Bucs OTA’s Draw to a Close

Last Thursday, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their final organized team activity day (OTA) of the offseason, Head Coach Jon Gruden said that he was pleased with the progress his team has made since March. Now he needs just one more week. On Tuesday, the Bucs will launch into their only full-team mandatory mini-camp of the offseason, an intense three-day session that will serve as the team’s final tune-up before the start of training camp next month. “What we’ve done is had 14 really good OTAs,” Gruden said to the team’s website. “I’m very proud of this football team – their attendance and effort in the offseason. That has been a real plus. We’ve had a chance to really train our guys in terms of what we want done.”

Gruden has been particularly pleased with the competition that has developed at quite a few positions. That competition, Gruden explained, has been fueled by an increased versatility throughout the roster; that was by design. After a promising draft and some aggressive free agent acquisitions, the Bucs head into training camp with a number of players who possess the athleticism to compete at several positions. “There’s a lot of competition, a lot of competition at every position, honestly – at center, at wide receiver; there’s a lot of competition in the secondary, upfront on both sides of the ball,” Gruden said. “Some of these guys have increased their versatility. Kevin Carter is playing four positions. Our linebackers have the versatility to move around. Our wide receivers can play three or four different positions, so it’s going to make for a very interesting training camp. Tight end – every position really – has more competition than we’ve had.”

The competition will only intensify when the proven veterans such as cornerback Brian Kelly and defensive end Simeon Rice enter the picture. For Rice, that may or may not be this week as he is returning from a shoulder injury that forced him to injured reserve last season, and a decision regarding his participation will be made once the Pro Bowl end arrives next week. Whether or not Rice is an active participant in the team’s mini-camp, Gruden remains confident that his pass-rushing star will be ready to roll come July. “Knowing Simeon Rice,” said Gruden, “he’s going to be in tremendous shape as training camp opens.”

For now though, Gruden’s focus remains on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, during which he intends to drive home any and all final lessons to his charges. After this week, the team won’t again participate in organized activities until the start of training camp at the end of next month. The NFL rules for mandatory mini-camps differ slightly from those governing OTAs, but there is still no real contact allowed and the basic goals remain about the same.


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