TAMPA, Fla. — With less than a week until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ preseason opener, practice has become more physical. Fitting for the theme, players and coaches played for higher stakes Saturday.
They competed for push-ups — the chance either to “earn” or avoid them. On multiple occasions, entire offensive and defensive units were seen dropping to the ground after a drill that simulated third-down scenarios.
Coach Greg Schiano said his team participates in “play-it periods,” which mimic game-like situations without the tackling. Tampa Bay practiced for the fourth consecutive day — the Bucs are scheduled to be off Sunday — and Schiano wanted to offer an incentive for the best group in each session to keep the attention level high.
“We just made things competitive,” Schiano said. “I figured since we were going to make it competitive and have a winner and a loser, let’s have a little prize for the winner or punishment for the loser.”
The results were balanced, which pleased Schiano. He said the requirement was 10 push-ups for the losing unit, including assistant coaches, though he admitted, “there were some liberties taken there.” Even Schiano took part in the work: He was seen doing push-ups in the middle of a team huddle following a drill.
“I’ve got to pay for all our sins,” he said.
The session was part of heightened competition in recent days. More game-like situations were seen in practice this week, with crowd noise piped in from loudspeakers on the sideline during numerous occasions this week.
The Bucs open the four-game preseason schedule against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. After a physical Saturday, they are working to be well-conditioned come kickoff.
“I just let it unfold,” Schiano said. “It was good. I had a little fun with it.”
Second-year wide receiver Chris Owusu has become a training camp standout. The Stanford product, signed by the Bucs in September 2012 from the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad, had one catch for 24 yards with Tampa Bay last season.
But it is rare that a day does not pass without at least one standout play from the 23-year-old. Another one happened Saturday, when he caught a 57-yard touchdown pass against cornerback Anthony Gaitor.
Owusu was listed as the third wide receiver, behind Vincent Jackson and Kevin Ogletree, in the Bucs’ initial depth chart released Friday. He had 1,534 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns with Stanford.
“I’m excited,” said Owusu, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in April 2012. “Any time you have a chance to go out there and have a chance to go play football, it’s a blessing. So any chance … I’ll try and go make the most of it.”
He has received Schiano’s attention. The coach said Owusu has made a positive impression.
“He did make some plays,” Schiano said. “I wasn’t studying Chris, but he jumped out to me a few times as well.”
Return of the kneel-down blitz
The kneel-down blitz appears to remain part of Tampa Bay’s plans. The Bucs seemed to practice the play Saturday, which gained attention last year for its controversial intentions.
Schiano has said the scheme will remain in Tampa Bay’s playbook, though he received criticism from New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin after it appeared in a Week 2 loss at MetLife Stadium last season. On Saturday, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman lined up in the shotgun formation as Schiano stood behind defensive linemen and appeared to move them in place to move toward the ball. No snap was made.
Jackson’s memorable day
Jackson missed practice for a positive reason: The birth of his son. He and his wife, Lindsey, have been married since July 2011.
Wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) missed practice for a second consecutive day and is expected back early next week, though Schiano said the wide receiver lobbied to practice Saturday. … Guard Carl Nicks, who has been slowly coming back from a torn plantar plate in his left foot, participated in 11-on-11 drills, a rare-but-positive sight for the Bucs. … Cornerback Johnthan Banks (hamstring) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (groin) did not participate in drills but were seen pulling weights on a distant field. Banks missed practice for a second consecutive day but could return early next week. Clayborn, who has been out since Wednesday, has not been ruled out of playing in the preseason opener.