Meanwhile, over at One Buc Place, it's beginning to look a lot like training camp. Everywhere you go.
The practice fields at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' facility have been mowed and lined. The VIP tents and covered seating areas for fans are all in place. Even the media buffet tables are set up.
The only thing missing on Monday was the players, but they'll start arriving today with the official lifting of the NFL labor lockout.
"Football is back, can't wait 2 hit the ground running,'' Bucs left tackle Donald Penn said in a text message to The Tampa Tribune. "Bucs football is back and it's going to be a great year 4 Bucs fans and players.''
For the players, the work begins Thursday when they report to One Buc Place for the start of training camp. Because the Bucs originally set Thursday as their reporting day, they did not lose a day of workouts to the lockout.
For the fans, the fun begins Friday when the Bucs hold their first camp workout at 5:15 p.m. at One Buc Place. It is the first of nine training camp practices open to the public, no tickets required.
For Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, the work of building the 2011 Bucs begins again today, when he can start signing 2011 draft picks and undrafted free agents, as well as negotiating contracts with veteran free agents.
The Bucs have approximately 70 players on the roster, including their draft picks. They can bring as many as 90 to camp, but can keep only 53 on the active roster once the regular season starts.
The league set the 2011 salary cap at $120.375 million, which means the Bucs likely will need to spend about $50 million more than last season to meet the new requirement calling for teams to collectively spend 99 percent of the cap in cash salaries and bonuses.
With the team saying they were busy getting acquainted with the league's new rules, neither Dominik nor Bucs coach Raheem Morris was available for comment Monday after the lifting of the lockout.
Though teams cannot officially sign any veteran free agents – theirs or another team's – until Friday, Dominik has plenty of work to do between now and then to get a feel for who will wear a Bucs uniform this year.
Tampa Bay has 17 free agents, 11 unrestricted and six restricted.
Among the 11 unrestricted free agents – players with at least four years of NFL experience – five started games last season, including guard Davin Joseph, linebackers Quincy Black and Barrett Ruud, running back Cadillac Williams and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
The team retains the rights to the restricted free agents, including tackle James Lee, kicker Connor Barth and receiver Micheal Spurlock – giving it the chance to match any other offer or receive compensation for a player who signs with another team.
The Bucs have made no secret of their desire to retain their own free agents. The future for some, however, remains uncertain as there will be no exclusive window for the Bucs to negotiate with them.
Ruud, who spent the past two years waiting for the Bucs to offer him a contract extension, welcomed the end of the lockout and the beginning of his venture into free agency, saying in a text to the Tribune that he was experiencing "lots of nervous energy'' about his future, which could still be with the Bucs.
Asked if Tampa could be his landing spot when all is said and done, Ruud said: "It's hard to say without being able to talk to anyone yet. Hopefully we'll find out soon.''
Trueblood, who lost his starter's job to Lee while he was injured last year, expressed similar sentiments about returning to Tampa but is "looking forward to putting on a helmet soon.''
Nine of the Bucs training camp practices are open to the public, including a night practice at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 6.
The first preseason game is Friday, Aug. 12, at Kansas City.
Here is the complete schedule of Bucs training camp workouts open to the public:
Friday – 5:15-7:15 p.m.
Saturday – 2:30-4:35 p.m.
Sunday – 5:15-7:15 p.m.
Aug. 1 – 5:15-7:15 p.m.
Aug. 3 – 2:30-4:35 p.m.
Aug. 5 – 2:30-4:35 p.m.
Aug. 6 – 7-9 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium
Aug. 9 – 2:30-4:35 p.m.
Aug. 14 – 2:30-4:35 p.m.
Practice schedule and times are subject to change. All practices are at One Buc Place, unless otherwise noted.