Bucs practice - 19 October 2011
This was the first proper day of practice for the Buccaneers. Having flown in Monday night, the players had the day off on Tuesday to allow for the jet-lag and many took the chance to go sight-seeing in London. The rookies had a PR event at a London school whilst Earnest Graham and a few others even took the Eurostar to Paris for the day.
The Bucs' hotel is the one used by the England rugby team whilst they prepare for games. The rugby posts have been removed and the field looks like the Bucs' own training fields with additional lines to the normal gridiron. There are a pair of weight rooms next to the field and Dave Levy and his team have set up a crane to film practice from a high angle as they would in Tampa.
Having arrived early ahead of the afternoon practice, I was able to sit and have a chat with many backroom people I know from the Bucs whilst the likes of Mark Dominik, Josh Freeman and Shelton Quarles came over to say hello. This was not the day for getting any pictures signed but there is one of myself and Free from 2009 but I might be getting done for my office before the week is out.
The general media were allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice as is normal at One Buc Place and I spent time talking with old friends Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune and the perenially-unhappy RIck Stroud of The St.Petersburg Times. Stephen Miranda and Jeff Ellis from NFL Rants & Raves were there in their Sky Sports' guise and were already looking forward to Saturday's club meal in London.
When the main practice started, the media were escorted back to the hotel but I was able to stay and watch. I guess I do get a few perks in this role after all! Greg Olson would call out the offensive play and then both Josh Freeman and sometimes Josh Johnson would run the plays. As practice progressed, there was a little more contact up front and the defense got more agressive too.
Raheem is always in the middle of the defense barking out plays and encouragement. You can hear him a mile away. And when it comes to player noise, LB Adam Hayward seems to be involved in everything. And this is the same Raheem Morris who claimed he couldn't walk the 200 yards to the field because he needed to drive Coach Jimmy Lake there. He got some stick from myself and Cummings for that.
The special teams worked out on their own as always with Michael Koenen booming monster punts into the Surrey sky. LeGarrette Blount did not train with the main offense but did get some tips from Connor Barth on kicking styles. LS Andrew Economos was working out too as there is now a two-week window before he needs to be activated from the PUP list.
Gerald McCoy took part in a fair amount of practice but left just as they started pumping in crowd noise to affect Freeman as he called out the signals on plays. Both Mike Willians and Arrelious Benn made some great catches on crossing routes but one made by Dezmon Briscoe in front of Corey Lynch was the best of the day.
As the main media came back at the end of practice, a number of the Harlequins rugby team came down for a promotional piece and the Bucs had some local disabled children watch the entire practice too.
Then it was back to work for myself doing a piece for WFLA Channel 8 which will by now have aired on their news program, an interview with The Mail on Sunday and then trading more stories with Neil Reynolds about working with Kevin Cadle and Karl Baumann at Sky. And now an 800-word piece for buccaneers.com is due before heading back again tomorrow morning to do it all over again.
This is great. I thought 2009 was going to be the highlight of running the Bucs UK. Guess I was wrong.