The annual night practice, which brought out an estimated crowd just shy of 15,000, created a game-like atmosphere for the players and coaches, as well as fans.[Michael Compton photo/McCown/Buccaneers night practice]
Head coach Lovie Smith said he expected an energetic reception. That’s just what he got.
"The fans have been great throughout," Smith said on Buccaneers.com. "We assumed that we'd have a crowd that was excited about seeing our football team, and that’s exactly what we had. That's how they've been all along. It's a crowd and it's a fan base that deserves to see a good football team on the field and we plan on giving them that."
Following a full practice and contests, including a Quarterback Challenge and a Field Goal Challenge between Patrick Murray and Conner Barth, the evening ended with some sharp offensive performances in the two-minute drills.
Quarterbacks Josh McCown and Mike Glennon each moved the ball effectively when running the offense. Both quarterbacks took advantage of having tall targets to throw to, connecting down field on numerous occasions with Vincent Jackson, rookie wide receiver Mike Evans and rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Much to the delight of fans ready for the return of a squad capable of putting points on the board, the offense paid repeated visits to the end zone.
"It's about scoring points and I love what the offense was able to do," said Smith. “Somebody can't look good in that situation, but most games come down to that two-minute drive at the end of the game and Josh and Mike both did a great job with it."
The loudest cheers of the night came when running back Mike James swept right and then stopped and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jackson.
"Vincent was in the right spot; the credit goes to him," said James afterward. "I just put the ball where it needed to be and it was a touchdown, so I was happy about it."
This is what some of the players had to say about their night practice experience:
Quarterback Mike Kafka: “I'm just really looking forward to what's ahead. It was great to be out here in front of the fans and play the game I love."
Rookie running back Charles Sims: "It felt great to be out there for the first time and competing. It was a good practice. This was my first time in the stadium, so it felt really good."
Wide receiver Louis Murphy: "It's going to sound cliché, but it was surreal to be back home in front of the home crowd, the stadium and the team I grew up with and was a fan of my entire life."
Running back Mike James: "I haven't been out here since I broke my ankle, so it was good to get back out here and run the ball and get in the end zone a little bit. I had a good time. I enjoyed it."
Alterraun Verner, Rashaan Melvin, Mike Jenkins, Dashon Goldson and Evan Dietrich-Smith didn’t dress for the night practice.
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