TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Football coaches can only learn so much watching players on film, so Lovie Smith is excited about finally having an opportunity to evaluate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the field.
The Bucs began a three-day voluntary minicamp Tuesday, giving the team's new coaching staff what amounts to a head start on preparing for next season.
Smith and incoming general manager Jason Licht have spent much of the past three months overhauling the roster, including signing quarterback Josh McCown, defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, tight end Brandon Myers, defensive tackle Clifton McDonald and offensive linemen Evan Dietrich-Smith and Anthony Collins.
The Bucs began their offseason program two weeks ago. Smith is not surprised the start of minicamp drew 100 percent attendance, even though the practices are not mandatory.
''Everyone has been here all offseason, and that's what you expect. It's voluntary work. But if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity?'' said Smith, who replaced Greg Schiano on Jan. 2, four days after the Bucs finished 4-12.
''I appreciate that from the team,'' the former coach of the Chicago Bears added. ''All you can do at this time in April is show up and try to get better each day, and they've done that.''
Among the players attending, but not yet participating in on-the-field workouts is guard Carl Nicks, who missed most of last season because of an MRSA infection. He expects to be ready for training camp.
Smith said it's good to have Nicks back around the entire team, stressing that everyone will benefit this season from getting their initial exposure to the offensive and defensive systems being installed by coordinators Jeff Tedford and Leslie Frazier.
The coach also noted he's impressed with the progress of McCown and second-year quarterback Mike Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie in 2013.
McCown, a career backup coming off the best season of his career in Chicago, signed a two-year, $10 million contract in free agency and was immediately penciled in as the starter.
Glennon threw for 2,608 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions while compiling a 4-9 record last year.
''He's been a pro about everything. We've asked him to take a step back and let Josh take the lead position. He's done that,'' Smith said. ''He's just trying to get better. That's what we're asking all our guys to do. Come in, improve your game. You're competing against you as much as anything. And he's done that.''
In addition to giving the new coaching staff an opportunity to assess the talent already on the roster, the voluntary minicamp figures be helpful in preparing for next month's NFL draft.
The Bucs have the seventh overall pick.
''Of course we want to see our roster. But, too, with the draft coming up, to see exactly what we need,'' Smith said. ''Maybe we're not as strong, or maybe we're a little stronger at some of the positions. That's what they'll tell us during these next two days, also.''
There were plenty of mistakes during Tuesday's workout, which gave players a sense of Smith's practice routine.
The new boss was hardly discouraged, though.
''There are growing pains you have to go through. ... We understand that,'' Smith said.
''The guys haven't complained about anything we've asked them to do,'' the coach added. ''They're anxious to prove where they belong on the depth chart. We're anxious to see where everyone belongs on the depth chart.''