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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Gramaticas honor wounded veteran with new home

The Gramatica brothers -- Martin with the Bucs, and Bill and Santiago at USF -- are a decade removed from their time as Tampa's place-kickers, but they're still making a huge impact on the community through their Gramatica Family Foundation.

The foundation provided a mortgage-free home in Tampa to an injured veteran who served in Iraq -- here's the full story from the Bucs' official site.

"The work being done by the Gramatica Family Foundation is a prime example of the type of lasting impact our current and former players have in our community," said Brian Ford, the Bucs' chief operating officer, who attended the dedication ceremony on Thursday. "We are very proud to support the work Martin and his family continue to do on behalf of disabled military veterans in the Tampa Bay area."

Follow the foundation on Twitter at @gramaticaff and visit their site at GramaticaFamilyFoundation.org.

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Bucs' Mike Evans cracks NFL top 100 list at No. 75

It took only one season for Bucs receiver Mike Evans to crack the NFL Network's "top 100" list of the league's top players, making his debut there at No. 75 as the network unveiled another 10 players on Wednesday night.

Evans -- touted by NFL Network as the youngest player in the top 100 at just 21 -- set a Bucs franchise record last year with 12 touchdown receptions while leading the team with 1,051 receiving yards.

Evans is likely the first of three Bucs players in the top 100, with linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in position to be ranked ahead. Tampa Bay had four players in last year's top 100 -- McCoy was No. 28, David No. 35, cornerback Darrelle Revis (who played for the Bucs in 2013 but moved on to the Patriots) was No. 37 and receiver Vincent Jackson was No. 44.

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Bucs rookies get crash course in etiquette

The incoming class of Bucs rookies haven't had three weeks on the job yet, but they're already getting a crash course on how to be a professional football player. And for three hours on Monday night, that was more Emily Post than post patterns.

"I walked away from there saying 'What gentlemen, every single one of them,'" said Patricia Rossi, an etiquette coach who met with Bucs rookies and has done other group sessions with NFL and MLB teams. "You see how sweet they are. These are my favorite. They want to learn. They love it and they engage." 

A modern etiquette seminar isn't so much salad fork vs. dinner fork as it is learning how to handle yourself in various social settings, from projecting the right image in interviews to what makes a good handshake to using social media correctly. Players learn about body language, proper introductions, networking, dining do's and don'ts and other tips that extend far beyond the football field. …

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Tampa named finalist for Super Bowl in 2019, 2020

Tampa has been named one of four finalists for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls, with a chance to host what is arguably the biggest event in American sports for the first time in a decade.

Tampa, which has hosted four Super Bowls, most recently in 2009, is a finalist, along with Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta. The four cities will make their bids to NFL owners in May 2016, according to the report. Los Angeles would also be eligible to bid for the 2020 Super Bowl if an NFL team is playing in a new stadium there by 2018.

"Naturally, we're excited to work with the Buccaneers and several other community partners to put our best foot forward in the bid process," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, which has helped the area land previous Super Bowls, women's Final Fours in basketball and college football's national championship in 2017, among other events.

Raymond James Stadium has hosted two Super Bowls -- Steelers-Cardinals in 2009 and Ravens-Giants in 2001, with old Tampa Stadium hosting the first Super Bowls in Tampa in 1984 (Raiders-Redskins) and 1991 (Giants-Bills).

The next three Super Bowls have been awarded to Santa Clara, Houston and Minneapolis. …

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Kaelin Clay will have competition at returner

When the Bucs drafted Utah's Kaelin Clay in the sixth round, general manager Jason Licht said the team's returner job would be Clay's to lose.

Special teams coordinator Kevin O'Dea sounded as if that proclamation could be a little premature.

"First of all, we're not going to hand it to Clay," O'Dea said. "We've got other guys that are undrafted that look pretty special to me, as well."

O'Dea said fifth-round pick Kenny Bell and undrafted receivers Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries and UCF product Rannell Hall could all battle for the position.

The Bucs were eighth in the league last year in punt returns (10.8 yards per return); that tells O'Dea that the scheme works, and it's only missing longer blocks and a dynamic returner.

"If you stay on your guy, he'll get to the house," O'Dea said. "That's the bottom line." 

 

 

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Bucs sign McNeese guard Antoine Everett as undrafted rookie

The Bucs have signed another undrafted rookie free agent in McNeese State offensive lineman Antoine Everett, who played left tackle in college but is likely to line up at guard in the NFL.

Everett, 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds, was projected as a late-round draft pick before he broke a bone in his foot at his pro day in March. He's expected to be fully recovered by the end of June, a month before the Bucs open preseason camp. 

Everett is the only undrafted rookie the Bucs have signed on the offense line -- they have two rookies in second-round draft picks Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, and signed veteran tackle Edawn Coughman after their rookie minicamp.

Everett is likely to compete for the team's final offensive line spots on the 53-man roster, going up against other young, unproven linemen like Josh Allen, Jeremiah Warren and Ben Gottschalk. The team did not officially announce the move Monday night, and no corresponding move to keep the team at the 90-player roster limit has been reported.

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Safety D.J. Swearinger eager for fresh start with Bucs

New Bucs safety D.J. Swearinger said he was surprised to be waived by the Texans last week, but the 23-year-old former second-round draft pick is excited about a fresh start in Tampa Bay.

"So far, it's been great," Swearinger said Monday, speaking to reporters for the first time since the Bucs claimed him off waivers. "I think it's a plus for me, getting a new start in a new city with new coaches and new players around me. Just starting over again, that's a big key for me and something I'm looking forward to."

Swearinger, who had 144 tackles and started 22 games in his two seasons in Houston, said he "didn't see it coming" but had heard about trade rumors in the offseason. The Bucs have had significant turnover at the safety position since the start of last season, trading away former first-round pick Mark Barron to the Rams and former Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson to the Redskins. …

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Bucs sign rookie safety Derrick Wells

The Bucs have signed rookie safety Derrick Wells, the team announced Monday afternoon.

The 6-foot, 201-pound Wells played 47 college games at Minnesota, where he had 139 tackles and four interceptions. He's originally from Lehigh, Fla. and participated in the Bucs' rookie minicamp earlier this month.

 

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Hardy Nickerson talks Bruce Carter, Danny Lansanah

Linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson said a few times Monday that the Bucs don’t have a depth chart yet. But the biggest improvement in his unit since last year is the overall strength of the linebacker corps.

“I think our depth this year is much better than it was last year…” Nickerson said after Monday’s workouts. “Where there could be some falloff from the fourth spot to the ninth spot (last year), now we’re pretty tight all the way through. It’s going to be exciting to watch the guys compete and see how this thing shakes out.”

Nickerson said Bruce Carter is transitioning well to middle linebacker, after spending most of his time with the Cowboys as an outside linebacker. The 27-year-old led all linebackers with five interceptions last season, and Nickerson said Carter’s athleticism and ability to make plays have him adapting well to the inside position.

“So far he’s transitioned pretty well,” Nickerson said.

With Carter in the middle and Lavonte David entrenched as the weakside linebacker, Nickerson said Danny Lansanah is being viewed as a strongside linebacker for now. Lansanah played all three spots last season and had three interceptions (two returned for a touchdown).

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Bucs' Cullen wants depth, rotation on defensive line

If the Bucs' defensive line is to return to prominence as the catalyst of a dominating defense, improved depth will play a big role in that resurgence, assistant coach Joe Cullen said Monday.

"If we have seven guys up, all seven play. Very simple," Cullen said of wanting to keep fresh legs in the pass rush with a steady rotation this fall. "No one's going to play 65 snaps and play every down. You'll wear out through the year, it's proven. The best teams and the best rush teams always have a rotation."

That was already the model last year -- with injuries playing a part, the Bucs had six defensive linemen play at least 40 percent of the defensive snaps, but none more than 60 percent. A year earlier, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy played 91 percent and defensive end Adrian Clayborn 88 percent, with two others playing at least 57 percent of the snaps.  …

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Ex-Buc, Storm coach Chris Hovan arrested on DUI charge

Former Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan, now an assistant head coach with the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm, was arrested in Odessa on Friday night on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, according to police records.

Hovan, 37, was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 9:04 p.m. and refused a blood-alcohol test, according to arrest records. He was booked at 11:27 p.m. and charged with misdemeanor counts of DUI while accompanied by a minor and DUI with property damage, and was released at 8:02 a.m. Saturday after posting a $1,000 cash bond.

According to the arrest report, police responded to a traffic crash at 7:50 p.m. on Gunn Highway. The report states that Hovan, driving a black Ford F-350, struck a red Ford Explorer, causing about $2,000 in damages. Hovan "emitted the odor of an alcoholic beverage, had red/glossy eyes, slurred speech and dry mouth," according to the arresting officer. Field sobriety tests were conducted and "impairment observed," and after being arrested, he declined to submit to a blood-alcohol test. The report states that an 8-year-old boy was in Hovan's vehicle at the time of the incident. …

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Lovie Smith honored at Dick Vitale gala fundraiser

Dick Vitale's annual gala in Sarasota has raised more than $12-million for cancer research, and while it's often a basketball affair, Bucs coach Lovie Smith and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher are among the three coaches honored at the Ritz-Carlton on Friday night, along with Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

"I got a chance to meet him last year for the first time," Smith said of Vitale. "We all know who Dick Vitale is, and what all he's done, as a coach and of course as a TV personality, and then on what he's done to grab the baton from Coach (Jim) Valvano."

Smith said Vitale reached out to him right away, asking him to be a part of his fund-raising efforts -- this year's goal is to top the record $2.1-million raised in a single night last year.

"Right away, he says he's a season-ticket holder for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 'We're going to be great, you're going to do good.' He gives you that pep talk right away. How could you say no?" Smith said. "We're honoring two national championship coaches. I'm wondering what I'm doing here tonight with them. Maybe Coach Vitale knows something that I don't know yet. We plan on holding up the trophy some day, too." …

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Bucs rookies enjoy visit to veterans' hospital

TAMPA -- A group of 20-plus Bucs rookies had finished an hour of meeting with patients and staff at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital on Friday afternoon when quarterback Jameis Winston stopped the group before it left for a bus back to One Buc Place.

Winston had told one patient nicknamed "Tigger" he would visit his room and asked hospital staff if the group could make a quick stop. They compromised, and Tigger -- a season-ticket holder wearing a "00" Bucs jersey -- came down to the hospital's USO Room, where the rookies took one last round of photos and autographs to say thanks.

"To recognize these guys, for them to sacrifice their lives to protect our country, it means a lot," said tackle Donovan Smith, a second-round pick from Penn State. "To be able to get up close and personal with them, to share their times and memories and jokes with them, it's a blessing to be here. We're very honored."

The players signed Bucs helmet cutouts and posed for photos with patients, one day before the nation celebrates Armed Forces Day. The visit was that much more special for Bucs players with family in the military, like undrafted rookie cornerback Deshazor Everett of Texas A&M. …

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Giles sees much of Doug Williams in Jameis Winston

On the day the Bucs announced Doug Williams and Mike Alstott would join the team's Ring of Honor this fall, another member of that distinguished fraternity, tight end Jimmie Giles, had praise for new Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

"Jameis Winston is Doug Williams reincarnated," Giles said of his former Bucs teammate. "He's coming in with an opportunity to lead a team that really has some very good players. I think the missing piece of this puzzle was a couple of good offensive linemen, which we got, and a good quarterback. We've actually been missing a good quarterback for a long time. That's going to be, I think, the final piece of the puzzle to get the Bucs back in the playoffs."

Williams, like Winston, took over a two-win team as a first-round draft pick in 1978, and was able to lead the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in his second year, starting a run of three playoff appearances in four years. Williams said he's cultivated a friendship and mentorship with Winston, who he said was the first person to call and congratulate him after he arrived in Tampa on Tuesday night for Wednesday's announcement. …

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Bucs Smith 'disappointed' in Bowden for calling Winston an embarrassment

Bucs coach Lovie Smith is known for stopping high-powered attacks and he went on the defensive for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.

Saying he was 'disappointed,' in legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden for calling Winston 'an embarrassment,'' to Florida State fans and boosters, Smith said the Bucs' research heading into the NFL draft revealed the opposite was true.

Appearing on an Paul Finebaum's ESPN radio show Tuesday, Bowden said the 'consensus Florida State fans and boosters that he was an embarrassment, in a lot of ways, to the university."

Following a press conference to announce quarterback Doug Williams and fullback Mike Alstott's entrance into the team's Ring of Honor, Smith took exception to that description of Winston by the iconic former Seminoles head coach. …

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