DIRK SHADD | Times
Mike Evans went down on one knee and said a short prayer, paying tribute to Drew Newsome, a Bucs fan from Largo who was battling a rare form of cancer, after scoring a touchdown against the Lions in December.
One of the most emotional, special moments of last year's Bucs season came in Detroit in December when then-rookie receiver Mike Evans caught a touchdown pass, went down on one knee and said a short prayer, paying tribute to Drew Newsome, a Bucs fan from Largo who was battling a rare form of cancer.
Two days later, Newsome died at age 27, but Evans' gesture -- he had signed a football and jersey for Newsome, a longtime Bucs fans who had his wish fulfilled in his final days and was buried with Evans' jersey -- resonated with the family during a difficult time.
"It's a blessing to be in this position," Evans said that day in December. "Sad story for him, but I scored that touchdown for him."
On Tuesday, the Newsome family -- Drew's father Kelly, brother Adam, sister Kelci and others -- got to meet Evans after the Bucs' practice and thank him for his tribute to Drew. Some were wearing Evans' No. 13 jerseys as they greeted him as players signed autographs after the open practice.
"It's amazing. I just wanted to shake the kid's hand," said Kelly, a letter carrier in Largo who has worked with the post office for 27 years. "It's pretty special what he did for him. He didn't have to do that."Full Story
MONICA HERNDON | Times
"I think he's brilliant," Andrew Walter, who played in the NFL from 2005-09, says of Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, pictured.
As fans get their first glimpses of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's system during training camp, one of his former quarterbacks said Bucs fans should expect big things from their new play caller.
"I think he's brilliant," said Andrew Walter, who played in the NFL from 2005-09.
Walter played under Koetter at Arizona State from 2001-04. Under Koetter, Walter set a Pac-10 record with 85 touchdowns and broke school marks in career passing yards, completions, attempts and total offense before becoming a third-round draft pick.
"I love Dirk," said Walter, who appeared in 15 games for the Oakland Raiders. "He took Matt Ryan early in his career and made him a great player...
"I think he's a great mind, a heck of a fun guy to be around. He's another one that gets quarterbacks and has a feel for the game." Full Story
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions in short yardage situations on Tuesday, but generally bounced back from a poor performance during a blitz period a day earlier.
Jameis Winston is a big-armed quarterback who wants every pass to be a touchdown. But he is learning in the NFL, sometimes a check down to a receiver or running back is the right play.
Winston threw two more interceptions in short yardage situations on Tuesday, but generally bounced back from a poor performance during a blitz period a day earlier.
What’s the biggest adjustment so far for Winston to the pro game?
“The biggest adjustment is checking the ball down,’’ Winston said. “Sometimes you have to nickel and dime your way down the field and make quick decisions.
“You’ve got to get better every single day. No one is perfect and that’s the thing about football. You’ve got to find your corrections and make adjustments.’’
Even though he struggled in a blitz period on Monday, throwing three INTs, Winston said he was grateful to get a variety of looks from the defense so early in camp.
"You've got to learn every day,'' Winston said. "Even on good plays, you learn. So the goal is to get better every single day and make adjustments, to get better off your mistakes and even get better off your accomplishments. …Full Story
Jameis Winston threw three interceptions in his first five pass attempts during a team blitz period.
Jameis Winston performed like – well – a rookie NFL quarterback in practice Monday, throwing three interceptions in his first five pass attempts during a team blitz period. He was picked off by safety D.J. Swearinger and cornerback Leonard Johnson on consecutive plays. Then following two completions, cornerback Sterling Moore stole another pass.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who was pleased to see his defense create turnovers, nonetheless said he wanted to give Winston defensive looks early in training camp that he inevitably will see during the regular season.
“Our goal is to get Jameis ready,’’ said Smith, who named Winston the Bucs’ starting QB when players reported Friday. “We’re doing a lot of things that we normally don’t do this early, too, to try and give him as many looks as we possibly can. And it was the one blitz period is where he had his most trouble and that’s how it should be for a young quarterback. …Full Story
Monday's afternoon practice at One Buc Place brought the Bucs' first session in full pads, with another tweak to the offensive line, which had second-year pro Kadeem Edwards working with the first-team line at right guard.
"To come out here and compete against the best in the world, that's what the first day (in pads) is all about," said Edwards, who did not play as a rookie, inactive for the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending injury to his right foot. "I worked my tail off in the offseason, just gave them pure confidence in me. I'm getting more comfortable, learning the system. It's an easy system to get down and a hard system to stop."
Third-year pro Garrett Gilkey had been working as the first-team right guard, but he was working Monday as the backup center, with Josh Allen sliding to left guard. Edwards will be competing directly with second-round draft pick Ali Marpet for the right guard job. …Full Story
Da'Quan Bowers had 21 tackles last year, 14 in four games while filling in at defensive tackle while Gerald McCoy was injured.
TAMPA -- Because Akeem Spence's back injury is serious enough to sideline him "a couple more months," the Bucs have a greater need for depth at defensive tackle, which is why the team brought Da'Quan Bowers back last week after he went unsigned on the free-agent market.
Gone is the second-round draft pick with high expectations to fall short of, and in his place is a Bowers signed to a non-guaranteed, league-minimum contract, just fighting to make the Bucs' 53-man roster.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the experience "humbled" Bowers, who even went to Saints rookie minicamp as a tryout player and wasn't signed.
"Definitely humbling," said Bowers, who had 21 tackles last year, 14 in four games while filling in at defensive tackle while Gerald McCoy was injured. "Sometimes that's what it takes to bring the best out of yourself. God puts us in amazing situations sometimes to help us, and I think that's exactly what I went through. ... I made some positive strides in my life." …Full Story
BRENDAN FITTERER | Times (2014)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins had 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns in nine games as a rookie.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter coached star tight end Tony Gonzalez at the end of his career and said he sees some similarities between the 14-time Pro Bowler and the Bucs' Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
"He's Tony Gonzalez - he's the best tight end ever to play the game, so that's a real strong comparison," said Seferian-Jenkins, last year's second-round pick. "I'm going to do my job and leave the comparisons up to the coaches and the media."
The tight end position figures to be an important part of Koetter's offense, which suits Seferian-Jenkins well. He had 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns in nine games as a rookie.
"I came out of an offense in college where the tight end's really important," Seferian-Jenkins said. "The tight end's going to be important. We have to make our plays, though. I don't care how important the tight end is in the offense. You have to make your plays when you have the opportunity to make plays. As a group we need to make them. I'm excited about the opportunity we have. I'm relishing it, and I'm enjoying it."
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) high steps between defenders Bruce Carter (50) and Bradley McDougald (30) during training camp Sunday in Tampa. [AP photo]
With heavy rains continuing to soak and even flood parts of Tampa, the Bucs have canceled the public viewing of Monday's afternoon practice, citing dangerous driving conditions getting to One Buc Place.
The team may still practice at One Buc, or could practice off-site as they did during heavy rains Saturday. The next scheduled open practice is Tuesday at 9 a.m.
The Bucs had to cancel Saturday's first practice at One Buc, holding a closed practice on USF's turf practice field on Saturday night. They were able to have practice as normal Sunday at One Buc, with a standing-room-only crowd watching Jameis Winston for the first time.
The Bucs have a few options -- they weren't scheduled to practice Wednesday, so they could shift the lost practice to there, or they could practice at One Buc or off-site at some point Monday, either at USF or potentially at Tropicana Field, where the Rays aren't back home to play until Friday night.
One incentive to work in a practice Monday is that the league requires non-pads practices before a team can take to full pads -- that would have been Tuesday, and missing Monday's practice could push that back.Full Story
Quarterback Mike Glennon was searching for words to describe his emotions when he learned that he wouldn't even get a chance to battle rookie Jameis Winston for the Bucs' starting job.
"I don't know what the word would be," Glennon said after Sunday's first open practice of training camp. "I just want to be out there. I'm a competitor. I want to be able to go out there and help my team win on Sundays."
For the third consecutive season, that means preparing as a backup and trying to contribute to meetings during the week.
The Bucs anointed Winston as the starter before training camp - a possibility Glennon knew existed when the team drafted the former Florida State star with the No. 1 overall pick.
"I'm not going to change my mentality," Glennon said. "I'm still going to come out here and compete every day, improve as much as I can as a player and help this team in any way I can."
Glennon had only positive things to say about Winston: "He's a good player. He's very bright. He had a good day out here throwing the ball. He's talented. He's smart. I think he's going to be a real good player."
The back injury that has sidelined Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence at the start of training camp required surgery last month and is serious enough that it will keep him from playing at the start of the season.
"I'm probably a couple more months away," Spence said after watching Sunday's practice at One Buc Place, six weeks before the season starts on Sept. 13 against the Titans.
Spence said he was lifting weights and it "caused something in my back to slip," requiring surgery on July 2. His timetable for recovery would make him a candidate for the NFL's physically unable to perform list, which would keep him from taking up a spot on the 53-man roster but wouldn't allow him to play until after the first six games of the season.
Spence said the surgery fixed a problem in his lower back that was "pressing on the nerves in my leg, causing pain." Asked if the back injury was significant enough to keep him from playing at all this season, Spence said he was hopeful it wouldn't.
"I'll probably shoot for October or something like that," he said. "I'm not sure. ... I'm four weeks into rehab. I'm feeling well, walking around." …Full Story
With his team coming off a 2-14 season but armed with what he hopes is a franchise quarterback in No. 1 pick Jameis Winston, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said fans should consider 2015 a 'growing year.'
However, he said the team has the potential to go far and allowed 'anything can happen.'
“This is a growing year,'' Glazer said prior to the start of the Bucs' training camp practice Sunday. "With a rookie quarterback, everybody in this community is really excited about that, the team is excited about that and with Jameis, we’re going to put it on his shoulder and see how he goes. But it’s one step at a time. We’re not trying to do it all at once here.’’
The Bucs have not reached the playoffs since 2007 and have not won a post-season game since Super Bowl XXXVII. In the past five years, the club has undergone three head coaching changes. …Full Story
Lavonte David doesn't get caught up in talks about a new contract.
“I let my agents handle that. I don’t get involved in that,’’ David told the Times this week. “I’m here to play football.’’
But talks on an extension may have swung a little in David’s favor when the Seattle Seahawks signed linebacker Bobby Wagner to a four-year extension worth $43 million Saturday night. The deal also reportedly includes $22-million in guarantees.
Like David, Wagner was a second-round pick in 2012 and already considered one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
David, a second-round choice of the Bucs from Nebraska in ’12, has recorded more than 400 tackles over his first three seasons as a pro. He is in the final year of his rookie deal that averages almost $900,000 per year.
Wagner is the latest off-the-ball linebacker to sign a new deal. Even though he plays inside, it should help establish some parameters for talks with David.
David said talks about a new deal won't be a distraction for him.
“My mindset is too strong,’’ David said.
After announcing Jameis Winston was his starting quarterback on Friday, Bucs coach Lovie Smith was asked if any other rookies would be opening training camp as starters. His answer: "We have a plan for all of them."
For rookie offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, both drafted in the second round, that plan starts with them not working with the first-team line, as the Bucs showed in their first practice Saturday night, moved by heavy rains to USF's practice fields. The Bucs opened camp with Kevin Pamphile working as the starting left tackle and Garrett Gilkey at right guard, while Smith and Marpet working with the second line. Those battles will continue for the next six weeks until the Bucs open their season against the Titans, if not longer.
Saturday was "not ideal conditions to start off training camp," Lovie Smith said Saturday night. The Bucs were scheduled to practice at One Buc Place to stands full of fans at 2:30 -- that was postponed to 5 p.m. and then canceled, with the team getting in a 90-minute practice closed to the public on the turf practice field at USF, much of it through heavy rain. …Full Story
While rookie quarterback Jameis Winston downplayed the importance of being named the Bucs' starting quarterback on the eve of training camp, the No. 1 overall pick said he's obviously excited about the opportunity in front of him.
"I'm not perfect," Winston said, "but I will compete my butt off."
Winston, the former Florida State star, earned the starting job over Mike Glennon. Winston's public debut was delayed until Sunday after Saturday's open practice was canceled because of storms.
Winston said his rookie training camp is much different than what he experienced at FSU, when he redshirted his first year and battled Jacob Coker for the starting job during fall camp.
"I've matured since I was an 18-year-old kid, just getting into mischievous things," Winston said. "Now you know, I love this opportunity that I've been given. It's a blessing. The best thing about it is, my dream was to always be a professional quarterback. I've achieved that dream."
The clock is ticking a little louder for Gerald McCoy, who is in the prime of his career. The Bucs defensive tackle has been to three straight Pro Bowls, enjoyed one winning season but has had no playoff appearances during his five years in the NFL.
That's why McCoy said Saturday he feels the urgency to end the team's post-season drought. Tampa Bay's last playoff appearance was 2007.
"When I was young, I was allowed to be young...I'm not there anymore,'' said McCoy, 27. "I'm going into my sixth year and I truly believe this team will only go as far as I go. When you have a dominant guy in the middle, it helps everything out around him, which is our defense. You have a great defense, most of these teams that are winning, usually have a great defense. That's another reason why I had to come in in great shape because there's really no more talking that has to be done. I'm going into my sixth year and haven't been in the playoffs. It's like enough is enough. I definitely feel the urgency and it's time to get it done.'' …Full Story