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Notes on Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offseason Practices

On the radio yesterday, Derrick Brooks offered up his take on the player-led workouts. Basically, he doesn't think this will get players ready for the season. Yeah, it's good that players are doing this because, well, it's better than nothing. But nothing can replace time with coaches, and the competitive environment offered in training camp.; 

But despite that, the offseason practices are continuing, as the date of the unofficial 3-day minicamp sneaks closer. Jenna Laine over at the NFL Blog Blitz has a number of interesting notes about these practices. There's Mason Foster, who has been working out in Washington because he's without an income right now. He, like all rookies, will have to choose between attending the rookie symposium organized by the NFLPA and the Bucs' minicamp, which occur concurrently. That's unfortunate, because both can be valuable for a young NFL player, although I'll selfishly suggest the rookies go with the minicamp to give themselves the best chance of making an impact. Supposedly the Bucs have drafted all high-character players, almost all of them team captains, so perhaps the rookie symposium won't do much for them. Then again, Aqib Talib was a team captain in college too. 

More interestingly, it seems a number of players really want to make an impact for the Bucs this season. James Lee has been a leader for the offensive line, but so is Jeremy Zuttah. Lee was a surprise at right tackle last season, when he quite comfortably outplayed Jeremy Trueblood after he got on the field. Leading the offensive line and showing a good work ethic will help him hang on to his job and his form. 

Zuttah is perhaps more interesting. Last offseason there were some reports that Zuttah wasn't working hard, and after those reports came out the Bucs brought in Keydrick Vincent - who was cut very early on. Zuttah never got a solid hold of the left guard job, though, as he was forced to play center when Jeff Faine got hurt. Ted Larsen stepped in at guard and held onto the job even when Faine got back into the starting lineup. Zuttah isn't a great run blocker as he doesn't have the power to move players much, but he is a pretty good pass blocker. With the Bucs moving to a heavy 

Ted Larsen fits the Bucs' plans better, and while he was shaky last season he showed the potential to be a long-term starter. He will have to work hard this offseason, though, but James Lee tells us he's been impressive enough this offseason. He also mentions Will Barker, who's only been a backup so far.

But the people that aren't mentioned stand out more to me. Supposed athletic phenomenon Demar Dotson hasn't been mentioned at all, which is disappointing for a raw player with a very high ceiling. Similarly, guards Brandon Carter and Derek Hardman are two guys who could make an impact at guard next season. Carter spent the past season on the practice squad, but Hardman started 4 games after Davin Joseph was lost to injury. But none of these players are mentioned. That doesn't mean they aren't working out, though, as they could simply be working with their own trainers in their own hometowns. 

And that illustrates another point: a lot of these players may not be showing up at workouts, but they're often working out at home with their own trainers. Many of the low-end players don't have a permanent residence in the area, and they can't (or won't) afford to stay in Tampa for offseason workouts that may not be all that useful. This goes doubly so for older players and linemen on both sides of the ball, for who these workouts are not much more than team-building exercises. But those players are still working out. For instance, Gerald McCoy isn't showing up for workouts as far as I know, but he's been working his butt off since the season ended, even bringing in other defensive linemen to work with him. It just hasn't been in Tampa. 

It's also important to note that simply working out isn't a key to success. This Bucs' team is very young, and there are always a lot of players who could make an impact in the future if they work their butts off and get a little lucky. Unfortunately, most of those potential starters don't even get on the field. The sheer volume of young players on the Bucs' roster at least makes it more likely that some will make an impact next season. Now we just need to wait to see which players will.