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Observations From An OTA
Posted May 22, 2008 by Roy Cummings
Updated May 22, 2008 at 01:55 PM
TAMPA - After awhile, football practice tends to get pretty monotonous. It’s hard for a lot of players to get juiced up for it day after day, even when they’re in the middle of the regular season and a pivotal game is looming just around the corner.
You can only imagine then how tough it is for some players to get up for an offseason workout. With their next game still months away players often need something new and fresh to break up the monotony, and Bucs coach Jon Gruden has come up with a pretty good spritzer.
Every year he moves at least one offseason workout to Raymond James Stadium, and that’s where Thursday’s organized team activity (OTA) was held. This one was also open to the media, so for anyone Jonesing for a Bucs fix, here are some nuggets to chew on until next month’s minicamp.
The most interesting note involved defensive linemen Greg White, who took the majority of the first team reps at left defensive end. We’ve been hearing that there was a plan afoot to make White the starter at that spot and Thursday’s workout seemed to confirm that.
While White took the bulk of the reps at left end Gaines Adams worked the right side. Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan worked inside. The rest of the first team defense looked pretty much as expected, with Phillip Buchanon working at left corner and Aqib Talib working second unit right corner.
The only surprises, if you can call them that, were at SLB, where Ryan Nece worked in place of Cato June (foot) and at SS, where Sabby Piscitelli worked in place of Jermaine Phillips, who has missed this week’s workouts while tending to a family matter.
Other notable players who were absent or sitting out included RB Earnest Graham, WR Joey Galloway, WR Ike Hilliard, LT Luke Petitgout and LG Arron Sears. All but Graham, who is sitting out in an effort to spur contract talks, were taking time off to rest up from offseason surgeries or an injury sustained in a previous workout.
With Sears out Dan Buenning took the bulk of the reps at left guard. Donald Penn took the first-team reps at LT and Michael Bennett, Kenneth Darby and undrafted free agent Clifton Smith got the bulk of the looks at RB.
Bennett seemed to get most of the work there, but he also lost a fumble during a rather sloppy set of 11-on-11 drills. There were several bad center-quarterback exchanges during those drills and at least one interception was thrown, that by Brian Griese.
The offense, in fact, struggled mightily to complete its passes. In fact, the defense was so dominant that at one point late in the workout, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris shouted out, “Has anyone seen a completion here?’‘
There were a few, including one by QB Luke McCown on a 45-yard bomb deep into the end zone to wideout hopeful Cortez Hankton. Hankton showed tremendous concentration on the play as CB Darrell Hunter was the first to get a hand on the ball, batting it up in the air. As Hunter hit the ground, though, Hankton grabbed the ball out of midair to make the play.
The play was one of several for McCown, who shared reps at QB with Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese. Bruce Gradkowski didn’t get a single rep during the team drills and it wasn’t until the team was called back onto the field for a few extra plays that rookie Josh Johnson got a throw or two in.
Coach Jon Gruden said later that the lack of work doled out to Gradkowski and Johnson was part of the regular routine in which quarterbacks are given time off to rest up. He said Gradkowski and Johnson will get more reps in later workouts.
On Graham’s absence, Gruden expressed little in the way of concern. Like General Manager Bruce Allen before him he noted that Graham missed a lot of the offseason workouts last year and was confident the situation would work itself out over time.
“I hope to see him soon,’’ Gruden said of Graham. “He’s a key member of our team. In the meantime, we’re very pleased with our addition of Warrick Dunn. Michael Bennett has been outstanding in the offseason. I hope Earnest gets in here soon. He’s a good football player.’‘
Gruden also expressed confidence that Jeff Garcia’s contract problems would eventually be worked out. Like Graham, Garcia is seeking an extension to the contract that expires after this season, and while he has yet to miss a workout, he has hinted that a holdout may be in the offing if a deal cannot be reached soon.
“I’m very confident that it will all work itself out,’’ Gruden said of the Garcia affair. “In the meantime, we’re going to get ready to play. I do know this, he’s a great competitor and a great leader. He did play stellar football for us. He was clutch for us. He’s a critical football player for us and hopefully it all works out.’‘