The Bucs, like all NFL teams, begin practice with a set of stretching and calisthenics routines. In the past, you'd usually find players on the field ready to go, on time, lined up by position.
Except for one: Kellen Winslow.
The tight end typically ambled out of the building about 15 minutes into practice, taking his place alongside teammates as individual drills began. No one ever explained what Winslow was doing all that time, but most reporters assumed he had a different prep routine related to his delicate knees.
Winslow also got most Wednesdays off from practice to help preserve his knees for game day.
If you know anything about new coach Greg Schiano, you're aware he likes things done his way. And no one could be sure Winslow, heading into his ninth season, would fully accept that, which is widely believed to have been a factor in the team trading him Monday to the Seahawks.
It seems every important decision is being made by Schiano. He made the call to release S Tanard Jackson, who six months earlier received a hero's welcome back after a yearlong drug suspension.
Schiano's influence even extends to trivial matters, such as when and how players are permitted to give interviews. (Schiano, in a team meeting, instructed players to stop taking calls from reporters.)
April's draft offered other examples. First-round pick Doug Martin is exactly the type of running back Schiano said he prefers. Later in the draft, the team selected two players Schiano had coached against while at Rutgers, Najee Goode and Keith Tandy, both of West Virginia.
This is not necessarily bad, as long as Schiano makes the right calls and the team wins. But it's different.
Tampa Bay's recent head coaches, including Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, haven't wielded that kind of absolute authority. Maybe Gruden did for a while after his Super Bowl XXXVII victory, but by the end of his tenure, GM Bruce Allen had usurped some of his juice.
After the 2007 draft, when seven of the team's 10 picks were defensive players, the offensive-minded Gruden joked about conceding to Allen and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
We must assume Schiano's apparent autonomy was granted by the Glazers when the owners hired him. It also changes significantly the role of GM Mark Dominik, who often had the final say on matters with fired coach Raheem Morris. Now his role seems more of an executor than a decision-maker.
Again, not good or bad, just different.
The Bucs' model is not typical. Even coaches with the stature of the Giants' Tom Coughlin, the Packers' Mike McCarthy and the Chargers' Norv Turner share the decision-making with general managers.
The Patriots' Bill Belichick, the Seahawks' Pete Carroll and the Redskins' Mike Shanahan are some of the few coaches who have comparable clout to Schiano, which puts the first-time NFL coach in pretty select company.
So the next time the Bucs make a bold decision, there will be little doubt who pulled the trigger.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Though it could be temporary, LB Rennie Curran often has been running with the first team during practices, continuing his attempt to restart his career. The 2010 third-round pick of the Titans spent last season on the sideline after Tennessee cut him. The former Georgia standout is 23 and seems a good fit at weak-side linebacker, where he is lining up. Rookie Lavonte David, on second team, could eventually assume the starting role.
NOT DONE YET?
The Bucs have roughly $12 million in salary cap space remaining and must be mindful with big expenditures looming, such as QB Josh Freeman's contract extension. But additional free agent signings can't be ruled out, Schiano said. One position to monitor is defensive end now that Da'Quan Bowers has a torn Achilles tendon.