Yes, it’s May, and I’m already complaining about my Bucs. Get used to it.
Monday was the first day of organized team activities, or OTAs as they are more commonly titled, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.This is usually a time when die-hard fans of a team get at least mildly excited about the upcoming season. The team that will play out the 2010 season is finally all on the field together, rookies and all. Some early if not premature power rankings are already out. Familiar faces are back on the news.
Nobody is excited in Tampa.
Yes, the Bucs won two out of their last three games in 2009. One of them was even against the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, the first team in NFL history to lose to the Bucs during the regular season and go on to win that year’s Super Bowl. However, it’s hard to argue that these wins were not the full season equivalent of scoring 14 points in the final quarter of a game that you’re losing 42-0. The phrase “mop-up” comes to mind. It is also tough to argue that these victories did anything for the team besides crushing my dreams of reading “Suh” on the back of a red jersey in 2010.
The Bucs also had an efficient 2010 draft in terms of their team needs. Michael “Left-Eye” Clayton likely won’t be around Tampa much longer, so two new receivers were brought in to take his place and possibly start this season. One of those receivers, Mike Williams of Syracuse, said in an interview that it was a very new experience for him.
“The speed of the game is crazy. You catch the ball and you’re used to running 50 yards up field. Now everytime you catch the ball, it’s like BOOM, a corner is right there in your face.” Uh, yeah. Go Big East.
The Bucs were looking for a way to rid themselves of fan-favorite veteran Chris Hovan, so they drafted two defensive tackles. Both of which will likely be starters come August.
Unfortunately for Bucs fans, the Bucs did not draft any safeties until the sixth and seventh rounds, meaning that Sabby “what just ran past me” Piscitelli will still be offering plenty of free passes this season.
This is a Buccaneer team that is very different from what fans had previously grown accustomed to. This entire Raheem Morris/Glazers with no money era is very different from what fans had previously grown accustomed to.The Bucs are now officially a low-budget, small market team trying to fight their limitations with cheap youth. But their limitations are not out of necessity, they are out of a circumstance that can be blamed completely on ownership.
The Bucs’ much heralded “franchise” was once their defense. A dominant unit that was the envy of the league. Now the Bucs are led by coach Raheem Morris, a happy-go-lucky, in-over-his-head position coach who uses the word exciting like Ari Gold drops f-bombs. A large part of his excitement on Monday was directed toward Josh “Tito Jackson” Freeman, the Bucs’ second-year starting quarterback who Morris said is “our franchise” on Monday.
The equally smiley Freeman noted that he is “light years” ahead of where he was at this time last year. I’m guessing this means that he is now qualified to be a third-string quarterback for a competitive team.
Luckily for Freeman, he has Morris, the man who once led the defense of his Kansas State Wildcats and has a relentless man-crush on Freeman, bad curly afro and all. Not so luckily for Freeman, left tackle Donald Penn is not attending these offseason workouts because of a contract dispute. I’m no expert of offensive lines, but I did see “The Blind Side,” so I know that a pissed off left tackle is not a good thing.
Contract dispute or not, sitting out of OTAs was once not accepted in Tampa. Training camp was where you made a statement if necessary. OTAs were your first opportunity to become a team and usher in the new rookies. Yes, these workouts are voluntary, but they were once not treated as such by veterans like Warren Sapp and John Lynch who policed players that didn’t make the late spring trot over to One Buc Place. One of my favorite sound clips of all time was Sapp blasting Keyshawn Johnson for being the only Buc to miss OTAs. “He was never one of us,” Sapp said.
But like everything else, policies have changed.
It’s a new day in Tampa Bay, and this time that’s not a good thing.