We're closer to a new NFL season than we are to the end of the last one, but that still means we're stuck in football limbo.
The NFL Draft has come and gone, and so too has the frenzy of free agency. OTAs and minicamps have already closed and training camp merely serves as an appitizer to the action that awaits us all in September.
Before we can get there, though, we need to march through the preseason.
For the third straight year, the preseason will be shorter than it had been for the last few decades. Previously teams played four games in August as they prepared for the regular season, but the new 18 week schedule had a reverse ripple effect that changed things in the preseason.
Now teams only play three games, even though the league advertises the preseason as a four-week affair. We're stretching the Hall of Fame Game a bit thin to call it Week 1 of the preseason, but it's essentially the same thing college football has in dubbing the first week of the season Week 0.
It still counts, even if the games don't, as preseason football is always good for wetting our whistle before the real Week 1 rolls around.
When is the first NFL preseason game?
There are really two answers to this question.
The first game of the preseason is always the Hall of Fame Game, which is held during the weekend of inductions at Canton in August. Those inductions will be of particular interest to Bucs fans, as Ronde Barber is among the players getting a bust.
As for the game, the Bucs have nothing to do with that. This year the NFL has invited the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets to play in the Hall of Fame game. It is scheduled to take place on August 3rd, which is two days before the induction ceremony takes place on August 5th.
While the Hall of Fame Game is technically the first game of the preseason, the rest of the league doesn't start their preseason schedule until the next week. August 10th marks the first week of the preseason, and games will be held weekly until August 27th.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason schedule 2023
Here's the full slate of games the Buccaneers will be playing this August:
vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
at New York Jets
WFLA // NFL Network
vs. Baltimore Ravens
You might notice that the Bucs only have to go on the road once during the preseason. The explinatoin for that is a good news/bad news situation.
The good news is there's only one road game in August, which means the team won't have to stray far from Tampa Bay for long. That's probably helpful for a team that needs to use the preseason to get everything as set as possible and establish rytyhm as a unit.
The bad news is the Bucs only have one road game during the preseason because they have a lopsided number of them during the regular season. Tampa Bay is on the road for one extra game this year -- a 9-to-8 split -- which is being offset by only forcing them to go on the road once in August.
What stinks about that is the Bucs catch a break when the games don't count, but need to take their schedule medicine when they do.
Such is life with the new 18 week schedule.