'Twas the Night Before Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp

Tanner FlowersCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2009

TAMPA, FL - MAY 01:  Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass during the Buccaneers Rookie Minicamp at One Buccaneer Place on May 1, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

On this the eve of training camp reporting day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I have three fantastic pieces of news for Bucs fans.

First, as we speak, players are moving about this country in order to report to NFL training camps on Friday. The first practices are Saturday.

I hope you have your tickets to this weekend’s practices. If not, you are out of luck as the free tickets have all been distributed for all sessions until Tuesday. That is, of course, except for the night practice on Saturday at Raymond James.

That’s right, the Bucs are offering a no-ticket-required open practice “under the lights.” More importantly, they are giving the fans an opportunity to get in shape for the season as well. The parking lots are opening early, and you may tailgate before the practice.

There is clearly some buzz among the fans to see some football this weekend. Buzz to see the beginning of the quarterback battle; buzz to see Kellen Winslow in a pewter helmet; and buzz to witness the first Bucs defense to take the field in 13 years that won’t line up in the Tampa 2.

That unfortunately, may be the only buzz that the Bucs are receiving early this season. The prognosticators and NFL analysts are not predicting a happy year at One Buc Place.

I, for one, hope for a quiet training camp this summer. There are too many untied shoelaces in Bucs camp for the media to be on this dance floor.

A rookie head coach, a quarterback battle, a new defense and a historically volatile tight end could make this summer even hotter by the Bay. This is a topic that I will touch on this weekend in my next column, as the practices move forward.

But on to the second piece of great news. According to the Stephen Holder of the St. Petersburg Times, the Bucs and first-round pick Josh Freeman are close on a contract. Holder says he expects Freeman to be signed and report on time.

It is great to have all rookies in camp. As previously stated, this team cannot afford distractions this summer.

While I will not advocate Josh Freeman getting anywhere near the starting quarterback role this season, he does need to be in camp learning the system.

The best situation for the Bucs and the rookie is to let him go through this year on the third unit, try to get the most out of the two veterans and then compete in earnest next summer.

Since camp hasn’t actually started yet, there will be plenty of time to discuss Freeman’s progress as we approach exhibition games and the season opener.

Thirdly, and perhaps the best thing I have heard all week: Get your creamsicle gear out of the closet and have it dry-cleaned. Scrape off that old barbecue crust and prepare for November 8.

The team has announced that Tampa’s squad will be wearing their 1976 throwback jerseys against Green Bay after the Bucs get back from London and rest up during the bye.

My biggest question is this: Why do they have to announce them as the ’76 jerseys?

They wore these fantastic pieces of history until 1997, and yet they want to bring up the expansion year? Is the front office afraid that one 0-16 Lions team will make NFL fans forget the 33-year love affair with McKay’s 0-14 swashbucklers?

Anyway, I am very excited to see those uni’s on the field this year.

Be safe at the practices this weekend. We’ll talk soon.