TAMPA — It’s not the heat or the humidity.
It’s common sense.
With Wednesday afternoon’s heat index topping 102 degrees at One Buc Place, coach Lovie Smith explained why he prefers having the team practice in the oppressive heat that is likely to accompany the first two regular-season games next month.
“It has to be an advantage for us,’’ Smith said of the torrid conditions. “You feel the heat and it does make a difference. Late in the year, Green Bay and Chicago, those outdoor teams have an advantage over warm-weather teams that come up. We feel like we have the same.’’
While most NFL clubs scheduled their training camp workouts in the morning, the Bucs practiced in late afternoon.
“I understand other teams practice early to avoid the heat,’’ Smith said. “No, we’ve got to get ready for it. The only way to get ready for it is to practice in it. We feel it and then we hydrate. We rest up and then we start it again.’’
The Bucs open the 2014 season at home against the Panthers Sept. 7 at 4:25 p.m., followed by a Sept. 14 matchup against the Rams at 4:05 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium before three consecutive road games.
More is better
Like most NFL head coaches, Smith welcomes the league’s decision to expand practice squads from eight to 10 players for at least the next two seasons.
“That’s an easy one — a coach getting more players,’’ Smith said with a smile. “I think it’s a great thing. There’s a lot of players who aren’t ready, for whatever reason. We can’t keep everyone, but there’s a lot of players who deserve to stay in the league. As many as we can keep in the league and continue to develop is a good thing.’’
Bucs starters will play into the third quarter at Buffalo Saturday before the preseason ends with an Aug. 28 home matchup against Washington that will basically feature backups competing for roster spots.
“I’ve got to come out and play well at both nose and three-technique,’’ said DT Akeem Spence, who started 14 games as a rookie in 2013. “It’s important I show our coaches that I’m ready for my role, backing up Clinton McDonald and Gerald McCoy when they need a blow. I love the scheme. It’s aggressive and penetrating, all about getting upfield and being disruptive.’’
Coming off an All-Pro season, OLB Lavonte David is looking forward to getting into a rhythm.
“It’ll be good for me to be out there a little longer than the first two games,’’ David said. “I’ll be happy if I show improvement, play hard and play at a high level.’’
The Bucs released veteran WR Lavelle Hawkins, who caught a 13-yard touchdown from Mike Kafka in the final minute of last week’s 20-14 loss to Miami.
“He did a great job for us here,’’ Smith said. “We feel we have a lot of receivers, especially young receivers, that we like. It’s always tough when you tell a player he won’t be on the football team anymore.’’
To fill Hawkins’ spot, the Bucs claimed T Edawn Coughman off waivers from Buffalo.
Smith said Alterraun Verner (hamstring) practiced again Wednesday, but he ruled out fellow CB Mike Jenkins (leg) for Saturday’s game. ...Defensive ends Steven Means (groin) and Michael Johnson (knee) are expected to play. ...Bucs DT Gerald McCoy taped a TV segment Wednesday with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.