TAMPA — Fresh from a day off Tuesday and spurred by a practice schedule devoted almost exclusively to red zone work, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned in their most physical and spirited workout of training camp Wednesday.
Played out in front of a near-capacity crowd of season ticket-holders at One Buc Place, the 2 1⁄2-hour session was punctuated by several dust-ups and a couple of tackles the likes of which are usually reserved for Sundays.
“It was just one of those days,'' DT Clinton McDonald said. “We were coming off a break and guys were raring to let it go. Sometimes that results in a scuffle or two, but for the most part we don't mind it.''
Bucs coach Lovie Smith didn't seem to mind it too much either, particularly because all of the scrapes were broken up before any punches were thrown. Still, he's not interested in a steady diet of what went down.
“I tell the guys that we don't want a lot of fighting, because in the game they'll throw you out and that's not good.'' Smith said. “So as we get ready for the season, we'll want it to be as game-like as possible.
“But I also tell them that if you feel like you have to mix it up with a guy, then fight him the way you would fight your brother — no cheap shots or anything like that, because after that you've got to get back in for the next play.''
With the scuffles prompting no punches, the biggest hits of the day came between the whistles, and there were some doozies, including one thrown by CB Leonard Johnson, who laid out WR Skye Dawson.
“You've got to tackle well and do the small things,'' Johnson said. “The most important thing is just to come out and compete, and that's my goal every day. Make the most of the opportunity I've been given.''
Three is not a crowd
The Bucs devoted a lot of resources to their tight end position during the offseason, adding veteran free agent Brandon Myers and second-round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a group that already included veteran Luke Stocker and first-year pro Tim Wright.
Those moves have left the Bucs with a bit of a logjam at that spot, but Smith said he plans to dress three tight ends for every game this year and that he should have no trouble finding work for all three, perhaps even on the same plays.
“I definitely think so,'' Smith said when asked if the use of three-tight-end sets is a growing trend in the league. “You look at the fullback position and you're kind of limited with what you can do with a traditional fullback, (because) normally they're not great special teams players.
“But your tight end, if you're that type of athlete, you can do a lot of different things. So in an ideal world, yes, you want an 'H' tight end and occasionally trick the defense and put him in the backfield, where they have to defend two-back runs. So it does give us flexibility. And it does make it harder for the defense.''
The concerns scouts had with S Mark Barron when he came out of college all centered on his coverage abilities. They were a bit lacking, the scouts said, and the Bucs have expressed some concern about those skills as well.
Barron came to camp this year looking to improve on that area of his game and possibly turn it into a strength, and if the first week of workouts is any indication, he may be on his way to doing that.
Barron leaped over a pass catcher and picked off a Josh McCown pass in the end zone during the early going Wednesday, making this the second time he's had a pick in 11-on-11 work in this camp.
“We know he's a big guy and he can hit and play in the box,'' Smith said. “But for him, it's about developing his pass coverage skills, zone and man. And that's what we've seen the last couple days. He's had a couple of interceptions the last few days, which is good for a safety.''
PK Connor Barth said he is completely recovered from the right Achilles tendon tear that cost him the entire 2013 season. He's feeling so good, in fact, that he might see an increase in duties this year.
Barth has yielded the kickoff duties to punter and kickoff specialist Mike Koenen in recent years, but Barth said he'll be handling some kickoffs during the preseason and maybe even into the regular season.
“That's the biggest test for me, doing the kickoffs, because that (requires) a lot stronger technique,'' Barth said. “But it feels great. Everything is right on target. Everything is 100 percent.''