Minicamp Recap: Tampa Bay Vipers
PLANT CITY, Fla. -- It's a common misunderstanding. People hear the name "Plant City" and assume that the city got its name due to the vegetation growing bountifully along the roadsides.
In fact, the explanation is much simpler (and more boring). It was named after railroad developer Henry B. Plant.
But if you visited Plant City this past December, you might've noticed how well things grow around here.
Tall green grass... giant strawberries... and now a football team.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Vipers wrapped up their first-ever minicamp. In a span of just 16 days, this team -- which had never held a practice, let alone a team meeting, before December 3rd -- had sprouted from the seed of an idea and blossomed into a fully-formed unit.
It's a tall order to start a football team from scratch, but the Vipers met the challenge head-on.
"Expectations were really high, from the players and coaches, of what we wanted this to be," quarterback Aaron Murray said. "You could see it every single day... guys were really taking ownership of this football team."
"It was extremely unique," offensive guard Tony Adams said. "Everybody feels like they're part of the foundation. We're starting the culture."
Culture has been a point of emphasis for head coach Marc Trestman.
From day one, he wanted everyone to focus on what brought them together -- their love for the game.
"Every single person in this room is appreciative and grateful that they're here," Trestman said at the final team meeting Wednesday afternoon. "It shows in their demeanor. It shows on tape. We're all here for the love of football."
Another point Trestman emphasized on the first day of minicamp -- there would be competition at every position. That is certainly the case. Everywhere you look, there are multiple standouts.
Take the quarterback position. As expected, Murray made a strong impression on the field and quickly established himself as a leader. But Quinton Flowers has demonstrated his multifaceted skillset as passer and runner, while Taylor Cornelius showcased his big arm with some long bombs down the field.
Same goes for the runningbacks. All the RBs were turning heads. De'Veon Smith made several dazzling runs during team scrimmages and looks to be a strong force in the backfield. Florida State alum Jacques Patrick consistently delivering, showcasing his blistering speed at every practice. We also saw some standout moments from Tarean Folston.
On the other side of the ball, this defense is already shaping up to be the fast and formidable unit the coaches hoped it would be.
"We got some straight beasts across the D-line," Former Seminole LB Reggie Northrup said early on at camp.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville echoed that statement as camp wrapped.
"The Vipers defensive line is awesome."
It's not hard to see why Glanville is pleased.
If anything is hard, it's trying to highlight one difference maker.
Both the defensive line and the secondary have become such cohesive units that you'd think they've been playing together for months. Besides, nobody here -- players or coaches -- seems interested in focusing on any one individual.
Ask the players to list their favorite moments from minicamp and you get one consistent answer.
"The best part of minicamp was the camaraderie," WR Daniel Williams said. "My connection with Aaron Murray, my connection with the runningbacks, wide receivers and tight ends."
"There are so many good people that we've met," Adams said. "It's extremely special who we have as leaders and as players."
That spirit of camaraderie was infectious. You could see it, and feel it, everywhere.
Looking back, that was the "seed" Coach Trestman planted. From the outset, he said the most important thing was that the guys take the time to get to know each other.
Trestman reiterated that message at the final team meeting Wednesday.
"Every day I've tried to show you how we're all connected in some fashion," he said. "That's the glue that's going to hold us together."
If only these players could remain together. In January, the team will arrive in Houston for the league-wide training camp. After the three-week session, the coaches will be forced to trim the 70-man roster.
We'll be reporting from Houston with all the inside scoop. Check back here for all the latest updates.
Until then, we leave you with this...
Catch the highlights from all minicamps across the league: