, telling a TV reporter, "I can't" when asked to talk. That's our Sim!
Early in the workout I noticed DE Kevin Carter in a baseball cap. He did not work out today and he left for about 30 minutes with a few other players — TE T.J. Williams, DT Darrell Campbell and TE Keith Heinrich. Williams and Campbell didn't work out on Tuesday, either. I believe Carter, being a 13-year veteran, was just getting a breather.
I took in a lot of the defensive parts of the workout Wednesday. The first thing I noticed is that DT Ryan Sims seems to have lost a bit of weight since I saw him two weeks ago. He looks more like his listed weight of 315 now. He moved a little quicker, too.
Rookie DE Gaines Adams looks quicker up close than I expected. In two drills in particular he showed off his wheels. First, in a four-dummy slalom drill, he almost ran straight through the dummies, slapping them aside and running along in nearly a straight line. Then there was a two-dummy drill in which he had to do a figure eight around both before heading upfield. What I think line coach Larry Coyer was looking for here was for a lineman to be able to rotate around the dummy without his hips shooting out, and Adams succeeded, while sustaining his quickness. I'm very eager to see him in pads, and I think that goes for Coyer, too.
The unquestioned leader of this line — ends and tackles — is Chris Hovan. He went first in every drill, his fundamentals were flawless and the younger players listen and watch. It's still difficult to believe Minnesota didn't want the guy. He's been nothing but the perfect employee since he got to Tampa.
Coyer seems to take a particular interest in the tackles when the tackles and ends break off (his assistant handles the ends). He also seems to have taken a keen interest in Jovan Haye, a candidate at the under tackle. He's not the biggest tackle on the team — he's just 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds — but his athleticism sticks out to me. He's turning into the dark horse candidate inside and could be second on the depth chart at under tackle (the three technique) when training camp starts.
In the first 11-on-11 drill the first-team defense went like this: LE Greg Spires, DT Jovan Haye, DT Chris Hovan, DE Patrick Chukwurah, MLB Barrett Ruud, WLB Derrick Brooks, SLB Cato June, LCB Phillip Buchanon, RCB Ronde Barber, SS Jermaine Phillips, FS Will Allen.
Where was Brian Kelly, you ask? Getting treatment for a "bruise," as head coach Jon Gruden put it after practice. He wouldn't elaborate on the bruise, only to say that Kelly's surgically repaired toe is not the issue. I recall that yesterday Kelly knocked knees with an offensive player during a play downfield, but Kelly got right back up and appeared to be fine. This comes less than a day after he declared himself a "full-go."
There were no change in the offensive line during first-team drills. LG Arron Sears did not participate for a second day.
The second-unit defensive line had Spires on the left end, Adams on the right end, Ellis Wyms at under tackle and Sims at the other tackle. The secondary alignment was interesting, as Sammy Davis and Alan Zemaitis worked the corners and Sabby Piscitelli and Kalvin Pearson worked the safeties. The third-unit secondary was comprised of Marcus Hamilton and Chaz Williams on the corners, and Tanard Jackson and Donte Nicholson at safety.
Aside from quarterback drills, I don't believe Chris Simms took a rep today in 11-on-11 drills. Instead Luke McCown saw a little more time and threw a beauty of a 55-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway, catching the speedster in full stride while two defenders closely trailed. This is exactly the kind of throw that Bruce Gradkowski struggled with last year. It's also why I think McCown will at least make it to training camp. He has the arm strength to compete with Simms and overtake Gradkowski, and the Bucs need a quarterback to get the ball to Galloway downfield.
The cannons went off three times during practice on Wednesday, all on touchdowns. Isn't that about how many times the cannons went off all of last regular season?
Evidence of Pearson's growing importance on the roster? He ran the special teams kickoff huddle on Wednesday.
QB Jeff Garcia showed a few nicks in the armor today, nearly throwing his first pick of mini-camp to LB Ryan Nece. It's a pass Nece should have caught. Garcia bounced back quickly, though, finding WR Maurice Stovall for a touchdown. Gradkowski wasn't immune, either. He was nearly picked off, too.
Wyms missed part of the practice getting extra stretching on the sideline for what appeared to be a leg cramp. The Bucs will be careful with him, given his history of injuries.
And the shotgun finally appeared! Late in the practice Gradkowski set up in the shotgun with Michael Pittman to his left. Gradkowski appeared to be comfortable. But I could hear Gruden yelling "nine seconds," maybe to indicate Gradkowski only had nine seconds to get the play off. If that was the case, he didn't get it done, as the clock ran out well before the snap.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.