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In with the new for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on eve of training camp opening

Coach Raheem Morris wants more aggression at camp.

Times

Coach Raheem Morris wants more aggression at camp.

The Buccaneers report for training camp today, and when they take the field Saturday morning, there's plenty you might not recognize. There are a number of new faces, but the changes run deeper. The way the team is built is different. The way it practices won't be the same. Even those calling the shots — coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik — are newbies. Here are some of the adjustments you're likely to notice as the Bucs prepare for camp:

New schemes

Jon Gruden, the only Bucs coach to win a Super Bowl, is gone, replaced by Raheem Morris and almost an entirely new staff of coordinators and assistants. As a result, the offense and defense we grew accustomed to seeing for years will be pushed aside for new schemes. The differences won't be as dramatic on offense, as coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski vows to run a power running game that he will offset with opportunistic throws downfield. But with the Bucs likely to go deep more often, that approach will represent a marked change from Gruden's short, precise passing game. On defense, former coordinator Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense was the stuff of legend, but the Bucs are moving to a new system now that Kiffin is gone. Jim Bates will run what the Bucs are billing as a bigger, more physical defense. It will rely on, among other things, lots of man-to-man coverage and more blitzes than previously employed.

Bringing it home

For the past seven years, training camp wasn't even in the same area code. The Bucs felt conducting training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports helped endear them to the Central Florida market. But that move perhaps alienated many fans in the Tampa Bay area. Training camp will be at One Buc Place this year and will continue to be held there for the foreseeable future. The mad rush for tickets for the team's initial practices is a good barometer of the appetite of fans who want to see the Bucs up close. Players will continue to be sequestered at an area hotel and spend almost every waking moment with each other, so the camaraderie developed during camp won't be lost.

Youth is served

The club's youth movement doesn't end with its leadership. Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, both in their 30s, lead a team that has become significantly younger. It began with the purge of five popular veterans in February, including then-35-year-old linebacker Derrick Brooks, and the Bucs have shown every intention of letting young players find their way. Rookie Josh Freeman, 21, is in the mix at quarterback, the leader of the defense will be linebacker Barrett Ruud, 26, the presumptive starters on the offensive line average younger than 26 and all but three defensive starters are likely to be under 30.

Celebrating the past

Here's a reminder that seems necessary: The Bucs actually existed before 1996, Tony Dungy's first season as head coach. You wouldn't know that from just looking around Raymond James Stadium or touring the practice facility. But the Glazer family is taking steps this year to finally pay tribute to a past that includes players and coaches worthy of recognition. A Ring of Honor will be established this year, and the team is scheduled to wear its throwback orange, white and red uniforms Nov. 8 against the Packers. The Bucs have retired just one number (Lee Roy Selmon's 63) and the franchise has been largely dismissive of its pre-Glazer past.

Tougher practices

Raheem Morris said he wanted a team that plays with aggression and even violence. To that end, the coach will attempt to create such an atmosphere in practices, which will perhaps be more spirited and certainly more physical. He has tentatively scheduled practices to run twice one day and once the next. That's a departure from the standard two-a-days of the past, but Morris has promised that more of these workouts will be conducted in pads. On a related note, it's unlikely players will be given the amount of leeway they had in recent seasons to skip workouts. With a younger team, there's less reason to make exceptions to keep players fresh. That's an approach that became increasingly common in Jon Gruden's final seasons.

In with the new for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on eve of training camp opening 07/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 6:43am]
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