TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith noticed the fresh energy when his team returned to practice Tuesday after the bye week.
A rejuvenated outlook was the theme Tuesday around One Buc Place with Tampa Bay prepared to face, as Smith put it, the "long haul" of the schedule ahead. With the break behind the Bucs, and with the Washington coach Jay Gruden calling a Week 7 meeting between the teams at FedEx Field a "code red" situation for the Redskins, Smith knows his players must prepare with urgency.
"I've kind of seen some of their comments about how it's a must-[win] game," Smith said Tuesday. "We're saying the same thing down here in Tampa: It's a must-[win] game for us. [We] have an opportunity to even up our record and all of that. But just to take another step from the last time we played is important.
"You do look to the bye week to know that you can get rejuvenated, get refreshed and all that, and our players did that. A lot of bounce for practice out there today, and it has to help an awful lot."
The Bucs are trying to continue the momentum gained before the bye. They improved to 2-3 with a victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5, and they have a chance to move to .500 for the second time this season next Sunday.
"I feel great," wide receiver Mike Evans said. "I'm ready to get my body back moving, and I got extra rest, so I feel really good.
Added linebacker Danny Lansanah: "I feel good. I've got my legs back. I'm ready to go. Our mindset is now the Redskins."
Four of the Bucs' next five games are against NFC East foes, including home games against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively. The Bucs will face a vulnerable foe in Washington, which has a struggling quarterback. Kirk Cousins has thrown eight interceptions this season, including two in each of his past two games.
The Bucs hope to gain better results after their bye week in this second season under Smith. Last season, after having Week 7 off, Tampa Bay lost three consecutive games by a combined 21 points before beating Washington in Week 11. That was the Bucs' last victory on their way to a 2-14 record.
The Bucs enjoyed their time off last week, but Smith knows much will be determined in the weeks to come.
"We have a lot of football left to go," he said. "But it was good to have the bye week when it came."