With eyes toward opener, Bucs players choose padded practice

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TAMPA — You can tell when training camp ends and the regular season begins by the increased intensity and attention to detail in practice.

And players begin to hit the snot out of each other. That happened Friday during what was scheduled to be an indoor, non-padded practice.

With the kickoff to the NFL season on Thursday night against the Cowboys, coach Bruce Arians asked his players if they wanted to go with or without pads in practice Sunday.

They chose to put on the hardware.

“I really loved how we started the week,” Arians said. “First time I ever asked players should we put pads on? They said, ‘Yes,’ because the practice the other day was like, whoa.

“When we were inside at practice, it was really physical.”

Defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting said it’s just the urgency of knowing the first game is approaching that led players to ramp up their preparation.

“Just being ready. Just being ready every single game,” Murphy-Bunting said. “... Knowing what we have to do each and every day and just playing hard.”

Whitehead still out, Bernard returns

Safety Jordan Whitehead has a hamstring injury and did not practice. He worked on an adjacent field with strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom. Whitehead didn’t play in any preseason games.

Arians said “it’s day to day to see where it goes.”

Running back Giovani Bernard, who sprained an ankle in the final preseason game at Houston, returned to practice and will play against the Cowboys.

Additionally, the team removed reserve offensive lineman Earl Watford from the reserve/COVID-19 list and placed him on injured reserve. Only defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh remains on the list, and the team will have to make a corresponding roster move when he comes off it, which could be as soon as Monday.

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