The Bucs had their 10th day of training camp on Saturday, and after practicing in shorts and shells yesterday, players were back in pads today. Coach Schiano had them engaged in some friendly competition — during a series of ‘play-its,’ the offense was pitted against the defense and the losing side had to do pushups.
“It’s the fourth day of a four-day stretch and it just made things competitive,” Schiano said. “I figured since we’re going to make it competitive, and have winner and a loser, let’s have a little prize for the winner, or punishment for the loser is probably the better way to say it.”
Schiano got in on the action too, but would not disclose exactly how many pushups he did. “A lot. I’ve I got to pay for all our sins,” he joked.
It was a fun way to break up the monotony of camp while still getting some work in, and letting the competitive fire of each player come out. “You know, the days are getting long, guys are getting tired, but you know you’ve got to compete,” said wide receiver Derek Hagan, an eight-year veteran who spent last season with the Oakland Raiders.
“That’s one thing — Coach [Schiano] definitely tries to make practice fun for us, and towards the end of practice, he’ll just throw those compete drills in there, and game-like situations, but we’re not hitting each other, we’re not tackling, but we’re just going at it, and competing, and may the best man win. Or actually, may the offense or defense win. And offense won today, so I’m happy.”
Josh Freeman hits Chris Owusu in the corner of the end zone for Owusu’s second touchdown
Owusu and Hagan Shine
During an end-of-the-game situation, Hagan caught a touchdown from Josh Freeman on a post-route. “Derek Hagan made a nice catch. Yeah, you’re not kidding…right in the middle of traffic,” Schiano said. “That was impressive. He’s playing through some discomfort as well, which is impressive for a veteran guy.”
Wide receiver Chris Owusu also had another big day, catching a deep 57-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman against Anthony Gaitor.
Owusu and Hagan have gotten a lot more reps in the absence of Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Jackson wasn’t at practice due to the birth of his son, while Williams continues to nurse a sore hamstring.
Williams spent practice conditioning inside and is expected to be back Monday. “He wanted to practice. He even came up to see me,” Schiano said of Williams. “That guy loves football, and he knew today was going to be a competition day. It was like taking a guy out of the park and sending him home. But he understands.”
Both players are expected to return Monday. Tiquan Underwood, who has also been slowed by a hamstring injury, was on the field but didn’t see any real action.
Rashaan Melvin Moving Up
Another player who’s seeing a lot more playing time due to injuries at the top of the depth chart is cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who is stepping up in the absence of Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks and has gotten a lot of reps with the first-team defense.
“He’s a long guy. A big, athletic guy,” said Owusu. “He reminds me of Richard Sherman out there, with his length. He’s doing a great job out there.”
“As an undrafted free agent, I was surprised, just with his body length and ball skills. He’s going to go out there and continue to do well. I’m looking forward to watching him play.”
Melvin, a former walk-on at Northern Illinois, had multiple pass breakups today.
Another Step for Nicks
All-Pro guard Carl Nicks got in his first reps in live, 11-on-11 work today, a first for him since camp began and since suffering a season-ending toe injury last year. Schiano believes his return is heavily dependent on Nicks’ feedback.
“I’m anxious to watch the tape on how he moved. We’re working with Carl. You put together a plan, but the best laid plans you have to have the feedback from the player, because he’s the one who feels the pain or the discomfort, so we’re just trying to really go step-by-step with him, with all of these guys, and get their feedback and then adjust the plan whenever needed.”
Speaking of toe injuries — Lawrence Tynes was out today and is suffering from an ingrown toenail, according to Schiano. The Bucs typically alternate which days their kickers practice, but Derek Dimke got the go-ahead.
His strong performances recently have opened the door for a competition between himself and the two-time Super Bowl champion kicker.
“He hit some big shots today, so that was good,” Schiano said of Dimke. “[It was] his opportunity, and he made the most of it, but it’s going to be a competition, I think, until the end. We’ve got to figure this thing out. It’s a big decision.”
Also worth noting on the injury front:Adrian Clayborn hasn’t been ruled out for Thursday’s preseason opener, despite suffering a groin strain this week.
Kneel-Downs & Other Notes
While some have hinted that Schiano may have softened up a bit this offseason, he’ll continue his hard-nosed approach to football. The defensive line was spotted practicing the controversial kneel-down play that caused so much commotion against the Giants and later, the Cowboys.
Safety Dashon Goldson collided with defensive end Da’Quan Bowers in the backfield, creating a thud so loud, it could have been heard from the parking lot.
Tight end Tom Crabtree hasn’t been his usually-active self on Twitter lately. In fact, he said he hasn’t been on since camp.
“I don’t need to get people fired up, and see in my feed, death threats and all that. That’s not why I’m on there. That’s not positive. I don’t need any of that.”
“I can be myself as far as being goofy and stuff like that. There’s times to talk politics and stuff — I’m not saying I’ll completely steer away from stuff like that because I will talk about stuff that matters to me, that I have a passion about — but for the most part, I try to keep it light. I think people enjoy that.”