The pads returned Monday — and so did the intensity.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers players donned pads on the fourth day of training camp during a public practice that featured some spirited hitting.
"Everybody can rush the passer with only jerseys on,'' said Bucs rookie DE Adrian Clayborn, "but you see who really likes to hit when you put the pads on.''
Bruising RB LeGarrette Blount plowed over defenders during goal-line drills and the Bucs rewarded an appreciative crowd by working in a few trick plays before today's off day.
"The first day of pads is always a fun one,'' QB Josh Freeman said. "Lots of energy, a lot of passion. It was fun to go out and watch our new guys — Clayborn and (Da'Quan) Bowers. I feel really set with the guys we have.''
Coach Raheem Morris added a few fresh names to the list Monday when asked to pinpoint the most interesting position battles of training camp.
While most of the early attention has focused on the competition at middle linebacker (Tyrone McKenzie vs. rookie Mason Foster) and right tackle (James Lee vs. Jeremy Trueblood), Morris mentioned third-year RB Kregg Lumpkin and second-year CB Myron Lewis as players to watch.
With veteran back Cadillac Williams still testing free agency, the Bucs are looking for someone to assume the third-down role behind Blount, with the accent on pass blocking and receiving skills out of the backfield.
"That second running back spot is really intriguing,'' Morris said. "That guy who comes in and pass protects, whether it's Earnest Graham or Lumpkin or one of the new guys, (Allen) Bradford.''
Lumpkin, claimed off waivers from Green Bay in September, played 11 games with Tampa Bay last season, catching one pass and posting one carry.
Lewis, a third-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2010, didn't make his NFL debut until Game 5. He played more extensively late in the year, gaining confidence each week and registering four tackles in the season finale at New Orleans.
With Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib assured of starting jobs, Lewis is pushing E.J. Biggers, one of last season's biggest surprises, for increased playing time as Tampa Bay's third corner.
"In the secondary, we're pretty clear-cut, so to speak, but we do have Biggers and Myron Lewis battling,'' Morris said. "Biggers had a great season, but Myron Lewis came on at the end and played well down the stretch. We're trying to define his role — how much do we play dime (six defensive backs), how much do we play nickel (five defensive backs) and how does he factor in?''
Isn't that special?
The Bucs replenished their linebacker depth and secured a key piece of their special teams units by re-signing Adam Hayward to a three-year contract.
Hayward, a sixth-round draft pick in 2007, started three games last season and made a team-high 20 special teams tackles.
"A warrior, a Buccaneer, a gentleman in the community, probably our special teams MVP,'' Morris said of Hayward. "I'm very excited to have him back.''
The Bucs also signed undrafted free-agent TE Jose Cruz of Syracuse and released LS Aaron Feld and RB Deonte' Jackson.
DT Gerald McCoy tweaked his right knee during a goal-line drill but returned to the field after a few snaps. … Former Bucs LB David Lewis signed autographs before practice at the merchandise tent. … The start of Monday's late-afternoon practice was delayed 10 minutes due to lightning in the area. … DT Brian Price, still recovering from a pelvis injury that undermined his rookie season and required surgery, participated in the contact drills and said he was happy to put the pads back on. … Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer attended Monday's practice.