Joe Henderson Columns
Bucs' Minicamp Nothing To Sneeze At
TAMPA - Normally, it's time to fake an illness whenever you spot the words "mini" and "camp" on the sports calendar. Call me a cynic, but the news value of watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers romp around in shorts for three days in March can be debatable at best and a colossal waste of the final days of spring training at worst. That's true on most occasions, anyway. As we know, however, the minicamp that starts today doesn't qualify for "most occasions" status. Given the tectonic shifts this offseason at One Buc, it's basically worth a headline if someone sneezes out there.So expect a lot of those - headlines, not sneezes - as the Bucs short-up today for the first of three sessions. There will be much to talk about. That doesn't mean we'll actually know that much more about this team by late Thursday than we do now, by the way. But the exercise will allow us to fill lots of space on TBO.com, allow you the opportunity to "interact" with your favorite (cough) sportswriters ("HENDERSON! YOU HATE THE BUCS, YOU JERK!"), and it will provide those lovable lugs on talk radio with three days of free topics and lots of callers. So let's beat the rush, shall we? Raheem's Team Since this team is far from complete at this point, probably the main thing to watch how new coach Raheem Morris handles this first pop quiz of leadership (it's not a big enough deal yet to call it a test). This minicamp will do nothing more than expose the veterans to the type of camp Morris plans to run, along with the philosophies of new coordinators Jim Bates and Jeff Jagodzinski It really can't be much more than that because the roster is still in flux. The draft is basically a month away, and there's always the chance of adding more free agents or players through trades. So for now, those still on the roster are one big happy family - Michael Clayton especially so, having been freed from the constraints of an offense that frequently forgot to include him. Given all that, I'd predict you'll hear players say: • "I love the (energy/enthusiasm/excitement) Raheem brings to the team." • "I love the (blitzing/attacking style/aggressiveness) Jim Bates brings the defense." • "I love the (simplicity/emphasis on running game/fact you don't need a degree from Harvard to understand the offense) that Jeff Jagodzinski brings the offense." • "I love that Luke McCown (gets his chance/will prove what he can do/doesn't cry and moan like Jay Cutler) as quarterback." On the other hand, I'll take back everything I said about how these things pizzazz if someone in pewter pops off: "You know ... all these moves sucked. Raheem isn't proven, Bates couldn't hack it in Denver, Jadogzinski's system won't work and McCown - oh, my goodness - Luke McCown!" So Many Changes Kidding aside, it will be at least a little poignant to look out on those fields and know that men like Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn are no longer a part of things. I'm guessing that will really hit home over the next few days as the new Bates defense takes shape and No. 55 isn't there to discuss it. Some talking head on ESPN the other day questioned all the activity this offseason at One Buc. He said some of the moves make no sense, particularly giving up the leadership of Brooks while he still had gas in the tank. I guess that's the point: I'm not sure how much gas was actually left. You think of all the departed - Jon Gruden, Bruce Allen, Monte Kiffin, Bill Muir, Brooks, Dunn, Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia, Ike Hilliard, Cato June, Jovan Haye and Philip Buchanon. I won't argue against any of those moves - the Bucs have needed an overhaul, even if it means taking a step backward this season. But even if you agree with the moves, there will be some significant bumps along the way. Nothing goes down smoothly with this much change. My guess is that some of the names buried on the roster the last few seasons will flourish with the new opportunity. Still others will wash out, proving they should have been buried to begin with. Nobody will make the team this week, nor will anybody - probably - lose a job. But they will be on the field for the first time since the purge began, and that will be worth watching. Get your Kleenex ready. Someone in pewter might be sneezing.