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Gruden puts emphasis on fitness
The coach puts players through their paces at rookie minicamp.
By Joanne Korth
Published May 7, 2007
TAMPA - The Bucs wrapped up a three-day rookie minicamp a few minutes early Sunday morning, but coach Jon Gruden sent the collection of NFL hopefuls home with a clear message:
Get in shape.
After what everyone assumed was the final horn, players lined up for good old-fashioned wind sprints.
"We have their attention, I do believe, " Gruden said. "We see some promise. We're excited about the prospects that we have, but we've got a long way to go to get them physically ready to compete at this level."
The team's draft choices, led by the No. 4 overall pick, defensive end Gaines Adams, will participate with veterans in practices in May and early June. The offseason program culminates in a mandatory minicamp June 19-21.
Gruden hopes his rookie class, including any undrafted free agents invited to return, show up for voluntary workouts in much better shape. Rookie camp was merely an introduction.
"They better quit watching the NFL Network all day and they better quit playing their video games and get off the cell phones and BlackBerrys and all that stuff and get outside here on the nice green grass, " Gruden said.
"Find a place to run and run. And then run again and run again. Stamina is critical and certainly that's something we're got to work towards. I wanted to send a message to them, not in a sinister way but in a realistic way."
Adams echoed those sentiments.
"I know I've got to get in better shape, " Adams said. "It's tough. It's a lot of hard work. This is the NFL, the best of the best."
SLOW PROGRESS: Beyond conditioning, rookies were introduced to a small portion of the playbook on offense and defense. Safety Sabby Piscitelli, a second-round pick from Oregon State, said the group made steady gains each of the three days.
"Sunday we were more relaxed, more comfortable, " Piscitelli said. "So much information was thrown at us, at first we were all discombobulated. But we started picking up the scheme. Of course, this was probably only one-eighth of the defense."
EXTRA EFFORT: Adams came in with a reputation for giving extra effort, and Gruden saw evidence of that during the minicamp. He sees leadership qualities in the Clemson product, who is expected to battle veteran Simeon Rice at right end.
"He'll be a guy that, if anybody falls out of line, he'll be responsible, " Gruden said. "He did show good effort, good finishing effort. I think the better shape he gets in, the more you'll see him flash."