TAMPA — Play fast, play hard. By following those simple rules Thursday night, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie CB Johnthan Banks turned his NFL debut into a showcase for his versatile skills. Banks led Tampa Bay with five unassisted tackles against Baltimore and broke up a Joe Flacco pass, overcoming some early anxiety. “By the second series, I was comfortable,’’ the second-round draft pick out of Mississippi State said. “I was a little nervous when the game started. I think I played OK, but there’s a lot of things I can get better at. It was fun getting out there, competing with my teammates and going against someone else, getting that feel of hitting pro athletes.”
Late in the first quarter, Banks leveled RB Bernard Pierce after a 1-yard reception, displaying the aggression that helped him win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s premier defensive back. “That’s something I’ve always worked on, being physical,’’ Banks said. “My college coach (Dan Mullen) always wanted me to be the most physical player on the field. He texted me before the game: ‘technique and play physical.’ “ Irish eyes are smiling The final public practice of training camp was witnessed by a father-son duo who came a long way to see their favorite NFL franchise. Patrick Philpott and his 17-year-old son, Conor, made the journey to the Sunshine State from Cork, Ireland, where temperatures topped off in the mid-60s Saturday. “I see a lot of talent out here,’’ Patrick said. “And I see a good season coming up if the Bucs get the breaks.” Father and son are able to view the telecasts of Bucs games on the Internet every Sunday during the regular season. They met with Bucs GM Mark Dominik during Saturday’s practice and said the Packers are probably the most popular NFL team back home. “I get questioned a lot in town when I walk around in my Josh Freeman jersey,’’ Conor said. Talking ’bout practice For the second consecutive year, the Bucs and Patriots will scrimmage for a few days prior to a preseason matchup. After a morning practice in Tampa on Monday, the Bucs will depart for New England and spend the rest of the week in pads against the Pats in preparation for Friday night’s game. Last summer, New England players scrimmaged against the Bucs in Tampa before a preseason game at Raymond James Stadium. “I’ve just about had it with our defensive backs,’’ Bucs WR Kevin Ogletree said. “So it will be good to get some work against some new people. We’re pumped up. It’s the Patriots, so we want to treat the practices like game situations.’’ Banks is already thinking ahead. “I’m looking forward to seeing Tom Brady,’’ he said. Injury update Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy walked off the field gingerly with what coach Greg Schiano indicated was a calf strain. G Carl Nicks, still recovering from toe surgery, received more of a workload Saturday, but some players hurt in the preseason opener are unlikely to practice against New England. Schiano said WR Chris Owusu (ankle) and CB Danny Gorrer (groin) are expected to be sidelined at least a week. RB Peyton Hillis (leg) could be available to play against the Patriots, Schiano said.