TAMPA — As logistics go, you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger challenge than making sure 53 football players all get back in town for a busy week of practice in the aftermath of a major hurricane.
But the Bucs have pulled it off, going 53-for-53 in getting their roster back safely to One Buc Place as practice resumes in full today for Sunday's season opener at home against the Bears.
The NFL mandates that players get four consecutive days off during a bye week, and when the Bucs' Week 1 game at the Dolphins was postponed to November, they had to honor the bye-week requirement, sending players off for the long weekend, knowing Hurricane Irma could make return travel exceedingly difficult.
Doing that right starts with Bucs ownership, which chartered five planes to take 130 players and football and business staff to Charlotte, N.C., for those who wanted to escape the threat of the hurricane. Under the oversight of chief operating officer Brian Ford, the Bucs took on the task of setting up return travel, an uncertainty until Tampa International Airport announced it would re-open Tuesday.
Tim Jarocki, the team's senior manager of team operations, coordinated not only the Charlotte trip, but the challenge of bringing together a roster spread across the country — rookie TE Antony Auclair even went home to Canada over the weekend. Duke Preston, the team's director of player engagement, kept in touch with players and their families as well.
The Bucs scheduled a walkthrough practice for Tuesday evening, this after just two full practices in 12 days since the preseason ended Aug. 31. But the three most important days of practice — today, Thursday and Friday — are in place as normal as Tampa Bay prepares for Sunday's home game against the Bears.
With the official announcement Tuesday that the Bucs-Bears game would be played as scheduled Sunday, the game should have a strong crowd as the Tampa Bay area still recovers from Irma. Tickets on the secondary market were selling for $65 on TicketMaster — above face value for season-ticket holders — and last year's Bucs-Bears game had the second-highest announced attendance of any 2016 home game at 62,898.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.