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Vernon Hargreaves, Brent Grimes anchor Bucs secondary

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves participates in the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves participates in the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
Published Jun. 14, 2017

TAMPA — On the surface, they couldn't be more different. One's a 33-year-old, 10-year veteran who cut his teeth in Europe after going undrafted. The other's a 22-year-old, second-year pro picked 11th overall.

But cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves have excelled in Bucs minicamp.

Hargreaves picked off quarterback Jameis Winston in the red zone Tuesday, and Grimes nearly made a leaping interception during a drill Wednesday. Lining up against formidable foes in wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, the cornerback tandem has made play after play at One Buc Place.

In his sophomore season, Hargreaves said he's adjusted better to the NFL's pace and talent level.

"(I'm) getting used to this game speed — better receivers, better players, better quarterbacks — so now I'm a little more comfortable," he said. "The more comfortable I get, the better I'll play, the faster I'll play, the less thinking I'll do."

Grimes, meanwhile, is "just a smart football player," said coach Dirk Koetter, adding that he'll sometimes pick Grimes' brain about what the cornerback sees on the field.

"He gets football," Koetter said. "That's a good guy for Vernon to be learning from."

Last season, the Bucs surrendered 250.8 passing yards per game, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. The team tied for fourth, however, with 17 interceptions. Grimes contributed four of those and led the league with 24 passes defended, while Hargreaves picked off one pass and broke up nine.

"Some of the things that (Grimes) does, you can't duplicate because only he can do those things," Hargreaves said. "(I'm) just picking up on the little things that he does."

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves participates in the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buc Place in Tampa on Wednesday.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves participates in the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buc Place in Tampa on Wednesday.

Hot and cold

When asked about his impressions of the minicamp, Koetter's first response was, "How hot it was."

The temperatures hit 90 at One Buc, after a muggy practice Tuesday. That's not uncommon in the NFC South, though, and Koetter said getting work in the heat and humidity is "probably good for us."

Later in the year, his team could face weather on the other end of the spectrum. On Oct. 22, the Bucs travel to New Era Field to face the Buffalo Bills. And on Dec. 3, they have a date with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, which has hosted some notoriously frigid games in its 60-year history.

Koetter joked that when the Bucs' indoor practice facility is complete in September, "we're going to crank that air conditioning up to about 30 (degrees)." But, he admitted, the cold is "tough to prepare for."

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"We wanted to practice in the rain a couple times last week, we did. Practicing in the heat — no problem," he said. "We're not going to be able to duplicate (playing) in the cold."

Before becoming Tampa Bay head coach in 2016, Koetter worked nine years as the offensive coordinator for the Bucs, Falcons and Jaguars. In his experience, players in warm cities don't dread the cold, he said.

"Southern teams, when you play that one or two games a year (in the cold), your players actually look forward to it because it's something different," he said. "I don't think it will be a major problem."

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buc Place in Tampa on Wednesday.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buc Place in Tampa on Wednesday.

Other observations

Cornerback Javien Elliott picked off quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the goal line during a red zone drill, but he couldn't catch up to a couple of underthrown balls later in the day. … Taking punt returns during drills, cornerback Ryan Smith stood out, with immediate acceleration and quick cuts. … Quarterback Ryan Griffin's first pass of the day was a gorgeous deep ball to receiver Donteea Dye; after that, he was inconsistent, with numerous overthrows mixed in.