Though baseball currently enjoys center-stage of the sports world, football fans know the time for their favored past-time draws ever closer. Though the chill of a wintery gridiron seems far removed, it should not be forgotten that football teams are formed beneath the sweltering sun of summer.
Such is the hope of Greg Schiano, the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The surprise hire and former leader of Rutgers University will soon take his first stab at managing the heavy demands of an NFL schedule. Those daunting challenges commence in a mere 3 weeks with the opening of training camp.
For the 4th consecutive season, the Bucs will train at One Buc Place, right beside their home turf of Raymond James Stadium. The annual ritual of camp begins on Friday, July 27, when the club gets its initial chance to display prized off-season acquisitions, including wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks, and 1st round draft pick Mark Barron.
Yet, while players sweat and coaches start their evaluations, the entertainment simultaneously kicks off for the team's passionate supporters.
The Bucs have announced that 9 practices during training camp will be open to the public, beginning with the first on July 27. During these sessions, fans not only can observe players practicing, but also can witness the workouts that are crucial to the all-important roster decisions of the new coaching staff.
Perhaps the best news is that these experiences will be free. Indeed, it appears ownership has made many fan-friendly accommodations so that interest in the rebuilding squad grows even before the start of the 2012 season.
With the exception of Saturday, August 4, gates at One Buc Place will open at 7:30am and the sessions will run from 8:45am to 11:30am. Tickets are not required and good seats at Field 3 can be obtained on a first come, first serve basis. In addition, parking will be complimentary and all practices will feature autograph sessions, appearances by the club's cheerleaders, sales of new merchandise, and discounted concessions.
The highlight of training camp, however, will undoubtedly be the annual night practice from 6:30pm to 9:00pm on August 4th inside Raymond James Stadium. Like other dates, this event will be free and boast numerous opportunities to connect with the team. Additionally, the night practice will include an intra-squad scrimmage, $1 hot dogs and soft drinks, and a concluding fireworks show.
The evening's excitement will set the tone for the beginning of preparations for the Bucs' first exhibition game the following weekend against the Miami Dolphins. While formal training camp will conclude in the middle of August, three more pre-season games will follow, before the 2012 season begins with a home date against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, September 9, at 4:25pm.
With the hiring of Greg Schiano, the team's 3rd head coach in the past 5 seasons, fans of the Tampa Bay Bucs hope the pressing of the reset button actually works this time. Though that determination likely will require several years, it is nice that fans can begin to form their own opinions up close from day 1 of the new era.
Here is a look at Tampa Bay's schedule of training camp open practices:
Friday, July 27 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Saturday, July 28 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Sunday, July 29 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Wednesday, August 1 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Friday, August 3 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Saturday, August 4 -- 6:30pm to 9:00pm (Raymond James Stadium)
Monday, August 6 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Tuesday, August 7 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Saturday, August 12 -- 8:45am to 11:30am
Yahoo! Sports, Buccaneers.com, RaymondJamesStadium.com.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Greg Schiano
- One Buc Place
- Tampa Bay
- Raymond James Stadium