TAMPA — Optimism reigns this time of year in the NFL. Every team, be it a defending division champion or a cellar dweller, believes it has a chance to do something special.
The Buccaneers are no different. But what makes the Bucs different from some teams, quarterback Josh McCown says, is their ability to deal with the adversity that is sure to follow.
“Adversity is coming,'' McCown said, rather prophetically, after he reported for the start of training camp. “It just does. And it's how you handle that adversity that really is the measure of your team.''
Less than three days into camp, the Bucs' ability to deal with adversity is being challenged. Left guard Carl Nicks' decision to walk away from the game and a first day of workouts all but lost to weather concerns put their resilience to the test.
Already, the Bucs appear to be rolling with the punches. Several players said in the wake of Friday's washed-out workout that they were impressed with coach Lovie Smith's ability to turn a negative into a positive.
“He came into the locker room and said, 'When we play Carolina (at 4:25 p.m. on opening day at Raymond James Stadium), there might be a rain delay or there might be a lightning delay,' ” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
“And if there is, he said we're going to wait it out and then go back out there and play and so this was preparing us for that. And that's his mindset and I think the guys really responded well to it.''
The response of Nicks' sudden, though not completely unexpected, decision was similar. Offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who will get a chance to start at guard, said the Bucs should have no problem adjusting to Nicks' loss.
So does McCown. And he pointed to players such as McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David as two of the reasons he's optimistic about the Bucs' ability to plow through adversity and succeed.
Both excelled last year, McCoy earning his second straight Pro Bowl nod, while David was named All-Pro. And they did so amid a torrent of adversity in which the Bucs struggled to an 0-8 start before finishing 4-12.
“That's what I like about the guys in our locker room,'' McCown said. “I feel like we have people that can handle those bumps and really stick together. And that is the key. So we are really optimistic right now.
“We have guys on both sides of the ball that are good players and good people and they lead and that's what you have to have. You have to have guys in the locker room who can stay the ship and be a calm voice and I feel like we have a number of those guys.”
Rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins spent a lot of his down time in the weeks before the start of training camp poring over the playbook. He had little choice in the matter.
Due to an NFL rule that prohibits rookies from joining their new team until classes let out for the summer, Seferian-Jenkins was forced to miss all of the Bucs' offseason workouts.
That put him well behind his teammates in his attempt to learn coordinator Jeff Tedford's scheme and it also put him at a slight disadvantage physically.
Smith is confident, though, that Seferian-Jenkins can get into proper shape and learn the playbook well enough to be a contributor from the start of the season.
“He's behind a lot, but he's catching up,'' Smith said. “He's an intelligent man, so he'll be able to do it. As much as anything, we wanted to get him healthy (after offseason foot surgery) and he is that.''