TAMPA — A day after dropping an assortment of passes, the Bucs collectively appeared ready to drop the gloves.
Several times in their joint practice Thursday morning with the Titans, they darn near did.
The triple-digit heat index, the sight of a team in an opposing jersey, and the fresh memory of a less-than-stellar practice 24 hours earlier conspired to create a series of skirmishes between the teams in their final workout together at AdventHealth Training Center.
“It’s hot, it’s intense and we’re just competitors,” third-year cornerback Jamel Dean said. “That’s just part of the game.”
The most notable scuffle involved Bucs receiver Antonio Brown, who briefly exited practice after an altercation with Tennessee’s Chris Jackson during a passing drill pitting receivers against defensive backs.
After Brown appeared to get held in the end zone on an incompletion, he mouthed at Jackson, “Don’t hold me out here.” Jackson retorted, “Don’t push me in my face.”
The two then stood helmet to helmet before shoving ensued, with Brown ripping off Jackson’s helmet before coaches and teammates separated the two. Brown returned following an apparent cool-down period.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who said days before that he and Titans counterpart Mike Vrabel would condone no fighting during the joint sessions, said he observed none Thursday.
“Fighting? I didn’t see any fighting,” said Arians, adding Brown would face no punishment. “A lot of pushing and shoving, but I didn’t see any fists. ... Waving flies.”
Other scrums included a pileup on a field farthest from the audience of roughly 1,000, and featured Bucs inside linebacker Devin White appear to take down a Titan suplex-style. Elsewhere, Bucs tailback Leonard Fournette and center Ryan Jensen mixed it up with Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons after a Fournette run play.
“I was just trying help one of my brothers,” White said. “I just saw one of my brothers getting tossed around, so I just tried to help him, that’s all.”
When the extra-curricular stuff subsided, the Bucs offense appeared sharper than Wednesday, when it suffered a sequence of dropped passes. The defense also won the day, at least according to Vrabel.
“From what I saw, we didn’t do well offensively,” Vrabel told reporters afterward. “I don’t think we competed like we did (Wednesday).”
Bucs highlights included at least two downfield connections between Tom Brady and Mike Evans. Brady also began a seven-on-seven session with a deep scoring throw to Rob Gronkowski set up by a Tennessee busted coverage.
Defensively, Lavonte David had an interception in the end zone late in practice.
“We came back a little bit more and made the plays we’re used to seeing every single day,” said Arians, whose team will face the Titans (minus most of the starters, who aren’t scheduled to play) in its second preseason contest Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“It was spirited, it was a great practice. I really appreciate the Titans for coming down and helping us get better, and hopefully we made them better.”
Gabbert to start Saturday
Arians, who hopes to hold out all his starters if possible Saturday night, confirmed backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start against the Titans. He wouldn’t commit to rookie Kyle Trask or veteran Ryan Griffin as the second quarterback to go in.
Arians indicated his starters logged all the quality reps needed for one preseason week in the pair of joint practices with the Titans. However, some projected periodic starters, such as new running back Giovani Bernard, could play Saturday.
“(Bernard) will play a little bit Saturday night just to continue to grow in this offense, but not much,” Arians added.
“Some of those guys that got a lot of reps (Wednesday and Thursday) are going to have to play in this game, but they’re fighting for jobs, so they don’t mind playing.”
The Bucs’ signing of former Seminole High star Brandon Walton gives them eight available offensive linemen (not counting starters) for Saturday’s game. If Walton or fellow recent signee Jake Benzinger are needed for the contest, Arians said the team will condense its packages to simplify things. Walton, an All-Conference USA selection at Florida Atlantic, suited up for his first practice Thursday. ... Kicker Ryan Succop went 4-for-7 on field goals during the final special teams session Thursday, missing his final two from roughly 50 yards.
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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