TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gathered for the start of their first training camp under Lovie Smith, a self-proclaimed fan of Michael Jackson’s music.
The struggling franchise’s new coach inherited a team that went 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season in 2013.
Six months later, Smith is drawing from the theme of one of the King of Pop’s big hits to set the tone for what he hopes will be a breakthrough year for the team.
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”I talked in the offseason about the man in the mirror … just about having a career year,” Smith said Thursday, stressing the importance of self-improvement and reflection to every player’s development.
”No matter how you played so far, we need all of us to have the best years that we’ve had,” the former Chicago Bears coach added. ”It starts out there. It’s not a magic pill. It’s just hard work, going to work from today on.”
Smith and first-year general manager Jason Licht have overhauled the roster through free agency and the draft. Of the 89 players expected in camp, which officially begins on Friday, 48 are new to the team. That includes 28 veterans and 20 rookies, including first-round draft pick Mike Evans.
With the exception of injured offensive lineman Carl Nicks, who was excused from reporting because of personal reasons, the entire squad was at One Buccaneer Place for meetings on Thursday.
Smith said safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, who sat out the entire offseason program while recovering from foot injuries, likely will be on the field for the first practice.
”We feel like we’re going to be a good football team,” the coach said, adding that he’s looking forward to seeing players in pads for the first time.
”All we know right now is what we look like without pads. After a couple of days in pads, we will know an awful lot,” Smith said.
”We want a competitive camp,” added Smith, who went 81-63, won three division title and appeared in two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl in nine seasons with the Bears from 2004 to 2012. ”In the end, I don’t think the decisions are really that hard, as far as who you start, who makes the ball club. It’ll be obvious to all.”
Meanwhile, the Bucs announced defensive end Ronald Talley has been placed on the active/non-football injury list. Linebacker Brandon Magee was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.
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