TAMPA, Fla. — The road to another Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially started on Wednesday with the beginning of training camp.
It was a fairly quiet scene at One Buc Place -- but more fans are expected to attend in future practices -- and it seemed pretty business-like during Todd Bowles' first practice as head coach.
Bowles said very clearly that he is going to focus predominantly on defense while letting offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich do his thing on the other end of the field.
"I can see things on offense and point things out if I have to, but I'm a defensive coach," he said. "Byron runs the offense. When it's time to manage things and do things, I have a lot of people in my ear. I trust myself to make the right decision."
Former head coach Bruce Arians was present at the training complex and was still riding around on his golf cart.
Arians is just one of the many changes entering this preseason. Not only are players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Rob Gronkowski gone, but guys like Kyle Rudolph and Julio Jones were just signed this week.
Rudolph said, at this point in his career, it's more about winning than worrying about money.
"The only thing I haven’t done to this point is win a championship, and that’s all I want to do," the tight end said. "It has been very evident the first two days here, that is the ultimate goal. Everything that we do individually, or collectively as a team or, collectively as an offense, is about reaching that ultimate goal."
Rudolph has pretty big shoes to fill with Rob Gronkowski gone, but it will likely be a group effort at that position to fill the void between him, Cam Brate and Cade Otton.
As for Julio Jones, he said he is 100% healthy entering his one-year deal with Tampa Bay. Jones inked his contract on Wednesday, so he did not practice, but his addition could make Tom Brady's offense the most lethal in the NFL...again.
"The Buccaneers organization is just giving me the opportunity to come here and showcase my skills and just to be a part of something new, to be a part of this team," Jones said, who used to be an NFC South foe to the Buccaneers during his time in Atlanta. "They have everything that they need already, right? But they’ve got to put the work in each and every day. Nothing is given to you. You’ve just got to come to work every day. That’s what I bring. I’m going to work every day – that’s just who I am.”
Bowles described the signing of Jones as another offensive weapon that can also fill in the void left by Gronkowski.
"We've got to replace Gronk's catches. We've got an extra weapon, especially in the red zone and out in the field and we're going to put him to use," Bowles said. "It gives us a chance to be more creative in some of the things we do, and we're happy to have him."
Wide receiver Chris Godwin was not present on Day 1 of training camp as he continues to recover from an ACL injury, but Bowles said he is happy with Godwin's progress after his season-ending knee injury last year against the New Orleans Saints.
"Chris has been working like crazy. He's getting better every day. We don't have a timetable yet, but when he comes out, we'll be happy to have him come out," he said. "But he's still just working, and we're pleased where he is."
Lavonte David, who dealt with a Lisfranc injury in 2021, was on the field on Wednesday and said he has no limitations. David is entering his 11th year with the franchise, making him the longest-tenured Buccaneers player, but it is also a contract year.
Times have certainly changed from when he joined the organization back in 2012. The Buccaneers are the clear favorites to win the NFC South for a second straight season. David said he is hoping to have some more 'splash' play alongside his guy Devin White.
“Overall, I feel like we’re the best, and I feel like we’re going to try and continue to dominate the way we play," David said. "I feel like we compliment each other well and it’s the standard that we set when we’re out there on the field - we just have to be the best when we’re out there.”
The Buccaneers practice through Saturday before having their first day off.