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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Toss and talk: Lavonte David Q&A after Rays' first pitch

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was a two-sport athlete Thursday, going across the bridge to throw a ceremonial first pitch before the Rays' home game against the Red Sox. David, wearing a white No. 54 Rays jersey, said he never played baseball as a kid and appreciated getting a few practice tosses earlier Thursday before he took the mound under the lights. Here's a video clip of his first pitch.

The Bucs started offseason team conditioning Monday, and we had the chance to talk with him about several topics, like new middle linebacker Bruce Carter, the Bucs' No. 1 overall pick and where things stand with a potential longterm extension.

Q: I know it's only been a few days back together at One Buc, but how's that been, everybody back together and working toward a new season?

A: It's going pretty good. I think it's probably been one of the best weeks for the first week coming back we've had since I've been here. Everybody's full of energy, excited to get back to work, killing workouts. Everybody's walking around all smiles, getting ready for a new year.

Q: You may not know him that well yet, but what do you like about your new middle linebacker, Bruce Carter? …

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Bucs to have Mike Alstott announce 2nd-round draft pick

The NFL has each team selecting a former player to announce their second-round draft picks next week in Chicago, and the Bucs will have former fullback Mike Alstott doing the honors when they make the No. 34 overall pick.

Alstott, a fan favorite when he played for Tampa Bay from 1996-2006, follows in the footsteps of two former teammates from the Bucs' Super Bowl championship team -- linebacker Derrick Brooks got to announce the second-round pick last year, and defensive tackle Warren Sapp before him in 2013. Alstott, born in nearby Joliet, Ill., may feel close to home in announcing the 34th pick -- he went to the Bucs with the 35th overall pick in the 1996 draft.

The second round of the draft is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 1, with the Bucs having the second pick of the round.

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Jameis Winston: Publix gave me free food

Former Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston said he received free food from Publix, which led to his shoplifting citation last year and could be a violation of NCAA rules.

AP photo

Former Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston said he received free food from Publix, which led to his shoplifting citation last year and could be a violation of NCAA rules.

Former Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston said he received free food from Publix, which led to his shoplifting citation last year and could be a violation of NCAA rules.

On an ESPN "Draft Academy" special, Winston talks with Michigan coach (and former NFL head coach) Jim Harbaugh about his off-the-field issues. Winston was asked to explain why he was caught shoplifting seafood from Publix.

"How am I supposed to handle if I just got them for free?" Winston asked.

Winston went on to explain that a week before, he went to the store to buy a cake for a friend's birthday when he met a man there.

"And he said, ‘Hey, any time you come in here, I got you,'" Winston said. "So that day we just walked up and he hooked us up with that."

Winston said a man gave him crab legs, and he walked out.

"Someone from inside the store said I didn't pay for them," Winston said, "and that's how the whole thing started." …

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Bucs vs Titans open in possible Winston-Mariota showdown

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have both won the Heisman Trophy, played in national championship games, met in the Rose Bowl and been courted by many of the same teams heading into the draft.

If Winston and Mariota are selected with the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the NFL draft April 30 as speculated, they may begin their pro careers on opposite sidelines.

That's because the Bucs begin the 2015 regular season vs Tennessee Sept. 13 at Raymond James Stadium, possibly creating a showdown between the prospective top two players in the draft.

Barring a blockbuster trade, the Bucs are expected to choose between Winston and Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick. The Titans also have worked both quarterbacks out privately and pick second overall.

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, quarterbacks have been drafted first and second only five times. Never have those players' respective teams met in Week 1.

"I’m excited about the schedule," coach Love Smith said Monday.  "I can’t wait for the schedule to come out to see exactly who we’ll end up with, when we play, how our division opponents [stack up], when we play them. There’s a lot of excitement with this week." …

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Mel Kiper Jr.: Jameis Winston to Bucs isn't etched in stone

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he doesn't think the Bucs can use the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft on anyone other than a quarterback.

AP photo

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he doesn't think the Bucs can use the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft on anyone other than a quarterback.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he doesn't think the Bucs can use the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft on anyone other than a quarterback.

But Kiper isn't sure which one in it should, or will, be.

"It's not etched in stone that Winston's going 1 and Mariota's going 2," Kiper said today in a conference call with reporters.

Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota are the consensus top two quarterback prospects. Kiper said he expects them to go first and second in the draft.

Kiper hasn't yet decided which one he'll rank higher as a prospect when he unveils his final rankings this week.

It's widely assumed that the Bucs will choose Winston with the top pick and that the Titans could field multiple trade offers for the second pick, to a quarterback-hungry team that would like Mariota.

"If everybody wants Mariota," Kiper said, "why wouldn't Tampa Bay consider him?"

Kiper said Mariota's new team will have to change its offense to fit Mariota's speed and running ability. Coming from a more pro-style offense at FSU, Winston might not need those tweaks. …

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Bruce Carter eager for new role as Bucs' middle linebacker

Bruce Carter, 27, led all NFL linebackers with five interceptions last season, and he started 32 games in his four seasons with the Cowboys.

Getty Images

Bruce Carter, 27, led all NFL linebackers with five interceptions last season, and he started 32 games in his four seasons with the Cowboys.

TAMPA -- Middle linebacker is a crucial position in Lovie Smith's defense, calling defensive signals, covering plenty of ground in pass coverage and having a natural leadership role in the middle of the field.

Bruce Carter is ready for that challenge.

"It's got to be somebody who can lead on and off the field, somewhat of a captain," said Carter, speaking to local media Monday for the first time since he signed with the Bucs last month. "Guys have to look up to him, not only vocally but in your play, how you carry yourself. That's something I'm going to work on, and hopefully I can do a great job at it."

Carter, 27, led all NFL linebackers with five interceptions last season, and he started 32 games in his four seasons with the Cowboys, playing in a scheme very similar to what he'll have in Tampa Bay. Bucs coach Lovie Smith allowed Mason Foster, a four-year starter, to leave in free agency, targeting Carter as his successor based on his athleticism and familiarity with his defense. …

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Bucs have 'total agreement' on No. 1 pick but will wait for draft

"We're in total agreement,'' Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "As a staff, not just (general manager) Jason (Licht) and I.''

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

"We're in total agreement,'' Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "As a staff, not just (general manager) Jason (Licht) and I.''

Ten days before the NFL draft, the Bucs have come to a 'total agreement,' as to which player they will select with the No. 1 overall choice.

But the team says it will not negotiate or attempt to sign that player prior to handing the card with the name of their choice to commissioner Roger Goodell on April 30.

Barring a last-minute trade which seems unlikley, the Bucs are expected to choose either Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and have spent extensive time with each player.

Smith said at the NFL owners meetings last month that it would not be an 'erroneous assumption,' that Winston was the leading candidate to become the No. 1 pick.

"Yes we are. We're in total agreement,'' Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "As a staff, not just (general manager) Jason (Licht) and I. Go back to the first pick in the draft, you bring more people to get involved and make sure we can all come to an agreement and that's definitely the case.'' …

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Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston ahead with pundits, behind in poll

Jameis Winston warms up before the Seminoles' Nov. 2 game against the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jameis Winston warms up before the Seminoles' Nov. 2 game against the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

The tenure of Mock Draft Monday is nearly over. Which is fine, because I’m running out of unique ways to say that every pundit I track still thinks the Bucs will take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston No. 1 overall.

Your weekly update on our poll results: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota increased his lead over Winston. Mariota holds 57 percent of the almost 6,500 votes. Winston has 37 percent in our (unscientific) poll.

As a reminder, you can also build your own mock draft on our website.

Now the updated mock drafts:

NFL.com's Charles Davis: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston"The Buccaneers have spent a tremendous amount of resources vetting Winston and appear to be ready to make the top-ranked QB on my board the top selection in the draft.”

CBSSports’ Rob Rang: Winston. “Winston essentially sealed his position as the top pick with a solid pro day workout. Though questions still remain about Winston's maturity, from a purely football perspective it is an excellent match as he possesses the awareness, accuracy, and arm strength to take full advantage of Tampa Bay's massive pass-catchers.” …

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Would Hueytown residents draft Jameis Winston (and more story extras)

A plaque in a main hallway of Jameis Winston's former high school in Hueytown, Ala.

MATT BAKER | Times

A plaque in a main hallway of Jameis Winston's former high school in Hueytown, Ala.

When I spent a few days in Hueytown, Ala. last month to talk about Jameis Winston, I ended my interviews the same way: If you were the Bucs’ GM, and your job depended on this decision, knowing everything you know about Winston…would you take him with the No. 1 overall pick?

Some of the answers:

Otis Leverette, Winston’s high school trainer and a former NFL defensive lineman: “Let me say this: The whole draft is Russian roulette. But at the end of the day, if I’m going to go on odds, I don’t think no one in the draft has better odds to change an organization around. … He’s going to do everything it takes. He’s a winner. He’s a game changer. He’s a thermostat, not a thermometer. A thermostat controls the temperature. A thermometer only checks the temperature. He will change the climate, wherever he is. That’s the difference.”

Ellis McFerrin, a 70-year-old Hueytown resident and big sports fan: “Would I take him as a first rounder? No. … I think there’s better quarterbacks out there.”  …

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Bucs used St. Attorney's office to background check Winston

The Bucs exhaustive background check of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston included discussions with Georgia Cappleman, the assistant state's attorney for Leon County, the Times confirmed.

Cappleman was instramental in the investigation of allegations made by Erica Kinsman, who accused Winston of sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting "emotional distress" during their December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter in Tallahassee. Kinsman filed a civil suit against Winston Thursday after multiple investigations ended without criminal charges for Winston, who has maintained his innocence.

On Friday, ESPN's Outside the Lines reported that State Attorney Willie Meggs had not been contracted by the Bucs or the NFL regarding Winston.

Cappleman's role in the investigation also included interviewing the victim's advocate at Florida State, whom according to Kinsman, informed her “that a second woman had come forward and reported being sexually assaulted by Winston." …

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Bucs' preseason schedule to start Aug. 15 at Vikings

The Bucs learned the dates and times of their four 2015 preseason games Friday, with their two games coming five days apart against the Bengals and Browns.

Tampa Bay will open the preseason on Saturday, Aug. 15, playing at the Vikings at 8, then play host to the Bengals on Monday, Aug. 24 (8 p.m.), and the Browns on Saturday, Aug. 29 (7 p.m.), before finishing the preseason at the Dolphins on Sept. 3 (7 p.m.).

The Bucs had previously learned their preseason opponents, so Friday's news was simply getting dates and times to match. And since NFL teams can't start preseason camp until 15 days before the opener, that's likely coming on July 31.

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Winston would bring Bucs back to in-state draft picks

If the Bucs do indeed use the No. 1 overall pick in this month's NFL draft on FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, it will mark a return to using high draft picks on prospects from in-state schools after a long absence.

The Bucs haven't drafted a player from a Florida school higher than the fifth round since 2001, when they took Gators tackle Kenyatta Walker in the first round. In 13 drafts since, they've taken 103 players, but just five from in-state schools, none higher than the fifth round. Compare that to the previous 13 drafts, when Florida, FSU and Miami were churning out top-tier NFL talent -- the Bucs had at least one in-state draft pick in 13 straight drafts, with 19 such players taken in all.

Twice in three drafts, the Bucs took multiple first-rounders from Florida schools, famously drafting Miami's Warren Sapp and FSU's Derrick Brooks in 1995, then doubling up again with FSU's Warrick Dunn and Florida's Reidel Anthony in 1997. …

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Jameis Winston's legal adviser responds to sexual battery lawsuit

Jameis Winston comes down the stairs for a break during his Dec. 2 student conduct code hearing in Tallahassee.

Getty Images

Jameis Winston comes down the stairs for a break during his Dec. 2 student conduct code hearing in Tallahassee.

The civil lawsuit filed Thursday against Jameis Winston didn’t surprise the star quarterback’s legal adviser, who says it won’t distract Winston from this month’s NFL draft.

“This stunt was expected,” Winston’s attorney, David Cornwell, said in a statement Friday morning. “(Erica) Kinsman’s false accusations have already been exposed and rejected six times. This time will be no different. Mr. Winston welcomes the opportunity to clear his name with the truth.

"Mr. Winston is looking forward to the upcoming draft. He will not permit this ploy to distract him as he begins the journey of fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a championship quarterback in the National Football League."

Kinsman filed the sexual battery suit Thursday, exactly two weeks before the Bucs are expected to draft Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. The allegations date back to a December 2012 sexual encounter.

Winston has maintained his innocence and was not charged after investigations by the State Attorney’s Office and Florida State University.

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Bucs reach deal with Lions to acquire DE George Johnson

Detroit Lions

The Bucs finally got their man in Lions defensive end George Johnson, but it took some creativity.

The team has agreed in principle to a trade with the Lions for Johnson, a restricted free agent who had signed a three-year, $9-million offer sheet with Tampa Bay on April 7.

The Bucs acquired Johnson and the Lions' seventh-round pick (231 overall) in exchange for their fifth-round choice (168 overall) in the 2015 NFL draft.

The deal avoids a dispute over elements of the offer sheet Johnson signed with Tampa Bay. The Lions had a week to match the offer sheet but had asked an NFL arbitrator for clarification on some de-escalators placed in the agreement with the Bucs.

Johnson had six sacks, one fumble recovery and a pass defense in 16 games for the Lions last season. He originally entered the NFL with Tampa Bay as undrafted free agent from Rutgers, spending time on the Bucs' practice squad from 2010-12.

The Bucs sent the final pick in the fifth round to the Lions that they had acquired from the New England Partiots for LB Jonathan Casillas. …

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Bucs get DE Johnson in a trade with Lions

The Bucs finally got their man in Lions defensive end George Johnson, but it took some creativity.

The team has agreed in principle to a trade with the Lions for Johnson, a restricted free agent who had signed a threee-year, $9-million offer sheet with Tampa Bay last week.

The Bucs and Lions will swap low-round picks, avoiding a dispute over elements of the offer sheet Johnson signed with Tampa Bay. The Lions had a week to match the offer sheet but had asked an NFL arbitrator for clarification on some de-escalators placed in the agreement with the Bucs.

Johnson had six sacks for the Lions last season. He gives the Bucs another edge pass rusher.

 

 

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