Schiano pleased with Bucs after first camp
TAMPA, Fla. —As milestones go in the Greg Schiano era, it's certainly not one of the biggies. But the official end of his first training camp Wednesday morning still gave the new Tampa Bay Bucs head coach a chance to reflect as he readies his team for its blacked-out preseason home opener Friday against the Tennessee Titans.
All in all, Schiano was pleased with how camp went, while acknowledging that the practice routine won't change all that much in the coming weeks.
"They worked very, very hard," he said Wednesday. "That's what I was most excited about. My vision of where we'll be a year or two or three from now at this point, much cleaner, crisper. But what I was really pleased with was the effort, the buy-in that these guys exhibited."
Schiano admitted he wasn't even focused on the fact that Wednesday's workout in the sweltering heat and humidity marked the end of training camp.
"They kind of filled me in that today was the last day," he said. "I wasn't even thinking that way, which is my fault. I know as a player, I'd be thinking that way. But I kind of look at it like there's this next week, and then (preseason games against New England and Washington) … and there's a plan in place for what we're going to do. But I do understand. These guys have been busting their humps, and now it gears back a little bit and then we have the game. We still have some hard work to do."
Some of that work will involve the Patriots next week. Schiano has a close personal friendship with New England head coach Bill Belichick, whose team comes to town for a Week 3 exhibition against the Bucs onAug. 24 at Raymond James Stadium.
But the coaching pals also agreed to a pair of shared practices in advance of the contest. In a novel arrangement, they'll practice together next Wednesday and Thursday at One Buc Place, though the sessions will be closed to the public.
Meanwhile, their 7:30 p.m. ET game against the Titans on Friday will be closed to television audiences. Though they walloped Miami 20-7 last week in their exhibition opener at Dolphins Stadium, that performance didn't spark a rush on tickets for the chance to catch the new-look Bucs in action at home for the first time in 2012.
Attendance problems and blackouts have been an issue during the regular season for the club, which confirmed Tuesday that the exhibition won't be telecast locally.
Not even the new NFL rule that lowers the threshold to an 85 percent premium-seat sellout 72 hours before kickoff could help.
How much that may be indicative of things to come for the Bucs is hard to say. Attendance at preseason games has dipped league-wide, due to the lack of playing time among key team members. So perhaps crowds will pick up when the games begin to count.
Schiano didn't seem at all concerned with the blackout, saying, "I don't really think too much about that stuff. I think if we take care of business, all of that stuff will take care of itself. I really believe that."
The Bucs wouldn't mind taking care of business with the help of a newly minted Olympic silver medalist, former University of Florida football and track star Jeff Demps.
Just back from London, where he helped the U.S. team set anAmerican record in the 4x100 relay, the 5-8, 190-pound Demps has retained an agent and declared his interest in pursuing an NFL career.
The 22-year-old speedster didn't draw any interest in the April draft, since he'd previously committed himself to competing in the Olympics.
But his breakaway style as a hybrid runner-receiver allowed him to average 6.7 yards per carry (569 yards in 12 games) as a senior for the Gators.
His agent, Daniel Rose, has confirmed that he has spoken with the Bucs, but a number of NFL teams also are interested in acquiring the services of the man who ran the opening leg for the U.S. team, beaten by Jamaica's Usain Bolt and Co.
Asked about the prospects of adding Demps to the mix, Schiano replied, "Well, it is nice that he is an Olympian. That is a great achievement, but we play football. So if he wasn't a good football player, it wouldn't matter to me. He happens to be a good football player as well. … We will see how that goes. I don't know how that is going to end up. We had discussions even before he went over to the Olympics so we will see. Hopefully, if it's meant to be, it will work out."
NOTES: Don't expect a fixed foursome for now on the Bucs defensive line. The pass-rush will likely be applied by committee, Schiano explained. "I think we're going to have to mix it up," he said. "I think we have some good pass-rushers; good in their own ways. Different styles. But we're going to have to mix pressure in there, which is fine. That's what we do. So I think we can have an effective pass rush. I don't think right now you line up with three or four guys and say every down you're going to 'whup' them with four. We're not there yet. I think we can get there though."
… Rookie strong safety Mark Barron, the Bucs' No. 1 draft pick, sat out last week's exhibition as he recovered from a toe injury. But he's set to go Friday and looking forward to making some hits in a game. "I hope a get a chance to, but the first thing I want to do is make sure I can make that tackle," he said. "But if I get that opportunity, you best believe I will do it."
Barron doesn't expect to be limited, either. "As far as my toe, no," he said. "I don't know how much they plan on playing me, but I don't feel like the reasons for them taking me out will be because of my toe. It will probably just be because they don't want me to play so much."
… Backup wide receiver and return man Sammie Stroughter says the team can feel a sense of accomplishment from getting through Schiano's rigorous camp regimen. "It's been tough, grinding and (has allowed) us to push ourselves to the edge that we didn't think we could be pushed. And that's been really good. You look back on it and say 'Man, it's for the right purpose.' "
Different than last season? "It's just more," he said. "Coach Schiano is pushing us. I'm not saying that Ra (Raheem Morris) did not push us or anything like that. This is just a whole different atmosphere and different attitude this year."