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Tampa Bay Buccaneers put on pads for first time Sunday

Relax, Bucs fans, he’s okay: Trainers check on Mike Williams during practice. The third-year receiver leaves the field on a cart, but it turns out it’s not another training camp injury. Instead, it’s heat-related.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Relax, Bucs fans, he’s okay: Trainers check on Mike Williams during practice. The third-year receiver leaves the field on a cart, but it turns out it’s not another training camp injury. Instead, it’s heat-related.

TAMPA — Greg Schiano has spoken repeatedly about his intent to field an especially physical team. That can't be accomplished with words, but with actions.

And the action begins today, when the first-year Bucs coach puts his team in pads for the first time and turns his players loose.

It's unclear how often the team will conduct padded practices during training camp, but Schiano intends to maximize the opportunity. The collective bargaining agreement restricts the number of padded practices during the season to 14, so the toughness Schiano seeks must be developed now.

"We play the game with pads on," he said. "We'll have as many opportunities in pads in preseason as we will the entire season. So this is our time to lay the foundation of what we're going to be."

Position battles such as defensive line and linebacker, coaches say, can't be fairly assessed without the full contact that padded practices provide. Players have bought into the need to be physical, especially after an offseason of virtual touch football. (Contact is prohibited in offseason workouts).

"It's football," DT Gerald McCoy said. "That's what we get paid to do. That's what we're here for."

Said C Jeremy Zuttah: "It's just a whole different day (with pads). Once the pads come on, there's no excuses. It's just football, and that's what we all look forward to doing."

INJURY FALLOUT: The team already is coping with its share of injuries. Now it turns out CB E.J. Biggers' foot injury is serious.

He was hurt in a collision at Friday's practice, and Schiano said only that the fourth-year player will miss "more than two weeks." ESPN.com reported Biggers broke a bone in his left foot, though Schiano declined to be specific.

The cornerback corps becomes quite young after Biggers, the team's nickelback the past two seasons.

Second-year player Anthony Gaitor, a seventh-round pick in 2011, could play a more prominent role. Myron Lewis, a third-round pick, has struggled during his first two seasons and has, perhaps, been passed by Gaitor. Beyond them, there's almost no experience.

"I feel like I'm ready, but you can always get better," Gaitor said. "You have to be ready to step up when a guy goes down."

Said Schiano: "Anthony Gaitor is doing better every day. We'll bring some guys in, and we already have to bolster some things. But we'll just keep moving forward. My whole thing when guys go down is to help them get better but to keep our focus on the guys who are going to play.

"If you're a first-teamer, then you step up. If you're a second-teamer, then step up when you have your opportunity."

The teams already has lost LT Donald Penn (strained calf) and WR Arrelious Benn (sprained right knee ligament) for several weeks.

BRISCOE SPEAKS: Waived by the Bucs on Thursday and claimed by the Redskins on Friday, WR Dez Briscoe told Washington reporters his failure to attend some voluntary offseason workouts and inability to pass Tampa Bay's conditioning test loomed large in his departure.

"I had a bunch of personal stuff going on," he said of why he missed workouts. "The conditioning test, everyone didn't pass. I feel like that was a big reason why (I was waived).

"It stuck out with me not passing because I wasn't there at the offseason training, so they made it seem like I was out of condition, which I'm not. I have to take advantage of the opportunity now."

Briscoe, who is reunited with former Bucs coach Raheem Morris (now the Redskins' defensive backs coach), called Schiano "a good guy, a real good coach." But Briscoe said the rookie coach and his staff "pretty much handpicked their guys."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers put on pads for first time Sunday 07/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 9:18pm]
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