The Bucs coach wants to improve sharpness in the wake of a scrimmage loss to Miami.
In the first address of his team during training camp, Bucs coach Tony Dungy told his players the elevator rides had to stop. He was tired of the way they changed directions from game to game.
After Saturday's scrimmage against the Miami Dolphins, Dungy is the one still looking for the right buttons to push.
"We just weren't sharp enough and we've got to be sharper if we're going to be different than we were last year," Dungy said. "We need confidence that we're going to come out in the first game and play well, so there's not going to be any doubts when we go out to play the Giants, what we can do."
The Bucs were beaten by the Dolphins 15-6 in the controlled scrimmage at the Orange Bowl. They also might have lost some confidence.
Quarterback Trent Dilfer threw three interceptions and failed to move the first-team offense across midfield until third and final possession. Meanwhile, the No. 1 defense missed tackles and allowed the Dolphins to score on the ground as rookie Cecil Collins had 5.5 yards per carry (4 for 22 yards, TD).
"Now we've had the scrimmage that wasn't good and that's kind of been our M.O. over the years _ seven or eight good days in a row and then a couple bad ones," Dungy said. "We've got to continue to work on that and see if we can develop a little more mental toughness.
"If you go out there three or four times during the season and don't perform, you don't know which day it's going to be where it ends up hurting you. Where after Game 16, you're flying home hoping someone else wins. So we've got to eliminate that."
The Bucs were without several key starters over the weekend. Running backs Mike Alstott (ankle) and Warrick Dunn (tendinitis) were held out of the scrimmage and the Bucs had just 1.7 yards per carry (13 for 22 yards). Bert Emanuel did not make the trip because of a concussion last week, although the Bucs receivers were among the few bright spots.
The defense also struggled. Chidi Ahanotu sprained his hip in Friday's workout. Warren Sapp had to leave the scrimmage with a sprained left wrist.
But Dungy thought the biggest thing missing for the Bucs on Saturday was intensity.
"I thought Miami picked up the pace and we really didn't. That was the disturbing thing," he said.
"There were a lot of missed tackles on defense, a lot of missed calls, guys lining up in the wrong spots. We didn't run the ball very well offensively. Miami played us that way and made it tough, but we've got to be able to make yards and run the football. We can't turn the ball over three times. We had some errors on special teams from veteran guys who really shouldn't have those kinds of errors. And we missed some field goals. Just overall sharpness is what we need to get better at."
Normally, NFL coaches don't put much pressure on their teams to excel in preseason. But since Dungy arrived, the Bucs have never finished with a winning record in preseason games.
"That was kind of our challenge coming in. The two things we really haven't done since we've been here is have a good preseason and we haven't had a good middle five-game (regular-season) stretch," Dungy said. "We started out 5-0 one year and basically all three years, we finished pretty strong. But we've not played a good preseason and that's something we want to do."
Like the Bucs, Dilfer has been a slow starter. Last year, he completed just 1 of 12 passes for 10 yards in the preseason opener at Miami. Saturday, he went 7-for-13 for 78 yards, but his three INTs irked Dungy.
"Actually, it was really two bad throws," Dungy said. "The third one, I guess you could call it a really good defensive play. But it was two poor throws, though, and those are the things we have to eliminate."
Dungy said the Bucs expect to get all their injured players _ Dunn, Alstott, Emanuel, Sapp and Ahanotu _ back by midweek. The Bucs begin the preseason by hosting the Cleveland Browns Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. By then, Dungy said, his team needs to be on the upswing.
"We'll go into Saturday with a little pressure on us wanting to play well," he said. "We've got to learn some way to be able to play well week in and week out. We've got to put pressure on ourselves to do it whether it's a scrimmage, whether it's a preseason game, whether it's a practice. Whatever it is, you've got to go out and do your job. And it wasn't just Trent."