TAMPA – There will be rust. When they finally take the field for what is now their season opener Sunday against the Bears, the Buccaneers will be rusty. Gerald McCoy guarantees it.
“We’ve had three practices in 15 days,’’ the Bucs five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle reasoned on Wednesday. “It’s not going to be perfect. But we’re professionals, so it doesn’t matter.
“But hey, let’s not skip to Sunday just yet. Let’s start with today. Today’s a day we can get a lot of that rust off. We can run around and hit a little bit, so let’s start with that and take it from there.’’
The Bucs have no choice but to start with that. The threat of Hurricane Irma, which forced the cancellation of their projected season opener last Sunday against the Dolphins, has created this situation.
To say it’s an unenviable one, particularly from a football standpoint, is putting it mildly. Especially for the host of Bucs regulars who sat out the team’s third and fourth preseason games.
McCoy is in that group. So too are wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, offensive linemen Kevin Pamphile and Demar Dotson and linebacker Kwon Alexander.
When game time finally rolls around Sunday at 1 p.m. it will have been 22 days since those players and a few others last took a snap in anger against anyone.
They’ve done their best to stay in shape, but not even that has been easy. Most of the players scattered in an effort to get out of the path of the storm so at best they got some cardio work in.
Evans, for example, said that he was only able to work out two or three times while the team was away and all he did then was run around the track a few times and lift some weights at his old high school.
“Just the whole thing of having to deal with the hurricane throws you off a little bit, too,’’ Humphries said. “But we still have tomorrow and Friday to get ready and so hopefully we can knock some of that rust off.’’
Evans believes they can. He noted that in addition to getting regular workouts in the rest of the week they also got a walk-through in on Tuesday night that helped serve as a quick refresher course.
“And it’s not like we forgot how to play football,’’ Evans added. “I mean, we’ve played a few seasons together (most of us), so I think that at the end of the day we’ll be all right.’’