When you have decided to rebuild your team almost exclusively through the draft, it's probably a good idea to get all of your draft picks signed and in training camp before the start of workouts.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still hoping to achieve that goal. But as today's reporting deadline and Saturday's first set of grueling two-a-day practices drew near Thursday, hope was starting to fade.
Though general manager Mark Dominik has spoken daily with the agent for first-round draft pick Gerald McCoy, the two sides had not agreed on a deal by the eve of reporting day.
And it could be a while before they do.
McCoy, the Oklahoma defensive tackle the Bucs took third overall in the draft, has said he would prefer to wait for the first overall pick to sign before he agrees to a deal.
If McCoy is sticking to that plan, it could be another day or two before he gets into camp, because first overall pick Sam Bradford, a teammate of McCoy's at Oklahoma, remained unsigned late Thursday.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, whose team began a two-day rookie camp Thursday, said he was optimistic Bradford would sign soon but that there was nothing new to report on the status of negotiations.
With only three first-round picks and only one of the top 10 overall picks signed, most NFL teams were in a situation much like the Bucs late Thursday.
It's a situation that many around the league, including Dominik, knew might arise, but that wasn't making the reality of it any easier for him to accept.
"Every day you miss of training camp hurts, especially for a rookie, and especially for a rookie playing inside like (McCoy)," Dominik said. "Every day does make a difference.
"The opportunity to learn, to get the feel for the speed of the game and the intensity of it - especially with the rookies being in pads for the first time - is very important, especially for offensive and defensive linemen."
The McCoy negotiations aside, Dominik and the Bucs moved a little closer Thursday to getting all their draft picks signed when they agreed to terms on a four-year deal for linebacker/safety Cody Grimm.
Grimm, the son of Arizona Cardinals assistant coach and 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Russ Grimm, was the first of three players drafted by the Bucs in the seventh round this year.
The signing of Grimm prompted the release of safety Dennis Rogan and left McCoy as the Bucs' only unsigned draft pick.
However, McCoy is not the only Bucs player who might miss the first few days - if not weeks - of camp.
It is widely expected that starting left tackle Donald Penn will continue to stay away from One Buc Place to further express his displeasure with the stance the Bucs have taken in contract talks with him.
The Bucs have offered Penn, a restricted free agent, a one-year tender worth $3.168 million. Penn, who skipped all offseason workouts including mandatory minicamp in protest, is seeking a long-term extension.
All of the Bucs' other restricted free agents - a group that includes running back Cadillac Williams, linebacker Barrett Ruud, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and receiver Maurice Stovall - received similar tenders and have signed them.
Dominik is not negotiating extensions with any of the Bucs' restricted free agents, in part because the team is not sure what rules it will be working under when the new collective bargaining agreement goes into effect.
In some cases, the Bucs are trying to determine if the player they have on their roster is the player they want to move forward with as they continue their rebuilding project.
Dominik, who was the Bucs' director of pro personnel when he signed Penn off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad in 2006, said he's hopeful Penn will come to grips with his situation and report to camp.
"I hope (he doesn't stay away), but I can't say I'm certain in either direction," Dominik said. "My whole goal is to lessen the drama around Donald, and we'll see where that takes us."