TAMPA — The Buccaneers wrapped up their first full week of training camp workouts Thursday, and some fans might be surprised to hear who one of the standout players has been.
While most of the talk has been about some of the players working alongside of him on the defensive line, Da’Quan Bowers quietly has made a favorable impression on coach Lovie Smith.
“Da’Quan Bowers has been criticized around here a little bit, but I’ve been pretty pleased with what he’s done on the football field,” Smith said Thursday after the Bucs completed their fourth full-padded workout of camp. “Every day that I’ve been the head coach here with him he’s done some pretty good things, and he’s especially done some good things as a pass rusher inside (on passing downs) and outside on first down.”
Whether it has been due to injuries or poor conditioning, Bowers has struggled to play up to the expectations that were placed on him after he was drafted in the second round (51st overall) out of Clemson in 2011.
GM Jason Licht acknowledged as much before the start of camp, saying Bowers might have to prove he can be an impact player to make the team. So far, Smith said, Bowers has proved to be effectively versatile.
“He could help us quite a bit because, as a general rule, we’ll (dress) three (defensive tackles) and three ends (on game days) and we’ll want our seventh (defensive lineman) to be able to play both inside and out,” Smith said.
“And that’s what you have in Da’Quan. He’s right in between — big enough to rush inside on third downs and a good anchor outside on first down. So he gives us some flexibility. And I know he’s been injured a lot, but he hasn’t missed a beat since I’ve been here.”
Lights, practice, action
An opportunity to get autographs from some of the greatest players in Bucs history will be part of the festivities during tonight’s annual night practice at Raymond James Stadium.
The autograph session featuring players from the franchise’s past will be open to all attendees. However, fans wishing to get autographs of current Bucs players will need an autograph voucher. Vouchers are free and will be distributed through the box office in the South Plaza starting at 4 p.m. They will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit of one per person.
Gates open at 5 p.m. for the practice, which is scheduled to run from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and will include special drills, challenges and competitions, including one-on-one battles.
The autograph sessions begin at 5:15 p.m. and run until 5:45 p.m.
Parking and admission are free, and the team will offer discounted concession prices. A fireworks show will be held after practice.
Nothing more than feelings
Bucs QB Josh McCown turned 35 last month, but he swears he feels the same as he did when he first came into the league as a third-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals 14 years ago.
“I do,” he said. “Of course, every 35-year-old will probably tell you that. But I really don’t feel any different. You have to look at the tape to see, but I feel good and my body feels good, it really does.”
McCown’s health is not the only thing he feels good about. He said he’s also starting to get a feel for what the Bucs can do offensively this season and is excited about the possibilities.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” he said. “We’re just scratching the surface with what we can do and we’re getting to that point in camp now where it’s time to push it a little more, but we feel good about where we’re at.”
One day after a series of scuffles broke out and several big hits were thrown during a practice devoted largely to red zone work, the pace of practice slowed significantly Thursday.
A reduction in 11-on-11 drills was one reason for the diminished intensity level, but Smith said he was still pleased with the outcome of the workout and what the Bucs accomplished.
“Sometimes it’s not your wedding night,” he said. “It’s just a normal day that you go through and that was kind of the case at hand. (There) wasn’t as much false chatter, but we still got good work.
“It’s training camp, and there are going to be some days where you just have to keep grinding it out one play at a time. That was the case (Thursday), but we’ll be sure to pick it back up (today).”