TAMPA — DeSean Jackson and the Bucs have had a tough year with a 4-8 record, but they have stuck together, and that unity was on display Monday night when the Pro Bowl receiver and more than a half-dozen teammates participated in his Shop with a Jock event at Walmart on North Dale Mabry.
Jackson purchased $100 gift cards for 50 youths from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay to help fulfill their holiday wish list.
The children enjoyed a dinner from Chick-fil-A then went shopping in groups with several of Jackson’s Bucs teammates, including QB Jameis Winston,WR Mike Evans, S T.J. Ward, OT Donovan Smith, WR Bobo Wilson, DT Chris Baker and CB Robert McClain.
"Obviously, on the field it’s tough," Jackson said. "We work so hard on the field to try to do well and win as many games as possible. It’s not happening right now, but you’ve still got to live life and do things in the community. You’ve got to be a professional about it. Just because you’re losing in one aspect of life, you can’t be a loser all the way around the board. We’re going to keep fighting, but you have to be a winner with the community and fans."
Jackson began the shopping spree with youths at Christmas about six years ago, but this was his first event in Tampa Bay. He said the Boys & Girls Clubs provided a positive outlet for him growing up in Los Angeles.
"The Boys & Girls Clubs, in my neck of the woods, was a way to be able to stay out of the streets and really have brotherhood, unity and come together to play sports and spend those hours during the day to keep you from walking down the street where anything could happen," Jackson said.
Jackson said he hoped his teammates were willing to pick up the tab if any children exceeded their gift card.
"The biggest thing I love about it is some of them want PlayStation or some of them want TVs and these are like $500," Jackson said. "And you’re like, ‘You’ve only got $100.’ And they’re like, ‘You’re in the NFL, you’ve got the money.’ It puts a smile on your face. I tell the kids to make sure they go over so my teammates can pay for it."
Don’t mind sharing
Sacks have been hard to come by this year for the Bucs defense, but players don’t mind sharing if it gets the quarterback to the ground.
Backup DE Will Clarke was credited with two sacks in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, but he said he expects to end up splitting one with DT Chris Baker.
"They gave me credit for it, but me and Bake actually shared that one," said Clarke, a fourth-year pro who had his first career multi-sack game. "He’s deserving of it. He was rushing his butt off. (DT) Gerald (McCoy) almost got him on the (other) one. Gerald pushed him up. … As long as the quarterback goes down and we don’t have to play another play, that’s all I’m worried about."
Clarke was picked up by the Bucs the week before the season started after he was cut by the Bengals. He now has three sacks, two behind McCoy for the team lead and most among Bucs ends this season.
"More than anything else, he was just in the right position," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Will is a guy that came to us as a street free agent, and he has worked his way up. Due to injuries, he is playing more. The guy goes out there and tries to do things right, and sometimes it shows up in the stat sheet and sometimes it doesn’t."
Stick with him
TE Cameron Brate has the fifth-most fantasy points among NFL tight ends this season, but a recent quiet spell — six games without a touchdown — had him hearing from unhappy supporters.
"Usually, you hear (from) people who are disappointed when you don’t do anything," Brate said Monday. "Usually you get those more. They overlook you doing good things for them, but they’ll get on you."
Brate’s ownership rate in ESPN fantasy leagues was down 10 percent this week to just 57 percent, and for those who lost faith and benched him, well, Brate had two touchdowns on your bench this past week.
"That’s what those guys get," Brate joked.
Brate is up to six touchdown catches on the season. He tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with eight last year but is behind Jimmy Graham (nine), Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce (seven each) this season. He credits his durability for keeping him among the best at his position.
"I’ve gotten pretty lucky. Gronk was hurt last year. That helps me out a lot," Brate said. "I’ve only missed one game the last two years. My health definitely plays a factor in that. … There are a lot of really good tight ends in the league who I look up to. Just to be in the same category as those guys is pretty cool."
This and that
Former FSU WR Bobo Wilson made his NFL debut Sunday, getting a 4-yard run. The undrafted rookie was promoted from the practice squad last week. … Tampa Bay held the Packers to 77 net passing yards, fewest for a Bucs opponent since Carolina had 55 in a 2009 game … The Bucs outgained the Packers by 119 yards, dropping to 2-5 in Koetter’s three seasons with Tampa Bay when they outgain their opponent by 100-plus yards. From 2008-14, they were 9-3 in such games.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.