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Now the fun really begins!

We made it folks. The tantalizing tease of “underwear football” is finished! That line sounded a lot better in my head.

In a rain soaked One Buc Palace, yesterday, the fur flew. The pads came on and we get the initial answers to some questions that have haunted this team all season.

  • Can Ali Marpet snap the ball when he knows a DT is going to drill him?
  • Can Chris Godwin look as godly when he knows he’s going to take a shot in the ribs (see Bell, Kenny)?
  • Can Jameis be more accurate in his deep ball delivery and avoid the turnovers?
  • Can the defense avoid taking out our offensive superstars before they ever see the field in a live NFL game?
  • Can J.R. Sweezy’s health hold up?
  • Are we getting Doug Martin 4.0 back or is it Doug Martin 2.9?
  • Will any of the young backs step up (McNichols, Barber)?
  • Can O.J. Howard make that amazing catch over the middle catch with Kwon Alexander in his grill?
  • Who really are the Bucs safeties? Is it Conte and the TandyMan or will Justin Evans or Wilcox make a run at it?
  • Is Ryan Smith ready to be the 3rd outside corner?
  • Whose the nickel corner?
  • Whose the strongside linebacker?
  • Who but Noah Spence and Robert Ayers will provide the pass rush from the edge?
  • Can we put D-Jax in mothballs until September 10th?
  • Is Hard Knocks being in everyone’s face a distraction?
  • Who will win the kicking job? Folk or Aguayo? Well, I guess we didn’t need full pads to decide that one.
  • Still, there are a ton of questions that simply could not be answered in the padless OTA’s, mini-camps and the first few days of training camp but we’re going to start to find out now. Ice up.

While some fans just focus on the pre-season games and how the players perform – now is really the time when guys can make a statement. This is where they earn their playing time in the exhibitions. If you’re not getting the job done in training camp practice, you’re not going to see the field in Cincinnati or Jacksonville.

If your body can’t handle the beatings of training camp, you won’t be here. The famous cliche’ “You can’t make the club in the tub,” is never more true than this time of year.

It’s time to get the answers to burning questions and there’s limited time to do it. Miami is a little over a month away and the Dolphins are a team to be concerned with.

Of course, the biggest question is can the Buccaneers get to opening day with everyone intact? The likely answer is no – so then who is the next man up? Do the Bucs have the depth of a contender now?

This is where we find out for real. All of the sunshine and rainbows of the off-season will be put aside for the cold reality that is the padded practice of the National Football League. Every team starts out believing they can win the Super Bowl (okay, in the Browns case, it’s reach 8 wins). Only one does. That means 31 other franchises and their fans will be left disappointed.

Anything less than a post season run for the Buccaneers in 2017 would be a bitter disappointment. Every year for the last eight years we’ve heard the Bucs have been building for the future. Well, the future is now, Tampa Bay.

I honestly have never seen a Buccaneer offense this talented in all my years following this team. If the defense plays anywhere near the way it played in the second half of the 2016 season, Tampa Bay is going to wreck some teams.

The only thing that can stop them is themselves. Have they matured enough? Are they ready? We really start finding out today.  Ice up.



J.C. De La Torre

Want to give JC a piece of your mind? E-mail him at JC De La Torre is formerly a columnist/blogger for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blog site where in 2016, he was nominated as best sportswriter in Tampa Bay by Creative Loafing. Previously, he served as a featured columnist for Bleacher Report on Tampa Bay sports, an editor and featured columnist for SB Nation Tampa Bay covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Gators, wrote for’s Blog Blitz and contributed to Pewter Report, one of the top magazines on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JC is also a filmmaker, comic writer and rabid Whovian.

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