The Buccaneers have ventured into uncharted territory countless times over the past year and a half, so it only makes sense that they did so again when they opened up training camp Sunday morning at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Tampa Bay heads into the 2021 season in a spot that it simply hasn’t been in before. For much of the team’s history, the start of training camp has meant countless questions and unknowns, unsolved position battles and maybe even a little bit of apprehension as to what was ahead. Even with future Hall of Famers like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski coming in last year, 2020 training camp was full of questions not only about the additions to the roster but also about COVID-19 looming over the season.
The feeling was different on Sunday when the Bucs took the field for their first practice of camp. There was a sense of familiarity and confidence among the players and coaches. It didn’t feel like the first day of school. It was more like the the 67th day of school—just another day.
For the Bucs, it was business as usual for the most part. Quarterbacks and receivers were largely on the same page. The defense was its typical playmaking self, at least as much as it could be in shorts and helmets. Everyone knew where to be and when they needed to be there. It was very much an average day at the office for the Super Bowl champion Bucs, who are still riding an eight-game winning streak that dates back to last December. And the fact that it was largely such a smooth morning is really a picture of where Tampa Bay is right now.
The position battles that do exist are lower on the depth chart and on the fringes of the roster. There is no question mark at quarterback like there has been in past seasons. The defense is set. When you return all 22 starters from a team that won the Super Bowl, this is what you get: a team that knows how to go about its business and is well aware of what it’s capable of. There’s no uneasiness, no unfamiliarity and almost no worries. And that’s a weird space for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of all teams to be in.
Of course, none of this is to say Tampa Bay had a perfect first day of practice. There were drops, overthrows, penalties and missed assignments. But when those things, which happen on a day-to-day basis in any practice, are your biggest complaint on day one? It’s probably going to feel like you’re in a pretty good spot.
This is unfamiliar territory for the Bucs. Even the franchise’s first Super Bowl team couldn’t approach 2003 training camp the same way this group can. And while there is plenty of work to be done ahead of the Sept. 9 season opener, it’s fair to feel fortunate about where the Bucs are right now after day one.