TAMPA — The Bucs could have spent more time during Wednesday's minicamp implementing the more complex aspects of their offensive scheme.
Instead, for an entire portion of a 10-segment practice, receivers, backs and quarterbacks — everyone likely to touch the football — performed a drill that required them to lunge forward and touch a nearby cone without letting go of a ball connected tightly to a giant bungee cord.
The drill addressed what coaches refer to as "ball security," an elementary element of the game not always addressed at this level. But to coach Raheem Morris and his staff, it was time well spent.
"The only way you're going to become stronger is if you practice it and you keep reminding (players), you keep talking about it and you keep emphasizing it in practice," Morris said. "(You have) to do all the things you need to do as a coach to make your team fundamentally and technically sound. Hopefully that's going to help us finish stronger down the stretch like we did not do the last two years."
Morris pointed to the Carolina loss, the game that initiated the late-season slide from division leader to playoff spectator. The Bucs' shoddy display of tackling, in large part, led to 299 rushing yards by the Panthers.
So, can a few tackling drills or a creative ball-carrying exercise here and there make a marked difference? No, which is why emphasizing these things will become part of the Bucs' culture. Training camp practices will feature fundamental segments most days. And these skills will be reinforced in the regular season.
"I think this is good coaching and this is Raheem," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "What you get is what you emphasize. … You cannot turn the ball over and win games. That's something that you can coach and control: turnovers."
More training camp workouts at One Buc Place are in full and partial pads, a departure from the latter Jon Gruden years. Morris is looking to instill and measure toughness, and the best way to do that is at full speed.
"We'll hopefully get more enthusiastic practices," he said. " … We'll see more physical, tough acts being displayed on the football field."
What remains to be seen is whether the shift back to basics takes the Bucs to new heights.
Don't bet on Brooks: You might have seen comments from Derrick Brooks last week that seemed to suggest returning was a legitimate possibility. Truth is, as great a player and person as Brooks was and is, the statements appear based on wishful thinking rather than actual indications from the team. Deciding to release Brooks in February was part of a major change in direction. To do an about-face would be a major contradiction.
Almost there: Defensive coordinator Jim Bates said the team has installed about 90 percent of the scheme, though work in training camp will get more in depth.
On notice: DE Stylez White was called out by Morris in a team meeting last week, and it's becoming clear the Bucs want him to take the game — and his roster spot — seriously. White's recent motorcycle accident has set him back, sidelining him the past two weeks. White has just two full NFL seasons but turns 30 next month, so time is not on his side.
"We have no secrets among teammates," said Morris, who declined to recount his exact message to White. "We'll call you out in that team room. Those guys know what I said, (and) he knows what I said. We have to hold everybody accountable."