LAKE BUENA VISTA — The regimented routines of NFL training camps can give them a military feel.
Granted, nobody is comparing Army barracks with the posh Celebration Hotel the Bucs are staying at, but the strict schedules allow for little free time.
"Everything is bang-bang," receiver Michael Clayton said. "We have meetings, practice, meetings, rest, ice, curfew. You don't really have a lot of time for other stuff."
But at least one tradition — pulling pranks — has lasted from the Bucs' early camps at the Hall of Fame Inn through the modest accommodations at the University of Tampa dorms, where players brought their own blankets, pillows and fans (and Warrick Dunn chose to sleep on a couch).
Several Bucs players, past and present, shared their favorite examples of tomfoolery and other training camp tales.
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had one of the most interesting excuses for missing a morning workout his rookie year with the Vikings: He was taped to a chair.
"So I remember one night, it was the last night of camp, I heard a boom-boom-boom (at the door). It was Todd Steussie and Robert Smith. They said, 'You better open up.'
"I got a little beat down, a little tape job. Missed the morning practice because they taped me up to a chair, but at least I got it over with. I had a really good excuse, too. I couldn't get out."
Band of brothers
Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon chuckles at the conditions of the old-school Bucs camp in the late '70s, including rooms at the Hall of Fame Inn that boasted "a few little extra critters we didn't want to be in there." But what he mostly remembers is the brotherhood — and their makeshift band. Selmon brought a bass guitar, Richard Wood was on drums and Johnny Davis the piano. After dinner and before meetings, they would play some tunes. The group, which Selmon said was called the Fifth Quarter, went on to play occasionally at local venues.
How good was Selmon on the strings?
"I couldn't play the bass," he said, grinning. "Another guy could play it. … I was like, 'Wow, I didn't know that thing could do it.' I was like pluck, pluck, pluck."
Sapp and Co. save the day
Late in camp, the defense has "rookie night" at a restaurant, and the first-year guys have to foot the bill. In 2002, Shelton Quarles remembers a large tab at Emeril's restaurant in Orlando that had Ryan Nece and Marquise Cooper sweating.
"They were like, 'Oh, we've got to pay?' " Quarles said. "They were trying to get credit cards from other rookies to try to get the money to pay, saying, 'My limit is so-and-so.'
"We had (one guy) calling his agent to see if his agent could wire him some funds to get on his card so he could pay for the meal. But at the very end, (Warren) Sapp, (John) Lynch and (Derrick) Brooks took care of the whole thing."
Running back Michael Bennett: "We used to shove pennies in (rookies') locks. … We'd dump water in their beds. … In Minnesota we'd shave their eyebrows, shave their hair off."
Selmon: "We'd tell the rookies to go to the grocery store to get a 'free' turkey for Thanksgiving. They'd go in there and say, 'Hey, where's my free turkey?' When (the store attendants) said, 'What are you talking about?', they figured it out. 'Uh oh, they set me up.' "
The receiving corps has its own way of picking on the rookies. Clayton said the veterans often send the first-year guys to stores in Celebration to get them necessities.
"Rookies are starting to run some errands, get soap, toothpaste, sunflower seeds, shoe strings, water, Gatorade," Clayton said.
"It's the whatever-you-want list."
The Bucs used to be housed at University of Tampa dorms for training camp. For some, there were many sleepless nights, and it wasn't always because of the thin mattresses or the lack of air-conditioning.
"We had a little common area and then four rooms off that common area," Quarles said. "My roommates were Jeff Gooch and LaCurtis Jones. One time, LaCurtis decides he wants to bring his bed out of his room and set up his room in the common area. He'd stay up until, like, 2 in the morning playing music and we had to get up in four hours."
Quarles paused, then quipped: "He didn't make the team that year."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com