By Tom Krasniqi (Twitter: @TKras)
After nearly two weeks of training camp in hot summer sun of Tampa, the players are beat up. They’re tired. Their bodies are aching. “This is the hardest working camp as a team that I’ve been through,” said left tackle Donald Penn. “Everyone is working hard on both sides of the ball.”
Head coach Greg Schiano said Tuesday was without a doubt, the hottest day in camp so far. With temperatures in the 90s, the actual heat index was over 100 degrees. “It was very hot,” says rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence as sweat was pouring out of his body after practice. Spence says the training staff does a great job of hydrating players throughout practice.
The good news for the players is that training camp is starting to wind down and that means preseason game action is almost upon us. On Thursday, the Bucs open their preseason schedule at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium.
Schiano says he has plan as to how much the starters will play. “We have everything mapped out,” Schiano said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have a plan for Thursday night. We’re going to play this many plays, that many plays.” Schiano says each player has their own specific program as to how many reps they’ll get on Thursday night. For instance, safety Mark Barron is adjusting to being the dime defensive back in the box so he may get a couple of more snaps than others.
Don’t expect to see a whole lot of Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson or Gerald McCoy. With the rash of injuries taking place around the league, the Bucs will not put their star players at risk. Thursday’s game will provide an opportunity for those fringe players who are trying to make the roster. “I want to see how some of the 2nd and 3rd and 4th team guys compete. How do they compete when the lights come on….Can they do what they’ve been doing out there [at training camp}? Can they do it in the stadium against another team? Those are the things that are important. And can they do it for a sustained period of time…can they stay focused for a 3-hour football game and stay in the game and not have a mental lapse,” said Schiano.
Thursday’s game is a lot more important for the likes of Rashaan Melvin, Steven Means and Chris Owusu. Players like them who have flashed during camp and are fighting for roster spots. The coaching staff wants to see it translate over to game action. Thursday night will be their opportunity to showcase their talents.
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