And so it will begin.
Saturday, August 1st will be the start of a new era in Tampa Bay Buccaneer football as Raheem Morris' team takes the field to open training camp. There will be a far less festive atmosphere, a startling lack of magic, if you will.
We are not in Lake Buena Vista anymore boys and girls.
After a seven year run, training camp will no longer be held at Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports complex. Owner Malcolm Glazer and friends have decided to pack up their mid-summer caravan and take it back across Interstate-4 to Tampa's sparkling One Buccaneer Place training facility.
There will be no more family days at Magic Kingdom, no more team slumber parties at the Mayfieldesque Celebration Hotel, and no more "Mickey Mouse runs practice" days (okay, that never happened).
For many Buccaneer fans, this will bring back memories of blistering hot days at the University of Tampa's Pepin-Rood Stadium. I myself vividly remember the joy of only having to drive 20 minutes to watch Errict Rhett, Casey Weldon, and Kenny Gant trot around in the paralyzing August heat.
The Glazers are quick to explain this move in the name of all things fan friendly. For Tampa residents, it will indeed be nice to catch an early glimpse of their favorite team without the arm-and-a-leg price tag of an overnight stay at Disney.
As it was at Disney, admission will be free but will require a ticket as the Bucs will only be able to allow 4,000 fans inside for each session. Tickets can only be acquired in advance to fans who sign up for the new "One Buc Club," a free task that can be done on the Buccaneers website. For days in which tickets are not sold out to One Buc members, tickets to practice can be picked up at the gate.
The fan friendly proposition is one that is being tossed around and snarled at by a number of Buccaneer sources and critics. It seems too convenient that this decision happened in the midst of a major roster and salary clean-out.
The Glazer family's investment in the Manchester United Soccer Club has piled up a debt of over $1 Billion. A recent NFL.com study revealed that the Bucs have been the league's lowest spenders in terms of salary over the last five years.
All signs seem to point to a team on one of the National Football League's tightest budgets. The Bucs are in drastic need of a rebuilding effort but to many this offseason has seemed more like a garage sale than an attempt at rebuilding.
While Buccaneer public relation specialists will preach fan friendliness, most will assume that this decision was done due to a shortage of spending money. Much like Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, and Cato June, training camp at Disney World looks like the casualty of an ownership group that is in shambles right now.
On the field, there is only one proponent that seems much different from training camps past. Coach Morris is apparently not the morning person that Jon Gruden was as morning practice sessions will begin about two hours later than Gruden's did. Morning practice hours will typically begin at 10:15 this year.
This will be refreshing for fans who dreaded getting up early to watch Gruden and his permanent scowl take the field but will also submit players and fans more to the intense summer heat.
Aside from the negativity that surrounds the franchise at this juncture and the questioning of the motivation behind the training camp move, it is impossible to say that the new One Buc Place is not a fine location to hold training camp. It is arguably the nicest and most plush training facility in the league and training camp will only showcase it more to the football world.
The place is a palace compared to the run-down trailer that the Bucs once called home. The original One Buc Place was referred to as "The Woodshed" by Gruden and a unanimous hell hole by every player that ever stepped inside of it.
So it is that the new rendition will get its time to shine as it is opened to the public for the first time. There is nothing wrong with that.
Just do not underestimate the intelligence of the fans and try to fool us when we ask why training camp is being moved there.