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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Brooks endorses Winston for the Bucs

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has convinced the best player in Bucs history he should be Tampa Bay's No. 1 overall draft pick.

The endorsement by Bucs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks should carry some weight with the organization, even if he admittedly is biased as a former Seminoles' All America player.

But Brooks said Friday at Super Bowl XLIX that Winston will impress Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht with his work ethic and football acumen.

"I believe he will show them his work ethic behind the scenes, as well as his knowledge of the game and the feel of the game,'' Brooks said. ""I know it's best to keep all the options open until the draft clock says zero. But I do hope he impresses them enough to pick him.''

Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner who led the Seminoles to a national championship in 2013, finished his college career 26-1 after losing to Oregon in the national semifinal at the Rose Bowl. …

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Ex-Buc Dexter Jackson still savors MVP day at Super Bowl

Derrick Brooks, left, and Dexter Jackson clown around during the Bucs' final walkthrough of Qualcomm Stadium in preparation for Super Bowl XXXVII.

AP photo

Derrick Brooks, left, and Dexter Jackson clown around during the Bucs' final walkthrough of Qualcomm Stadium in preparation for Super Bowl XXXVII.

It was 12 years ago this week that safety Dexter Jackson earned MVP honors in the Bucs' Super Bowl win over the Raiders, and as dominating as Tampa Bay's defensive dominance was that day, he swears he saw it coming.

"I predicted what was going to happen. I saw it, clear as day," Jackson said by phone Thursday, recalling the Bucs' five interceptions -- three for touchdowns -- on the way to an easy 48-21 win against Oakland. "They always kept telling me: Prepare yourself for when the opportunity presents itself and be successful. The idea that 'preparation + opportunity = success' has always been instilled in my head."

Jackson, 37, played 10 years in the NFL -- six with Tampa Bay -- but that day in San Diego is what he's best known for. He had two interceptions of Rich Gannon passes in the first 20 minutes of the game, and the Bucs' lead was just 6-3 after the second, setting up three pick-sixes that would follow for Dwight Smith (twice) and Derrick Brooks. Jackson's favorite moments were in the celebration on the field after the game, but he also vividly remembers how much he enjoyed the spectacle of the event as he prepared before the game. …

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NFL Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston? Marcus Mariota? Someone else?

The Bucs are on the clock for another 94 days (and counting), so I’m going to try a weekly feature: Mock Draft Monday.

Consider it a one-stop shop for NFL mock drafts and whom the Bucs might take with the No. 1 overall pick. We’ll track this over time, too, so we can see if things change (or stay the same) over the next few months.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Kiper writes: “I would not draft with him with the goal of starting him in Week 1 -- his 2014 season proved there's work to be done -- but if Winston realizes his potential, he's a possible superstar.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. McShay writes: Mariota is a dynamic athlete with excellent top-end speed. He is elite at throwing on the run. He has a quick and compact over-the-shoulder release, and he possesses excellent intangibles. The concern I have with him is that while he's good with his anticipation and accuracy when passing from inside the pocket (and he's gotten better at it this season), he isn't great -- and that's the most important quality for QBs transitioning to the NFL level.   …

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NFL Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston? Marcus Mariota? Other?

The Bucs are on the clock for another 94 days (and counting), so I’m going to try a weekly feature: Mock Draft Monday.

Consider it a one-stop shop for NFL mock drafts and whom the Bucs might take with the No. 1 overall pick. We’ll track this over time, too, so we can see if things change (or stay the same) over the next few months.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Kiper writes: “I would not draft with him with the goal of starting him in Week 1 -- his 2014 season proved there's work to be done -- but if Winston realizes his potential, he's a possible superstar.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. McShay writes: Mariota is a dynamic athlete with excellent top-end speed. He is elite at throwing on the run. He has a quick and compact over-the-shoulder release, and he possesses excellent intangibles. The concern I have with him is that while he's good with his anticipation and accuracy when passing

Sports Illustrated: Mariota. Chris Burke writes: “He remains the No. 1 pick here because of the near-complete package of pure talent coupled with his advancements as a passer and a leader.” …

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Former player says Bajakian will have Bucs QBs prepared

Dan LeFevour left Central Michigan in 2009 as the NCAA career leader with 150 total touchdowns, and he remains the only player in I-A history with 12,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards. His offensive coordinator for his last three years was Mike Bajakian, who was announced Thursday as the Bucs' new QBs coach.

"I always felt very prepared," LeFevour said by phone Friday. "He's very detail-oriented, made sure I was prepared for every game. I trusted his ability to evaluate an opponent and get me ready to play."

LeFevour, 27, said he liked Bajakian's ability to translate his understanding to his players, adjusting his scheme to cater to the team's biggest areas of talent, which included future Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown with the Chippewas.

"It really doesn't matter how much the coaches know. It matters how much the players know," said LeFevour, who played for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year and is recover from a knee injury. "He was very good at relaying information, scouting our opponents and seeing what their weaknesses would be vs. our strengths for our plan of attack each week." …

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Bucs hire Vols OC Mike Bajakian for QBs job

MOBILE, Ala. -- With one big opening left on Lovie Smith's 2015 coaching staff, a new name emerged Thursday, and the Bucs moved quickly to hire Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian as the team's new quarterbacks coach. 

Bajakian, who has been Butch Jones' offensive coordinator at stops at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee in the last seven years, was an offensive quality control coach on Lovie Smith's coaching staff with the Chicago Bears in 2004-06. His hiring had a minor holdup Thursday afternoon as the head coach opening at Central Michigan came up, but the Bucs were able to get him to agree to terms, and he'll join a new offensive staff led by coordinator Dirk Koetter.

Bajakian will likely be closely involved with a potential franchise quarterback if the Bucs as expected use the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft on Oregon's Marcus Mariota or FSU's Jameis Winston. …

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Koetter brings assistant Weidinger from Falcons to Bucs

New Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will have a new quarterbacks coach to work with this fall, but he's also brought along a young assistant from the Falcons, as the Bucs have hired Andrew Weidinger as a new offensive quality control coach.

Weidinger, 32, spent the last seven years with the Falcons, including three as an offensive assistant under Koetter. He was an assistant to the head coach before that, working the previous seven years at the University of Arizona, where he attended. Last year's offensive QC coach, former NFL tight end Ben Steele, will also be back as part of the 2015 coaching staff.

Weidinger assisted with the Falcons' running backs, receivers and tight ends during his last three seasons in Atlanta, so there's a familiarity with Koetter's offense that should help as the Bucs adjust to a new scheme this offseason.

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Miami linebacker Perryman working to show he can 'play big'

MOBILE, Ala. -- The two things Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman hears about from critics are his lack of height and his pass coverage skills.

He's not getting any taller, but the draft prospect -- 5 feet, 10.5 inches, officially -- is eager to show he can drop back in coverage. If the Bucs go in a new direction at middle linebacker, Perryman could be there when they pick in the second round at No. 34 overall.

"One thing I get knocked on a lot is my pass coverage," said Perryman, who started 37 games with the Hurricanes, topping 100 tackles in each of the last two years. "This week I'm going to make sure I can display my ability in that and just get better."

Perryman had only two interceptions at Miami, but said just because the defense didn't call for him to drop back and cover the middle of the field -- as middle linebackers often do in Lovie Smith's defense -- doesn't mean he can't do it.

As for his height, Perryman said it's a motivation -- he saw Wisconsin's Chris Borland shine as a 5-11 rookie this fall, getting 107 tackles for the 49ers. …

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Lovie says Bucs will 'hit pavement hard' to find No.1 pick

MOBILE, Ala. -- Lovie Smith turned down a chance to have his staff coach here at the Senior Bowl, but said the Bucs will go everywhere they can to make sure they find the best use of the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL draft.

"We're going to hit the pavement hard," Smith said. "Yeah, we missed actually coaching here, but we're seeing all the practices. Our frequent-flyer miles will really add up this offseason. I'm going to travel a lot."

The Bucs were just hiring general manager Jason Licht this week last year, and director of player personnel Jon Robinson didn't arrive until after the draft in May, so Smith feels like the team is far ahead in its evaluation process, much more aware of its own strengths and weaknesses, something he said he didn't have until his first minicamp in April last spring.

"We're in a lot better position this year to get great evaluations," he said. "We know our roster now, instead of waiting for that early minicamp to see exactly what we had on the field." …

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Bucs QB Johnson paid to have footballs scuffed before SB 37

Brad Johnson, right, celebrates with teammate Roman Oben, after throwing a touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXVII.

AP photo

Brad Johnson, right, celebrates with teammate Roman Oben, after throwing a touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXVII.

Brad Johnson and Rich Gannon came face-to-face for a Got Milk? mustache photo shoot several days prior to Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. At 34, Johnson had developed a few compulsions during his career long before he became the Bucs quarterback. He changed his socks and shoes every quarter, and over the course of a game, he replaced everything but his pants. Johnson always sweated profusely, and he liked the clean, dry feeling.

This was particularly true when it came to footballs. He had trouble gripping a wet football, a cold football or a new, out-of-the-box football.

It had been enough of a problem during the NFC title game in Philadelphia the week before — where it was 26 degrees at kickoff — that he was forced to wear a glove for the first time in his career.

"I wouldn't have been able to play without it," he said.

At the Super Bowl, the NFL had more than 100 game footballs. They were new, slick and supposedly under the league's watchful eye. Both Johnson and Gannon, the Raiders quarterback and a former teammate with the Minnesota Vikings, were concerned about losing their grip during the biggest game of their lives. …

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Bucs GM Licht: "We're not hiding from the mistakes''

The Bucs already have thrown dirt over their 2-14 season.

“We do have it buried,’’ general manager Jason Licht said Friday.

Why not? No reason for the Bucs to dwell in the past when they have so much to look forward to, such as the first overall pick in the draft and their choice of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks – Florida State’s Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

If 2014 reaffirmed anything for Licht, it’s that the best path to success in the NFL still is through the draft.

“That’s where we’ll find our stars,’’ Licht said.

The Bucs negotiated contracts valued at more than $135-million to high-level free agents in 2014, and with few exceptions, those players such as tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson, were enormous disappointments. Collins was inactive the final four games and Johnson finished with only 27 tackles and four sacks. …

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One and done: Bucs part ways with QB coach Arroyo

The Bucs parted ways Friday with Marcus Arroyo, who was hired to coach quarterbacks but wound up being the designated play-caller for the Bucs in 2014 after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford went on an indefinite medical leave of absence following a heart procedure.

AP photo

The Bucs parted ways Friday with Marcus Arroyo, who was hired to coach quarterbacks but wound up being the designated play-caller for the Bucs in 2014 after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford went on an indefinite medical leave of absence following a heart procedure.

If the Bucs draft either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota No. 1 overall as expected, he won't be coached by Marcus Arroyo.

The team parted ways Friday with Arroyo, who was hired to coach quarterbacks but wound up being the designated play-caller for the Bucs in 2014 after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford went on an indefinite medical leave of absence following a heart procedure.

The Bucs hired former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the same position on coach Lovie Smith's staff with the understanding that he might be able to add a quarterbacks coach.

"Coach Smith and I have just had a few brief conversations about the staff and that's something that will be ironed out in the time coming up as we get this thing rolling,'' Koetter said Wednesday.

Arroyo, 34, had worked for Tedford as quarterbacks coach at the University of California from 2011-12, the last season as the passing game coordinator. He was the offensive coordinator at Southern Miss for one season (2013) before rejoining Tedford in Tampa Bay. …

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Proud homecoming for Bucs' new chief marketing officer

The Bucs have hired a new chief marketing officer, and it's a proud homecoming for Brian Killingsworth, who grew up a Bucs fan and spent 10 years with the Rays before leading the Rams' marketing efforts as the team's vice president for marketing and brand strategy.

"I'm tremendously excited. My family and I are real excited to come back home," said Killingsworth, 37, who grew up in St. Petersburg, graduating from Shorecrest Prep and getting his MBA from USF after getting his undergraduate degree from Flagler College. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in the NFL with your hometown team."

He helped with the rebranding of the (Devil) Rays, created the team's successful summer concert series and was responsible for many of the team's creative promotional giveaways, from the Carlos Pena toothbrush holder to the award-winning "Zim Bear." In his last three years with the Rams, he came up with a "Fisher Stache" promotion after the hiring of coach Jeff Fisher, proudly getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for the "largest gathering of people wearing false mustaches." …

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Bucs announce season-ticket costs again won't rise

The Bucs announced Thursday that for the seventh year in a row, the cost of season tickets will not increase.

"There is a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation throughout our community as we enter this offseason with the first overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft," said Brian Ford, the Bucs' chief operating officer. "As we build off that excitement, along with a strong lineup of home opponents, we are also pleased to continue providing our season pass members with one of the most affordable gameday experiences in the league for the 2015 season."

The Bucs, who ranked 29th out of 32 teams in attendance in 2014, also haven't been to the playoffs since 2007, so they haven't had an easy opportunity to raise ticket prices either.

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Marinelli agrees to a 3-year deal to remain with Cowboys

Rod Marinelli will continue to run the defense in Big D.

Marinelli agreed to a new three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.

There had been speculation and reports that Marinelli might opt to join the staff of Bucs coach Lovie Smith, his close friend. Marinelli worked under Smith with the Chicago Bears from 2009-12, the last two years as defensive coordinator.

"I would absolutely love to see Rod Marinelli stay here," Garrett said Tuesday. "He's done a great job for us. ... Absolutely. I express that to him on a daily basis."

Garrett added that Marinelli has also expressed a desire to remain in Dallas, according to multiple reports.

Garrett, who also reached an agreement on a new five-year contract Tuesday, got his wish. …

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