Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Joe Smith and Greg Auman

Smith pleased with perfect attendance for minicamp

TAMPA -- This week's three-day minicamp is officially a voluntary workout, but new Bucs coach Lovie Smith wasn't surprised to have all 75 players in attendance Tuesday afternoon for the first practice under his new coaching staff.

"Everyone has been here all offseason really, and that's what you expect," Smith said after a non-contact practice went 2 hours and 20 minutes at One Buc Place. "It's voluntary work, but if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity? I appreciate that from the team. All you can do in April is just show up and try to get better."

There were new wrinkles on a sunny afternoon -- quarterbacks wearing orange jerseys with the offense in white and defense in red, with spirits high as the optimism of offseason changes pushed back the frustration of last year's 4-12 record. This week's three practices give the current players a chance to show the new coaches where the team needs -- or doesn't need -- to upgrade positions in the draft, fast approaching May 8. …

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Quick notes as Bucs open voluntary minicamp ...

Bucs open their first practice of voluntary minicamp at 1:30, so there's only a minute to run through some quick notes tweeted out from 45 minutes of open locker room. Talked to 13 players and have lots of notes to share -- can go into more detail after practice this afternoon.

Bucs are setting a policy of having no tweets sent out during practice, so this is what you'll have until 4 or so ... lots more coming then.

-- Plenty of notes from open Bucs locker room. LB Jonathan Casillas, TE Luke Stocker are both fully recovered from injuries last year.

-- Bucs' Jeff Demps said he's worked on slot in offseason, ran only one meet with focus on football. Said he likes being at football weight.

-- Bucs' Johnthan Banks embraces competition with Mike Jenkins. Reminds that nobody gave him starting corner job last year as a rookie ...

-- Bucs DT Akeem Spence took signing of Clinton McDonald as chance to learn from veteran with similar body type. Excited about new defense.

-- Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn said he isn't discouraged about team not exercising option for 2015. Said he had no guarantee even if they had ... …

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Nicks has nerve damage, pain in foot but hopes to return

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have suffer with the rest of the life.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have suffer with the rest of the life.

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have to suffer with the rest of the life.

After signing a 5-year, 47.5-million contract two years ago, Nicks has only played in nine games with the Bucs. Foot surgery, followed by another operation due to a recurrence if MRSA, has left him still unable to participate in the team's first minicamp this week under coach Lovie Smith.

Now Nicks suffers from a new malady -- he can't stop itching to play.

"I got the chicken pox when it comes to that,'' Nicks said. "I've been scratching a long time. Now I'm itching. I don't want to force it, I don't want to rush it. When I come back, I want to play a lot more than two games.''

Nicks says he has been limited to light jogging and typical rehab drills. He said his goal is to be ready for the start of training camp. And Nicks admitted he may never be 100 percent.

"Lovie told me the other day my 80 percent is still pretty good,'' Nicks said. "If I'm not 100 percent, hopefully I can hit 99 percent, or 99.9. I'd be happy with that. …

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Bucs preseason schedule released

The Bucs today released their 2014 preseason schedule:

Friday, Aug. 8: at Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 16: MIAMI, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23: at Buffalo, TBA
Thursday: Aug. 28: WASHINGTON, 7:30 p.m.

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Will Bucs take Clayborn's option? Sites say no

One of the wrinkles of the NFL's new CBA will come into play next week, when teams must decide whether to sign their 2011 first-round draft picks to a fifth-year option for 2015. Teams can still cut the player up until next March without penalty, but the speculation Monday is that the Bucs won't opt for the option on defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who would make $6.96-million in 2015 if the option was exercised.

Opting against the option doesn't mean the upcoming season is Clayborn's last in Tampa Bay -- he could sign a longterm extension at any point if he plays well enough to merit such an offer, but the Bucs would be gambling that such a deal wouldn't be worth that lofty 2015 salary.  …

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Bucs' offseason overhaul includes team physicians

While much has been made of the Bucs' offseason overhaul, with new coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht already signing 23 new players and cutting key veterans from last year's team, the organization has been busy with changes behind the scenes as well.

Tampa Bay will have a new lineup of team physicians and surgeons for 2014, with John Zvijac, the team's head orthopedic surgeon for the previous 16 seasons, not returning. Zvijac has been replaced by Chuck Nofsinger, who has worked as a team physician at USF since 2006 and an assistant professor and director in the university's College of Medicine Orthopedic.

Also gone from last year's team, according to the Bucs' official site, are Kevin Elder, a team physician for the past four years, and Chet Janecki, who was a consultant on the Bucs' Super Bowl team in 2002. Joining the team as an orthopedic surgeon is David Leffers, a USF team physician since 1984, and Seth Gasser, who works at Florida Orthopaedic Institute and has worked as a team physician with the Lightning, Storm and Rowdies, as well as USF. …

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Bucs' McCoy compares Gholston to Peppers

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy saw his team add two new key contributors to the defensive line in end Michael Johnson and tackle Clinton McDonald, but he's also excited about the progress he saw at the end of last season from rookie end William Gholston.

"Especially in this defense, Will is one of those rare guys, with his size and ability," McCoy said. "He has potential. He can do things he doesn't even realize he can do."

Gholston, a fourth-round pick from Michigan State, had just two tackles in the Bucs' first seven games and eight in the first 11 games. But in the final month of the season, he had 22 tackles in his final five games, including 1.5 sacks against the Bills. He moved into the starting lineup for the final two games and is expected to be in the rotation at end while also moonlighting inside at tackle in some situations.

"I had to tell him last year: 'Hey man, you know if you try this, nobody can stop it.' Then he'd go do it and (say) 'Aw, man, you were right,'" McCoy said. "'I know I was right. I've been trying to tell you this for five weeks.'"  …

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Ex-Bucs QB Freeman lands with Giants

As an unrestricted free agent, Josh Freeman saw 21 other quarterbacks sign this offseason before landing with the Giants.

AP photos

As an unrestricted free agent, Josh Freeman saw 21 other quarterbacks sign this offseason before landing with the 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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