Super Bowl chase begins as camps open
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened their National Football League 2013 pre-season training camp -- workouts that kick off a gridiron journey which will culminate in next February's Super Bowl.
Only 50 days after the Bucs' rookies arrived at camp, the NFL season is slated to open with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens playing at Denver.
The reigning champions typically open at home but the Ravens were booked into a road opener after Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles refused to move their home game at a ballpark adjacent to the Ravens' stadium.
The Buccaneers, who host their practice sessions at the team's Florida headquarters, announced that kicker Connor Barth will miss the entire season after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
Tampa Bay signed a one-year deal with Lawrence Tynes, who helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowls in six seasons with the club. Tynes has made 190 of 233 field goal kicks for the Giants and Kansas City in 129 career games.
"We are disappointed to lose a productive player like Connor but are very fortunate to be able to sign an experienced kicker at this time of year," Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said.
The New Orleans Saints were set to follow by opening workouts on Thursday with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns to open pre-season practice on Friday.
While newcomers, free agents and college draft choices will report in the opening days of workouts, it will be the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins who welcome the first veteran players to camp on Saturday.
That's because the Cowboys and Dolphins will meet in the first pre-season exhibition game on August 4, the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.
The Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts will be the last to see experienced players arrive, a full week later than Miami and Dallas on July 27.
Several questions linger over the upcoming NFL season, among them whether or not Adrian Peterson can set a one-season league rushing record. He finished eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson's record 2,105 yards.
The New England Patriots have enjoyed 10 consecutive 10-win seasons but at age 35, quarterback Tom Brady will be tested without favorite receiver Wes Welker, who signed with Denver, and Aaron Hernandez, who was released after being charged with murder. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is also questionable after back surgery.
New Orleans produced an NFL one-season record 7,474 yards two seasons ago but after a season marred by suspensions in the wake of a pay-to-injure scandal, the Saints allowed a record 7,042 yards.
And while the Ravens return quarterback Joe Flacco, who signed a $120.6 million contract extension, Baltimore lost much of their championship roster to retirement or other teams. Replacing linebacker Ray Lewis, a defensive stalwart and team leader, will be difficult on and off the field.