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Bucs coach Todd Bowles admonishes team for not staying mentally focused in the heat

It’s hot. Really hot. Bowles likes his players’ effort, but their attention to detail is lacking.
Todd Bowles spoke to his team about the need for increased mental toughness following Day 6 of training camp.
Todd Bowles spoke to his team about the need for increased mental toughness following Day 6 of training camp. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 2|Updated Aug. 2

TAMPA ― Following an extraordinarily hot practice Tuesday, with little breeze or cloud cover and a heat index of 101 degrees, Todd Bowles addressed his team about a possible lack of mental toughness.

The Bucs’ new head coach is running a very tough, competitive training camp, pitting the starting offense against the starting defense.

While the effort has been good, Bowles said, the execution has been lacking.

“It started out good. Obviously, the heat index got up there a little bit, so we took long water breaks,” Bowles said following practice. “The effort is there, we’ve just got to make sure the mental toughness is there.

“It won’t always be this hot early in training camp. It’s going to be training camp no matter what. But the effort is there. We’ve just got to iron out the kinks to be expected early in training camp.”

Most of the starting offense, including quarterback Tom Brady, made use of a cool-down tent during the special teams portion of practice to lower their body temperature.

A year ago, then-coach Bruce Arians would have the entire team take time to cool down during practice inside the Bucs’ indoor facility.

Since starting training camp on July 27, the Bucs have practiced exclusively outdoors so that they could become acclimated to the heat. But Bowles said that may change.

“We’ll probably have some (practices) inside,” Bowles said. “We had some we talked about wanting to go inside ... But just getting them out here early, getting them used to the pads and getting used to the heat and getting some extra conditioning was important.”

Toward the end of Tuesday’s practice, right tackle Tristan Wirfs was forced to leave due to cramping, but his condition is not considered serious.

Winfield emphasizes versatility

New wide receiver Russell Gage has been called a nearly unguardable target to start camp. Antoine Winfield Jr. has witnessed it first-hand covering him in the slot, including some receiver moves Winfield said he has never seen before.

The third-year safety has used his matchups with Gage and the other receivers from a deep position room to help strengthen his versatility, filling in different coverage spots as the Bucs navigate their safety depth. Winfield has been joined by offseason signings Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, while Mike Edwards enters his fourth season. The Bucs have one safety spot to fill after Jordan Whitehead signed with the Jets, but flexibility with slot coverage might help three of them reach the field at once.

“Going against those guys, I mean, you’re competing against the best,” Winfield said. “So it just helps my game.”

Bowles said Friday that one of Winfield’s improvements stems from understanding where his help is now. The playmaking and the hits always will be present, Bowles said, but Winfield’s latest evolution has helped him take advantage of those situations even more.

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Odds and ends

Running back Giovani Bernard, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and outside linebacker JoJo Ozougwu — a rookie undrafted free agent from Arkansas State — didn’t practice Tuesday. Perriman was injured during a passing drill Monday and didn’t return to that session … When Wirfs left, Josh Wells replaced him at right tackle. … Kicker Ryan Succop again went 7-for-7 on field goals.

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