Buccaneers players reported to work at One Buc around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
The wakeup call went out early -- and maybe it's a symbol for the season. This is a franchise that seems to have woken up after repeatedly hitting the snooze button last year.
Remember under Raheem Morris this team finished the season 4-12, losing their last 10 games. Out goes Morris and in comes Greg Schiano, who in six months seems to have changed the culture at One Buc.
The team has made a big plunge in free agency, spending over $100 million to get wide receiver Vincent Jackson, offensive lineman Carl Nix and cornerback Eric Wright.
This morning Eric LeGrand retired from the Buccaneers to make room for a roster spot at the start of training camp. He was signed by the Bucs on May 2, and his jersey sales will benefit his foundation.
"Making it to the NFL was my dream. But now I want to see my team as strong as possible at the start of training camp," LeGrand said. "I'm a Buc for life."
Honestly, it's just another reason why Eric has so many people pulling for him. LeGrand was honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2012 ESPYs, as well as Spike TV's 2012 Guysman of the Year Award.
This fall he has two books coming out. The first is a personal memoir titled, "Believe: My Faith And The Tackle That Changed My Life," and a young readers' version, "Believe: The Victorious Story Of Eric LeGrand."
Training camp will be physical -- as Schiano says, football is a game of blocking and tackling.
The new CBA rules limit full-speed practices to just one a day, so the grueling grind of two-a-day full pads in high heat is gone, but the camp will still be physically demanding.
Schiano wants to see which players hit camp ready to go. He wants to know which ones faithfully followed the workout routine and are ready to make an impact.
The first practice is Friday at 8:45, and it's free and open to the public.
In years past, the Bucs had fans go through a ticket process to get in. Now, it's first come, first serve, and there are not many chances this year to see the team in person. Only nine of the practices from tomorrow through the end of training camp, which ends August 16, are open to the public.
The toughest competition will be at wide receiver and running back.
At wide receiver, there's a log jam of players fighting for five and six spots. At running back, LeGarrette Blount is working to hold onto his starting spot, while first round pick Doug Martin is out to show that he can be the every down back.
There are all kinds of questions swirling around this team for training camp: What kind of a year will quarterback Josh Freeman have? Can this young defense behind draft picks like Lavonte David deliver defensively?
The clock starts now. The first game is closer than you think.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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