The vacation is over for the wide swath of grass behind One Buccaneer Place.
The three football fields at Buccaneer headquarters have been quiet for three-plus months, save for a lonely coyote that apparently emigrated from the airport grounds that are relatively nearby and, for a few weeks, made periodical appearances behind One Buc. The coyote is gone now, but the Buccaneers are about to start using those fields themselves for the first time since the 2012 season came to an end.
They’ll start slowly. During Phase One of the strictly-outlined offseason program allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players may engage only in strength and conditioning activities and physical rehabilitation at team headquarters. Thus, the only coaches they will work with on the field are Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Jay Butler and his staff.
Still, if past seasons are any indication, One Buccaneer Place will be bustling with activity next Monday, when the team’s nine-week offseason program begins. The team’s offseason workouts are always well-attended – the beautiful Tampa spring weather surely doesn’t hurt – and that’s likely to be doubly true after the team showed so much promise in its first season under Head Coach Greg Schiano.
The beginning of the program will also open up some new lines of communication after a couple months spent talking almost exclusively about free agency and the draft. Coach Schiano will help kick things off by holding a media session on Monday, which will be carried live on Buccaneers.com. That press conference is tentatively scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET, but is subject to change; check Buccaneers.com on Monday for updates. In addition, team leaders Davin Joseph and Gerald McCoy are expected to take the podium on Tuesday at roughly the same time. Again, check Buccaneers.com next week for updated information.
The truth is, you don’t really want the Buccaneers generating any substantial news on the football field April through June, because the only really significant kind of on-field news at that time of the year is a freak injury (e.g. Da’Quan Bowers’ Achilles a year ago). Otherwise, it’s a slow, steady and internal process of installing the offensive and defensive schemes, getting players into peak condition and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the depth chart.
Around the same time the draft is happening, the Bucs will move into Phase Two of the program, during which other coaches can join the players on the field and give them instructions individually, as position groups or as (separately) offensive and defensive groups. Teams still can’t pit offense versus defense during Phase Two. It is during Phase Three, in May and June, that the Bucs will use their allotted OTAs and mini-camp days and actually conduct some nearly full-scale practices. At no time, however, is tackling or intentional contact allowed during the offseason.
The whole program was scaled back fairly significantly by the most recent CBA; for instance, teams are allowed only 10 OTAs now, as opposed to 14 under the previous agreement. Also, teams may no longer schedule any work on weekend days, save for a rookie-only camp right after the draft. That trend is probably unpopular with many coaches, and perhaps with a percentage of the players, too, but as long as the playing field remains level for all teams, any system is fine with the CB.
And the return of offseason field work is definitely fine with the CB, as it gets all of us one step closer to some actual football. Next week it’s wind sprints, soon after it’s positional drills followed by real honest-to-goodness practices, and before you know it training camp will be just around the corner.