TAMPA – This will be a very strange, weird week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those are coach Dirk Koetter’s words, not ours, spoken as the Bucs began to prepare for what is also one of the most important weeks of the season.
With one last preseason game left to be played, Thursday against Washington at Raymond James Stadium, and the lone mandatory roster cut down from 90 players to the league-maximum of 53 to follow, there is no underestimating the gravity of this week.
What makes it strange, Koetter said, is having to figure out a way to continue getting projected starters that won’t play on Thursday ready for the start of the season while also being fair to the players who are on the roster bubble and have to play Thursday.
This then is a week in which Koetter will have to do a lot of juggling in terms of doling out reps in practice and snaps in the game, so in addition to being a strange, weird and important week, it’s almost one of the most challenging weeks of the year as well.
“Yeah, this week is the strangest week of the year because your players fall into three categories,’’ Koetter said. “You have guys who are injured and can’t play or practice, or maybe can only practice a little bit so they might be restricted a little bit in practice.
“Then you have guys that are going to practice for a couple days and then they’re going to have Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off and come back to practice on Monday. Then you have another portion of your team that is fighting for spots.
“And those guys, I mean, they really have to prove themselves fighting for these last few roster spots, or (one of) the 10 practice-squad spots, plus showing it to other teams.
“What makes it difficult is that your starters are building towards Miami, and you have two good days of work you’d like to get in with them, but at the same time you’re going to play a real preseason game on Thursday night.
“So it’s the weirdest week of the year and, obviously, the closer you get to the regular season – I mean, you never want to see anyone get hurt – but when those guys are out there playing full speed injuries are going to occur. So you have that, too.’’
It all boils down to Koetter and his staff trying to do at least two things at once and both are equally important to the goal of fielding the best team possible at the start of the season.
They have to continue to get their team ready for Miami on Sept. 10, but they also have to make sure their evaluations of players on the bubble are accurate because injuries in the game could change who fills the last few roster spots.
And those last few roster spots could prove to be very important. A good player deemed not quite good enough to make the roster right now could soon prove to be a valuable commodity, but another team may see the value in him as well.
So yes, this is indeed a very strange and even weird week, but it’s also one of the most challenging and without question, one of the most important weeks of the season.