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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fresh start fuels Ward

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM
TAMPA -

Bucs RB Derrick Ward made an entrance at training camp that caught the attention of everyone around him.

Ward drove a new black Lamborghini - still with a temporary tag - into One Buc Place as players reported for the first day of camp.

The seven-year veteran smiled and laughed with teammates in the parking lot before telling the media how thrilled he is about this season.

"I'm happier and more excited," Ward said. "I'm glad to be around my teammates. I know everybody now, where last year I didn't know anybody. I was the new guy, the new kid on the block.

"Now I got a year experience with this organization, and it's a great organization. I'm just ready to have some fun."

Ward also is ready to erase the disappointing memories of his first season in Tampa Bay.

Last year, Ward had 114 carries for 409 yards and one touchdown, a significant drop-off from his 1,025 yards and two TDs he had with the New York Giants in 2008.

"I'm coming back with a new mentality this year and it's going to be a fun time at camp," Ward said. "Everybody is excited. It's a new year. We're all 0-0. Everybody is in first place right now, so I'm just ready to get back on the field and see what we can do this year."

The power of positive thinking

Aqib Talib reported to camp sounding like a player who can't wait to get started.

Tampa Bay's third-year cornerback appeared eager to hit the field this morning for the opening practice in front of Bucs fans ready to forget last year's 3-13 disaster.

"We've got to start something that will go for 16 weeks strong," Talib said, "and it all starts out here today. If you're dead out here, you're going to be dead on Week 1. Attitude in training camp says a lot, and it all starts in these 21 days."

Tampa Bay's defense improved significantly in the final six weeks after Coach Raheem Morris assumed control from coordinator Jim Bates. With Morris returning the Bucs to their basic Cover 2 principles, defenders appeared to relax and play with more confidence.

"I think there were a lot better decisions," Talib said of the change from Bates to Morris. "A lot less man press on the line - not 40 snaps of man press on the line. These receivers nowadays, you can't really do that. You're asking for it, to lose one battle and get a touchdown called against you. I'd say a lot better decisions on defense ... a lot better play-calling."

Fan friendly

Although they have reduced the number of practices open to the public, the Bucs say their supporters will notice an enhanced fan experience.

"It's going to be an electric atmosphere," director of communications Jonathan Grella said. "After an internal review and feedback from our fans, we decided to make these practices up close, with full pads. All the practices open to the public will be on Field 3 and we'll have discounted concessions, merchandise tents, cheerleader shows and Captain Fear. It will be very fan-friendly."

Prove 'em wrong

The Bucs are aware of the many skeptics who have them relegated once again to the NFC South basement.

"I have high expectations," MLB Barrett Ruud said. "I expect us to contend for the playoffs. I mean, 3-13 was a bitter year and I think everyone has a lot more confidence going into this year."

DE Kyle Moore said team chemistry is much improved.

"What's different is that we spent a lot more time together (during the offseason)," Moore said. "I feel there's a lot more of a team atmosphere instead of everyone being all over the place like they were last year."

RB Cadillac Williams is eager to prove the cynics wrong.

"It is what it is ... you have people like that," Williams said. "It's good, though. People aren't giving us much of a chance at all. We're kind of an afterthought. With that in mind, we're going to come out here, work hard and see what happens."

Ready to go

Tampa Bay's voluntary workouts apparently paid off, because every player passed their physical on Friday.

Morris said everyone was healthy and players who needed to improve their conditioning would receive help during training camp, but not as a form of punishment.

The Bucs will be in full pads during their two practices today, which begin at 10:20 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.

"We like to open it up and hear a little echo. We miss it so much," Morris said. "We like to go out there and hear a little bit of an echo from those guys and those guys like it that way."

Anwar S. Richardson,

Ira Kaufman,

Roy Cummings

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