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Swings, shoves ensue as Bucs crank up intensity a week before preseason opener

Bucs notes | Donovan Smith misses his second practice in a row as the Bucs employ live tackling.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians presided over one of the more intense practices of training camp to date Saturday morning.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians presided over one of the more intense practices of training camp to date Saturday morning. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Aug. 7
Updated Aug. 7

TAMPA — Twelve practices into a sweltering training camp — and seven days before a bona fide contest against another team — the Bucs used live tackling to offset lethargy.

By all indications, it worked Saturday morning before a standing-room-only audience at AdventHealth Training Center.

“Really, really good practice,” said coach Bruce Arians, who presided over some intense goal-line work and even some extra-curricular stuff during the roughly two-hour workout. “Parts of it went a little bit out of hand, but I’d rather say ‘whoa’ than ‘sic ‘em.’”

Quarterback Tom Brady, center, warms up during training camp on Saturday.
Quarterback Tom Brady, center, warms up during training camp on Saturday. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

The initial scuffle occurred during special teams work, when linebackers Ladarius Hamilton and Elijah Ponder — both vying for a roster or practice-squad spot — got into it briefly.

In 11-on-11 work, veteran tailback Giovani Bernard set the tone early by taking a Tom Brady swing pass for a big gain down the left side. More shoves surfaced later when tailback Leonard Fournette’s helmet came off during a goal-line play.

Some big hits in the secondary, including a Ross Cockrell shot on rookie Jaelon Darden, elicited spectator roars.

“I just think it was a little intense having our first live period really, and short-yardage and goal-line are pretty two intense periods,” right tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “But I thought it was awesome, the energy kind of ramped up. Gio had that first down and that kind of sparked everything, so that was a lot of fun.”

Donovan Smith still absent

Seventh-year tackle Donovan Smith missed his second straight practice for what Arians called “personal reasons.” Veteran Josh Wells, also in his seventh season, lined up with the first team in Smith’s absence.

A timetable for Smith’s return isn’t clear; the Bucs have Sunday off.

Veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh also was absent, presumably for a maintenance day. Third-round pick Robert Hainsey, who has been taking reps primarily at center, missed his fourth consecutive practice with an unspecified ailment. Arians said Friday that Hainsey is day-to-day.

Others still sidelined (for unspecified reasons) included tight end Cameron Brate, receiver Cyril Grayson, linebackers Cam Gill and Quinton Bell, and receiver John Franklin III.

Solid day for Succop

Veteran kicker Ryan Succop, who has struggled mightily with his consistency so far in camp, had one of his better efforts during a live special-teams period Saturday.

Succop, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal in March, hit six of seven tries between 24 and 36 yards. His only miss was a block by Jamel Dean.

“I think going full speed, it’s real, you’ve got to speed up, you’ve got to hit it,” Arians said. “And I think that put him back in a good tempo.”

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Though the Bengals come to Raymond James Stadium next Saturday for the preseason opener, Arians said the Bucs won’t employ a typical game-week approach. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be normal training-camp workouts, with coaches introducing some of Cincinnati’s base packages for the benefit of the younger players. ... Receiver Mike Evans, who beat safety Antoine Winfield Jr. for a short touchdown catch from Brady in the right corner of the end zone, said he feels like he’s having his best camp so far. “Dealing with the heat, getting more reps, I feel like I’m in better shape,” he said. “Feel like I’m learning a lot more.” ... Sixth-round draft pick Chris Wilcox, a cornerback from BYU, practiced for at least the second day in a row after missing the first part of camp with a hamstring issue.

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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