TAMPA — The first two days of Bucs training camp were a lot like a NASCAR race running under the caution flag. The pace was slow, steady and at times a little boring.
That caution flag will be lifted today and like a lot of their fans, the Bucs’ top two rookies are among those eager to see workouts shift into a higher gear.
“I’m very excited to see the pads go on,’’ said WR Mike Evans, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick. The (defensive backs) have been talking a little bit but now we get to go out there and have some fun with them.
“Seriously, though, it gives us a good look, a good game look. They can get their hands on us and we can get our hands on them, so it will be good. It’ll be easier for us.’’
For TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs’ second-round pick, the opportunity to put the pads on will allow him to fulfill a dream he has been waiting to realize since he was a kid.
“When you’re 8 years old, you dream about doing this and now it’s finally here,’’ he said. “I mean, I’m going to put the pads on against the best players in the world. So I’m thrilled. I’m excited. I’m ready to go.’’
The same cannot necessarily be said for all the veterans. They know the increase in speed and intensity increases the likelihood of injury, but they also know padded workouts are a necessary evil.
“It’s football so you have to do it whether you like it or not, so you find a way to make it fun,’’ DE Michael Johnson said. “But really, I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to get used to that soreness again.’’
Did you know?
Bucs QB Josh McCown has a legion of doubters questioning his ability to replicate the season he had a year ago in Chicago, where he produced a 109.0 passer rating over eight games as a fill-in for Jay Cutler.
Hall of Fame DT Warren Sapp is not among them.
Sapp, now an analyst on the NFL Network, dropped by One Buc Place on Saturday and said he believes the Bucs have set McCown up for a breakout-like campaign much like the one he had a year ago.
“The system Josh left is pretty much the same system they got here, with two big receivers and (where you) play close to the vest, which is what (Bucs coach) Lovie (Smith) likes to do,’’ Sapp said.
One reason Sapp believes McCown can continue to excel is because he seems to have a knack for making the throws to those big receivers that make them most effective.
“Josh taught Kurt Warner how to throw that back-shoulder fade to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin,’’ Sapp said. “A lot of people don’t know that because Kurt doesn’t like to tell the story.
“All I know is, all those seasons (that I was here) and we were giving up 16 points a game, I would have loved to have had some Dunk-aneers throwing the ball up there like that.’’
LB Jonathan Casillas must have drawn a short straw or something. Virtually every rep he took in team drills Saturday came on plays in which the ball wound up in the hands of Olympic sprinter-turned running back Jeff Demps.
On one such play, Demps ran a wheel route into the right flat where he quickly blew past Casillas before making an over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown.
After the workout, Casillas talked about the challenges Demps presents to a linebacker and how much of a benefit the former University of Florida standout could prove to be for the Bucs.
“If you’re a linebacker facing him, it’s almost like a lose-lose situation,’’ Casillas said. “You have to try and guess his route to be on top of it, but he’s really too quick, actually, for a linebacker.
“He’s definitely going to cause some matchup nightmares, but that’s what we want. So at practice, yeah, it’s tough for the linebackers guarding him, but he’s only going to make us better.’’
Take that ball away
The Bucs are stressing takeaways and they got a big one from S Mark Barron during an 11-on-11 drill, but it was the many missed opportunities that Smith remembered most.
“I’ll start my team meeting with that (today),’’ Smith said. “Because that standard that we want isn’t there yet. (And it won’t be) until I see guys stripping, yanking after the football on every snap. As I think I’ve said in every meeting I’ve had with you, the turnover ratio, it’s about getting the ball. The ball, the ball, the ball. And so we’ll get that point across.”