TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began what head coach Lovie Smith termed "the last phase" of the team's offseason program with the start of this week's minicamp on Tuesday.
Granted, participation this week is mandatory, but Smith was still pleased with full attendance, including players recovering from injuries who are not taking part in on-field drills.
"We've done a lot, we gone over most of the situational football, opportunities and things like that we need to hit," said Smith. "I feel like we've put the players in positions that we needed to see them in."
The Bucs have a lot to phase in, from a new coaching staff with new coordinators on both sides of the ball to a new starting quarterback in Josh McCown and a handful of free agents and rookies expected to assume starting jobs.
"The urgency is there," said McCown. "Every time a team starts over or has something new - new staff - there's urgency.
"I've said this before, but we're in a division with (New Orleans quarterback) Drew Brees, who has been doing that in that system for eight or nine years now, and (Atlanta Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan, the same thing for a long time, and (Carolina Panthers quarterback) Cam (Newton) is really getting his feet established in that system. So that's six games a year that we have to be able to compete with those offenses and play good football, and let alone the other teams that we're facing in the NFC North - the Bears and those offenses and Aaron Rodgers - so, we have to get up to speed quick.
All of the change means the Bucs must take advantage of every practice, especially with the reduced offseason schedule dictated by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"Time is of the essence. It just takes the work," said McCown. "You have to put in the time, and that's what we're saying with the young guys. There's extra things that need to get done to get that established, and it's still a process, it's still a daily thing, but it's grabbing the extra hours here and there at night to spend together that maybe gives us an edge, maybe speeds that learning curve up."
The offseason program has helped the coaching staff evaluate the roster and begin to establish the first and second team units on both sides of the ball.
"I feel like we've put the players in positions that we needed to see them in," said Smith. "The depth chart means a little bit more now - in that depth chart that we have in our heads at least, there's nothing official - it does mean a little bit right now. We wanted one last look before we come back and then put on pads for that final piece that we need to go through of the puzzle."
--Offensive guard Carl Nicks remains sidelined while he recovers from a toe injury and dealing with a MRSA infection last season, but did pass his physical on Monday. While Smith said Nicks has a "long ways to go," the coach isn't worried about it being an issue into training camp.
"My expectations for Carl are the same as for everybody else," said Smith. "We'll just take it one day at a time. We'll kind of see where he is right now and we have a big break in between (before training camp)."
Nicks said Tuesday that he has some permanent damage to his foot and expects to deal with some pain for the rest of his career. He has been limited to running on an elliptical machine, and will likely be limited when training camp opens next month.
"I'm not really frustrated," said Nicks. "If it was Week 1, and I was in the same position that I am, I would be frustrated. But training camp hasn't even started, so I'm good."
--Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford created a bit of a stir last week by saying he prefers a running back by committee approach. It left many to wonder if Doug Martin has lost his status as the team's unquestioned lead back with Mike James, Bobby Rainey and rookie Charles Sims competing for playing time.
While Smith tried to downplay the rumors circulating, he acknowledged his belief that teams need more than one capable running back to make it through the season.
"If that chatter starts, it should start with me, you don't hear that from me," Smith said. "What I've said is that I like Doug a lot, Doug's a good football player, but everywhere I've ever been if you look at my history, we've played more than one running back.
--Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans continues to be bothered by a hamstring injury, and Smith doesn't foresee him doing much more on-field work before the minicamp concludes.
"Oh yeah, he's missed a lot (of offseason work), there's no other way to sugar coat it," said Smith. "We wanted Mike taking every rep, as a rookie you need to take every rep. Around the league, it happens, especially with a lot of new guys that those last couple of weeks they're doing a lot of traveling, don't work out exactly how they should, but we saw enough and we know who Mike is.
"He's going to help us win a lot of games, but he's gotten better. We need him, we can't let him reinjure that hamstring, so we'll be cautious with him."