TAMPA, Fla. - Lovie Smith doesn't want to oversell the progress the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made this offseason.
"I think you end up where you should be. Where we want to be," the Bucs' head coach said Tuesday, following the second day of the team's final minicamp before breaking until training camp. "If you go back, we're a different team, the roster has changed.
"We feel like we have the guys in the right positions, have the right guys competing for certain positions. We have put in our packages. Again, they know how we're going to do things, they know what's expected."
With new systems being installed on both sides of the ball and significant roster overhaul, the offense and defense have been engaging in spirited competition. It was the defense that ended Tuesday's session with a turnover in the two-minute drill.
"I guess if you're on the defensive side of the ball you feel pretty good about how it finished today. On the offensive side of the ball, of course you can't turn the ball over in those situations," said Smith. "Besides that, I think we're going to be a good football team. I think it's been the same message I've given every time I get up here: I'm excited about the team, we get better every day, like most teams do."
Smith isn't the only one who believes the Bucs are poised to be a good team in 2014. Former NFL player and head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards recently picked Tampa Bay to reach the Super Bowl.
"I don't watch a whole lot of TV and read the papers an awful lot, but I would be excited about this team also if I was an announcer," said Smith. "Herm knows football, so if Herman Edwards says, he's not just throwing out stuff without having something to back it up with."
One of the strengths of the team appears to be the linebacking corps. Position coach Hardy Nickerson played for the Bucs from 1993-99 and worked on Smith's staff with the Chicago Bears in 2007. The four-time All-Pro has his unit flying all over the field during offseason workouts.
"It's amazing, he's always got a smile on his face," Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. "He's always getting guys amped up, he always gets the adrenaline like he wishes he could be out there and (when) you see that out of your coach, it kind of raises your level. You kind of want to see him put a smile on his face the ways he coaches us, the way he teaches us."
Smith acknowledges he has a special relationship with Nickerson, whom he has known as a player when Smith was on Tony Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay, and now a coach.
"Love the guy, love what he stands for," said Smith. "As a young coach, having an opportunity to go into the room and be around a guy like that, I've talked about how Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson and how much they helped me. You think you know what you're doing as a coach and you put a product on the field, you tell the guys what to do.
"We have a young linebacker group. Young players listen to guys that have played the game. If you're a Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker, you're going to listen to what Hardy Nickerson has to say"