8/1 Training Camp Notes: Pads, Hits Finally Come Out

The month of August finally arrived, and brought with it the sound of pads crunching at Buccaneer training camp Monday evening.  After waltzing through the first 3 days of practice, players finally got the opportunity to bang heads, start to separate themselves from each other, and give the coaches something real to gauge ability.

Offensive line coach Pat Morris, when asked about a candidate for a swing tackle, told us this morning that he doesn’t make any decisions until the pads come on.

“Right now, with underwear football, I don’t make any decisions,” Morris said. “A lot of guys can look good nowadays with this walkthrough.  Basically, once the pads get on, we’ll have it.  Both tackles should play it and then you look at it ‘is he only a right tackle or can he play both?’ You have to try everybody out (at) left (tackle) because that is the key.”

Morris gives Ted Larsen the early nod at left guard, with Zuttah the backup center and in the rotation along the interior line.  The battle at right tackle will be determined in the preseason games.

“You really make your decisions on positions in game situations,” Morris said. “A lot of guys could look at practice.  We wait until game situations, and probably they’ll get a lot of time here with no OTAs.  You’ll probably see those people play a little bit more in preseason games than they did before.”

Morris didn’t have to wait long to see how his padded players would fare, as the competition heated up early between offensive and defensive lineman in one-on-one drills in the evening session.  Brian Price beat his man effortlessly early in drills.  DE E.J. Wilson out of North Carolina fared well in one-on-ones, muscling his way past his man multiple times in a row.  Adrian Clayborn struggled a tad early, getting put on the ground at one point by T Derek Hardman, but he bounced back with his linemates to get the better of the offense in the intense goal-line work.  Gerald McCoy looked fast with an electric burst off the line, even for McCoy’s standards.

While the defense might have fared well overall, LeGarrette Blount gave fans what they came to One Buc Place to see: a physical, headknocking touchdown run near the goal line in which he put his head down, ran through at least three tacklers, and ended up in the end zone on two feet.  Allen Bradford also scored when he pushed his way off tackle and just crossed the goal line after absorbing a solid hit from S Ahmad Black.

The wide receivers and defensive backs also squared off, both in one-on-one routes and in seven-on-seven’s.  In what looked like a one-upping contest, receivers and defenders alternated making plays.  Kellen Winslow ran a perfect corner route for a deep TD against Cover 2.  Ronde Barber leapt in front of what appeared to be a sure touchdown to Winslow and tipped it to himself for an interception going the other way.  Mike Williams beat Aqib Talib for a TD, causing Talib to rip off his helmet in self-frustration.  Barber dropped a pick.  WR Ed Gant executed a perfect hitch-and-go for a deep TD.

Josh Freeman said he likes what he’s seeing so far out of his teammates.

“I feel good,” Freeman said.  “I feel really set with the guys we have.  Obviously, there are still some free agency questions, but right now we have to work with what we’ve got.  Really happy with some of the development of our younger guys.  Fullback Erik Lorig came in and stepped up.  We’ve got some new tight ends.  Had an unfortunate incident with Luke Stocker, but Ryan Purvis is stepping up.  Kellen Winslow, as usual, is playing great.  The (offensive) line is doing awesome.  We’ve got (Jeremy) Trueblood and Davin (Joseph) back. I’m really happy with how the offense is working when you talk about Mike Williams, a guy that’s continuing to get better, and also LeGarrette Blount, who’s looking better than ever.”

One thing is for sure: the intesity was just dialed up a few notches this evening.  Don’t ask me.  Just take it from the following tweet from Jeremy Trueblood, who hasn’t even hit the field yet: “1st day in pads makes me dislike anyone that’s (sic) sports a red jersey.”

Of course, defenders wear the red jerseys.

Players are off on Tuesday, with practice resuming Wednesday morning.