Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Joe Smith and Greg Auman

Ex-Bucs QB Freeman lands with Giants

Josh Freeman's long downward spiral -- from Bucs starter to Vikings backup to a month of waiting in free agency -- ended Wednesday as he agreed to terms on a contract with the Giants as a backup to Eli Manning, according to multiple reports.

It's a fresh start for Freeman, 26, who once seemed headed for a lucrative contract extension after throwing for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012. But then-coach Greg Schiano turned instead to rookie Mike Glennon and cut Freeman loose; as an unrestricted free agent, he saw 21 other quarterbacks sign this offseason before landing with the Giants.

The Bucs have also gone in another direction since the split with Freeman, as Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were fired after a 4-12 season and replaced by Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. Glennon is now a backup to veteran Josh McCown, and the team could take a quarterback high in next month's draft. …

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Bucs drafting QB won't change McCown's approach

New Bucs starting quarterback Josh McCown met some of the draft prospects who made visits to One Buc Place last week but said even if the team uses the No. 7 overall pick on a quarterback, it won't change his approach to the upcoming season.

"If you're picking somebody in the first round, you're hoping they can help your team at some point, (but) my focus won't shift," McCown said to reporters in the second week of offseason team workouts. "My focus is, whether it's me or Mike Glennon or Mike Kafka or somebody else, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks to play good football and to help their team win football games. That wouldn't change."

McCown, 34, threw 13 touchdowns against just one interception with the Bears last season and has been named by Lovie Smith as the starter going into the season. Taking a quarterback high in the draft would likely change that at some point in the season, though McCown's presence would allow the Bucs to ease a rookie into a starting role rather than forcing him in before he's ready. …

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Bucs RB James pleased with ankle recovery

Five months after a promising rookie season ended with a broken ankle, Bucs running back Mike James said he's pleased with his recovery and already running and cutting as he eyes a healthy return for the 2014 season.

"The healing process is going well," James said to reporters in the second week of offseason workouts for the team. "I've got a good opportunity to do what I need to do to get back in the swing of things and get acclimated with everything."

Asked if he'd been fully cleared for the team's first minicamp, James said the team is still "playing it by ear" and "taking everything day by day," but his focus is on getting back to full strength and full speed.

James had stepped up well after a season-ending shoulder injury to Doug Martin -- he rushed for 158 yards and threw a touchdown pass in the Bucs' loss at Seattle, and had rushed for 41 yards against Miami in the team's first win when he injured his ankle. He said as frustrating as the injury was, he understands that it's a risk that comes with playing in a physical sport like football.

"It's the game. It's a tough game, a brutal game. We all know what it's for when we sign up and we take it in stride," he said. …

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Does McCown fit NFC QB hierarchy with Brees, Ryan, Newton?

Josh McCown said he is looking forward to competing in the Bucs' star-studded division.

GREG AUMAN | Times

Josh McCown said he is looking forward to competing in the Bucs' star-studded division.

The NFC South has been an arms race, with Pro Bowl passers such as the Saints' Drew Brees, the Panthers' Cam Newton and the Falcons' Matt Ryan.

So will the Bucs be a little out-gunned in the division next season with Bears free agent Josh McCown at quarterback?

"It’s not Josh McCown against Drew Brees, it’s those guys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,'' McCown said Tuesday. "It’s the Saints against the Bucs or the Falcons against the Bucs. I’m thankful as a team we’re going to have a good team together.''

McCown, 34, said while he respects those players, they will have to contend with the Bucs defense. But he is looking forward to competing in the star-studded division. …

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Ex-Plant, FSU RB James Wilder Jr. arrested in Tampa

Former Plant and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr., an NFL draft prospect who visited the Bucs last week, was arrested in Tampa on Sunday night on an outstanding warrant related to a charge of driving with a suspended license with knowledge.

Wilder, 22, was arrested in Tampa at 7:21 p.m., booked at 9:41 p.m. and released on $1,000 bond at 12:20 a.m. Monday. He is the son of former Bucs running back James Wilder, who remains the team's career rushing leader. Wilder was one of 26 local prospects who worked out for the Bucs this week and is expected to be selected in next month's NFL draft.

Wilder was arrested in February 2012 in Tallahassee on charges of resisting an officer without violence. He was cited in Tampa on March 1 for driving with a suspended license with knowledge, and Sunday's arrest stems from that case. He has been cited for license-related violations at least three times in Tampa since 2011, with another in Tallahassee in 2012.

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Bucs bring in 26 locals for draft workouts

NFL teams are allowed to bring in 30 draft prospects for pre-draft visits, but they're also allowed a mass workout for local prospects who played high school or college football in the area. The Bucs took advantage of that Friday with 26 locals at One Buc Place, and while the team declined to release a list of names, we've been able to identify 21 of the 26 players.

The biggest name of the group looks to be former Plant and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr., whose father James remains Tampa Bay's all-time leading rusher. The team did confirm Wilder's visit, even tweeting a picture of him looking at a picture of his father in the hallways of the team's facilities. …

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Next QB in for Bucs visit: Fresno's Derek Carr

Derek Carr, whose draft projections range from a top-10 pick to the second round, will be the fourth top QB in 10 days to visit the Bucs.

AP photo

Derek Carr, whose draft projections range from a top-10 pick to the second round, will be the fourth top QB in 10 days to visit the Bucs.

The Bucs' firsthand evaluations of the draft's top quarterbacks will continue next week, with a fourth confirmed visitor due at One Buc Place on Wednesday: Fresno State's Derek Carr.

Carr, whose draft projections range from a top-10 pick to the second round, will be the fourth top QB in 10 days to visit the Bucs, following Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel this week. If the Bucs aren't seriously considering using the No. 7 overall pick on a new franchise quarterback, they certainly want the rest of the NFL to think they are.

We've been writing about Carr's close personal ties to Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford since the Senior Bowl in Mobile back in January. Tedford coached Carr's older brother David at Fresno before he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, and Derek would throw and catch with Tedford when he visited his brother's practices. He also worked individually with Tedford this winter before the coach joined the Bucs' staff, so there's considerable familiarity between the two. …

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Manziel is latest QB prospect to visit Bucs

A busy week of visits from some of the top QB prospects in next month's draft continued Thursday as the Bucs confirmed that former Texas A&M star and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was at One Buc Place.

Manziel, a potential match for the Bucs' No. 7 overall first-round pick, is the third quarterback to visit this week, following Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. It remains to be seen which passers will be available at No. 7 -- most mock drafts have one or two taken in the top six picks, which could leave the Bucs to address another position with their top pick.

NFL teams are allowed to bring in 30 draft prospects for visits, and the Bucs will have a familiar name in on Friday -- former Florida State running back James Wilder Jr., son of the former Bucs running back, wrote on Twitter.com on Thursday that he would be working out for his hometown Bucs on Friday. The elder Wilder remains the Bucs' all-time rushing leader with 5,957 rushing yards, while his son starred at Plant High before going to Tallahassee.

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Bucs preseason schedule released, Williams looms in third week

Bills receiver Mike Williams can begin to exact a measure of revenge against the Bucs in the third week of the preseason when Tampa Bay visits Buffalo.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Bills receiver Mike Williams can begin to exact a measure of revenge against the Bucs in the third week of the preseason when Tampa Bay visits Buffalo.

Bills receiver Mike Williams can begin to exact a measure of revenge against the Bucs in the third week of the preseason when Tampa Bay visits Buffalo.

That was among the highlights to the Bucs' preseason schedule, which was released Wednesday. Date and times of the games will be announced at a later time.

Williams was traded to the Bills for a sixth-round pick in next month's NFL draft.

The Bucs open the preseason Week 1 at Jacksonville before hosting the Miami Dolphins, another state rival, at Raymond James Stadium.

Tampa Bay will then travel to Buffalo to meet Williams and the Bills before wrapping up the preseason by hosting the Washington Redskins. The preseason finale will be a homecoming of sorts for New Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.

Since starters typically play into the third quarter of the third preseason game, Williams could see plenty of action against his former team.

 

 

 

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Eastern Ilinois QB Garoppolo visits Bucs

Another day, another visit from a quarterback prospect at One Buc Place.

Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo met with coach Lovie Smith and other members of the coaching and front office staff at the club's facility Tuesday, the team confirmed.

Garoppolo, the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner and FCS Offensive Player of the Year, has emerged as a possible first round pick following impressive work at the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine.

Garoppolo's visit came one day after the Bucs met with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at One Buc Place.

Garoppolo completed 66.0% of his passes (375 of 568) for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. A four-year starter, he broke Tony Romo's career school records for passing yards and touchdowns.

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Bucs players come away impressed by Smith

Addressing his team as a group for the first time Monday, the start of the off-season workout program, Lovie Smith said he expects to win this year, starting with the NFC South division.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Addressing his team as a group for the first time Monday, the start of the off-season workout program, Lovie Smith said he expects to win this year, starting with the NFC South division.

Lovie Smith hasn't coached a game for the Bucs, but it appears he already has won over his new players.

Addressing his team as a group for the first time Monday, the start of the off-season workout program, Smith said he expects to win this year, starting with the NFC South division.

The quietude and confidence in Smith's delivery was in stark contrast to that of coach Greg Schiano, a self-described disciplinarian who was fired after only two seasons and an 10-22 record. …

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Glennon plans to compete with McCown to start at QB

After going 4-9 as a rookie and throwing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, MIke Glennon was good but not good enough to prevent the Bucs from signing the top available free agent quarterback.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

After going 4-9 as a rookie and throwing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, MIke Glennon was good but not good enough to prevent the Bucs from signing the top available free agent quarterback.

Mike Glennon said he received a call from coach Lovie Smith shortly after the Bucs signed Bears free agent quarterback Josh McCown last month.

"He just said, 'to start out, there's got to be a person to start that goes out with the first group first and that person is Josh,'' Glennon said.

After going 4-9 as a rookie and throwing 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Glennon was good but not good enough to prevent the Bucs from signing the top available free agent quarterback.

But while it looks as though he might be headed back to the bench, Glennon said Tuesday he plans to compete with McCown and still could win the job in the off-season.

'Lovie said to me and to the team yesterday the best players are going to play,'' Glennon said. "And I don't think that's any different for the quarterback position.''

McCown, 34, is playing for his seventh team, counting an off-season in San Francisco. But he is coming off his best year, going 3-2 as a starter with the Bears while throwing 13 touchdowns and only one interception.

The Bucs signed McCown to a 2-year, $10-million contract and still could add a quarterback in the NFL draft next month. …

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Williams says he wants to prove Bucs made a mistake

Saying he wants to prove the Bucs made a mistake by trading him to the Buffalo Bills, receiver Mike Williams admitted he has to ‘grow up a little bit more.’’

Despite that acknowledgement at his introductory press conference with the Bills Monday, Williams insisted that he was guilty mostly of having a big heart and said two stories about his off-field problems weren’t factual. He refused to specify but claimed some of the charges against him were unfounded.

The spate of trouble surrounding Williams prompted the Bucs to trade their No. 2 receiver to the Bills Friday for a sixth-round pick in the NFL draft next month.

“I’m going to go out and prove they made a mistake and this is a great decision for the Buffalo Bills,’’ Williams said.

Williams was stabbed in his left thigh last month at the home he has since purchased in Avila. His brother, Eric Baylor, was charged with aggravated battery and domestic violence in the incident. …

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Bucs open off-season program, Bridgewater visit and more

Lavelle Hawkins previously played with the Titans and Chargers.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Lavelle Hawkins previously played with the Titans and Chargers.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith addressed his players for the first time as a group Monday as the team began its off-season workout program.

The Bucs also received a visit from one player who could possibly join them soon - Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Each team is allowed to bring up to 30 players to the team's headquarters for a pre-draft visit. The Bucs plan to visit with other highly-rated quarterbacks such as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr.

Bridgewater, a Miami native,  passed for just shy of 4,000 yards last season, completing 71.0% of his passes with 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions while leading Louisville to a 12-1 record.

On Monday, the Bucs also added to their list of candidates to play opposite receiver Vincent Jackson.

The team officially announced the signing of former Titans and Chargers receiver Lavelle Hawkins and former Bears safety Major Wright. In 56 games career games with four starts, Hawkins has 71 receptions for 771 yards and one touchdown. He played for Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at California. …

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Bucs agree to terms with Bears S Major Wright

Bears safety Major Wright is returning to the state where he played collegiately, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Bucs.

The former Florida Gators star had 100 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 15 games with the Bears last season. He will provide depth for the Bucs behind safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson.

Wright will be reunited with coach Lovie Smith, whom he played under in Chicago from 2010-12. Wright was a third round pick by the Bears out of Florida in 2010.

Wright also will rejoin Smith's his son Mikal, Tampa Bay's safeties coach, and cornerbacks coach Gill Byrd, who had the same position in Chicago. Wright has nine interceptions in the last three seasons, with 42 starts in that span as well. He was born in Fort Lauderdale and was part of Florida's national championship squad in 2008.

The Bucs also are believed  to be close to deal with former Titans and Chargers receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who worked out for the team on Friday.

Hawkins played for Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at California. His best season came in 2012 when he caught 47 passes for 470 yards and one touchdown.

 

 

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