TAMPA — The sun was still rising early Thursday morning when two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy reported for the Buccaneers' first training camp under coach Lovie Smith.
McCoy's attire was suitable for the hour.
McCoy stepped out of his matt-black BMW wearing a pair of brown bedroom slippers and a crimson terry-cloth bathrobe that he casually tied at the waist as he sauntered into One Buc Place, the team's training facility.
“This is going to be my home for the next month or so, so I may as well get comfortable,'' McCoy said with a smile.
Day One proved to be pretty comfortable for everyone. Smith dispensed with the grueling conditioning test that often kicks off the start of camp, saying he'd rather have the players save their energy for legitimate football workouts.
Those will begin today, when the Bucs take the field for the first time at 4:30 p.m. at One Buc Place, where Smith on Thursday unveiled what will more or less stand as his team's slogan for this season.
That, of course, is a reference to the site of Super Bowl XLIX, which will be played Feb. 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. And Smith knows what many may be thinking.
He expects the motto to elicit some snickers, especially with the Bucs coming off a 4-12 season, but he doesn't believe a player or team can achieve high expectations without establishing high expectations.
“We have to set the ceiling high right away,'' Smith said. “It's as simple as that. We're starting off as a 4-12 team, but we don't feel like we're that far away, though it is going to take some time.''
While Smith's primary objective is to see daily improvement from every player and the team in general, he has his sights set on some big targets, as well.
“Goal-wise, we're going to talk about winning all our games at Raymond James Stadium and (winning) the NFC South (title) and then let's see where we can go from there,'' Smith said.
“What record it will take to do that, I don't know. But let's see how good we can be and let's not put a ceiling on it. Let's see how good we can become and how soon we can become a good football team.''
With six Pro Bowlers — McCoy, safety Dashon Goldson, receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Alterraun Verner — and All-Pro weakside linebacker Lavonte David on the roster, the Bucs might be better than many outsiders believe.
Smith certainly believes they are.
The defense, he said, might already be better than the one he inherited when he first came to work for the Bucs as a linebackers coach under Tony Dungy in 1996.
“I just think our starting spot right now is a little bit higher,'' Smith said. “We look at our team and we like a player at every position and that normally leads to good things happening.''
Quarterback Josh McCown, who could be a key factor in the Bucs' quest for relevancy, agrees.
“I believe that if we do the things we are asked to do and do what the coaches have laid out for us, then we'll look back at the end of the year and find ourselves in a favorable position,'' McCown said.
Though projected starting left guard Carl Nicks had to be excused Thursday for personal reasons, the Bucs will go into camp today with all other players ready to participate in drills.
“It's definitely just about football,'' Smith said. “As a coach you want it to be about football, and I feel like that's what it will be about, so (my message to the players is) show us you belong.''
McCoy already knows he belongs. He has proven it with back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances the past two years. Now, he wants the team he plays for to prove it belongs in the league's upper echelon.
“I think we'll be a lot better than we were last year,'' McCoy said. “We've all worked extremely hard and we're ready to put it all together.''