TAMPA ― It’s only a couple days into training camp, but you already can see the impact the coronavirus could have on the Bucs and one of their position groups.
Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead, the Bucs’ starting safeties, have missed practices after testing positive for COVID-19.
In Winfield’s case, he tested positive Sunday and did not practice Monday. But a subsequent negative test may prove his return to practice soon.
“Antoine tested positive, but today he tested negative, so we think it’s a false positive,” coach Bruce Arians said. “That’s the problem right now with these false positives, they’re missing two days. A couple of them are safeties, so we’ll just wait and see.”
As a result, the Bucs have been pretty thin at the safety position, with cornerback Ross Cockrell moving there during practice Sunday and Monday.
Winfield Jr. attended the celebration at the White House last Tuesday and the Bucs’ ring ceremony Thursday night, but Whitehead did not.
Players are still in the process of deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. The NFL has kept in place some strict protocols for unvaccinated players.
On Sunday, running back Leonard Fournette said he was not vaccinated but gathering more information on it. Linebacker Lavonte David would not reveal whether he had the COVID-19 vaccine or not.
“I wouldn’t have no big take on it,” David said when asked whether he had been vaccinated. “This is what the league requires. Some people have their different beliefs, some people don’t. Some people go by it, some people don’t go by it. Me? I’m just out here trying to be a leader, the best that I can as far as playing football and stuff like that. I can’t get into what people believe and what they don’t believe.
“I’m here. I’m here, and I’m ready to practice and stuff like that. I’m doing what I want from my standpoint.”
The heat wins
With temperatures in the 90s and humidity at 60 percent, it has felt like 100 degrees during the second half of practice the first two days of camp.
Arians says he has not been pleased with the final 30 minutes of either workout Sunday or Monday.
“I think our guys right now are giving into the heat,” Arians said. “We’ve got to get in shape. I’m not really pleased with the last 30 minutes of either practice so far. I love the fact that it gets really, really hot in the second half and in games, too. Especially here.”
“It’s something we’ve got to get better-adjusted to as we get going and making plays when we’re tired. We dropped too many passes. We gave up too many plays in the second half of practice. The first half of practice is outstanding. But the second half is not very good.”
The heat is always a big hurdle, especially early in camp and for players coming to Tampa Bay from cooler climates.
David, who is from Miami, says even he has to adjust to it entering his 10th NFL season.
“Even for me, you can’t get used to this Florida heat,” he said. “It’s different, especially if you’re from further up north, but you’ve just got to grind through it. You’ve got to find your second wind somewhere at practice and just grind though and push through it and you’ll get used to it pretty fast for the most part and stay hydrated.it.”
Few mental mistakes for young players
The Bucs are essentially holding practice on two fields simultaneously. On one field are the starters and key backups. On the other are rookies, young players and guys still trying to find a spot on the roster.
Arians said he watched tape of Sunday’s practice on field two and came away impressed.
“I was shocked. Their mental errors, especially defensively, was the shortest we’ve ever had, even with our starters,” Arians said. “So they obviously did a hell of a lot of homework even when they were gone. Even the offense, we had two penalties and the guy just got here Saturday morning. He didn’t even know the snap count. That field executed better than the other field.”
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.