Rookies seldom have an edge over veterans when the training camp battle for roster spots begins, but Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano believes his rookies will have a decided edge.
Because they will spend an extra week learning and working in the new offensive and defensive schemes Schiano and his staff have adopted, Bucs rookies have a unique opportunity to win jobs that might otherwise go to veterans.
"(The veterans) have a head start on being veterans, but they don't have a head start in this specific scheme,'' Schiano said. "So I've told our rookies that this is a great opportunity to prepare yourself to battle for a job."
The rookies began gaining their edge at the week-long on- and off-field instruction at One Buc Place that kicked off Thursday. Full-squad camp workouts won't begin until July 27.
Schiano is the first Bucs coach since Tony Dungy in 1997 to bring his rookies in ahead of the veterans. He said he could have taken a full training camp-like approach to the workouts, but he decided to ease up in an effort to emphasize instruction.
"We are going to do a limited amount of stuff, but you saw they were sweaty; they worked,'' Schiano said. "It's a limited group, but it's good to have them out on the field, so it's a good start.
"Anytime you are able to install something and go out — even if you are not doing it full group — and walk through it, jog through it, whatever it is, it's good.''
SS Mark Barron, the Bucs' first-round draft pick, had not reported to camp as of Thursday. His agent and the Bucs are attempting to finalize a contract for the rookie, who was drafted seventh overall.
Schiano said he is hopeful Barron will show up soon, and he said he's confident there will be no lingering fallout from an altercation involving Barron and veteran DT Brian Price that took place during the offseason workout program.
Schiano acknowledged that a scuffle occurred, but he did not provide details, saying he prefers to keep matters such as that "amongst our team'' and was "not thrilled'' word of it "leaked out.''
"We all make mistakes, so let's be men about it and let's go,'' Schiano said when asked if he feared the issue would spill over into the start of training camp.
"Ultimately, everything we do has one goal, and that's to bring that (Super Bowl) trophy back here. We've got to put our own personal preferences and disagreements aside and focus on what's best for the club.''
The heat is on
A better understanding of the Bucs' new schemes is not the only advantage rookies can gain over some of their veteran counterparts during this rookie training camp.
Schiano said the rookies can also learn how to deal with the heat so it will not be a factor once camp opens and the pads go on for full-scale workouts.
"Even if you're not new to Florida, the first time you come out here and put on that helmet, if it's 90 degrees out here then it's 110 degrees inside your helmet,'' Schiano said.
"So getting used to that is really good, whether you're from here or not. That will give these rookies a little edge, and they need that because the other guys have big edges. They have experience.''