Today resembles a jailbreak over at One Buccaneer Place.
They're gone, off to wherever they want to go for some R&R. Better grab some over the next few weeks because when you look at Greg Schiano's calendar, time is short—very short.
In Schiano's mind, he could use more time. He's spent some up-close summer sweltering with his guys, but he knows he's never seen one of them play a real game, live, in person, in a Buccaneer uniform. Shorts and helmets are one thing; full pads and tackling is another.
Thursday marked an end to the three-day minicamp and the team will report for camp on July 28th. Some teams will start the 27th, but (per ESPN) Dallas has asked to start earlier since their season opener is September 5th against the Giants...time is short.
Time is short for Schiano because 14 days after training camp opens, he'll throw his team into the live mix against the Miami Dolphins in the first preseason game August 10th.
Time is short.
Time is short because he's probably wondering, like everyone else, about the overall health of Brian Price. Price continues to work out in Los Angeles, but how physically capable he is at this moment is unknown.
There are a lot of other unknowns. Josh Freeman looked good at times and not so good at others during the three-day minicamp. Freeman is one of the known starters. Schiano knows a lot depends on Freeman, but in an effort to lighten his load, he's molding a team that will run the football early and often—certainly more than last year's three-and-out offense.
If you were a Buc player, how many weeks would you take off?
He knows many of the defensive starters as well. Mark Barron, the first-round pick out of Alabama, will be there at strong safety with the venerable Ronde Barber back there with him at free safety. Barber will be back there provided Aqib Talib gets off scot-free when his trial begins on the 25th.
Talib, if he's innocent, will be one corner and Eric Wright, if he's truly healthy, will be the other starter. The linebackers look to be led by Mason Foster in the middle. Lavonte David's quick learning has landed him as the starting WILL with questionable Quincy Black on the strong side.
Adrian Clayborn is the right defensive end, Gerald McCoy needs to be the player most hope he can be and Michael Bennett replaces the injured Da'Quan Bowers at left end. The other defensive tackle spot is up for grabs.
There are more certainties on offense and it will be up to the highly paid offensive line to be the anchor of this football team. The offense will live or die by the offensive line. Vincent Jackson has given new life to the receiving corps and going into camp, it's Mike Williams and Preston Parker as the No. 2 and 3.
Dallas Clark is your starting tight end with Luke Stocker in when the formation requires two tight ends.
Best training camp battle may come at the running back position. It's packed, with LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin giving offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan something to smile about.
That's what it looks like now, but remember: Pads and tackling are different from helmets and shorts. This team needs to keep its fingers crossed that no one is lost to injury in the preseason.
Right now, there's hope. There's hope and a lot of young guys off on vacation. They'll need it; this season is no piece of cake.