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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

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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Alstott impressed by Jameis Winston at charity event

"I think first and foremost, he's a great person,'' Mike Alstott said of Jameis Winston. He has a big heart, very personable. ... Everybody loved having him around."

Times files (2009)

"I think first and foremost, he's a great person,'' Mike Alstott said of Jameis Winston. He has a big heart, very personable. ... Everybody loved having him around."

Former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is still working to win over fans in the Tampa area as the NFL draft approaches, and he made an impression on former Bucs players at charity events this weekend for the Mike Alstott Family Foundation.

"I think first and foremost, he's a great person. He has a big heart, very personable, was there interacting with the crowd and everybody that supported my event," said Alstott, the former Bucs fullback. "Everybody loved having him around. He was really, really first-class."

Alstott said he hadn't met Winston before and reached out through his agent to bring him down for the weekend, which included social events like a cornhole tournament and golf outing at the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club. For Winston, the event was a chance to meet former and current Bucs players -- head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht were at the cornhole tournament on the beach as well. Alstott said he understands that fans may be divided on Winston, but he was impressed by how he handled himself. …

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Lions disputing Bucs' offer to DE George Johnson

The Bucs' pursuit of free-agent defensive end George Johnson hit a snag Monday when the Detroit Lions opted to dispute some aspect of Tampa Bay's offer sheet, delaying the timeframe of Detroit deciding whether to match the Bucs' offer.

Tampa Bay filed its offer sheet Tuesday night, with the Lions having until Monday afternoon to decide whether to match. Johnson had been given the "low" tender of one year, $1.54-million by the Lions, giving them the right of refusal to match any outside contract, but no draft-pick compensation should another team sign him away.

The Lions are taking issue with some aspect of the language of the offer, and a league arbirtator will have 10 days to decide exactly which parts of the offer sheet must be matched by Detroit; once that is determined, the Lions would have two days to decide whether to match or not. That 12-day span would wrap up within a week of the start of the NFL draft on April 30. …

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Fans divided on Winston/Mariota to Bucs in mock drafts

We've had our own interactive mock draft feature running at Tampabay.com for more than two weeks now, and one fun aspect of having fans make their picks for the first round is seeing the collective wisdom of who will go where on April 30.

Before we share anything, here's a link to our mock draft feature -- you can choose any of 60 players for the 32 picks, and you can change teams for any pick to project a trade if you'd like. It's a good exercise, especially as you get into the second half of the first round.

Some cool things to glean from the initial results of your drafts:

-- Everybody thinks the Bucs are taking a QB at No. 1. None of our initial results had another team at No. 1, and none had the Bucs taking anyone but FSU's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Keep in mind this is hardly scientific -- you can complete more than one mock, as some fans already have, and you can enter any name and e-mail, so there could be duplicate mocks we're not even aware of. …

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Winston shows sense of humor over crab leg at Alstott event

Jameis Winston attended the Mike Alstott Family Foundation celebrity outdoor weekend, which began Thursday night in Clearwater.

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Jameis Winston attended the Mike Alstott Family Foundation celebrity outdoor weekend, which began Thursday night in Clearwater.

A thick skin is an asset for any NFL quarterback and you can check that box for Jameis Winston.

The prospective No. 1 overall pick of the Bucs attended the Mike Alstott Family Foundation celebrity outdoor weekend which began Thursday night in Clearwater. During a fundraising event, Captain Keith Coburn and his brother Monte from the Deadliest Catch were auctioning some Alaskan King Crabs. He tore off one of the crab legs and handed it to Winston, who accepted the gesture in stride.

Last April, Winston, of course, received a civil citation after sheriff's deputies say he walked out of a supermarket without paying for $32 worth of crab legs and crawfish at a Tallahassee Publix. He was suspended from the Seminoles baseball team until completing community service.

Winston, 21, also participated in the charity's cornhole tournament Friday and posed for plenty of pictures that were posted on Twitter. Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith attended the event Friday night. …

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Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston pulling away from Marcus Mariota

There’s been a little bit of chatter from NFL Network and ESPN pundits that, perhaps, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is the best use of the Bucs’ No. 1 overall pick.

Mock Draft Monday disagrees.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the unanimous choice in our survey of mock drafts for the second consecutive week.

Before we get to the details, some regular programming notes:

With more than 5,000 votes, Mariota holds a majority (50.6 percent) in our online poll. Winston is at 37.7 percent. 

Go here to build your own mock draft on our website. And if you’ve ever wondered what your superhero choice says about your quarterback taste, take our quiz here.

Now the updated mock drafts:

Pro Football Talk: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: Winston. “Nothing to see here. I’ve had Winston going No. 1 overall since my first mock draft and I believe he’ll still be there in my final mock draft.”

San Diego Union-Tribune: Winston. “It appears the Buccaneers are comfortable with Winston, regardless of his off-the-field baggage. At very least, they’ve gone out of their way to make it appear that way.”  …

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Bucs' Will Gholston repays kindness at Michigan gas station

Mohamed Gabasha was working at the BP gas station at Eight Mile Road and Greenfield Road in Detroit on Friday night when a familiar face walked in to say thanks for an act of kindness five years ago.

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston, who grew up in Detroit and played at Michigan State, had run out of gas on the John C. Lodge Freeway as a high school senior, and had walked to the gas station, with no money. Gabasha gave him a container of gas and drove him to his car, not expecting to see him again.

"He was stuck on the Lodge and didn't have any money on him," Gabasha recalled. "He came in and sat down. We looked at him, tall kid, humble, quiet, and thought 'Something's going on here, you know.' He wasn't begging or anything. He was stuck. We asked 'You OK?' and he told us his story. There was something about him, where you wanted to help him out."

Gholston's family still lives nearby and comes into the station occasionally, and he stopped in himself Friday night to say thanks, giving Gabasha $100 to pay him back with interest. …

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Bucs' local tryout includes Oklahoma Panhandle cornerback

To appreciate the lengths the Bucs go to in trying to find the best in draft talent, Friday's workout for local draft prospects included former Jefferson cornerback Domonique Johnson, who played the last two seasons at Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

Johnson, 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, was spotted by a Bucs scout at the pro day at another Division II school, University of Central Oklahoma, where he was invited to the team's local workout. He also worked out at the NFL's regional combine in Denver.

"I'm an aggressive corner, big and long, with recovery speed, awareness and play recognition," he said. "I'll take chances, and I feel like I can play in the slot or outside, and I can play safety."

Johnson had three interceptions as a senior at OPSU -- he played two seasons there, and was at Butte College, a junior college in California, before that. You can see a highlight video from his OPSU days here, as well as an old cutup of his Butte days here.

Johnson's unlikely to be drafted, but could get another look from the Bucs in their rookie minicamp after the draft, with the goal of landing a contract as an undrafted rookie.

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Winston's attorney: Jameis not ready as NFL player off field

“Jameis (Winston) is ready to be an NFL player on the field. He's not ready to be an NFL player off the field,'' his attorney, David Cornwell, said.

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“Jameis (Winston) is ready to be an NFL player on the field. He's not ready to be an NFL player off the field,'' his attorney, David Cornwell, said.

Jameis Winston's transition to the NFL at quarterback should be rather seamless. But adapting to the league off the field could be much more difficult.

That's according to attorney David Cornwell, an adviser to Winston who spoke Friday at Villanova’s Moorad Sports Law symposium.

"Jameis is ready to be an NFL player on the field. He's not ready to be an NFL player off the field,'' Cornwell said.

Cornwell wasn't firing a warning shot across the bow of the Bucs or other teams considering drafting Winston. The context of his statement, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Winston is not the first college player to show immaturity and that he understands and embraces the opportunity to grow.

"I don't see why it's controversial that a 20-year-old doesn't have the life experience to navigate the treacherous waters of being a professional athlete wiithout availing to themselves of the resources available to them,'' Cornwell said. "The idea that, standing alone, he's ready to get into this shark-invested pool, it's crazy. I don't understand why it's news.  I don't think Winston is unique. I don't think anyone is ready for this world when they come into it.'' …

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Gators' Dante Fowler highlights locals visiting Bucs today

Former Lakewood and Gators defensive end Dante Fowler, a potential top-five pick in this month's NFL draft, is among the local prospects the Bucs are bringing to One Buc Place today, but he said Tuesday that he understands the Bucs are likely picking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick.

Fowler talked with Bucs officials in Gainesville on Tuesday -- defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and special-teams coordinator Kevin O'Dea were there, along with special-teams assistant coach Carlos Polk -- and while he's coming to Tampa to visit with team officials, he understands where their focus with the No. 1 pick ultimately rests. 

"They're going with a quarterback," Fowler said. "I feel like there's no need for them to talk to me and waste my time unless something happens with Jameis or Marcus or something like that. They know where they're going. I understand that." …

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