Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New day dawns as Bucs arrive
TAMPA - They'll be in pads more and they'll hit more. Beyond that, center Jeff Faine says he has no idea what training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be like this year. How would he know? Everything from the location of camp to the daily schedule is new. Reporting day even proved to be a vast departure from the past. Shortly after players reported to One Buc Place on Friday afternoon, new coach Raheem Morris ran them through a conditioning test made up of 300-, 150- and 60-yard sprints. "It goes back to Tony Dungy's days," said Morris, referring to the Bucs' head coach from 1996-2001. "We always threatened them with it, but we never ran it. I decided to run it because it's a great chance to see where the guys are and what they've been doing."You can see who's been working out and who's just kind of been coasting. And with this you kind of set a precedent, 'Hey, we may have to run that conditioning test.' So it was good. It was fun to watch." Making the Bucs fun to watch is ultimately what this camp will be about. Toward that end, the Bucs got off to a good start Friday, with all but one player - left guard Arron Sears - reporting. Sears continues to deal with a personal matter that neither Sears nor the team will disclose. Because everything from the coach to the quarterback is new, no one seems to know just how good the Bucs will be. That may not be a bad thing, though. Faine played for a New Orleans team in 2006 that started out with low expectations, but wound up one win shy of a berth in the Super Bowl. Being inconspicuous, he said, can be good. "It can definitely be beneficial," Faine said. "We may be able to sneak up on some guys. That year in New Orleans, no one knew what we had and we didn't know either. We were an unproven team, and so it was very similar to our situation here, where no one except the guys in our locker room really expected us to do anything. "Hopefully we'll have similar results." Chris Hovan won't be happy with anything else. Though he fell short of guaranteeing a playoff run for the Bucs, the veteran defensive tackle said he's not playing for second place. "The mentality in our locker room is, we want to go to the playoffs," Hovan said. "And a lot of people say, 'Oh, you're full of it.' But if my mentality is not derived on going to the playoffs, then what am I playing for? "I'm not playing just to get by. I'm not playing to get a top-10 draft pick. I'm not putting my body on the line for that. If certain guys are thinking like that, tell me because I want to sit down and talk to them." Hovan isn't the only Bucs player with high expectations. Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who signed a five-year, $36 million contract before reporting Friday, is looking to win the starting job during camp. He won't have it easy. Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich come to the quarterback competition with more experience, and Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik reiterated Friday their wish for Freeman to spend this season learning while watching from the sideline. Both, however, are open to change. "It's our job as coaches to get them the reps they need so that when we get to the third preseason game we can make our decision on a starter," Morris said. "When you go into that third preseason game, that's when you should know who your starting quarterback will be and when your team is going to figure out who they're going to be."
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.