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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Verner: Both QBs great, but edge to Jameis Winston

Given the choice between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner chose Winston, based on promising things he's heard more than what he's been able to see from his college days.

AP photo

Given the choice between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner chose Winston, based on promising things he's heard more than what he's been able to see from his college days.

The question to be debated for the next two months is whether FSU's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota is better for the Bucs and the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, and Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner was asked for his preference while appearing on the "NFL AM" show on NFL Network on Thursday morning.

"Obviously with (Josh) McCown being released, quarterback definitely is probably somebody we need," Verner said. "A lot of talks between Winston and Mariota. Winston, I haven't seen too much of, honestly, with him being Florida State. (Verner's a UCLA grad) I've seen a lot of Mariota, since he was a Pac-12 guy. I've seen him beat the Bruins on countless occasions and I just know what type of player he is. I think you could go well with either one of those, and I'm not opposed to us probably even trading down, accumulating more picks to try to help us out more. There are a lot of ways you can go, and I think any way they decide to go is going to help the team."

Reminded that he had a very diplomatic answer without really choosing one option, he chose Winston, based on promising things he's heard more than what he's been able to see from his college days. …

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Bucs hire ex-Jaguars DE Spicer as assistant d-line coach

The Bucs have hired former Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer to be the team's assistant defensive line coach, reuniting him with Joe Cullen, who he coached with in Jacksonville.

Spicer, 39, served in the same role with the Jaguars in 2012-13, working directly under Cullen in 2012. He spent nine seasons with the Jaguars from 2000-08, totaling 28.5 sacks. He earned a Super Bowl ring with New Orleans in 2009, though he was only on the roster as an inactive player for three playoff games. He spent part of 2014 as the defensive line coach at Jackson State but resigned in July, citing family reasons.

Spicer replaces Mike Phair, who worked with the Bucs' defensive ends last season but left this month to become co-defensive coordinator at Illinois. He's the third new coach on the Bucs' staff for 2015, joining offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian.

 

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NFL Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston still leads Marcus Mariota after combine

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday in Indianapolis.

Associated Press

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday in Indianapolis.

A busy combine week in Indianapolis hasn’t done much to change mock drafts just yet.

Expect more updates in the next few days, as pundits reevaluate with the additional information of 40 times and workouts. But since it’s Mock Draft Monday (not Thursday), here’s where everything stands.

But first, a quick poll update from you, the reader. With almost 3,000 votes, 45 percent of you want the Bucs to pick Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Florida State’s Jameis Winston is closing in (40 percent), with the rest wanting someone else (1.7 percent) or a trade (13 percent). Remember, you can cast your vote here.

Without further ado, the mock drafts:

Updated picks:

SBNation: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Writer Dan Kadar has been steady with Winston the last couple weeks. Kadar writes: Indications from those in Indianapolis signal Winston not only as the top quarterback in this year’s draft, but the favorite to be the choice at No. 1. The Buccaneers will have to decide whether or not Winston is simply immature or has serious character questions. Once they do, look for this pick to get locked down before the start of the draft. …

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Winston, Mariota stand out in passing drills

Hopefully, there will be more duels between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota on NFL playing fields, more shootouts with even higher stakes. But if the call to arms that took place at the league’s scouting combine was any indication, this quarterback rivalry will be worth watching.

 

The frontrunners to become the Bucs' No. 1 pick in the draft went throw-to-throw during passing drills Saturday and neither disappointed.

Winston, the Florida State’s gunslinger, mixed outstanding velocity with excellent touch on most of his passes while remaining relaxed and confident throughout the workout. He was perfect on all 16 pass attempts.

Mariota, the Oregon quarterback, missed only two of 15 throws and displayed great footwork for a player who had not been under center his entire college career.

Both elite quarterbacks showed why they are clearly at the top of their draft class and did little to separate themselves from each other in a rare competition Saturday. The last prospective No. 1 overall pick to participate in passing drills at the NFL combine was Cam New Newton in 2011. …

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Winston: 'I'm here to win games and be the face of someone's franchise'

Jameis Winston wants to be the No. 1 overall pick and the face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

AP photo

Jameis Winston wants to be the No. 1 overall pick and the face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He talked about winning the Super Bowl. Next year. Forget Marcus Mariota. He talked about beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He even mentioned wanting to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jameis Winston wants to be the No. 1 overall pick and the face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Yes, he said, he's made mistakes. He's willing to earn the Bucs' trust. But he's even more into earning victories.

"I'm not into no competition type of thing. I'm out here to win games and be the face of someone's franchise,'' Winston said. "This is not no competition just between me and Mariota, because one thing about me, I'm plan on winning the Super Bowl next year so it's going to be Jameis versus Peyton Manning and Jameis versus Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that. After all this combine stuff, you're not going to hear no more about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. But I want my name to stay relevant the next 15 to 20 years of my career.''

Winston began his 10 minute media session with a statement of sorts that he spoke from the heart. …

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Report: Winston having weakness in throwing shoulder

Jameis is undergoing medical tests to determine why he is experiencing weakness in his throwing shoulder, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jameis is undergoing medical tests to determine why he is experiencing weakness in his throwing shoulder, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

The Bucs may have a reason to pump the brakes on Jameis Winston.

The Florida State quarterback is undergoing medical tests to determine why he is experiencing weakness in his right throwing shoulder.

The problem was detected during a routine medical examination. Winston had an Electromyography (EMG) to study a weakness in his shoulder, which often can be caused by a nerve problem that can be treated through proper therapy, if necessary, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

However, a report by NFL Network said one doctor found weakness in a nerve in Winston's shoulder but he checked out fine in further testing at an Indianapolis hospital. The condition is common with baseball pitchers, the report said.

Greg Genske, Jameis Winston’s agent told the NFL Network "Jameis feels incredibly strong and there is no need for treatment of any kind.

"There's no reason to believe he will experience any future difficulties.''

One NFL team official called the discovery of shoulder weakness "overblown,' and said he expects Winston to participate in passing drills Saturday. …

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Bucs' free agent failures won't stop them from trying again

Quarterback Josh McCown is one (season) and done after 18 turnovers.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Quarterback Josh McCown is one (season) and done after 18 turnovers.

The Bucs swung and missed wildly during free agency last season. Quarterback Josh McCown is one (season) and done after 18 turnovers. Left tackle Anthony Collins played so poorly he was a healthy scratch on the inactive list the last four games. Defensive end Michael Johnson injured his ankle in the first week and had only four sacks. Evan Dietrich-Smith anchored a bad offensive line. Cornerback Alterraun Verner played his best football at the end of the season but made little impact overall.

The Bucs will continue to cut their losses with Collins and others in March. But even with so many failures, they will not abandon free agency this year.

"We're building our team through the draft," coach Lovie Smith said. "But you still have to use free agency when you feel the need. We felt the need coming in and didn't know our roster well. We know our roster a lot better now. …

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Bucs hire Preston as new director of player development

The Bucs have hired former Bills center Duke Preston as the team's new director of player development.

Preston, who spent the last two years in a similar role with Notre Dame's football program, fills the spot left open when the Bucs had to fire Isaiah Harris in October after his arrest on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. Harris was accused of rear-ending a woman's car in a Taco Bell drive-thru at about 2 a.m. in north Tampa; his case has a hearing in court next month.

Preston played at Illinois, then spent four seasons with the Bills, playing 59 games between 2005-08. He was with the Cowboys in 2009-10 but didn't play in any games; this 2010 story in Dallas spoke of his hope to become a spiritual adviser to players in the future. At Notre Dame, he worked with coach Brian Kelly in developing players' intellectual, social and spiritual development. He'll have much the same duties working with Lovie Smith and the Bucs.

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Mariota making transition, believes he should go No. 1

Despite facing an enormous transition to the pro game, Marcus Mariota believes he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Bucs.

AP photo

Despite facing an enormous transition to the pro game, Marcus Mariota believes he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Bucs.

Marcus Mariota never called a play at Oregon. He rarely played under center and was never even in an offensive huddle.

Despite facing an enormous transition to the pro game, Mariota believes he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Bucs.

“As a competitor, any person will tell you he’s the best. I truly believe that in myself,'' Mariota said Thursday at the NFL scoring combine. "We’ll see whatever decision is made but I’ve got to go in with that mentality.

“Any player will stand in front of you and tell you that they’re confident in their abilities. I’m no different. I feel what I’ve been able to do at the University of Oregon, what I’ve learned, has prepared me for this level.''

The Bucs are considering Mariota and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Both won the Heisman Trophy and played for a national championship. Both are great leaders with strong arms and identical in height at 6-foot-3 3/4.

But that's where the similarities may end.

The soft-spoken Mariota played almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation in Oregon's spread option offense where plays were signalled in from the sideline while players stood at the line of scrimmage. …

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QB coach says Winston has 'alligator skin,' and not a risk

Jameis Winston already has endured the scrutiny and expectations of a rookie NFL quarterback and would not be an off-field risk if the Bucs make him the No. 1 overall pick, his quarterbacks coach said Thursday.

AP photo

Jameis Winston already has endured the scrutiny and expectations of a rookie NFL quarterback and would not be an off-field risk if the Bucs make him the No. 1 overall pick, his quarterbacks coach said Thursday.

Jameis Winston already has endured the scrutiny and expectations of a rookie NFL quarterback and would not be an off-field risk if the Bucs make him the No. 1 overall pick, his quarterbacks coach said Thursday.

George Whitfield, Jr., who has known Winston since he came to his quarterback camps at age 17, says Winston does not have a chip on his shoulder and is driven to become one of the best players in the game.

 

"Usually a rookie season comes with a lot of attention, a lot of scrutiny,'' Whitfield, Jr., said. "A lot of big expectations on you. He got that at Florida State, two back-to-back years. His first year was very football centric. This last year was very life centric. But he got a wealth of experience of standing in front of microphones having to discuss some tough situations, standing in front of teammates during the same situations, standing in front of some big time opponents, too.

 

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Bucs get first face-to-face meetings with Winston, Mariota

The Bucs had their first face-to-face meeting with Jameis Winston Wednesday night at the NFL scouting combine.

Orlando Sentinel

The Bucs had their first face-to-face meeting with Jameis Winston Wednesday night at the NFL scouting combine.

The Bucs had their first face-to-face meeting with quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota Wednesday night at the NFL scouting combine.

Although neither participated in the team's 15-minute formal interview at the Crowne Plaza, they each spent significant time with members of the Bucs' coaching staff at the nearby train station that is a gathering spot for coaches, front office personnel and players.

The Bucs will spend extensive time with both players before the NFL draft with multiple visits likely. In addition to attending their pro days, they will have campus visits to Florida State and Oregon as well as including them in their top 30 visits with players to One Buc Place.

“We'll spend time with both these quarterbacks this week,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "But the 15 minutes, we don’t even count that. We’re going to spend a lot of time with both of these guys.

“I think in the end it will be a clear decision who you take. I think it will be obvious who the best player is to lead our franchise, lead our team next year and get out of that cellar.''

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Good weights for Winston, Mariota at combine

Marcus Mariota, who needed to add a few pounds, weighed 222.

AP photo

Marcus Mariota, who needed to add a few pounds, weighed 222.

All the commotion over the fat Jameis Winston photos circulating on the internet may simmer down.

Winston, the Florida State quarterback, weighed 231 pounds when he stepped on the scale at the underwear Olympics, also known as the NFL scouting combine. That's one pound over his listed playing weight.

Mariota, who needed to add a few pounds, weighed 222. Both players measured 6036, just a tick under 6-4. 

So this is truly a neck-and-neck race for the No. 1 spot in the draft.

Winston's quarterback coach, George Whitfield, Jr., said Winston was 245 pounds a couple weeks after the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.  He aggravated a high ankle sprain in the semi-final.

“Part it was the ankle. He already injured it two-thirds of the way through the season. Re-aggravated it in the Rose Bowl,'' Whitfield, Jr., said. "High ankle sprain. So I told him stay home. Who knows what you do in those two weeks when you’re off. Mom’s cooking. Hey, I’m training anyway, bring the cake around. …

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Licht says Bucs have a favorite between Winston-Mariota

While Jason Licht said the Bucs are keeping all their options open with the No. 1 overall pick, he said they are clearing leaning toward taking a quarterback.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

While Jason Licht said the Bucs are keeping all their options open with the No. 1 overall pick, he said they are clearing leaning toward taking a quarterback.

The Bucs have a clear favorite between Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, even if they aren't saying who it is.

"We have over two months yet, so it would be a little ridiculous to come out and say, ‘Well, this is who we want right now,’' Jason Licht said. "We want to use every avenue that we have, every resource that we have in the next two months to make the final decision. But it would be an insult to sit here after two rounds of draft meetings and watching every play of Lovie and I, or Jon Robinson, our personnel director, Mike Biehl, our college scouting [director], all of our scouts, to watch every play and say that, ‘Okay, we have two guys tied at the top.’ We have a favorite, but we want to let the process play out.”

While Licht said the Bucs are keeping all their options open with the No. 1 overall pick, he said they are clearing leaning toward taking a quarterback.

"If you have player who is a franchise-level player, especially at quarterback, it's tough to pass on them,'' Licht said. …

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Smith has no problem making Winston face of the Bucs

Lovie Smith said the Bucs' background checks have not uncovered any character concerns that would prevent the team from selecting Jameis Winston, pictured, with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Getty Images

Lovie Smith said the Bucs' background checks have not uncovered any character concerns that would prevent the team from selecting Jameis Winston, pictured, with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday he would have no problem making troubled but talented Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston the face of the franchise.

Saying Winston was 'exonerated' of accusations he sexually assaulted a female student in 2012, Smith said the team's background checks have not uncovered any character concerns that would prevent the Bucs from selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

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Reports: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota both to throw at combine

Good news for Bucs fans who want to make their own thorough evaluations of quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota while watching the NFL combine workouts in Indianapolis this weekend: Both top quarterbacks have reportedly decided to throw at the combine.

Winston and Mariota are widely considered the top quarterbacks in the draft and potential matches for the Bucs, who have the No. 1 overall pick. It had looked like neither might throw at the combine -- top prospects sometimes see more opportunity for the stock to fall and only throw at a pro day under a more controlled environment.

But late Tuesday night, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Mariota had informed teams he would be throwing in Indianapolis -- skill drills for quarterbacks, receivers and running backs are Saturday -- and then shortly after, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Winston was planning to throw as well.

The Times' Rick Stroud is in Indianapolis and will have updates from the combine throughout the week.

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