by : Jay Recher
It was another hot day at Training Camp on Sunday at One Buc Place, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one step closer to not only their next preseason game on Saturday, but their season opener against the Dolphins down in Miami on September 10th.
Starting with the end of practice, the team ran "gassers" or "sprints", which Coach Dirk Koetter failed to elaborate on whether it was punishment or not.
“It was something we needed to do. We are building towards playing a full game on September 10 and we’ve got to build toward that," Koetter said.
There wasn't as much of 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills today, as each group did a ton of work specifically based on their position ; receivers worked on ball security, defensive lineman worked on getting off the ball, etc.
One of the main things that stood out to me today is that even though there has been a ton of attention focused on the new weapons for Jameis Winston, his rapport and continuity with tight end Cameron Brate is even stronger -- if that is possible -- than last year. Numerous times today, Jameis fired a strike to #84 and if that's any foreshadowing of things to come, Brate is in line for another big year. When asked about that chemistry, Koetter said it's something he's seen for a while.
“They have since early when Jameis first got here. Those were the first two guys to click and the whole chemistry thing – it’s hard to put your finger on it – some guys never get it, some guys get it early – those two guys definitely have it.”
That's not to say Winston didn't hook up with his other two big playmakers as well. In the first play of the two-minute drill, Jameis hooked up with DeSean Jackson on a gain of about 20 before finding Brate for another completion that brought the offense to inside the 10-yard line. Winston also hooked up with Jackson on a bomb down the right sideline for six that brought the crowd to their feet, and after that completion, D-Jax flipped the ball up near the goalpost that Mike Evans slammed over the crossbar so lovely that it would have made Magic's Showtime Lakers a little jealous.
"I just threw it and I just knew he was going to go and get it," Winston said. "What they did at the end, I was already getting another play. That's the thing about those amazing plays: They make them and sometimes I miss them. But the good thing about games is, when we make them in a game we get to celebrate together, baby."
(I originally reported that our buddies from Pewter Report were the only ones that got footage of this great play, but our guy Len Martez was RIGHT THERE and also had it. My bad Len, great job!)
Also, after a missing a few fade routes in the end zone in the preseason, Winston and Evans were finally able to hook up for a connection in the north end zone, even though Vernon Hargreaves was all over him.
"Me and Mike have kind of like a deal – you're in the red zone and you get one-on-one, 'Alright, we've got it.' That's the mentality, that's the type of receiver he is. He feels that…he knows that he cannot be stopped, especially down there. It's on me to execute with him, but the guy's special. He's special in the league and I'm just honored to have him."
Ryan Fitzpatrick also had a nice, long completion to Josh Huff down the middle of the field at the start of the day. Huff, who is competing for that 5th wide receiver spot, is starting to show some of that speed that the Bucs wanted to see when they brought him in at the end of last season.
“He had a really nice day – Josh Huff and Freddy [Martino] both, and [Bernard] Reedy – those three guys have been the most consistent," Koetter said.
Late in practice Fitzpatrick threw the only interception of the day, a pass intercepted by Javien Elliott, who is battling for the nickel position with veteran Robert McCLain. For that position as well, Koetter has yet to give one guy an edge over the other.
“No, that’s still wide open. We’re down a couple corners right now. We had to sign two new guys, so McClain and Elliott are doing double duty both inside at nickel and outside at corner. They’re both getting a lot of work – probably too much work.
INJURY REPORT : A lot of players were "dinged up" according to Koetter, but the one injury that was talked about was to RT DeMar Dotson, who sat out with a groin injury. Koetter said that he should be out for "at least a week", but should be ready for the season opener against Miami. Caleb Benonoch and Kevin Pamphile were also held out today and Kwon Alexander came off with an apparent hamstring injury but looked to be fine soon thereafter.
SPECIAL DAY : Today the Bucs carried on an annual tradition of hosting athletes from Special Olympics Florida at training camp. More than 50 athletes from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties watched a portion of the team’s morning practice and then took the field to enjoy football drills with Buccaneers players including quarterback Jameis Winston.
"They actually got a chance to come out to my camp that was held here in Tampa, and getting to see familiar faces was awesome," Winston said. "It's amazing what the Bucs do with Special Olympics every year, get those athletes out here, to come out here and play and have fun. You see pure joy on their faces and I just love it. It brings a huge smile to my face."
The event is another example of the team’s PLAY 60 efforts, part of a league-wide initiative to encourage fans to eat healthy and participate in physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day. Buccaneers Cheerleaders and Captain Fear also took photos, signed autographs and visited with the Special Olympics athletes at the conclusion of practice.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston speaks after Training Camp and working out with the athletes from the Special Olympics :
Trey Downey and Len Martez recap what went down at Training Camp on Sunday at One Buc Place :
CLICK BELOW to hear any of the audio from today after Training Camp :