Forget about the 13 teams on their schedule. The way coach Greg Schiano sees it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' biggest enemy is always time. It's no wonder then that he had his team report for training camp before the crack of dawn Wednesday.
Bleary-eyed or wide-eyed, the Bucs officially went to work on their second season under Schiano, and for wide receiver Mike Williams, who was scheduled to become a free agent this March, there has already been a substantial payoff.
Williams, the Bucs' fourth-round draft pick out of Syracuse in 2010, walked into camp just before 7 a.m. and immediately signed off on a new six-year, $40.25 million contract designed to keep him with the team through the 2018 season.
"We are pleased to have Mike signed to a long-term contract that ensures he will continue to be part of the exciting young core of players we are building around," said Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik.
"Mike has earned this contract through his hard work and production the past three seasons and we are looking forward to seeing him continue that career development as a Buccaneer."
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Williams has started 47 of the 48 games he's played for the Bucs, recording 193 receptions for 2,731 yards (a 14.2 average) and 23 touchdowns during his first three years in the league. Among wide receivers in that 2010 draft, he ranks second in those categories behind only Dallas' Dez Bryant.
Williams, 26, was one of the earliest arrivals Wednesday to One Buc Place, where the players were scheduled to attend a 7:45 a.m. team meeting before taking to the field for Schiano's dreaded conditioning test.
That test consists of the players running 16 110-yard sprints in a time specified by the position they play. As difficult as the test is, it wasn't necessarily foremost on everyone's mind.
Shortly after 7 a.m., linebacker Adam Hayward walked back out to his car in the players' parking lot and returned carrying a pair of cleats, saying, "had to get my cleats so I can run that conditioning test." Most players, including cornerback Darrelle Revis, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and quarterback Josh Freeman, appeared eager to get to work and at least one expressed a great deal of confidence. “The champs are here,” safety Ahmad Black said with a big smile as he walked into camp carrying a pro wrestling-style championship belt over his right shoulder. Others, such as left guard Carl Nicks, were far more subdued, perhaps because Nicks, who missed most of last season with a left toe injury, walked into camp with that same toe still heavily bandaged. The Bucs have expressed optimism that all of their players coming off season-ending injuries will be ready to participate when drills begin on Thursday, but there is a chance some will be limited in the amount of work they do. “Everybody will be on different schedules as far as what they're doing, and again that will be determined as late as the night before we start camp,” Schiano said last week. “It will be determined by how they look in their physical when they report and how their assessment looks, but we fully expect them all to be out there and practicing.'' In addition to Nicks, Revis (knee), right guard Davin Joseph (knee) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (knee) are coming off season-ending injuries and could be limited during camp workouts.