Handling the heat becomes a priority
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Everyone knows about the Bucs' poor record in cold weather, but Jon Gruden is more concerned about beating the heat.
While the warm weather might appear to be an advantage for a team that practices and plays in Tampa, the cumulative effect actually could lead to more dehydration and cramping during games.
That's why the Bucs have explored moving Friday practices during the regular season indoors at Tropicana Field or possibly other venues.
"When you have 11 or 12 guys taking IV fluids after Thursday's practice, you have to think about doing something," Gruden said. "We've talked a lot to our trainer, Todd Toriscelli, about finding ways to creatively get these guys fresh for Sunday."
Gruden is not the first Bucs coach to be concerned about the effect of the warm weather on his team. "It's been talked about a lot," general manager Rich McKay said. "Tony (Dungy) and I talked about it a lot. Sam (Wyche) was very aware of it in that he was very nervous about training camp. His thing was we're going to tap the engines, and when we get to October, it's going to be a problem, so that's why he went to the night practices."
Logistical concerns, like where to hold meetings and transporting players and equipment, make moving practice from One Buc Place troublesome.
"Friday is a tough day for us, there's a lot of work to be done from a special-teams standpoint and the like," McKay said. "Specifically in September and October it's quite hot. We'll look at it. Will we be able to do something? I don't know.
"In the final analysis, you say the Dolphins have practiced in it forever and are one of the most successful franchises there is. It is something you try to pay attention to, but we'll be okay if we have to stay the way we are."
HAPPY TRAILS: Gruden won't say so publicly, but he is stung by comments from the Raiders' Tim Brown that his teams in Oakland lacked discipline. Although Gruden has been on the job for Tampa Bay less than six months, he appears to run a tight ship.
"I've seen none of that. And I'd say whenever a coach leaves, it's just the way it's going to be," McKay said. "It's a shame, but it's the way it's going to be. My ultimate is when Mike Holmgren left Green Bay, LeRoy Butler and others said, "Thank God he's gone.' What in the world were they thinking? I mean, are you kidding me? You won a Super Bowl. And the next year, you went to the game.
"Take all those with a grain of salt and it's the size of Texas. And you're almost forced to say it because you get asked so many questions and you say things. You end up going down that path."
SHARING THE LOAD: Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Mike Alstott, Michael Pittman, Ken Dilger, Joe Jurevicius. Can Gruden keep all those weapons from turning on him this season by playing with just one football?
"I don't know about that. There's a lot of egos and everyone wants the ball," tight end Marco Battaglia said. "But you know what? That makes a good team. We have a group of guys on this team that all want the ball. It's going to be tough. There's going to be times when guys are going to get cranky. But it's a team sport and our one goal is a championship. Coach Gruden has instilled that in our head.
"This is where it's going to happen. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen here. (Gruden) was a goofy play away from playing in the championship game last year (with Oakland).
"He's young, he's charismatic and you want to play for a guy like that."
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