While perusing through some of the emails that made their way through the pipeline over the past few days to make sure I hadn’t missed anything interesting, I realized that I’d missed something interesting.
Last week, in the aftermath of a first-day-of-OTAs fight between Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence and center Jeremy Zuttah, Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune said on 98.7 The Fan that contact was indeed occurring at the team’s offseason practices.
“It’s football practice, without pads,” Cummings said. “I’ll tell you what, Greg Schiano is right on the border of getting investigated and possibly — I don’t know if they would fine him, I don’t know what the penalty is — but these guys are out there, they’re hitting. . . . There’s no pads on, but I’m telling you, the linemen, these guys are hitting. People are going down on the ground. And it’s interesting. I mean, most of this was second- and third-team guys, it wasn’t the front-line guys. So there’s a little bit of what Jon Gruden used to call ‘practice etiquette’ that I think has to be learned here, but they’re going at it pretty good.”
Cummings pointed to the Zuttah-Spence fight, and said it was a 22-man “melee” that “went on for a while” — all due to the fact that there was contact between the linemen.
“I can’t imagine it’s being ordered, I think it’s just guys being a little overzealous, trying to earn a spot,” Cummings added. “And that’s part of what this part of the season is about.”
It is, but it isn’t. Contact has been prohibited, at least on paper, since the no-pads offseason practices began. In the aftermath of the 2011 labor deal, contact was supposed to truly be eradicated from OTAs, thanks to beefed-up penalties that include the loss of practice time and fines for head coaches.
We don’t know whether contact continued over the past week or so, but it’s the kind of thing that coaches should have ensured wouldn’t occur before the sessions began — and that they should have immediately nipped in the bud. Young players always will want to prove themselves; it’s on the coaches to ensure that they know the limits before they’re put in position to test them.