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Coach Koetter thinks morning practices will keep Bucs fresher

Quarterback Jameis Winston warms up for the Bucs, who have gone 3-21 in December and January games over the past five years.
Quarterback Jameis Winston warms up for the Bucs, who have gone 3-21 in December and January games over the past five years.
Published May 25, 2016

TAMPA — Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was an assistant in Jacksonville and Atlanta before coming to Tampa Bay, so he's no stranger to the summer heat. He's also not a huge fan of the effect it has on preparing football teams.

That's why Koetter has decided the Bucs will have morning practices through the final preseason game, hoping the cooler temperatures will keep his team fresh throughout the season.

"All the way up until the fourth preseason game, we're going to practice in the morning," Koetter said.

"We did a little study, and in August when we're out here, it's on average 11 degrees cooler at 8:45 than it is at 2:45. I did quick Idaho State math and said, 'Geez, 11 degrees cooler! Why won't we practice in the morning?' "

This represents a departure from the past two seasons under Lovie Smith, who believed the team should practice in the midday since games are typically around 1 p.m. But Koetter believes practicing in the heat — and the resulting dehydration — has a cumulative effect during the season.

"Last 10 years I've been coaching in the South, and I really do believe there's a cumulative effect over the course of the season, from August until the end of the year," Koetter said. "When you're out here, even if it's for walk-through and it's 12, 1, 2 (p.m.) and it's 95 degrees and the sun's beating on you. I just think there's a cumulative effect, and we're going to try to do everything we can to chip away at that."

Koetter may have a point. Over the past five years, the Bucs are 3-21 in December and January games, as opposed to 20-36 in games played before December.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy said he welcomes the change but isn't sure that heat will cooperate.

"I feel like the weather has a personality and it knows when we practice," McCoy said. "The heat is always there. It's like, 'We're going to practice in the morning, guys.' Great. And the temperature is like going to be 175 (degrees).

"It's great and I'm excited about it because I'm one of those guys, I prefer to get the practice out of the way and then have the rest of the day instead of sitting around waiting to die. Just kill me now."

STANDING UP FOR AGUAYO: There has been a lot of criticism of the Bucs' decision to use a second-round draft pick on K Roberto Aguayo. But QB Jameis Winston said his former Florida State teammate will "shut them up."

"Opinions are always going to be out there. I'm just happy to have Roberto on this team," Winston said Tuesday. "Just like a lot of people had opinions about me when I first came out and first started the season. Like Roberto is going to do, he's going to shut them up."

Aguayo is the most accurate placekicker in NCAA history, and Winston knows first hand the value he will bring to the team as a rookie. What is Aguayo's best attribute?

"Other than he's automatic, he's competitive as well," Winston said. "He's always having fun out there. He has a different swagger for a kicker. He's always focused, but he likes to have fun doing it."

BUCS SAY GO BOLTS: Bucs players have been regular guests at Amalie Arena pulling for the Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And now Koetter said he's pulling hard for the Lightning as it tries to close out the Penguins and advance to a second straight Stanley Cup final.

Tampa Bay had a 3-2 lead in the East final going into Tuesday night's game.

"Are you kidding me? This town's on fire for the Lightning," Koetter said. "Got the whole town excited. You can't go anywhere without seeing those blue shirts, blue hats, blue banners. We're rooting for them 100 percent. Go Lightning!

"Shoot, I'm jealous as hell. I'm extremely jealous of what they've got going," he said. "That certainly gives us something to work for."

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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