Bucs’ Unknown Minicamp Is Playing A RoleApril 25th, 2014
There’s a reason the Bucs didn’t look like a brand new offense with a free agent quarterback during their first practices under the Lovie Smith regime this week.
That’s because the entire offense — yes, everybody — was together multiple times on local ball fields between the time Lovie and Jeff Tedford passed out playbooks on April 7 and the opening minicamp on Tuesday, which was the first time coaches could work with players outside of meeting rooms.
Practices are allowed by the NFL if players gather on their own time — at their own location. The unquestioned leader of the Bucs offense, Josh McCown, is single-handedly driving the team to beat the learning curve of their offense, much like the Bears offense did with first-year coach/offensive guru Marc Trestman last year.
Frankly, Joe was stunned to learn about this. Sure, it’s common for a handful of receivers to get together with quarterbacks to work on running routes and passing. But it’s a whole different animal to have offensive linemen and 30+ guys in all going through walk-throughs and jog-throughs and learning a playbook together.
“Everybody is so hungry to learn,” Luke Stocker said. “No one knew we were out there. There were about four [non-Buccaneers] out there on the field jogging and you could see they were a little confused. But when they saw all the Buccaneers shirts, they figured it out pretty quick, I think.”
“All three of our quarterbacks did a great job leading the group and they came in with a good understanding of the offense. Learning the cadence, learning the huddle system, learning no-huddle stuff.”
(JoeBucsFan.com is not revealing the park location)
From Stocker to newcomers Brandon Myers and Louis Murphy, no veteran Buccaneers had ever seen an assembly like that before, so they told Joe.
Murphy said he was blown away and the workouts were more serious than the less formal sessions he experienced during the NFL Lockout of 2011.
“That says something about our group. Everybody on the offense showed up. It was great for building chemistry and just to get going and learning. It was very serious. Very professional,” Murphy said. “With the CBA rules we can’t do it here, so our leader Josh [McCown] callin’ up, we had great sessions. Great for team chemistry.
“There were very little mistakes in [minicamp this week] and that had a lot to do with it.”
It’s a Bears thing
Myers described the informal practices as very technical and about education of the offense.
McCown told Joe he was duplicating sessions he and Jay Cutler were a part of with the Bears after they got a new playbook from Trestman.
“There’s only so many hours. So you gotta do something else. You’re a new offense. I mean you’re not on the field with the coaches and you’re going to go out and do a minicamp like we did this week? And compete against defense? McCown said.
“Jeff Tedford’s in the NFL for the first time, so a lot of the terminology and things are different. So we needed to go through that process. There was a lot of value in it. You saw that this week.”
Lovie weighs in
Joe talked to Bucs head coach Lovie Smith about these player-only sessions this morning at a Tampa charity event. Of course, Lovie noted that he and his staff had nothing to do with planning or executing the effort. But Lovie said it’s the kind of thing that is commonplace for Josh McCown.
“Josh will surprise you, and he’ll surprise fans and his teammates, but he won’t surprise me with the effort he’ll put forth to make this organization a winner, and to always help those around him,” Lovie said. “I’m sure he’s got all kinds of things planned. I trust him with our offense.”
It’s that same trust Lovie referenced repeatedly when McCown was signed, versus the unknown of Mike Glennon, Mike Kafka or any QB the Bucs may draft.
Joe noted a couple of times this week in his “practice notes” that McCown surprisingly looked like a deeply entrenched leader already. What Joe has learned of these hidden practice sessions, it’s now obvious why McCown looked the part at One Buc Palace.
And another thing McCown told Joe, expect these private, players-time practices to continue.