Clear76° FULL FORECASTClear76° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs Licht needs to duplicate free agent success of 2016

Free agency can be the cubic zirconium of the NFL. Fool’s gold. The Bucs have experienced that many times over.

But general manager Jason Licht and his staff have built a solid core of players through the draft and their approach to free agency has changed for the better.

Licht just needs to build on the success he had last year in free agency and it will become an important tool to push the Bucs into playoff contention. Consider what the Bucs were able to do last year and the important contributions free agents made in 2016.

Cornerback Brent Grimes had gone to three straight Pro Bowls with the Dolphins and had played for defensive coordinator Mike Smith in Atlanta. But he was 33 entering last season and many wondered how much he had left in the tank.

The answer was plenty.

He signed a two-year, $13.5-million contract and tied for the team lead with safety Keith Tandy with four interceptions, including one for a touchdown. He also led the club with 24 passes defensed. In fact, Grimes was the only Bucs defender to have a rating over 90 or better by Pro Football Focus. …

Full Story

NFL Draft Q&A: Miami tight end David Njoku

Our NFL Draft Q&A series continues with Miami tight end David Njoku, who is challenging Alabama's O.J. Howard as the top tight ends in this draft class, despite being playing only two seasons with the Hurricanes. He had only one touchdown as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but scored eight this past season, showing off his athleticism on a 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame. You'll see him pop up at the end of the first round in some mock drafts, and he took a minute to talk about preparation for next week's NFL combine ...

Q: Where are you training to get ready for combine and pro day?

A: "I'm training at Core Fitness in Miami. We have Stacy Coley, our receiver from University of Miami; Corn Elder, the cornerback; Jamal Carter, safety; Stan Dobard, a tight end from Miami, (corner) Larry Hope, who left Miami and transferred to go to Akron; Brandon Radcliff, running back from Louisville."

Q: What are the things you've focused on most as you prepare for the combine?

A: "Every aspect. They don't just focus on one thing, so I'm working really hard down here to be a better me and see how far I can go." …

Full Story

Jameis Winston taking online classes toward degree at FSU

As part of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's appearance at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, he took questions from a panel of five young journalists from the "Manatee Messenger," the school's student paper. The kids came up with some fun questions that yielded some insightful and even newsy answers from Winston:

-- Winston said he's taking classes online this spring to get closer to earning his degree from Florida State. He took some last summer and is doing so in spring and summer this year -- he later said he's still about 26 credit-hours short of his degree, but committed to getting it.

"I'm taking classes right now. I'm focusing on graduating college. That's a big accomplishment," Winston told the students. "I've got to get my mama that degree. How many of you are going to get your mama that degree?"

-- Winston had a bad misstep ("a poor word choice," he admitted) in what Tom Jones wrote about in today's paper, but it's important to reiterate that most of what he said was on point in giving the students -- boys and girls -- a positive message about believing in themselves. …

Full Story

NFL Draft Q&A: Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A series continues (a bit late today) with Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu -- that's Henry William Obiajulu Melifonwu, one of the better names and better stories in the draft. His parents were born in Nigeria and moved to England, where he was born and lived until moving to the United States at age 3. He's a legit 6-foot-4 as measured at the Senior Bowl, with more ridiculous numbers, like 24 tackles in his last game and a 37-inch vertical. He took time to talk with us Wednesday ...

Q: You're actually here in Tampa to train for the combine and pro day. How did that come about? …

Full Story

Bucs QB Jameis Winston: 'I would love to have DeSean'

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported Tuesday that the Bucs were a "possible destination" for free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson, citing an "existing rapport" that he has with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston spoke briefly Wednesday afternoon after talking to students at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, and said he'd welcome Jackson as another weapon for the Bucs' passing game in 2017.

"I've met him before, and we want DeSean. You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston said. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Winston didn't specifically remember where he had met Jackson, saying only that it was "a while back," but he likes the idea that his success in two NFL seasons can be part of the Bucs' allure to free agents, and he can be something of a recruiter, like he was in college at FSU.

"I feel like I can be one of our best recruiters," he said. "My main focus is to win. That's what I enjoy doing." …

Full Story

Q&A with ex-Bucs CB Donnie Abraham, now coaching at Illinois

Donnie Abraham joined Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Donnie Abraham joined Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois.

Former Bucs cornerback Donnie Abraham went straight from the NFL into coaching, working at a handful of Pinellas County high schools and then the last two years at IMG Academy in Bradenton. He took a big leap last week, joining Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois, also reuniting with former teammate Hardy Nickerson, Smith's defensive coordinator. He took a few minutes this week to talk about his excitement for his new job. ...

Q: You and Lovie go back a long way, but how did this come about?

A: "I've always had an interest in moving up. It's tough to break into college or even NFL, so I had feelers out there over the past few months. I've always kept in touch with Lovie and I just got the call. He gave me a call to see how I was doing, how things were at IMG, to catch up a little bit. We hung up and probably five or six hours later, he called me back to let me know he had a position open and would I be interested. I said 'Absolutely!'"

Q: You jumped right in with spring ball so you haven't had much time to catch your breath, but how do you like it? …

Full Story

Bucs reach settlement with Lawrence Tynes in MRSA lawsuit

Lawrence Tynes never played for the Bucs, and didn't play again after his MRSA infection in 2013.

AP photo

Lawrence Tynes never played for the Bucs, and didn't play again after his MRSA infection in 2013.

The Bucs have reached a settlement with former kicker Lawrence Tynes, who had sued the team in 2015, seeking $20-million and claiming that their negligence regarding a MRSA infection ended his NFL career in 2013.

According to Hillsborough County court records, Tynes and the team signed off Feb. 10 on paperwork to "jointly stipulate and agree to dismissal" of his lawsuit, which had progressed in the courts for two years and was scheduled for pre-trial conference in August.

As recently as December, Tynes' attorney had argued against the team's request for a summary judgment in the case, writing that their request was "astonishingly deficient."

There were no financial details of the settlement, which typically would carry confidentially clauses for both parties. Both the team and his attorneys declined to comment on the resolution Tuesday afternoon.

Tynes, 38, was paid his $905,000 salary by the Bucs in 2013, but the team classified his toe infection as a "non-football injury." The team reached a $3-million settlement in July 2014 with former Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, another player who was sidelined with MRSA in 2013 and "stepped away" from football after the settlement was reached. …

Full Story

NFL Draft Q&A: Arkansas DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A continues with Arkansas defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter, who grew up in Orlando but finished his high school career in Gainesville, Ga., and redshirted at junior college before landing with the Razorbacks. At 6-foot-3, 278 pounds, he's likely an end in the NFL but is strong enough to get a look inside as a three-technique as well. He took a few minutes to talk about his path to the upcoming draft. ...

Q: First, where are you training for the draft?

A: "In Pensacola as EXOS. My agent recommended them with their past trainees. We've got (Temple OL) Dion Dawkins up here, (Florida DT) Caleb Brantley, (Clemson DT) Carlos Watkins, (Indiana OL) Dan Feeney and others."

Q: How has that gone for you so far?

A: "Pretty good. It's coming in and working hard every day, following the process they have for us. I'm getting my times down, my bench press. I know what I can do. It's just me going out and performing and showing everybody that I can do it."

Q: What's a good number for you in bench press, in terms of how many reps at 225 pounds?

A: "At least 30. I'll go for 35 or 40."

Q: You don't hear big linemen talking about their vertical leap much. How much can you get there? …

Full Story

What should Bucs do at No. 19? Fans say RB, WR

Tight end, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes in a Bucs fan poll.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Tight end, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes in a Bucs fan poll.

The Bucs' official site offered up an online poll this week that has drawn more than 14,000 votes: What position should Tampa Bay address with their first-round pick, No. 19 overall, in April's NFL Draft?

The answers are a good insight into what fans see as the team's biggest needs entering free agency: 37.8 percent answered "running back," now a major uncertainty with Doug Martin's suspension and potential release, and 32.0 percent answered "wide receiver," which is often seen as the team's most obvious match for the top pick.

To some extent, you can expect a skew toward the "fantasy football" positions, as fans know these names best, but those two options take up nearly 70 percent of a ballot that had 11 choices. There's a major dropoff to the next most popular picks: 8.1 percent for defensive end, 7.7 percent safety, 5.4 percent offensive tackle -- no other position drew so much as 3 percent of votes.

Tight end, for instance, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes; defensive tackle, a position the Bucs haven't' drafted in four years, got 2.4 percent. …

Full Story

Hate to admit it but the Bucs would be perfect for Hard Knocks

Jameis Winston could be ratings gold. He drips charisma, Rick Stroud writes.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Jameis Winston could be ratings gold. He drips charisma, Rick Stroud writes.

Jameis Winston could be ratings gold. He drips charisma. Cut to Winston driving in the dark to One Buc Place. Interacting with coaches and teammates. Oh, the motivational moments. (“We some dogs, we ain’t no puppies!’)

Mike Evans is a budding superstar, but not shy about speaking his mind. Kwon Alexander and Robert Ayers might require some bleeps. Gerald McCoy is constantly counting his blessings. Coach Dirk Koetter is a heck of a lot more intense than anybody outside of One Buc Place realizes.

The Bucs are among the eight potential teams that can be mandated by the NFL to appear on the HBO series Hard Knocks for 2017. It’s hard to imagine the franchise will ever lobby to become part of the weekly preseason program. But there is an upside to marketing your product, especially if the arrow is pointing up.

The Bucs are coming off a 9-7 season where they narrowly missed the playoffs. It’s an important year and tension is good television for the NFL Films production. …

Full Story

NFL Draft Q&A: Miami cornerback Corn Elder

Corn Elder made plays all over the field with the Hurricanes, including return touchdowns on a punt and kickoff return in 2015.

AP photo

Corn Elder made plays all over the field with the Hurricanes, including return touchdowns on a punt and kickoff return in 2015.

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A continues with Miami cornerback Corn Elder, who faces size concerns entering the draft but made plays all over the field with the Hurricanes, including return touchdowns on a punt and kickoff return in 2015. He took a few minutes to talk about preparing for the draft and Miami's pro day in late March. ...

Q: Where are you training to get ready for combine and your pro day?

A: "I'm training down here in Miami at Core Fitness, in Wynwood. (Miami safety) Jamal Carter, (Miami WR) Stacy Coley, (Miami TE) David Njoku, (Miami TE) Stan Dobard, (Louisville RB) Brandon Radcliff are here.

Q: Is there one number you're trying to improve for pro day?

A: "I've just been trying to work on my strength, gaining some weight and definitely working on my speed. I'm around 183. I finished the season around 180. I'm just trying to get to 185 or anything over that."

Q: What did the Senior Bowl do for you, getting to put yourself out there against other draft hopefuls?

A: "It was definitely a good experience. You get to play against the best players in the draft. Just to see where I'm at, see what I need to work on more, to get to take coaching from some NFL coaches." …

Full Story

Fastest ever to 100 sacks? It's not Simeon Rice

Simeon Rice earned his 100th career sack on Dec. 5, 2004, in his 139th NFL game.

Times files (2004)

Simeon Rice earned his 100th career sack on Dec. 5, 2004, in his 139th NFL game.

There's a lot of attention being drawn to false statements being made repeatedly by public figures, and the crucial role of journalists to set the record straight. Yes, I'm talking about ... former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice claiming to be the fastest player ever to 100 career sacks.

Rice has been vocal in complaining that he hasn't been seriously considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- he's been retired for nine years now, and has never been so much as a semifinalist (final 25), let alone the cuts to 10 or ultimately, five. And Rice has some statistics that certainly put them in the conversation. He just doesn't need to embellish them as he continues to do.

For three years in a row, after the selections were announced and Rice again wasn't even an option for the selection committee, Rice has boasted on Twitter that he was "100+ sacks fastest ever to do it" (2015) and "fastest to 100 sacks in the history" (2016) and now "fastest to 100 sacks." National writers see this, retweet his claim and say it makes a compelling case for him, except it's not true. It's not an easy stat to quickly verify or dispute, so it gets incorrectly passed along as fact. …

Full Story

Bucs increase price of season tickets for second straight year

After enjoying their first winning season in six years, the Bucs are making some of their fans pay more to see a game at Raymond James Stadium in 2017.

For the second year in a row, the Bucs are raising season ticket prices in most seats, with increases as much as 20 percent for some upper and lower level seats.

The team began a social media blitz advertising season ticket passes Saturday.

The Bucs raised ticket prices last season for the first time in eight years. Prior to that increase, Tampa Bay had the second lowest ticket price in the NFL in 2015 with an average price of $62.35.

But the two-year hike has seen the price of some upper level seats increase by as much as 50 percent, going from $300 to $450. Ten other upper-level sections have gone from $350 to $500, a two-year increase of 43 percent. Lower level 50-yard line seats have gone from $990 to $1350 over the same period, an increase of 36 percent.

For 2017, some seats will remain unchanged."

The Bucs went 9-7 in their first year under head coach Dirk Koetter last season, narrowly missing the playoffs but expanding their post-season drought to nine seasons. …

Full Story

Bucs need Noah Spence to make a Beasley-like improvement

Two days before Super Bowl LI in Houston, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff recalled a conversation he had with Vic Beasley following his rookie year. …

Full Story

Video: Bucs' Gerald McCoy vs. WWE's Seth Rollins in Madden

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had some fun shooting a 20-minute video with WWE star Seth Rollins, with the five-time Pro Bowler taking a Madden challenge.

YouTube

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had some fun shooting a 20-minute video with WWE star Seth Rollins, with the five-time Pro Bowler taking a Madden challenge.

While in Orlando for the Pro Bowl a few weeks back, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had some fun shooting a 20-minute video with WWE star Seth Rollins, with the five-time Pro Bowler taking a Madden challenge and playing as the Bucs (and himself) against Rollins as the Bears.

We don't want to give up the outcome, but McCoy gets pretty excited during the game, with a defensive touchdown and a close finish. McCoy's commentary -- on Bears QB Jay Cutler and teammates like Doug Martin and Will Gholston -- is worth your time. Rollins has faced off against other NFL stars like Travis Kelce before, and the back-and-forth between players and even spectators is half the fun.

Here's a link to the video.

Full Story