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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Kurt Warner: No question Jameis Winston is top quarterback prospect

Former star quarterback Kurt Warner raves about Florida State’s Jameis Winston as a player, but he’s not quite sure the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NFL draft.

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Former star quarterback Kurt Warner raves about Florida State’s Jameis Winston as a player, but he’s not quite sure the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NFL draft.

Former star quarterback Kurt Warner raves about Florida State’s Jameis Winston as a player, but he’s not quite sure the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NFL draft.

“Strictly from a football standpoint, I don’t think there’s any question (Winston is the top prospect),” Warner said before Winston’s pro day workout Tuesday in Tallahassee. “What I’ve seen and the extent to what I’ve seen, based off the other guys and the limited extent that I’ve seen as far as reading coverages and making certain throws and being asked to really carry a team, I’d put Jameis way ahead of those other guys.

“But then you have everything else you have to enter in. That’s where I think it becomes closer and closer and closer.”

The “everything else” sums up all of the off-field concerns for Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.

Warner, a two-time NFL MVP and four-time Pro Bowler, said draft prospects mature in different ways. Some do immature things in college but move on as professionals. Others never grow up and continue to get into trouble.  …

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Help coming? Veteran guard Dan Connolly to visit Bucs

After three weeks of open free agency without any help for the offensive line, the Bucs will bring in veteran Patriots guard Dan Connolly for a visit this week, potentially reuniting him with former teammate Logan Mankins.

Connolly, 32, has started 67 games in the last five seasons with the Patriots, and would give another experienced starter to a line that is expected to add another starter in the opening rounds of the upcoming draft. The Bucs have a good familiarity with him because general manager Jason Licht and director of player personnel Jon Robinson both worked in New England's front office during Connolly's seven seasons there. Connolly just finished a three-year, $9.75-million contract with the Patriots.

The Bucs have added four players in free agency -- linebacker Bruce Carter, defensive tackle Henry Melton, safety Chris Conte and nickel defensive back Sterling Moore -- but haven't made any additions on the offensive line, which struggled last season and lost a starter when the Bucs cut tackle Anthony Collins after only one season.

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Jimbo Fisher: Jameis Winston is the 'whole package'

TALLAHASSEE – Jimbo Fisher didn’t seem surprised that quarterback Jameis Winston opted to throw 102 passes during Tuesday’s pro day at Florida State, even if that’s double the number some prospects throw.

“That just shows you, he’s the kid who goes to the park, gets there at 8 in the morning, and leave when the lights are turned off at 9 at night…” Fisher said.

“He has nothing to hide. I’ll make every throw you want. I’ll do anything you want to do. It doesn’t matter.

The Bucs are strongly considering taking Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, with the No. 1 overall pick on April 30. Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht were among those present at FSU’s pro day.

Fisher said Winston wasn’t fazed by the hoopla, including about 80 credentialed media and two national TV broadcasts.

“That’s the thing as these guys keep going up levels,” Fisher said. “Can they handle the moments? Can they handle the pressure? Can they handle the scrutiny? I always say with him:  The bigger the moment, the better he is.”  …

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Winston's supporting cast shines at FSU pro day

On a day where the spotlight was fixed on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, his supporting cast showed why as many as four other Seminoles could be taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

"I wanted to go out and compete, and I felt like we all did that," said offensive lineman Cam Erving, who snapped to Winston during a choreographed workout of 100-plus pass plays at FSU's indoor practice facility.

Erving, who started at left tackle and center during his Seminoles career, is a likely first-round pick, as is defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, and cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby made their case to join them in the opening round.

"It's improving on things with drills, letting them see my hips and how I come out of breaks, and with the 40, running faster," said Williams, who said he had a private workout with Bucs cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd.

Williams' athletic ability has been impressive -- this ridiculous video of a box jump went viral. "I was seeing it everywhere. It was crazy," he said. "I didn't expect that to happen." …

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Lovie Smith on Jameis Winston's pro day: 'There was nothing to disappoint you'

TALLAHASSEE - Jameis Winston’s former coach and his likely future coach both were impressed with his performance during Florida State’s pro day.

“I think everything was impressive,” said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, whose team is considering taking Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. “Threw the ball well, made all the throws, long workout. There was nothing to disappoint you.”

The 2013 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback threw 102 passes – about double the total for most quarterback prospects – and threw nine incompletions (four were drops).

“I thought he was excellent,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I thought he had a really good day. Typical Jameis day.”

Winston probably didn’t do anything to lower his status as the front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, for comparison, was 60-of-65 passing (with one drop) on his pro day earlier this month.

 

“What else do we need to see? I don’t know,” Smith said. “Seen every throw. Talked to him numerous times, done a lot of research. We’re just going to keep gathering information.”

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Jameis Winston puts on show at FSU pro day

TALLAHASSEE -- The most awaited pro day of the 2015 NFL draft came Tuesday at Florida State, and quarterback Jameis Winston didn't disappoint, running through a script of 100-plus passes and solidifying his position as the Bucs' likely choice for the draft's top pick.

"I just felt like this was a game. This was a big stage. This was a huge stage to show everyone how good we are here at Florida State," Winston said after working out at FSU's indoor practice facility.

The Bucs had a strong contingent on hand, with head coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian and director of player personnel Jon Robinson watching from the front row as Winston went threw a wide variety of throws to receivers, backs and tight ends.

Asked why the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 pick, Winston was bluntly confident: "Because I'm the best player in the draft." It's widely expected that Tampa Bay, picking with the top pick for the first time in 28 years, will make him their selection on April 30.

"I felt like I did great on every throw," Winston said. "You got a tally? I think I had like five incompletions. …

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Jameis Winston watch: Greetings from FSU pro day

Greetings from Tallahasssee and FSU's pro day, where all eyes are on quarterback Jameis Winston and several teammates who could join him in the first round of next month's NFL draft.

The Bucs have a strong presence here as expected, with head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht watching, along with director of player personnel Jon Robinson, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian.

Winston is expected to throw today, but others can improve their stock with a strong showing in the 40 and other measurables -- defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and offensive lineman Cam Erving are likely first-round picks, and cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby could join them if they can help themselves today.

We'll have plenty of updates in talking to Winston and other FSU players, so check back throughout the day ...

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Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston not unanimous, but it's close

Fifteen of 16 mock drafts have the Bucs taking Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the draft.

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Fifteen of 16 mock drafts have the Bucs taking Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the draft.

Thanks to some help on Twitter, I found a reputable mock draft that has the Bucs picking someone other than Jameis Winston at No. 1 overall.

The San Diego Union-Tribune still projects the Bucs to pick Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Eddie Brown writes that Mariota might have an inside track because of Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s ties with Ducks coach Mark Helfrich.

Your weekly update on poll results: Mariota widened his lead over Florida State Winston. With almost 4,700 votes, Mariota leads Winston 47.7 percent to 39.6.

And in our latest draft tool, you can also build your own mock draft on our website.

Now the updated mock drafts:

ESPN’s Todd McShay: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.I think Mariota is still a possibility to be selected here, but purely from an on-field standpoint, I think Winston has a clear advantage. He is one of the best QB prospects to enter the league in the last 10 years in terms of the skills that translate to NFL success, including reading defenses, anticipating throws and delivering the ball accurately.” …

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LB Brandon Magee, waived by Bucs, heads to spring training

Linebacker Brandon Magee, who had six tackles on special teams for the Bucs last season, is headed to spring training as a Red Sox prospect today after being waived by the team on Tuesday night.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me at the time. Right now, I'm focused on spring training," Magee said Wednesday morning as he drove to Fort Myers and the Red Sox minor-league complex.

Magee, drafted by the Rays out of high school, chose college football at Arizona State, and had worked with the Red Sox in extended spring training as an outfielder last year, then signed with the Bucs in preseason. He played in nine games, getting only one tackle on defense but playing a key role on coverage teams. He went on injured reserve in December, and the Bucs have re-signed the linebacker who replaced him on special teams, Jason Williams.

A Bucs spokesman said Wednesday that Magee being cut was not related to his desire to report to the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

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Smith says 'not erroneous' to assume Bucs leaning Winston

Lovie Smith reiterated his praise for both former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston and former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who have both been to One Buc Place for in-person visits and meetings with top team officials, including the Glazer family.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lovie Smith reiterated his praise for both former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston and former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who have both been to One Buc Place for in-person visits and meetings with top team officials, including the Glazer family.

Coach Lovie Smith confirmed what many have assumed for weeks: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the 'leader' to become the Bucs' No. 1 overall draft  pick.

But he warned that the process is not over even if they are entering the final stage of evaluation.

When asked at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday if it would be an "erroneous assumption,' to believe the Bucs will choose Winston over Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or another player, Smith shook his head.

"No, I wouldn't say it's an erroneous assumption,'' Smith said. "I would say when people make that assumption, we haven't had the pro workout (for Winston) yet. But we've done a lot of research, have watched a lot of video and had both of them in and talked with them individually and had them on the board. But the process, the game isn't over yet. I think you can have a leader, but you have to let the game play out and we're doing that.

"We're excited about this final stage almost to decide exactly which direction to go.''

Smith said the Bucs are likely to select a quarterback and have spent extensive time with Winston and Mariota. …

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Glazers 'comfortable,' with Winston, Mariota as No. 1 pick

They are okay with Jameis Winston's past. They are confident Marcus Mariota has a bright future.

The Glazer family which owns the Bucs has signed off on both quarterbacks who are waiting for a coronation as the team's No. 1 overall pick.

But winning still matters, even though over the past few years, Bucs games have been considered more entertainment than competition.

Despite a 2-14 record in the first season under coach Lovie Smith and general manger Jason Licht, co-chairman Joel Glazer has lost not faith in either man to make ‘one of the most important decisions,' in franchise history.

All that said, they had better not screw this one up.

"Absolutely, this is critical, one of the most important decisions we may make in a long time,'' Glazer said Tuesday at the NFL owner's meeting. "But fundamentally, we believe in letting Lovie and Jason do all their ground work, and their staffs, come to their conclusions, discuss it with us, talk about their reasoning and as long as it makes sense, we're supportive. It's that way with every decision and this will be no different. But at the end of the day, whatever decision we make, I see us all being on the same page, agreeing and moving forward. …

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Titans Whisenhunt says Mariota would be starter if taken No. 2

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear they are focusing a lot at quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Most of their time has been spent with Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

If Mariota is their pick, Whisenhunt says he would expect him to start the first game of the 2015 season. But he admits it's too early in the evaluation process to know which direction the Titans will go. Whisenhunt says as many as six players are in the discussion for Tennessee's first round pick.

“I would hesitate to make any judgments like that until we’re finished with our evaluation,'' Whisenhunt said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "It’s been great spending time with him. I’m very impressed with what he’s done with us so far. Obviously, it’s hard not to be impressed with what he did in college.

"If he comes to us at No. 2, if we pick him at No. 2, then you definitely think he’s going to be the Day  1 starter.''

That might be a more philosophical stance, but it could certainly apply to the Titans this season. …

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Vince Kendrick, who scored first Bucs TD, dies at age 63

Vince Kendrick, who played fullback for the Gators and scored the first touchdown in Bucs history in a 1976 preseason game, died Saturday morning at age 63 after a battle with cancer.

Mr. Kendrick, who was one of the Gators' first black football players and would later return to Gainesville as Florida's running backs coach, had a 1-yard touchdown run on Aug. 8, 1976, in a 10-6 preseason loss for the Bucs against the Green Bay Packers. He would play in only one regular-season game with the Bucs -- with a single carry for 3 yards in the franchise's first game, a 20-0 loss to Houston. He also had 71 rushing yards in 14 games with the Falcons in 1974.

Mr. Kendrick had retired in Deerfield Beach after a long run as the city's parks and recreation director.

Here's the original newspaper story from The Evening Independent on Kendrick's touchdown in 1976, and this obituary from Florida's official site.

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Bucs get no compensatory picks, help others

As expected, the Bucs were not awarded any compensatory draft picks from the NFL on Monday night after a free-agent spending spree last year that gave four other NFL teams compensatory picks for their losses.

Which stings the most? It has to be Cincinnati getting a third-round pick -- the 99th overall in the draft -- for defensive end Michael Johnson, who signed a huge deal with the Bucs, only to be cut after one disappointing season and $16 million. He's already signed back with the Bengals, who maximized the compensatory-pick game perhaps as well as you can.

The Packers got a sixth-round compensatory pick for losing center Evan Dietrich-Smith to the Bucs, and the Seahawks got a sixth-rounder for losing defensive tackle Clinton McDonald to Tampa Bay. New England, which lost linebacker Dane Fletcher to Tampa Bay, got a seventh-rounder.

The single-highest compensatory pick also stings a bit for Bucs fans -- New England gave up a fourth-round pick in 2012 to get Aqib Talib from the Bucs, and they got a third-round pick Monday as compensation for losing him in free agency last year. …

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Bucs Licht won't get over 2-14, but feels fortunate to have No. 1

It was a nightmare scenario. Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht took over the Bucs and ran them aground with a 2-14 record in their first season.

But having the No. 1 overall pick is something many teams can rarely dream of.

"We never want it again,'' Licht  said Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "I feel privileged, and so does Lovie, that we are able to make this decision and to set the tone of this franchise hopefully for years to come.''

Has Licht recovered from the experience of one of the worst seasons in franchise history?

"Never. Never get over that,'' Licht said. "I'll never get over it. It'll be a driving force for years to come. I never want to go through that again.''

The Bucs could recover quickly. The first overall pick could bring them a franchise quarterback -- either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Both have visited One Buc Place and each are scheduled to have private workouts at their schools for Tampa Bay within the next 2 1/2 weeks.

Even though Licht and coach Lovie Smith have left open the possibility of taking another player or trading the pick, the team is coming closer to an agreement on which player to select. …

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