TAMPA — It was a scene that could’ve played out anywhere in Florida. A 66-year-old ex-retiree, riding on the manicured grass in his golf cart with his Kangol cap pulled low on his forehead.
So this is how Bucs coach Bruce Arians rolls.
There was no music. No hip hop or rap from Lil Wayne or Nipsey Hussle rattling the windows of the AdventHealth Training Center as in the past. Just the sound of instructive coaches during the first minicamp practice Tuesday under the Arians regime.
“I was excited,’’ Arians said. “I sat in the golf cart and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to start talking to guys. It was a lot of fun. Very exciting.’’
It’s clear that while Arians was driving a golf cart, he still is driven. He trusts his coaches — offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen — to run the offense. He has complete confidence in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to install the Bucs’ new 3-4 scheme.
But just in case, Arians parked his golf cart close to quarterback Jameis Winston.
“One thing about coach B.A. You think he’s sitting back in his golf cart, but he’s communicating with his coaches,’’ Winston said. “He just has that head role so he’s communicating with everybody. He’s letting his orchestra play but he’s orchestrating behind the scenes, telling everybody his thoughts and communicating with the quarterbacks, communicating with (receivers coach Kevin Garver), communicating with coach Byron. He runs the show. Even though they’re the puppets. We’re all on a string, but he’s pulling it.’’
But the Bucs’ Gepetto could not contain his excitement when he saw Winston thread a pass to his fifth read on the play.
“It’s amazing. I mean, he was getting the third and fourth reads quickly today,’’ Arians said of Winston. “He was off his first read, and that was not the easiest secondary to read. There was a lot of movement from quarters, to single high to man. I was extremely pleased with that part of it. I don’t think the defense got their hands on any of his (passes).
“That last throw, that was the fifth read in that play and he was on it so fast and he could tell me why. It’s one thing to throw a completion, but tell me why you did it. That’s nice.’’
There’s a little bit of Paul "Bear'’ Bryant in Arians, who worked for the legendary Alabama head coach and has a signed portrait of him in his office. Bryant used to ride his cart to his tower perched high above the Crimson Tide’s practice fields, the gridiron king overlooking his kingdom.
One thing that stood out Tuesday: the mutual admiration between Arians and Winston is palpable. Frankly, if the former Cardinals head coach didn’t believe in his quarterback, he would still be working for CBS and fishing at his forever lake house in Georgia.
But he loves the quarterback and the pass catchers general manager Jason Licht has surrounded Winston with — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
The newest addition is Browns free agent Breshad Perriman, who got behind the defense several times Tuesday.
“Oh, he looked great out there,’’ Winston said of Perriman. “He can fly. He can really run. It’s great to have new guys out there. But everybody was out there working their tail off today. Thank God it’s a beautiful 85 degrees out here in Tampa Bay and there was nice little breeze.
"We’re probably going to have a little something coming for them when we get down to camp, those receivers, they’ve got to get in shape. They’re going to be running a lot and we expect them to be where they’re going to be.’’
Defensively, the Bucs have some work to do. The minicamp was voluntary but the marquee players on that side of the football were missing. Gerald McCoy, a good candidate to be released or traded, was in San Diego training. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and linebacker Lavonte David did not attend Tuesday.
So Arians’ focus was on last year’s first-round draft pick, defensive tackle Vita Vea.
“For him, I had to say, “Whoa,’’’ Arians said. “I hate to say “Sic ‘em.’ I like saying, “Whoa.’ For him, you need to slow down a little bit. You don’t need to be knocking guys back into the quarterback today.’’
The NFL draft is Thursday and Arians is convinced at No. 5, the Bucs will get an elite player. He’s also not looking to trade down.
“There would have to be some hellacious picks,’’ Arians said. “There’s five guys on the board I love. You’d have to throw the bank and open the vault for Jason to move down. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t. Just looking at the guys that are there. There’s really six guys that are once in a generation type players. I feel great about this draft.’’
If Arians feels bad about anything, it’s how the NFL schedule-makers saddled the Bucs with seven weeks between games at Raymond James Stadium.
“Am I happy about it? Hell no,’’ Arians said. “I think it’s ridiculous and I voiced my opinion to the people in New York.’’
Winston said the Bucs will play ‘in the parking lot at Walmart.’’
Arians would be there. Golf cart and all.
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLStroud.
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