These days, NFL teams don't start training the day of training camp: by the time late summer rolls around, players are toned and strengthened, the coaching staff is on the same page, and the foundation of said team is established.
The NFL operates year round now.
Players and coaches might as well call their jobs a 365 day commitment. Whoever isn't working out in May is behind the power curve. Head coach Raheem Morris and the Buccaneers realize that—and so they are on the practice field at One Buccaneer Place.
Even in the warm, hot mornings of late spring and early summer, media is at full occupancy, and the players are motivated.
"Nobody is going to give you a win in this league, period," Antonio Bryant said at organized team activity day practice on May 13. The Buccaneers have allotted 14 OTA days during the offseason, all of which will take place in the next five weeks.
The days will become increasingly sweltering, but the pirate ship needs to keep moving.
Morris reported that 62 players were present at the second OTA day, and 18 more rookies will join the action next week. The coaching staff has been pleased with the workouts so far.
"I'm starting to like the way things are coming together," Morris said. "The vibe from the players, what I'm feeling inside the team room, what I feel when I come out onto the practice field; 'm really starting to like everything that's happening."
This is all well and good, but will the Buccaneers be able to achieve anything more than a less than .500 record this season? Does confidence hard work translate into a re-building team becoming an NFC power house? Many Bucs fans would say no.
Recently Raheem Morris was pasted onto the Tampa Bay home page, he addressed the crowd in Tampa Bay. Evidence like this suggests that the head coach is beginning to become a regular and dominant presence in the Buccaneers' fan culture.
During OTA days, teams are allowed to hold full scale and full speed practices as well as hold classroom sessions. Participants wear helmets, practice jerseys, and shorts, but no pads.
At the Wednesday, May 13th practice, Josh Johnson, Byron Leftwich, and Luke McCown were all throwing the football. Josh Freeman will join the competition next week when the rookies return.
Morris says that they are all getting progressively better. He also attests to their increase in confidence.
Bad News for Byron Storer
Fullback Byron Storer, an undrafted free agent in 2007, lost 10 games of the 2008 season to a knee injury. Now it appears that he's back on the shelf.
He has apparently suffered a "major setback" in his 2008 injury.
The Buccaneers believed Storer could provide depth in the backfield and continue to excel on special teams. It is not clear whether the "setback" should impact Storer's play come September.
Storer's injury is apparently the only new one of any concern.
I will continue to follow the Buccaneers' OTA days and summer camp updates. For now, it appears that the team is gaining momentum and feeling positive about their work so far. If the chemistry and skill of the team continues to mesh as well as at present, the NFC South should at the very least be good practice for the re-building Buccaneers this season.