Commentary | Schiano relaxing his tight grip this minicamp

adell@bradenton.comJune 14, 2013 

Buccaneers  Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano shouts instructions during special team's drills at an NFL football workout Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. Wide receiver Mike Williams, right, heads back to the huddle. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

CHRIS O'MEARA — AP

TAMPA

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' minicamp is looking Joe Maddonish.

Players are singing praises about each other, and the ship feels a little looser.

Even head coach Greg Schiano cracked a brief smile, though he made it clear his whip is just an arm's length away.

Some players succumbed to the heat, and Schiano wouldn't cut them any slack, noting they have to get use to the Florida elements.

But Schiano showed signs he might be mellowing when he canceled the third and final day of minicamp on Thursday for what was called a team outing.

Before anyone wants to paint Schiano a warm and fuzzy teddy bear, we can assume the Bucs' late-season meltdown in 2012 has most to do with his change of heart. And his admission that he might have worked his guys too hard at his minicamp's opening day earlier in the week, can't be dismissed.

That's OK, says defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who doesn't think it would be good for the Bucs to have Schiano lose his Grim Reaper mantra.

"He is a little looser than last year, but I wouldn't expect more. I like his fire and hope he doesn't lose too much of it," said Clayborn, coming off a knee injury that put him on the shelf for nearly all of last season. "I am excited to get back on the field with all the vets on defense we have and how they are helping our young guys get on the right track."

We can't expect Schiano to emulate Maddon, if only because the Tampa Bay Rays manager has a lot more cushion to soften any fall his team might put him through.

On paper, the Bucs are the NFL's most-improved team, and passionate supporters might argue they are now the best team in the gun-slinging NFC South.

You don't want to christen the Bucs next season's Dream Team because it didn't take long for the Philadelphia Eagles to disintegrate when they received their coronation.

Everything is moving quicker and crisper, which is to be expected now that the team has been under Schiano's direction for a full season.

High-priced free-agent acquisitions Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, who are expected to raise the Bucs' secondary out of the dungeon, have shown a willingness to make everyone around them better.

It has been particularly encouraging to rookie Johnthan Banks, who Schiano is hoping can nail down the cornerback spot opposite Revis so the Bucs won't rely on the troubled Eric Wright.

"I learned a ton from both of them. Revis is coaching me up on the sideline all the time. Everybody on our team is tight. Nobody acts Hollywood," Banks said. "I am pretty comfortable now with the defense though there is a lot of stuff I don't know. But the guys in my group are great. By the first pre-season game I should know everything.

"The hardest part is the terminology and of the defense and everybody is so much better. In college, you just have one Vincent Jackson."

Jackson and quarterback Josh Freeman say the miscommunication and other problems that plagued the Bucs during their late-season slump is a thing of the past.

"Last year was our first season under a new system. Now everyone understands the language, and you can see it in Josh," Jackson said. "He is way more comfortable and now can let his physical tools take shape."

Freeman says too much is being made of his expiring contract situation that critics contend will put more pressure on him.

"You've got to look at every year as a critical year. The life span of an NFL player is short. I am blessed to have an opportunity to be the quarterback of the Buccaneers this long. I love my guys and love the situation and the setup we have down here. Everything is set up for us to play well this year.

"I wouldn't say there is added pressure. You are doing something you love to do and it's a lot of fun. The pressure comes from within and wanting to compete and take it to the next level."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at@ADellSports.

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