Some Tampa Bay Buccaneers players marked the start of a new season by reflecting on what went wrong in 2011.
Coming off a 10-6 season that left them just a tiebreaker short of an NFC playoff berth in 2010, the Bucs plunged to 4-12 last year, courtesy of a season-ending 10-game losing streak that prompted the dismissal of head coach Raheem Morris.
"Reality is a beast and last year was reality,'' said veteran G Davin Joseph. "If you don't commit to the offseason, if you don't have structure or discipline, you're not going to be very good. Reality hit a lot of guys last year – how potentially short a career can be and how miserable football can be without wins. A lot of guys are committed to putting football first, and that's exactly what we need around here.''
QB Josh Freeman is eager to apply some of the painful lessons learned last season, when he threw 22 interceptions and the Bucs topped the NFL with 40 giveaways.
"A lot of things didn't go our way,'' Freeman said. "There's a lot to be learned in terms of stepping outside the system, trying to make too many plays. As the quarterback, the offense is going to get you there. You just have to command the ship.''
Moving on up
As he enters his fifth pro season, troubled CB Aqib Talib has impressed teammates and coaches alike with a new-found dedication.
A felony aggravated assault charge against Talib was dismissed in June and he has been slowed by hip and hamstring injuries the past two seasons. He was suspended by the league for the 2010 season opener after an altercation with a cab driver.
"Aqib is incredibly talented and he's been here from February on,'' Barber said. "He's committed to changing that perception about himself and I admire him for that. He's dealt with a lot … those can't be issues for him anymore. We've got to be talking about how good a football player he is and let all the other stuff die away. His talent should speak for itself.''
Talib's work habits have been exemplary, new secondary coach Ron Cooper said.
"Since I've been here, he's done everything we've asked,'' Cooper said. "He wants to be a great player and he's got great athletic ability. He's also one of the smartest defensive backs I've ever been around. Aqib's got to stay healthy.''
Buccaneers defensive assistant Bryan Cox, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, likes what he sees from second-round pick Lavonte David, who won two state titles as a prep player in South Florida.
"He is a typical Miami kid, although he ended up at Nebraska,'' Cox said. "He's tough, he's smart, he's quick and he can find the ball in traffic. He's also eager to learn. He gives you hope and enthusiasm that we've got someone who can make some plays and potentially be a 3-down player.''
David is listed at 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, a bit undersized by NFL standards for an outside linebacker.
"Football players come in all sizes,'' Cox said. "His size didn't hurt him at Nebraska. He seems to be on the path to do well.''
CAMP INFO, SCHEDULE
WHEN: Friday to Aug. 16
WHERE: One Buc Place, 3302 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa
Training camp practices are open to the public on specific dates, free of charge, no ticket required. Parking is located off Himes Avenue. Prohibited items include alcohol backpacks/large bags, banners or flags with sticks, beach balls, binocular cases, coolers, fireworks/laser pointers, horns/whistles, items that could be missiles/projectiles, outside food/drinks and pets.
Friday – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Saturday – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Sunday – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Wednesday – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Aug. 3 – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Aug. 4 – 6:30-9 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium
Aug. 6 – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Aug. 7 – 8:45-11:30 a.m.
Note: All practices at One Buc Place unless otherwise noted. Dates and times subject to change.