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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Video shows Bucs' Evans in fight outside Miami club

Bucs rookie receiver Mike Evans is shown getting into a fight with bouncers outside a South Beach nightclub in a video posted at TMZ.com, but his agent said the incident took place in March and that no arrests were made.

The site reported that the brawl took place Saturday night -- which would have been just hours after the Bucs' preseason game in Tampa against the Dolphins -- but Evans' agent, Deryk Gilmore, said it happened in March, before the Bucs selected Evans in the NFL Draft in May.

James Andrews, the general manager of Dream Nightclub in Miami's South Beach area, said Friday afternoon that he was confident no such incident took place outside his club this past weekend. He confirmed that the security personnel shown in the video are his employees.

Gilmore said that Evans, who was 20 in March, was not drinking at the club. Because of that, he did not have a VIP wristband needed for access into parts of the club. He had been allowed in as a guest, but was stopped after going to the bathroom because he didn't have the wristband, Gilmore said. He was asked to leave, and had only wanted to go back into the club to get his girlfriend who remained inside, he said. …

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Former first-rounder English likes fresh start with Bucs

TAMPA -- Larry English is glad to have a fresh perspective on the NFL.

The former first-round draft pick, released by the Chargers after five seasons, was signed last week by the Bucs, where he has a chance to make the team as a backup defensive end.

"It is a little bit different, but my approach is still the same," said English, who was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Northern Illinois, one spot ahead of the Bucs taking quarterback Josh Freeman. "I'm still coming in working hard with the ambition to get better every day."

Bucs coach Lovie Smith gave English a quick look in last weekend's preseason game against Miami -- 15 snaps on defense, four on special teams -- and said he'll get more of a test Saturday at Buffalo.

"We're always looking for outside pass-rushers and we brought Larry in hoping that he could give us some of that," he said. "In practice, from the first day he was OK, the next day he was better, so we're anxious to let him play. You might see him early in this game. We want to see him against good competition to see exactly what he can do." …

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Ten battles to watch as Bucs finalize cut to 53

TAMPA -- In the next week, the Bucs will play their final two preseason games and cut their roster from 90 players to 75 on Tuesday and the final 53 on Aug. 30.

For conversation's sake, we'll say that 41 of those 53 jobs are spoken for -- play along with us -- and that leaves 10 position battles for the final 12 spots. Pick one from each, plus two wild cards, and you should be close to the Bucs' opening roster, though you could see a waiver pickup or two from other teams' final cuts.

1.  KICKER: Connor Barth vs. Patrick Murray. Barth was superb in 2012 but missed last year with injury. Murray, an unheralded rookie who could pinch-hit as punter in case of injury, has impressed coaches since signing in January.

2. FIFTH RUNNING BACK: Jeff Demps vs. Jorvorskie Lane. It's speed vs. power -- Demps' sprinter skills are coveted, but Lane gives the Bucs a short-yardage back with good pass-catching ability as well. With Charles Sims' injury, both could make the cut. …

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Bucs TE Wright responds to criticism with a good week

Tim Wright admits he has struggled at times blocking and there have been a few dropped balls in practice. But what he wasn't prepared for was the criticism aimed at his play by coach Lovie Smith, who said last Sunday the Bucs tight end 'hasn't played well' during the preseason.

“It was a little bit of news, but at the end of the day, it comes with the game,'' Wright said. "You just try to get better. You try to watch film and correct the mistakes that you made. There are some things I’m doing that’s new so I’ve got to give myself a chance, too, but I’m coming along.

“My whole week, it is what it is. That’s what was said. But one day at a time, I go out there and just try to be great. That’s what I focus on.''

Wright, a second-year pro from Rutgers who converted from receiver to tight end last season, caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. The Bucs like the mismatches he can create going against safeties and linebackers.

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Bucs deal McCray to Chiefs for guard Johnson

Trying to make the most of the last spots on the 53-man roster, the Bucs traded backup safety Kelcie McCray to the Chiefs on Thursday in exchange for Rishaw Johnson, a backup offensive guard.

"We said we'll continue to look at players we think can help our football team ... so we're pretty excited about getting Rishaw Johnson here into the mix," coach Lovie Smith said.

Johnson, 25, is 6-foot-3 and 313 pounds and has limited NFL playing experience -- he started the regular-season finale for Kansas City last year, playing all 72 snaps as the team rested key starters in advance of the playoffs. Before that, he had just three offensive snaps in two games in his career, having spent time on the Seahawks' practice squad in 2012. He started his college career at Ole Miss but was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules in September 2010 and finished at Division II California University of Pennsylvania. …

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Life on the NFL bubble: Some extras

A few extra nuggets from my story in today’s paper on life on the bubble of the NFL roster:

* DE James Ruffin had a shot on the Bucs’ roster in 2010 and came back four years later. Here’s how much turnover there’s been since then: “I think the only familiar face I see out here is Gerald (McCoy) and (Demar) Dotson,” Ruffin said. “To just come out here, be able to see these guys again and be able to play with them again is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

The hardest part for Ruffin: “Just being at the bottom of the totem pole. I was every time I’ve been in the NFL. Going to arena (ball), being at the bottom of the totem pole and working your way up to start all over again.”

Ruffin said he told himself he’d play football until he’s 31 years old. If it’s not in the NFL, then he’ll keep trying in arena ball or the CFL.

* DE Ryne Giddins (a USF/Armwood product) said he never stopped working toward the NFL, even after the Bucs didn’t sign him following his rookie tryout. He spent the time fasting, praying and calling teams every day.

“My job was getting in shape,” Giddins said. “My Plan B was my Plan A. That was being in the NFL.” …

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Bucs notes: Smith 'loves' larger practice squads

TAMPA -- The NFL has expanded each team's practice squad from eight to 10 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and Bucs coach Lovie Smith said he likes the idea of being able to keep more players with the team.

"That's an easy one, a coach getting more players," Smith said. "I think it's a great thing. There are a lot of young players that just aren't ready, for whatever reason. I'd say it's universal in all the coaches loving that decision."

The league will also allow each team to place two players with up to two years of NFL experience, which could change the decisions on who is kept for the 53-man roster. Practice-squad players are free to sign to another team's active roster.

"Our roster, in my mind, has already changed based on that decision," he said.

INJURY UPDATE: Smith said CB Mike Jenkins, out two weeks with a hamstring injury, will miss his third preseason game Saturday at Buffalo.

Other players who had been held out -- DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner and DE Steven Means -- who are back practicing and could play some Saturday. Other players remaining out Wednesday were DE Da'Quan Bowers,  DE Will Gholston, RB Mike James, CB Rashaan Melvin and LB Brandon Magee. …

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Bowers injury could hurt his chances of staying with Bucs

Da'Quan Bowers' disappointing career with the Bucs could be nearing an end.

Bowers, the oft-injured defensive lineman, is nursing a groin strain that's now hurting his chances of making the team, coach Lovie Smith said.

Bowers, who had three tackles (including one for a loss) and a quarterback hit in the preseason opener at Jacksonville, did not play last Saturday against the Dolphins and hasn't practiced in more than a week. It's uncertain whether he will play Saturday at Buffalo.

Smith said Wednesday he believes Bowers has the ability to play in the NFL, but he stopped short of guaranteeing it would be with the Bucs.

"I think every day you don't practice you're huring your chances (of making the team),'' Smith said. "We've seen enough to like Da'Quan a lot. But all the reps that he's not getting, someone else is getting them. The best way to beat your competition sometimes is just to stay on the field. You can't get Wally Pipped. Da'Quan is trying to get back. Again, I think he has a future in the league, whether it be as a defensive end outside or more of a third down rush guy inside.'' …

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Bucs claim OL Coughman off waivers from Bills

With several offensive linemen on the injury list, the Bucs claimed tackle Edawn Coughman off waivers from the Bills Wednesday.

Coughman spent last season on the Bills' practice squad. He went undrafted in the 2011 and played nine games with the Toronto Argonauts. He was cut by the Argos in 2012. Before joining the Bills' practice squad, he had brief stay with the Cowboys and Seahawks.

Bucs tackles Matt Pachan and J.B. Shugarts did not practice Wednesday due to injuries.

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McCoy believes Bucs defense can do more

No Bucs player is having a better preseason than DT Gerald McCoy, who has two quarterback hits, a sack, forced fumble and four tackles, including two for a loss. But as a defense, McCoy believes they can do more.

"Yeah, we have to because if the other team can’t score they can’t win," McCoy said. “Who’s to say we can’t win the game on defense? That’s not taking anything away from our offense. I think our offense is awesome. But who says we can’t just go win the game on defense? Let’s say the offense isn’t having a good day. Why can’t we take the ball away twice and put it in the end zone?

"There’s no rule that says that can’t happen. That’s just what we’re working towards."

The Bucs defense has produced on one turnover, the sack/fumble that set up the only touchdown by the first-team offense this season against Miami. Coach Lovie Smith's defense also have traditionally ranke at or near the top in causing turnovers and scoring.

"We have to take the ball away," McCoy said. “We can’t depend on the offense to make a mistake. We have to force opportunities and capitalize on them."

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Clayborn on last year's pass rush: 'What rush?'

Bucs defensive linemen have been blunt in saying how much they prefer Lovie Smith's defensive approach, compared to what the team tried to do last year under coach Greg Schiano.

Asked how he'd evaluate last year's pass rush on Wednesday in the locker room, defensive end Adrian Clayborn didn't mince words.

"Our rush, on defensive line? What rush?" Clayborn said. "It wasn't that great. We weren't jelled together. We weren't working together. A lot went on. I expect better this year."

Clayborn is a former first-round draft pick playing in a contract year -- the Bucs declined to exercise what would have been an expensive option for 2015, so he has added incentive to have a productive year, starting opposite free-agent addition Michael Johnson.

Clayborn and other linemen have said they like the simplicity of the pass rush -- basically get upfield, get to the quarterback.

"That's the past. It was a different defense. This is more geared toward getting to the quarterback," Clayborn said. "That defense last year was geared more toward stunting and confusing people and stuff like that."

The Bucs have only two sacks in two preseason games, but they'll look to improve on that Saturday at Buffalo.

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Bucs release veteran WR Hawkins

Three days before the Bucs' third preseason game, the team has gotten a jump on next week's required cuts, releasing veteran receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who caught a touchdown in the final minute of Saturday's loss to Miami.

Hawkins, who had played for offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford at Cal, has lasted in the NFL by contributing on special teams, and he said Tuesday that he wasn't working on any of the Bucs' special-teams units. By cutting him early, the Bucs give Hawkins a better chance to latch on with another team and show something before next week's final cuts.

NFL teams must cut their rosters on Tuesday afternoon from 90 to 75 players, and then on Aug. 30 to the final cut of 53 players, with another 10 spots available on practice squads. …

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Bucs offense showing more of two-TE package

TAMPA -- In NFL parlance, the offensive grouping is called "12 personnel."

The NFL tags its offensive looks with a two-digit number by counting the running backs and tight ends -- a formation with one back, two tight ends and two receives is called "12 personnel."

A year ago, with injuries putting all but one tight end (rookie Tim Wright) on injured reserve, the Bucs rarely went with two tight ends, lining up that way on less than 10 percent of their offensive snaps, according to FootballOutsiders.com. Since then, the Bucs drafted Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, signed free agent Brandon Myers and got back a healthy Luke Stocker, who missed last year with injury.

As a result, the Bucs have shown off their two-TE look in preseason -- on 32 percent of their snaps in two preseason games, well above the NFL's overall average of 21 percent. The versatility of the personnel group -- tight ends can act as run-blockers or pass-catchers from the same look -- suits the Bucs' offensive talent well. …

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Rookie Edwards learning both guard spots

TAMPA -- Bucs rookie Kadeem Edwards isn't working with the first-team offensive line, but the fifth-round pick has worked hard in camp to learn both guard spots after playing exclusively on the left side in college.

"Working on the right is a good thing, and I'm learning the playbook on both sides," he said. "There's so much detail at this level, and I'm trying to home in on the details to get everything correct."

Edwards, who played at Tennessee State, was on the field for 47 snaps in Saturday's preseason game against Miami, tying fellow rookie Kevin Pamphile for the most of any Bucs player. 

"I'm thinking too much on the right -- I still have to draw it up in my head as left and then convert it to right, and it slows down the process," he said. "I'm catching onto it very well."

Edwards said the preseason opener against Jacksonville was "a lifelong dream, so surreal," and he liked that the Bucs let him have as much playing time as he did in the second game. He's working behind starter Oniel Cousins at left guard and isjn't sure how much he'll play Saturday at Buffalo, but he said it's an important game for him to show how much he's learning in camp. …

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Nine Bucs players held out of practice with injuries

Four days before the most important game of the Bucs' preseason schedule, nine players were held out of Tuesday's practice with various injuries, including six players listed on the defensive side of the two-deep depth chart.

The newest addition to the list is defensive end Michael Johnson, who has a knee bruise, joined as a spectator at defensive line drills with fellow ends Will Gholston (shoulder) and Da'Quan Bowers (groin). The other cluster of injuries is in the defensive secondary, where cornerback Mike Jenkins remains out with a hamstring, as does safety Major Wright (back) and corner Rashaan Melvin (ankle).

"(Johnson) should be good to go," coach Lovie Smith said. "(Cornerback) Alterraun Verner is getting better (from hamstring) but this is his first work in a long time so we'll ease back into the mix. Mike Jenkins continues to get better but he wasn't able to do anything today." …

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