TAMPA — When the Bucs walked off the field Wednesday for the last time until training camp, coaches found reason to feel encouraged by what was accomplished during the long and tumultuous offseason.
"You're really excited because you just want to be ready for training camp at this point," coach Raheem Morris said. "I really think we've surpassed that. So now we have the coaches digging to be even better. We want to be ready for a game. That's a little unrealistic. But we're searching for more. We still have a long way to go, but the guys are progressing well."
The Bucs wrapped up the on-field portion of their three-day mandatory minicamp and will complete the week with a team-building paintball outing today.
Then players will largely be left on their own as they prepare for what is shaping up as a strenuous training camp that opens Aug. 1. That, Morris said, puts the onus on individuals to come back in shape and up to speed on their X's and O's.
"You're not around them every day," he said. "You just trust those guys are going to go home and put themselves in the best position to compete for a championship. I'm hoping they go home and get in the weight room.
"When they come back, you don't want to start from scratch. You kind of want to start from right here, where you left off."
BROOKS HOPEFUL: Derrick Brooks, asked about his future while in Tallahassee for a Florida State board of trustees meeting, told the Associated Press anything remains possible, including: "I could still be a Buccaneer. Stranger things have happened. Teams are talking to me, so I'm going to make sure I continue to stay in shape."
There's no indication the Bucs have considered re-signing the 36-year-old linebacker after releasing him in February. But he continues to believe he can play at a high level.
"My play speaks for itself," the 11-time Pro Bowl player said.
Brooks, however, is realistic enough to know retirement remains a potential outcome.
"My plan is to play," he said. "But if God plans for me not to play, then I'm ready to accept that, too."
ZUTTAH RISING: Second-year man Jeremy Zuttah is the de facto starter at left guard with two-year starter Arron Sears absent because of an undisclosed personal matter. Aside from the toll his absence is taking on the line's depth, the Bucs don't seem overly obsessed with the issue because of Zuttah's play.
"He is getting better because of the opportunity that he has right now," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "He has a chance to play."
NEW LOOKS: Jagodzinski said he has been experimenting with different combinations in the passing game that have the potential to make the offense more entertaining than in recent seasons. The team even took a look at a grouping that featured five receivers (including tight ends and running backs) and an empty backfield. "We're going to have a lot of fun getting people matched up with our guys," Jagodzinski said. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun doing that as a coach."