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Bucs players will return to team facilities later than anticipated

Players will not report until training camp on July 21, head coach Bruce Arians said.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, pictured during training camp in July at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, pictured during training camp in July at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa. [ MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jun. 4, 2020|Updated Jun. 4, 2020

In Bruce Arians’ first widespread media availability since the NFL draft, the Bucs head coach on Thursday offered an update on when players can return to team facilities. However, that date will be much later than in past seasons and is further away than originally anticipated.

Arians also outlined dates for the start of training camp, as well as rookie and quarterback school, which are still more than a month away.

Training camp to open a week earlier than last season

Training camp will start July 21, and, according to Arians, that may be the first time Tom Brady and Co. officially report to the AdventHealth Training Center.

The Bucs began camp in 2019 on July 26. This season’s start date comes a week earlier, following an offseason that did not allow for official team workouts in any capacity.

Last season, 15 practices were open to fans. Arians said he seriously doubts that any will be open to those unaffiliated with the team this year due to health concerns related to the coronavirus. While public viewing is likely nixed, Arians hopes for additional days with his team to make up for lost time.

“Hopefully there’s some extra time in practice, in camp, a few extra days would help,” he said, adding that’s “still in the works.”

The Bucs were planning for practices with the Titans and Jaguars, Arians said, but the NFL shut down joint practices.

The team likely will have quarterback school or rookie school begin on July 15, Arians said, a week ahead of an already early training camp.

‘We’re missing 400 reps’

Arians lamented missed time that he doesn’t think can truly be made up.

With no spring practice, Arians said the team has missed 400 reps and younger players will have a lot of catching up to do when July 21 rolls around.

“We’ve got some guys who I think will have critical roles for us that haven’t even been on the field or in a meeting yet,” he said.

One of those players is rookie left tackle Tristan Wirfs, who the Bucs traded up to take in the first round of the draft in April.

That’s where the extra days or practice would come in.

“There’s nothing you can do virtually to make up on-field repetitions,” Arians said. “Walk-throughs and practices are really how our guys learn today.”

Zoom meetings are Arians’ method of teaching for the time being, but they’re far from his preference. In his past 15 years of teaching, Arians said he’s seen attention spans are not what they used to be and only go so far on a computer.

“Walking through in practice is the best way to teach,” he said. “So those are invaluable minutes and reps missed.”

Arians all-in on Brady’s early-morning workouts

Since Brady signed with the Bucs in March, he’s been spotted around Tampa working out with his new teammates. Since he’s unable to develop chemistry with the players he’ll be taking snaps from, throwing passes to and handing the ball off to at the Buccaneers facility, he’s been finding other places to work.

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“I love it,” Arians said. “It’s exactly what he is and who he is.”

Some of the known players Brady has been working out with include receivers Mike Evans and Scotty Miller, quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Arians said players are helping Brady learn what the team does over Zoom, and then they’re able to take that out onto the field. He called it “great team-building for what we can in these times.”

“I applaud him for starting it, and more and more guys are joining in,” Arians said.

Special teams improvement a focus

Arians acknowledged special teams is an area where the Bucs can improve, and they’ll have a tough opening test in that department in the Sept. 13 opener against the Saints.

“That’s one of the areas I’m really concerned with missing practice because of the few reps they’re going to get,” he said.

Arians praised Bradley Pinion’s punting last season and said kicker Matt Gay was off to a good start before hitting the “rookie wall” in November. He said there will be competition in camp for the starting kicker position between Gay and Elliot Fry, who was claimed off waivers in May.

Special teams is where Arians said he would be looking to potentially add veterans, specifically players who he can plug in different positions on defense.

Contact Kyle Wood at kwood@tampabay.com. Follow @Kkylewood.

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