ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Teams are only allowed 14 full-pad practices in a regular season, and 11 of them must come in the first 11 weeks of the season, with no more than one per week.
The Broncos have eschewed this work entirely so far this season. And they've gone a step further on the last two Wednesdays, ditching the helmets in favor of ballcap-and-bucket-hat sessions.
That's not something every team could do, but it worked last week, and that's where the Wednesday roundup begins.
- WHY DID THE BRONCOS DITCH THE HELMETS WEDNESDAY?**
So they could get more teaching in their practice, although this is not something an ordinary team can do.
"You can do things like that when your guys handle it, if you get your work done," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.
And if they do, the players can get more -- and better -- coaching.
"It does help us do a little bit more, to be honest with you," Kubiak said. "It may not be as physical, but there's a lot more teaching, a lot more tape to watch, a lot more plays, so I think our guys handled it really [well] last week."
The expected heat and humidity in Tampa also factored into the decision.
"We've had a couple of really warm football games here, so I'm trying to get them good and fresh and ready to go again," he said.
- READY FOR AN AIR RAID**
Through three weeks, no quarterback has thrown more passes than Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston, who's thrown an average of 47.3 passes per game.
"That's a lot of throws," Kubiak said.
That doesn't mean the Bucs call a higher percentage of pass plays than anybody else; their pass-play rate of 67.4 percent is only fifth-highest in the league.
But the Bucs' 218 plays from scrimmage is the highest in the league. Further, how Winston fares as the attempts pile up is notable; he has a career rating of 80.4 on his first 10 attempts of a game, 83.7 on his second 10 attempts, then spikes to 105.0 on attempts 21-30 before falling to a 62.1 rating on attempts 31 or higher.
Will that change the Broncos' defensive plan?
Don't bank on it.
"We're going to prepare to play our game," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "We [are not] going to say, 'Oh, they throw it 60 times.' We're more excited this week than last week. Any time we're out there with our real game uniforms on, 70,000 watching us and millions watching on TV, we're excited."
But one thing that is consistent is Winston's ability to avoid sacks. Opponents have brought him down just once every 29.4 pass plays this season; only Washington's Kirk Cousins has been sacked less frequently.
"He's getting rid of the ball," Kubiak said. "And when you do get there, he's hard to tackle, hard to handle, so he can make plays off-schedule. Obviously, a big-time talent that's put up some big numbers, so it's another big challenge for us.
- IF DONALD STEPHENSON CAN'T PLAY, TY SAMBRAILO IS LIKELY TO START IN HIS PLACE AGAIN**
"I think so," Kubiak said when asked whether Sambrailo would start Sunday if Stephenson's calf injury prevents him from playing. Stephenson has not practiced since he suffered the injury early in the Sep. 18 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Sambrailo allowed a sack gainst the Bengals in his first game-time action since Week 3 of last year, when he suffered a season-ending torn labrum at Detroit. He missed the entire preseason because of a hyperextended elbow incurred in practice on July 31.
"It kind of looked like his first time out, in a lot of ways," Kubiak said. "He did a lot of really good things, and he struggled at times. We've got to remember, he hasn't played in a long, long time.
"For me personally, I thought it was good for a first time out, because I think he's going to improve daily. He improved today at practice. We'll be counting on him, but we have options."
- NO WORRIES ABOUT THE HEAT**
At some point in each of the last three games, the temperatures spiked into the mid-80s. Sunday's game in Cincinnati was the most stifling of the three because the heat was accompanied by 62 percent humidity, even though the kickoff temperature of 81°F was four degrees lower than the temperature at the Week 1 and 2 kickoffs.
Take that humidity and add nine or 10 degrees, and you have the forecast for kickoff at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Broncos haven't played in conditions of 90°F or warmer since 90°F and 91°F temperatures greeted them for their first two games in the 2010 season, at Jacksonville and against Seattle at home.
"It's going to be another hot game. We like that," Harris said. "I think we can push through those very easily."
One way of adapting was to try to simulate the heat. Safety T.J. Ward noted that "a lot" of Broncos practiced in hoodies on Wednesday to become accustomed to the heat.
If the temperature is 90°F or warmer, it will be one of the 10 warmest games in Broncos history. The Broncos are 8-2 all-time in 90°F-plus conditions; in games played in Florida with temperatures of at least 80°F, they are 2-6, but are 2-2 in that scenario this century.
5. SCOFFING AT THE NOTION OF A "TRAP GAME"
That concept was brought up to Kubiak during his post-practice question-and-answer session, and he quickly dismissed it.
"There are 16 traps in the NFL," he said. "If you don't play well, you get trapped. It's Week 4. We're focused on playing well again. We know we'll have to play very good to win the game, so we restart every week and get ready to play.
"We respect everybody."
The Broncos got back to work Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. (Photos by Eric Bakke)