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Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin three-day player-organized minicamp

BRADENTON — Shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman led more than 50 of his teammates onto one of three football practice fields at IMG Academies.

Just over a grassy knoll in one end zone, golfers swung rhythmically on a driving range, and the sound of wooden bats hacking baseballs in a nearby cage filled the air.

Against this busy backdrop, all kinds of players, including 2011 draft choices and veteran free agents, gathered to practice wearing no shoulder pads, no helmets and in some cases no shirts for what can be described only as the ultimate voluntary minicamp.

Some made the hour commute from their homes in Tampa, and others checked in at hotels to be ready for the two-a-day workouts that run through Thursday.

Freeman said he and several other veterans decided to pick up the tab for the IMG training staff, food and accommodations if players could provide their transportation to Bradenton.

"You can see the lockout on everybody's faces, even me," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Everybody looks like lockout. They don't look like themselves. They look like lockout."

To say what took place bared any resemblance to a minicamp that normally would occur at One Buc Place this week if not for the NFL lockout might be a stretch.

But getting that many teammates to forgo vacations and possibly risk injuries to practice on a sweltering day was a testament to the leadership of Freeman, whose voice is being heard well beyond the Bucs' huddle.

"It's a lot, just catching up to guys (to get them to attend)," Freeman said. "They say they'll get back to you, but they don't get back to you, and you've got to call them up. That happens. But I'm just really happy with guys getting here and working out. I'm really happy with the attendance."

Freeman had been working with selected receivers and defensive backs at USF and IMG. But he wanted to simulate a full-squad minicamp and got help organizing the event from McCoy, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie and center Jeff Faine.

Instead of Bucs coaches facilitating the workouts, Freeman enlisted the help of former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, director of the IMG Madden Football Academy, and his staff.

Several rookies attended, including first-round pick Adrian Clayborn, a defensive end from Iowa, and third-round pick Mason Foster, a linebacker from Washington.

McCoy took the lead with the defensive line, working individually with Clayborn. A year ago, McCoy had the benefit of organized team activities, minicamps and film study with coaches, and still struggled to adapt to the NFL until midseason. He said Clayborn's path might be tougher.

"The reason I singled him out is that I had the opportunity to go through (organized team activities) and minicamps and get some extra coaching and actually worked with the D-line coach," McCoy said. "The basics, that's kind of what I wanted to show him.

"This lockout is hurting everybody, mainly the rookies. The vets are fortunate to have played in this league. I only played 12 games, but I played so many snaps, it's like I played a full season. I had that advantage. But those rookies coming in, man, it's going to be rough on."

In the afternoon, the Bucs did some team work and seven-on-seven drills before breaking early to dodge a thunderstorm.

For the Bucs, it was a pretty good start to the season.

"It just says we have a hungry team and going out and winning football games next year is important to all our guys," Freeman said. "As far as I've seen, we have a lot of passionate dudes who made time in their schedule to get out here."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin three-day player-organized minicamp 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:01pm]
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