TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off their first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday at One Buc Place.
Key starters such as quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette all returned to the facility.
Newly-promoted head coach Todd Bowles had one clear message for his team; do not beat yourselves.
"[It's important] understanding what we have to do out here and help each other because we’re not in pads," he said. "We have to take care of each other. But at the same time, we’ve got to get some execution-type things done. So, we’re working on that."
Plenty of starters did not show up to the voluntary organized team activities, but Bowles said everyone looked to be in shape.
"Physically, they were fine. Mentally, they understood everything. Just seeing it and getting back into the flow of things is what they’ve got to get used to. But for the most part, they were good," he said at the team's post-training press conference.
New signing Akiem Hicks was in attendance and got to work with fellow nose tackle Vita Vea. He also likes the tenacity of center Ryan Jensen's style of play.
He knows this team is built for a Super Bowl run.
"One of the biggest things bringing me to Tampa is a chance to win," the defensive lineman said. "I would say that I’m happy to be here, happy to be back with Tom [Brady]. I know in that quarterback position you’ve always got a chance to win a game with a guy like that. That was one of my reasons for being here. Also, all the weapons that we have on defense.”
He can already see that championship pedigree.
"I’ll give you a tidbit that I got from today during practice on this field over here. I heard guys on the defense chirping [at] other guys on the defense and trying to make them play better, to motivate them," he added. "When you look around and somebody’s kind of chastising you or criticizing what you’ve done, and you’re able to receive that and try to be better, I think that’s winning culture."
Fournette, also known as Lombardi Lenny, was one of the many players out on the field after resigning with the team.
He said he's optimistic about what his head coach has to offer for the Bucs moving forward, especially because he's been part of the organization for the past three years.
"By me just knowing Coach Bowles when I was in Jacksonville going against him – he’s always been a great mind and a great coach," Fournette said. "Being alongside him these three years I’ve been here has been great. I know he’s going to do a great job.”
Jensen, who renewed his contract as well, said a big thing that stuck out to him on the first day of the minicamp was the intensity the starting defense brings against the offensive line.
"I think that’s usually how we do it – it’s good on good or ones versus ones, as most people call it. It’s one of those things where iron sharpens iron. Our best going against their best – all it’s going to do is make everybody better and more competitive," he said. "From a D-line [versus] O-line standpoint, going against Vita [Vea] and Akiem [Hicks], [Logan Hall] and Shaq [Barrett] – you just look at our defense and you name five, six, seven, eight guys who are top-of-their-position type guys."
A notable absentee from the mandatory minicamp, and rightfully so, was free agent Rob Gronkowski.
The tight end still has yet to announce if he will return to the Buccaneers, or even return to play in the National Football League.
Bowles said he has no update on the status of Gronkowski.
All in all, Bowles liked the product he saw out on the field from his players but said there's still a long journey left for the team to reach a high level before the season starts.
"The effort was there, and guys were enthusiastic about it," Bowles said. "We got some things done fundamentally, but we still have a long way to go."
The Buccaneers' first preseason game will be against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium on Aug. 13.
Their first regular-season game of the 2022 NFL season will be against the Dallas Cowboys at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11 at AT&T Stadium. Tampa Bay's home opener is scheduled at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25 against the Green Bay Packers.
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