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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Once a walk-on, Bucs TE Cross enjoying familiar path as rookie

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Alan Cross (45) during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice at One Buc Place in Tampa, on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Alan Cross (45) during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice at One Buc Place in Tampa, on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

The Bucs still have seven tight ends on roster, likely battling for four spots on the final roster, but undrafted rookie Alan Cross knows this path well, having started his career at Memphis as a walk-on long-snapper.

"It's like I've told everybody, it's like I'm starting all over at Memphis again, some walk-on kid from Millington," said Cross, 23, who would become a four-year starter at tight end for the Tigers, catching 90 passes for 1,020 yards and 14 touchdowns. "It's been a great journey so far. They've given me a great opportunity to prove myself on tape, on the field and in practice."

Despite being a productive pass-catcher in college, Cross said blocking has been his best asset as a tight end, so he's had more work to do catching the ball. He has two catches for 20 yards in preseason -- draft pick Danny Vitale and backups Brandon Myers and Kivon Cartwright have combined for three catches for 7 yards by comparison.

"I'm still not good at it, but I've gotten better at route running, and trying to improve on that," Cross said. "Just trying to take deep breaths and play the game." …

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Kenny Bell hopeful for 'second chance' in preseason finale

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Kenny Bell runs a drill during training camp July 30 at One Buc Place.

[ANDRES LEIVA | Times]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Kenny Bell runs a drill during training camp July 30 at One Buc Place.

The Bucs' preseason opened with receiver Kenny Bell fumbling a kickoff return on the opening play at Philadelphia, and as it closes Wednesday night against the Redskins, he's hopeful to get another shot on kickoffs to help his case to make the Bucs' 53-man roster.

"I hope so. I do believe I will," Bell said of the opening for a kickoff returner with Donteea Dye waived this week after sustaining a hamstring injury. "Anything I can do in a positive manner is a good way to get on the team, whether it's gunning, covering kicks or returning them. ... Obviously I would love a second chance. I haven't gotten one yet, but definitely ready for that opportunity."

Bell has just one catch for 9 yards in the preseason, and is batting Evan Spencer and Bernard Reedy (among others) for the fifth and perhaps final receiver spot on the Bucs' roster. Wednesday's game was moved up from Thursday to help avoid expected heavy rains and high winds associated with the tropical depression moving toward Florida from the Gulf of Mexico. …

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Bucs' Joel Hale making most of late call to chase NFL dream

UPDATE: Literally within minutes of this story being posted, the Bucs announced they'd waived Joel Hale to get to the NFL roster cutdown limit of 75 players. His hope of sticking on an NFL roster has ended, but here's his story, nonetheless.

Joel Hale never played a snap of offensive line in a college game, so the former Ohio State defensive tackle had a big transition to make, trying to stick with the Bucs in preseason as an undrafted rookie playing offensive guard.

When Tampa Bay called him five weeks ago, he was lined up somewhere else entirely: on the sales floor at Ray Skillman Southside Buick GMC back in Indianapolis.

"I was at home, selling cars," Hale said. "I did pretty well, just trying to make some money, but I couldn't turn down the opportunity. I'm glad I came down here."

The rookies on the Bucs' offensive line run the gamut from draft picks to free agents who earned modest signing bonuses in May to Hale, who has brought a long shot's drive and determination, given a chance as the last player signed before training camp began. He's not just hungry, Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop said. …

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Storm shifts Bucs-Redskins game to Wednesday at 8

With Tropical Depression Nine moving toward Florida, the Bucs announced Monday night that their final preseason game against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium has been moved from Thursday to Wednesday night at 8 p.m.

"We have been in regular communication with administrators from the Tampa Sports Authority, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the National Weather Service over the past day as it has become apparent that the most severe weather associated with Tropical Depression Nine will likely make landfall on Thursday," Bucs COO Brian Ford said in a statement. "This decision was made by both teams in conjunction with the National Football League and local authorities in an effort to ensure the safety of our fans, players and stadium staff."

The game will be broadcast locally on WFLA Ch. 8, with kickoff starting at 8 p.m.

The Bucs have already cut their roster from 90 players to 76, and will need to make another 23 moves after the game to reach the NFL's roster limit of 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

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Bucs to waive-injure WR Donteea Dye due to hamstring

A closer look at Bucs receiver Donteea Dye's hamstring injury shows he is likely to miss four weeks, and the Bucs have waived-injured him, getting within one spot of the NFL's 75-man roster cutdown for Tuesday afternoon.

Dye, who started five games for the Bucs last year and caught 11 passes as an undrafted rookie, was in position to make the Bucs' roster and be the team's primary kickoff returner, but injured himself in the opening plays of Friday's preseason win against the Browns.

Dye could rejoin the Bucs once he's healthy again, but won't be part of the initial roster, which will be set this weekend after final cuts.

His departure opens up the Bucs' No. 5 receiver spot -- which could go to young options like Evan Spencer, Kenny Bell or Bernard Reedy -- as well as the kickoff return job, where Reedy and rookie Ryan Smith have gotten looks in the preseason.

The Bucs now have 76 players on roster, and must get to 75 by the NFL's 4 p.m. deadline Tuesday.

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Anger pleased to have Bucs' punting job, seeking consistency

With Sunday's news that the Bucs had waived Jake Schum, newcomer Bryan Anger has won the punting job for 2016 after putting up a clear statistical advantage in three preseason games.

"I've been hitting the ball well the last few weeks," Anger said Monday. "The whole preseason is a process building up to Week 1. I feel like I'm at a good point right now, consistency-wise, and I have one more game (before) Atlanta so I feel like I'm at a good spot and ready to go."

Anger averaged 48.7 yards on his punts, while Schum averaged 41.0, and Anger had a higher net average (44.1) than Schum (39.5) as well. Anger said the competition of going up against Schum -- last year's Bucs starter -- helped push him since the start of training camp.

"Jake has a really good leg, one of the biggest I've ever seen personally," he said. "It's tough at our position to constantly have self-motivation. You really have to hold yourself accountable to do the little things and build consistency with yourself. To have somebody pushing you the whole time, it definitely made me a better punter having him here. I'm hoping for the best for him." …

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Roster secrets unveiled: Bucs will keep 3 QBs, 4 safeties

The Bucs are likely to keep three quarterbacks, with Ryan Griffin as a second backup.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs are likely to keep three quarterbacks, with Ryan Griffin as a second backup.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has been careful in how he's doled out morsels of information about even the makeup of Tampa Bay's 53-man roster, let alone who makes the cut, but he shared a little Monday in saying that the Bucs are likely to keep three quarterbacks with Ryan Griffin as a second backup.

"I think it's safe (to say) that we're probably going to keep three quarterbacks," Koetter said Monday. "We put a lot of time into Ryan Griffin and I think he's proving that he's capable of being a backup in this league. The second thing, obviously, it's not a big secret that Mike Glennon is going into the last year of his contract. Jameis (Winston) is our quarterback for the long haul, but we've got to have a 2, and those guys take so long to train ... I mean, we've invested a full year into (Griffin's) training. ... He's done a good job when he's on the field and we think he's got a chance to be here longterm."

Koetter also said the Bucs are "probably only going to keep four safeties unless something crazy happens," and despite Sunday's release of veteran Major Wright, the coach would not yet say that rookie Ryan Smith has made the team. …

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Bucs coach Koetter says he would be 'personally' disappointed if a player didn't stand for the National Anthem

Dirk Koetter said if a player wanted to object to standing for the National Anthem that they would address the matter in house.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Dirk Koetter said if a player wanted to object to standing for the National Anthem that they would address the matter in house.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has made sure his team knows how and where to stand during the National Anthem before NFL games.

"Believe it or not, we have practiced how to line up for the National Anthem. We've worked on it,'' Koetter said.

Koetter considers the National Anthem a salute to those who have served in the military, but he doesn't believe the team has the right to require players to stand at attention during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

"I don't know if our organization has a right to tell a guy that he needs to do that,'' Koetter said. "I would be disappointed if any of our players didn't stand up for the National Anthem. Personally, I look at that as a salute to the people who paved the way for us. But at the same time, this is a free country and freedom of speech is something we all believe in and freedom of expression and that's an individual's choice. That's a fine line. But I would personally be disappointed but I think that would be hard to enforce that rule.''

Koetter said if a player wanted to object to standing for the National Anthem that they would address the matter in house. …

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Last year's cuts can be this year's stars for recycling Bucs

Jude Adjei-Barimah is in good position to make the Bucs' opening roster, working all of camp as the team's fourth cornerback.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Jude Adjei-Barimah is in good position to make the Bucs' opening roster, working all of camp as the team's fourth cornerback.

A dozen Bucs players have already gotten bad news this week, and at least 20 more will be cut before the week is over, but for players looking for hope moving forward, there are examples of persistence and redemption all over the Tampa Bay locker room.

"It's disappointing. Everybody wants to be part of that opening-day 53," said cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah, who was among last year's final cuts as an undrafted rookie. "It's not the end of the journey. The journey's really long, and as long as you keep working on things you have to work on, keep being the player that you've been, doors are going to open. It's a long season. A lot of things happen, so I tell the guys to keep grinding, keep working and doors will open up."

Adjei-Barimah was one of 10 players signed to the initial practice squad, along with current Bucs WR Donteea Dye and DE Howard Jones; TE Cameron Brate would join them a day later. After three games, Adjei-Barimah was signed to the active roster, and he wound up starting seven games. Now he's in good position to make the Bucs' opening roster, working all of camp as the team's fourth cornerback. …

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Vincent Jackson says National Anthem has special meaning for military and their families

While he respects Colin Kaepernick's stance to sit during the National Anthem as a protest to the way blacks are treated in America, Vincent Jackson admits it's not something he could ever bring himself to do.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

While he respects Colin Kaepernick's stance to sit during the National Anthem as a protest to the way blacks are treated in America, Vincent Jackson admits it's not something he could ever bring himself to do.

Vincent Jackson's commitment to supporting the military earned him the NFL's Salute to Service Award last season. His Jackson In Action 83 Foundation benefits military familes and he has a special relationship with the service men and woman at MacDill Air Force Base and the U.S. Central Command.

While he respects Colin Kaepernick's stance to sit during the National Anthem as a protest to the way blacks are treated in America, Jackson admits it's not something he could ever bring himself to do.

"I mean, I have a totally different perspective," Jackson said Monday of the 49ers quarterback. "I think everybody is entitled to their right and beliefs, but it's not something I would do.

What does the stars and stripes mean to someone who has served or a member of a military family, such as Jackson's?

"Oh, it's huge man," Jackson said. "Paying tribute and your respect to just so many people who have made sacrifices. What a great country we do live in. I understand if people want to get messages across, and make points and bring light to something they think is important. That's his choice of action to do it." …

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Bucs' Pamphile to create scholarship in mother's memory

Kevin Pamphile was excused from three practices in early August at the time of his mother's death, and wasn't at Friday's preseason game to be in Miami for her wake and funeral services.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Kevin Pamphile was excused from three practices in early August at the time of his mother's death, and wasn't at Friday's preseason game to be in Miami for her wake and funeral services.

Bucs offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile has stepped up as a starting guard entering this season, and on Monday, announced that he'd done so despite a personal tragedy in the past month: his mother, Marie, died at age 57 and was buried Saturday.

"Losing a mom completely disrupts the balance of a household and family. She was our nucleus," Pamphile wrote in a statement issued to the Times. "She was a God-fearing woman. She was nurturing, extremely supportive, and giving to everyone in need. She was a loving and devoted wife, and an amazing mother. She is now our angel."

Pamphile was excused from three practices in early August at the time of her death, and wasn't at Friday's preseason game to be in Miami for her wake and funeral services. The Bucs won 30-13 over the Browns, and quarterback Jameis Winston said after the game that the Bucs, including Josh Allen, who replaced Pamphile at left guard, were motivated to play the game in tribute to their teammate who couldn't be with them. …

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Seferian-Jenkins on Kaepernick: 'Invest in the black community'

Austin Seferian-Jenkins' suggestion for Colin Kaepernick and others who care about the issue of the treatment of blacks in America to help by investing in solving the problem.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Austin Seferian-Jenkins' suggestion for Colin Kaepernick and others who care about the issue of the treatment of blacks in America to help by investing in solving the problem.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to protest the treatment of blacks in America by sitting during the national anthem has become a major story in the NFL this weekend, and Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins offered his take to Sports Illustrated writer Peter King.

The Bucs had no scheduled access to players on Saturday or Sunday, but King was able to speak with Seferian-Jenkins, whose suggestion was for Kaepernick and others who care about the issue to help by investing in solving the problem.

"If you live in America, you have the right to express yourself freely," Seferian-Jenkins told King. "This is not a Communist country. It's the land of the free and the home of the brave, and people sacrifice their lives so Americans can have the freedom of speech that he chose to use -- regardless of how people feel about it.

"But I think if he's serious about the problem, he should invest in the black community. He should invest in education. He should invest in Oakland. People have been standing up and saying things, but we need action." …

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Bucs' Dye, Bond could return for season opener

Good news on the Bucs' injury front, as receiver Donteea Dye and rookie linebacker Devante Bond, both sidelined with hamstring injuries, are both expected to be in position to return healthy before Tampa Bay's regular-season opener in two weeks.

Dye injured his hamstring on just his second play in Friday night's game and did not return, but an MRI exam this weekend showed the injury is minor, with no tear. Bond, a sixth-round draft pick likely to be the top backup at strongside linebacker, injured his hamstring at practice last week and was held out of Friday's game, but he too is expected to be back in time for the season opener.

As such, neither injury is likely to have ramifications on the Bucs' roster decisions as they make cuts this week from 90 players to the final 53. Tampa Bay made its first 12 cuts Sunday, with two more moves needed by Tuesday afternoon to reach the initial cutdown limit of 75 players.

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Breaking down final roster battles as Bucs cut to 53

The Bucs made their first 12 cuts on Sunday, getting them down to 77 players, with two more moves to make by Tuesday and another 20 to get them to 53, presuming that J.R. Sweezy and Louis Murphy -- who still haven't even practiced -- will open the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Most of those 53 jobs are likely decided in the minds of the Bucs' front office, with only a handful realistically in play for Thursday's preseason finale -- there are injury questions that will shape the initial roster as well, with no real public insight from the team as to the severity of those question marks.

Being extremely conservative, we can point to 38 locks to make the Bucs' roster, with 15 jobs generously up for grabs. There are perceived leaders for these jobs, but we can't know that decisions have been made. You could see marginal players traded for low-round picks or other spare parts in the next week as well.

Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the roster bubble, with 29 players in reasonable contention for those 15 roster spots. The number in parentheses is how many the Bucs are likely to carry on the 53. …

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Bucs cut 12, including S Major Wright, LB Jeremiah George

The Bucs have made their initial wave of roster cuts, with 12 players waived and released on Sunday to get the team within two moves of the NFL's cutdown to 75 by Tuesday afternoon.

Most notable was safety Major Wright, who has lost out to rookie Ryan Smith in a battle for the team's fourth safety job. Wright had 76 tackles in two seasons with the Bucs, but had fallen into a backup role and was due to make $1.75-million in 2016.

The Bucs cut last year's starting punter, Jake Schum, who lost out to newcomer Bryan Anger for the punting job, and cut linebacker Jeremiah George, a Clearwater grad who had played primarily on special teams, getting a key block on Adam Humphries' 73-yard punt-return touchdown Friday night. Another local among the cuts was former Jefferson and USF receiver Andre Davis, who had played sparingly in the preseason.

Most of the other cuts were to be expected: RB Storm Johnson, TE Tevin Westbrook, OL Taylor Fallin, DE Martin Ifedi, DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, DT Travis Britz, S Kimario McFadden and CB Daniel Davie. …

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