It seems like just yesterday that the Buccaneers were an awful team.
A team loaded with me-first guys, playing in front of a half-empty stadium filled with why-me fans.
The wins were scarce and the losses were plentiful. The blame was deflected in every direction—from the coaches, to the players, to the suits in the owners box. The team brass entered this offseason with the mindset that they'd seen enough and acknowledged the need for improvement—and quickly.
So, they brought on Greg Schiano, a disciplined and structured coach, who could teach the rabble how to function and perform as a team. He taught them about accountability and its importance to an organization (see Winslow, Kellen).
He showed them what a professional practice should look like, feel and sound like. He's stressed fundamentals and the importance of paying attention to details—big and small.
But above all, Schiano demonstrated that regardless of the circumstance, if the players give him everything they've got, he will always support them (see LeGrand, Eric).
With rookies due to report to training camp tomorrow, followed by the rest of the team later next week, we are about to find out how much of Schiano's message has truly sunk in.
This could get interesting.
And because fans have really yet to see what kind of progress has been made, there are questions abound surrounding this team.
Will Josh Freeman return to form? Can Vincent Jackson live up to the hype (and the dollars)? Is Aqib Talib a changed man? Which player will surprise everyone and vie for a larger role?
You see, that's the beautiful thing about this time of year. All of our questions and concerns will come to light over the next few weeks.
We'll find out how Mike Sullivan's offense will look and whether or not Bill Sheridan has this young defense righting the ship. We'll have a glimpse of Doug Martin and LaVonte David, as we drift off into a daydream about their future successes.
We'll know if Eric Wright was worth the loot and if LeGarrette Blount has improved his catching ability. We'll see how Ronde Barber looks at safety and if Quincy Black will make the roster.
Oh, and we'll see how far the team has come since January.
Has the tackling improved? Are defenders taking better angles? Has the addition of Carl Nicks indeed upgraded the offensive line? Does the subtraction of Winslow add up to a more effective offense?
And for goodness sakes, did I mention that I hope the tackling has gotten better.
Seven weeks and four preseason games from now, most—if not all—of these questions should be answered.
We'll have a better understanding of how much progress has been made and how much further they have to go before they return to respectability.
Because the only thing worse than not showing up on Sunday, is having to answer for it come Monday.