TAMPA — The Bucs open a mandatory three-day minicamp today, and though coaches hope to answer a few lingering roster questions, they will not solve the team's biggest quandary: who is going to play quarterback.
That will come later, during training camp at the earliest. So what's to be gained from a few mandatory two-a-day workouts after weeks of voluntary ones?
Basically, this week is a checkpoint in months of overhaul dating to January's abrupt appointment of Raheem Morris as head coach. Everything that has followed has been a whirlwind, but now it all needs to come together.
"We're really just asking (players) to put everything together that they've learned over the last 14 (voluntary) sessions and really kind of get a good feel" for the team, general manager Mark Dominik said. "What we started with in Raheem's first minicamp to what we have now with this mandatory minicamp, we're just looking forward to watching the growth."
Coaches have been hired, star players have been released, new ones have been signed and new schemes have been implemented. It has been an offseason like few others in team history when you consider its Super Bowl-winning coach was fired (Jon Gruden) and arguably the franchise's greatest player (Derrick Brooks) was let go.
The team is younger and its identity is different. This week is about fine tuning.
"We spend a lot of time upstairs watching film," Dominik said. "It's not just what they do down here (on the field) for two hours. We're looking forward to putting that all together and getting the right 80 guys to camp and going from there."
This week is intriguing for other reasons, too. For one, coaches hope to see the team in its entirety. Attendance was relatively good for voluntary workouts, with sporadic absences most days. But there were notable absences for all 14 sessions: starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and starting left guard Arron Sears. Also absent was backup quarterback Brian Griese.
Ruud hasn't stated whether he'll attend today, but his absence to this point is related to his lack of a new contract. The team's leading tackler and the soul of its defense is entering the final year of his rookie contract and has little leverage. Still, the Bucs know they need Ruud on a defense that suddenly lacks experience. Should Ruud skip the minicamp, the team can fine him up to $8,000 under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
Sears' situation is murky given the lack of details beyond the team's stance that he is dealing with a personal situation. Dominik has raised the possibility of excusing his potential absence, but had not as of last week.
Griese, meanwhile, is dismayed at his situation. He presumably was pushed aside by the decision to draft Josh Freeman in the first round, but languishes on the roster two months later.
Of course, minicamp will not come and go without some discussion at quarterback. Veterans Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown are in a race for the starting job and likely will keep the seat warm for Freeman in 2010. Morris has said he won't make a ruling until they've played in preseason games.
But there still is something to be gained during this camp.
"You're in shorts (during the voluntary workouts)," Leftwich said. "Anybody can play football when you're in shorts and helmets. (A reporter) could probably go out there and throw the ball in a helmet and shorts.
"Nobody can win the job in (organized team activities). You can only open people's eyes up to what you are as a player, especially me in my first year (in Tampa). I can only open people's eyes who've never seen me before (and) who have never coached me before."
Overall, the minicamp's goals are modest, yet important.
"We'll have a chance to come in and re-hit some things, go back to a little fundamentals, get more teaching done," Morris said. "Then once we get to training camp we'll have all that stuff we talked about, all our core beliefs, and be ready to go."
Bucs look at veteran WRs
Former Ram Drew Bennett will be among veteran receivers who will work out for the Bucs today.
The team also plans to work out former Seahawks and Panthers receiver D.J. Hackett.
Bennett, 30, spent the past two seasons with the Rams but broke his foot on the fourth play of 2008. The 6-foot-5, 196-pounder missed five games in the previous four seasons.
Before signing with the Rams, he played six seasons with Tennessee. From 2004-06, Bennett averaged 61 catches for 907 yards and six touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Hackett, 27, played nine games for the Panthers last season, with two starts. He had 13 receptions for 181 yards.
Bennett came to the Rams in 2007 after signing a six-year, $30 million deal but had just 34 receptions in two seasons in St. Louis. He also has visited Cleveland and Atlanta this offseason.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.