TAMPA — Greg Schiano has been putting considerable pressure on the shoulders of DE Da'Quan Bowers, challenging him publicly and privately to show more in his bid to be a full-time player for the first time.
Even Bowers admitted Saturday what has been obvious for a while: A big part of his problem is conditioning.
"I'm still a little winded at times," the third-year player said. "I'm still not in the best shape. I'm still getting used to the speed of practice. But other than that, (camp) has been decent."
Nothing Bowers has heard Schiano say publicly is different than their conversations behind closed doors. Bowers said he has been receptive to the message, and he knows this is a premium opportunity.
Currently listed as the starting left end, Bowers can't count on that remaining the case if he doesn't produce.
"Coach is a straightforward guy, and I respect him," Bowers said. "He says he wants more out of me, so it's my job to come out here and give him more. I have to give him all I have until I don't have any more.
"I'm a firm believer that there are no missed opportunities in this league. If I don't take advantage of it, somebody on the street will. I have to bring my game. I have to play hard every step of the way, every down, whether it's 10 plays in a row or whether it's two plays in a row."
Bowers played all of the first half in Thursday's preseason opener against the Ravens, more than just about any veteran starter. And you can expect the same Friday at New England, too.
"I felt like I needed (the extra work)," he said. "I'm an unproven defensive end in this league."
Said Schiano: "It's certainly not anything personal. We both want the same thing. He wants to be an every-down player, and we need an every-down defensive end. We're just trying to get there."
PULLING AWAY? Kevin Ogletree is creating separation from Tiquan Underwood in the race to be the No. 3 receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. In fact, Schiano suggested there's a battle now for No. 4 between Underwood, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, and Chris Owusu, who is coming on but battling an ankle injury.
"It's almost like they're taking turns," Schiano said. "Chris had his chance when Tiquan went down, and now Tiquan's up. They'll just keep battling back and forth."
SLOWLY BUT SURELY: LG Carl Nicks (toe) had another day of full contact, his second in as many weeks. And with the Bucs working him back slowly, they know it will take time for him to return to his Pro Bowl level.
"He's playing physically," Schiano said. "You can see he's rusty, though."
INJURY UPDATE: Owusu (ankle) and CB Danny Gorrer (groin) will miss roughly a week. RB Peyton Hillis (left knee) will be back, Schiano confirmed. DT Gerald McCoy limped off the field at the end of practice with a calf injury, but there was no word on the severity.