Sunday was the first day that Tampa Bay donned pads during practice, the first time they've worn pads in fact since the season finale in December.
So the Buccaneers' offensive line decided to put on a show early in practice.
The coaches positioned the five-man blocking sled in front of the crowd at Disney's Wide World of Sports and let all three sets of linemen have at it, with running backs coach Art Valero riding shotgun.
What began as a drill became a comical attempt to drive the sled — and Valero — as close to the crowd as possible. The third-team linemen got the sled and Valero within about 10 feet of the crowd, pushing the sled into the retaining net separating the media from the field.
But at least the linemen got the sled off the field before the next drill, saving the scrawny ball boys the trouble.
Random sight: Players do whatever they can to keep themselves occupied during drills, such as wide receiver Maurice Stovall doing knuckle pushups in between receiving reps.
Random sight No. 2: The well-respected ESPN.com reporter Len Pasquarelli was in the house, gathering info for his random thoughts column on the Bucs. Len's lost about 60 pounds and looks like he could take on an offensive lineman — if that lineman were, say, me (5-foot-8, 170 pounds — ding!).
Randon sight No. 3: Former Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles made an appearance early in practice, but was whisked away by a cart before we could talk to him. Head coach Jon Gruden invited him to camp last week — as a guest.
Working on the passing game, 9:20 a.m.: The wide receivers and cornerbacks went up against each other in their first serious drills of the day. Mostly fade and corner routes, with some slants and drags mixed in.
|Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber (AP)|
And, Stovall completely burned CB Torrie Cox in the corner, and it was a prime example of his size advantage. Stovall is 6-foot-5, Cox is 5-10. Jeff Garcia didn't even have to float it to Stovall. He just tossed it high and on a sharp line for the second-year pro.
The kicking game, 9:35 p.m.: Kicker Matt Bryant missed his first field goal of the day, a 47-yard made to simulate a quick change between the offense and special teams. It's designed to simulate a play late in a game when the Bucs don't have a time out to set up the kick.
Bryant went 4-for-5 the rest of the way, nailing consecutive kicks from 42, 45 and 47 yards.
Grouping them up, 9:40 a.m.: The first major 11-on-11 work didn't feature many changes on the offensive depth chart.
Anthony Davis did move back into the first group at left guard, sliding Arron Sears back to second group after Sears and Davis flipped positions on Saturday. And with WR Joey Galloway gone to New Orleans, David Boston moved into his slot with the first group, opposite Maurice Stovall.
The first group defense changed little, too. LB Jamie Winborn was back at the weak side again for Derrick Brooks, who was in pads but didn't participate in 11-on-11 team drills due to his hamstring issue.
During this drill, Boston made a nice sliding catch with LB Barrett Ruud draped on his back.
Boston is beginning to emerge as one of this camp's rising stars. He's not the speedy receiver he was a few years ago. But he's still physical, runs good routes and has deceptive quickness. His performance is making it clear that he's healthy and effective enough to play again.
Brooks' absence in 11-on-11 worked allowed undrafted free agent LB Sam Olajabutu to get some work with the third team on the weak side. Rookie Adam Hayward slid into the weak side with the second team.
To kick or not to kick, 9:55 a.m.: The Bucs worked on punt returns and punt protection during this period, with Josh Bidwell taking snaps, but not kicking.
In the meritocracy of the NFL, I guess the starting punters get to use the Jugs gun to simulate their punts, because second-string punter Josh Douglas had to kick his own.
By the way, Bidwell has nothing to worry about.
Offensive line watch, 10:10 a.m.: I stole a look at right guard Davin Joseph during blocking drills and he flat out manhandled DTs Ellis Wyms and Ryan Sims on consecutive plays. He established hand position early and stayed with the block the entire play.
He's a team captain now, or at the least a leader, as evidenced by the fact that he's front and center during stretching every morning. He's been the best lineman in camp so far, and I don't see a whole lot of interior linemen getting by him this season.
Here's why he'll start, 10:15 a.m.: Jeff Garcia will be the No. 1 quarterback because he can make this pass — a slant to Boston, which Garcia threaded through three defenders for a touchdown. That's a pro pass. Perfect spiral, great zip and perfect position. He placed the ball where only Boston could catch it.
Coaches said Black was quick when they drafted him, and he's quickly proving that by staying with a back like Pittman. He provided solid coverage too, not giving up the inside going down the sideline.
He's mad, 10:33 a.m.: The pads bring out the yeller in Gruden. I heard him yell, to no one in particular, "You're acting like a second-year guy, (expletive deleted)!"
|Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden (AP)|
Hot under the collar, 10:40 a.m.: DL Jovan Haye, who has impressed just about everyone so far this camp with his play at under tackle, was hot about something after a drill. He yelled, "Come On!" and angrily snapped off his chin strap.
It looked as if someone cut blocked him, but he laughed it off afterward.
"That's football," he said. "I wasn't happy about it, but I got over it."
Fumbleruski, 10:45 a.m.: Gradkowski fumbled a snap exchange in one of his final drills. Perhaps Gruden should have saved his earlier comment for that moment.
Staying late, 11 a.m.: Don't discount Stovall's work ethic entering into a decision about the No. 2 receiver role. He's the only receiver I've seen stay late after every morning practice and take extra catches. Now, Clayton was out there late today, but Stovall stayed later and has done so every day so far. That has to mean something.
At the podium, 11:17 a.m.: Veteran DE Kevin Carter came to the podium for his sit-down with the media wearing a University of Florida hat. That didn't last long. After answering one question, a Bucs PR person handed Carter a Bucs hat and said he had to put it on. NFL regulations, you know.
Carter had a comment after his interview was over.
"I going to keep this hat by the way," Carter said to the PR guy. "I can't believe they made me take my Florida hat off."
At the podium, 11:40 a.m.: The odd couple — WR Michael Clayton and RB Cadillac Williams — are still training camp roomies after all this time. And, Clayton's getting more considerate.
"He's a married man now, so he's not as bad as he used to be," Williams said. "He still has some bad habits, but he's getting better."
Check in with BucsBlitz.com later today for an updated version of this story, complete with afternoon practice notes.
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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.