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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Tedford, healthy, lands with CFL's B.C. Lions

Two weeks after he was released from his contract by the Bucs, former offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was formally introduced Friday as the new head coach of the CFL's B.C. Lions, saying he's healthy and eager to return to coaching.

Tedford, 53, underwent a surgical procedure in August to insert two stents near his heart, and after a few weeks of uncertainty, he was placed on indefinite medical leave on Sept. 23, leaving quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo to call the plays for the entire season. Tedford addressed his health on Friday in a story with the Vancouver Sun, saying "I've been good to go for a couple of months."

Two weeks ago, in a statement issued when he was released by the Bucs, Tedford had said the only the indefinite medical leave granted by the Bucs "would allow me the proper amount of time to rest and rehabilitate myself."

Here's a 15-minute video of Tedford being introduced with the Lions -- he makes a single passing reference to the NFL but not the Bucs, and he isn't asked on camera about his health.

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Martin seeks more progress from Bucs' running game

TAMPA -- Bucs running back Doug Martin, who rushed for a season-high 96 yards last week, understands that the more he's on the field Sunday, the less that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, which is probably a good thing.

"We know what Aaron Rodgers can do, and that's something we talk about with our offense being on the field more, so we can keep their offense off the field," Martin said.

To do that, the Bucs need to sustain their running game into the second half, something they've struggled to do recently. In the last four games, the Bucs have averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the second half -- Martin, who gained 180 yards on 30 carries in the first half of those games, has just 23 yards in 18 carries in the second half.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith said he didn't know why the team's run game hasn't been as effective in the second half of games.

"If I knew that, we'd be doing something about it," Smith said Friday. "We haven't done as good of a job as we need to during that time on anything, really. All you can do is just keep trying to get it done, to get some production from it." …

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Grand feat: Evans, Jackson could both pass 1,000 yards

It's a quirky statistical footnote in what has been a disappointing Bucs season, but just the same, rookie Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson could become the first Bucs teammates to reach 1,000 receiving yards in the same season Sunday against the Packers.

If both players simply hit their average production, they'll pass the milestone -- Evans comes in with 948 yards, Jackson 931 -- with one more game still left against the Saints at home next week if they fall short.

From an NFL context, it's only so rare -- Green Bay's Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both already over 1,000, as are Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Denver had two last year, as did Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

For the Bucs, it's certainly a rare opportunity. They've come painfully close before -- in 2012, Jackson had 1,384 yards, but Mike Williams finished with 996 -- but this is only the fourth time in 39 seasons they've had a pair of 800-yard receivers, let alone 1,000. In the Bucs' first 25 seasons, there were four 1,000-yard receiving seasons total, then a neat run of exactly one each season from 2001-08. …

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Holiday hope? Aaron Rodgers' odd history in Tampa

If you're among that faction of Bucs fans still actively rooting for the team to win, and as such you're searching for morsels of optimism with the Packers and hordes of their fans coming to town, well, here goes.

Aaron Rodgers, for whatever reason, has not played well in Raymond James Stadium.

We readily admit it's been a while since he's played here, so it's a small sample size, from back in the nearly mortal early stages of his NFL career.

Still, Tampa is something of a Kryptonite to his ridiculous career passing statistics. Consider this: In his two games in Tampa, he's not only lost both times, but he's thrown three interceptions in each game. In the other 116 games in his NFL career, in 31 other NFL stadiums combined, he has a total of one game throwing three interceptions.

Pick-sixes? In 3,761 career pass attempts over his 10 NFL seasons, even including the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown just one interception that was returned for a touchdown. And of course, that pick-six came in Tampa, when Tanard Jackson returned an errant throw 35 yards for a score with 35 seconds left in a 2009 game. …

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What has become of Josh Freeman?

Vincent Jackson has kept in touch with him and says he’s back at his home in Kansas City. Gerald McCoy says he has known him since high school and prays he can return to the NFL.

The last time the Packers played at Raymond James Stadium, on Nov. 8, 2009, Josh Freeman made his first NFL start at quarterback and won 38-28.

But since being released by the New York Giants May 30 –his third team in a year -- Freeman has flown beneath the NFL radar. In a league that employs quarterbacks such as Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Lindley, the guy who passed for 13,724 and 80 touchdowns in five NFL seasons is a relative ghost. …

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Special-teams ace Shepard eager to help on offense, too

Russell Shepard has played a key role on the Bucs' coverage units, leading the team with 11 special-teams tackles, but with Louis Murphy out with a season-ending ankle injury, he's ready to help out as his actual offensive position as well.

"It's a great opportunity," Shepard said Wednesday. "You never know when your number's going to be called, but at the same time, every week we prepare as if our number will be called. Before anything, I'm a receiver. It doesn't say 'special teams Russell Shepard,' it's receiver. I take pride in teams though and am still going to do that to the best of my ability."

Since tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was lost to a back injury four games ago, the Bucs have worked even more extensively in three-receiver sets, with Murphy on the field for 76 percent of the offensive plays in the three games before his injury. When Murphy went down Sunday, Shepard stepped up, getting a 23-yard catch. Shepard has been pressed into a bigger role by injury before -- when rookie Mike Evans was injured against Pittsburgh, Shepard had the first two catches of his NFL career in the fourth quarter, helping the Bucs rally to their first win of the season. …

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Leslie Frazier: Bucs without Major Wright again this week

TAMPA -- The Bucs are planning on being without S Major Wright (ribs) again this week, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday. Bradley McDougald is expected to start in Wright’s place for the fourth consecutive game.

 

 

“We’re not going to have Major again this week, so that’s tough,” Frazier said. “But it also means that Bradley gets more snaps and gets more experience at the safety position, and we get more views of what he can and can’t do against a very good offense, a very good quarterback.”

Wright missed last week’s game at Carolina with the injury and didn’t practice Wednesday. Wright was back at practice Thursday during the 30-minute window open to reporters. CB Isaiah Frey (ankle) was the only player on the active roster who wasn't practicing.

In Wright’s absence, McDougald had a team-high 15 tackles last week.

 

 

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Bucs take Marcus Mariota (in very early mock drafts)

I guess NFL Draft season is officially upon us, now that ESPN’s Todd McShay produced his first mock draft.

The Bucs currently hold the No. 1 pick, but as our Greg Auman points out here, they might not be in that position at the end of the year. Spoiler alert: McShay has the Bucs picking Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winner, QB Marcus Mariota, over Florida State’s Jameis Winston. McShay writes:

The concern I have with him is that while he's good with his anticipation and accuracy when passing from inside the pocket (and he's gotten better at it this season), he isn't great -- and that's the most important quality for QBs transitioning to the NFL level. Is that enough of a risk for the Bucs, a team in serious need of a franchise quarterback, to pass on him? Maybe, or perhaps they would wind up giving Winston a higher grade.

CBS’ draft gurus also have the Bucs picking Mariota at No. 1, with Winston going to the Titans with the second pick.

 

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Bucs and No. 1 pick: What to root for ...

With two weeks left in the NFL's regular season, the Bucs still stake claim to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, a huge asset to help build the team back from its current two-win status.

It's understandable that many Bucs fans are rooting for the team to lose its final two games, which would help lock up the No. 1 pick, and potentially, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It's not that simple, however -- the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders are also 2-12, and the NFL tiebreaker for draft position is based on strength of schedule. Add up the combined record of a team's 16 opponents, and the team with the worst combined record gets to pick first within a group of teams with the same record. …

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McDonald, Foster back as Bucs return to practice

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury, was back at practice for the first time Wednesday, joined by middle linebacker Mason Foster, who has missed two games with an Achilles injury.

The only active players sidelined during Wednesday's drills were safety Major Wright (ribs) and nickel defensive back Isaiah Frey (ankle), with returner/receiver Solomon Patton back practicing after missing Sunday's game with a foot injury.

With Gerald McCoy done for the season with a knee injury, it was Da'Quan Bowers who was lining up with the first-team defensive line alongside McDonald, with Akeem Spence, who has started the last three games, working on the second line, next to newly promoted rookie George Uko.

The first-team offensive line remained unchanged from Sunday, with Demar Dotson at left tackle and Oniel Cousins at right tackle, with former starter Anthony Collins not getting any reps with the first-team line. Kevin Pamphile and Garrett Gilkey got work as sixth linemen when the Bucs utilized the extra blocker in practice.

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Glennon still believes he's the Bucs QB of the future

The Bucs have been eliminated from the playoffs, have the worst record in football and currently own the No. 1 pick in a draft that's top heavy with Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks.

Sounds like a time to look to the future, right?

But despite throwing 12 interceptions and losing four fumbles, the Bucs have decided to stick with veteran Josh McCown. Does Mike Glennon, who went 1-4 as a starter this season, still think he is the team's quarterback of the future as stated by coach Lovie Smith?

“Yeah, I don’t see why not? That’s what has been told to me,'' Glennon said Wednesday. "I mean, that’s just been the communication throughout.  

"Until they tell me otherwise, that’s the approach I’ll take.''

While McCown has struggled to complete 50 percent of his passes the past four weeks and is 1-8 as a starter, Glennon has patiently waited for the call that never came. He led the Bucs to an upset comeback win at Pittsburgh in his first start of the season after McCown suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb. But Glennon lost his next three games and has 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. …

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Bucs sign DL Lawrence Sidbury

TAMPA – The Bucs have signed DL Lawrence Sidbury, the team announced Wednesday morning. He takes the roster spot of CB Crezdon Butler, who has been released.

Sidbury will add depth to a Bucs defensive line that will be without star Gerald McCoy (knee) for the rest of the season. The 6-foot-3, 269-pound Sidbury was a fourth-round pick in 2009. He played in 48 games over four years with the Falcons. He was on IR last season for the Colts and spent training camp with the Texans.

Sidbury, a University of Richmond product, will wear No. 77.

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New to Bucs' practice squad: CB Varmah Sonie

On a day where the Bucs lost an unusual name in Crezdon Butler, they added another, signing cornerback Varmah Sonie of Northern Iowa to the practice squad.

Sonie, 24, is the second player the Bucs have signed this year from the Arena Football League's Portland Thunder -- the first, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, has earned his way into the rotation at end, with six tackles off the bench.

Sonie, 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, was a first-team All-Arena selection after getting nine interceptions and a team-record 86 total tackles as a rookie with the Thunder. The Bucs were the first NFL team to bring him in for a workout, flying him in Monday after seeing tape from his Arena season. He had been limited by a sprained knee after the season, and had returned this fall to his hometown of Apple Valley, Minn., where he worked as defensive backs coach at Apple Valley High School.

"It really hasn't hit me yet that I'm in the NFL," Sonie said Tuesday night, eager for his first practice Wednesday. "I knew I belonged here and I just needed an opportunity to show it. God blessed me with an opportunity, so I'm thankful for a chance to show I can play." …

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After injuries, Bucs promote three from practice squad

One day after placing three players on injured reserve, the Bucs filled up the openings by promoting three players from their practice squad: WR Tavarres King, DT George Uko and TE Evan Rodriguez.

DT Gerald McCoy (knee), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) and WR Louis Murphy (ankle) are all done for the season, and the final two games will give the Bucs a chance to evaluate three young players. The Bucs also signed former San Jose State receiver Chandler Jones, an undrafted rookie, to fill one of the openings on the practice squad.

King, 24, was a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in 2013 after scoring 17 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Georgia. His best game in college came at Raymond James Stadium, catching six passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl after his junior year.

Uko, 22, went undrafted after leaving USC after his junior year, spending time in the preseason with the Saints before being cut. He had five sacks for the Trojans in 2013, splitting time between end and tackle, though he's worked inside at tackle for the Bucs. …

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WR Vincent Jackson is Bucs' Man of the Year

Vincent Jackson makes a first down catch during the second quarter of the Dec. 7 Lions game at Ford Field in Detroit.

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Vincent Jackson makes a first down catch during the second quarter of the Dec. 7 Lions game at Ford Field in Detroit.

For the second straight year, receiver Vincent Jackson has been named as the Bucs' Man of the Year, making him one of 32 players up for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Jackson, one of the team's most active players in community service, has put considerable time into his efforts for military families, including publishing a book he wrote, "Danny Dogtags," about the challenges children face while relatives are deployed in military service.

Jackson, 31, needs just 69 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the fourth year in a row and the sixth time in the last seven seasons. He leads the Bucs with 66 catches.

"We admire and support the important work that these players and so many other NFL players are doing to serve their communities," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The NFL is filled with outstanding young men who help schools, shelters, and countless other organizations and good causes. We thank our players for recognizing the positive impact they can have in the lives of their fellow citizens and seizing that opportunity to make difference."

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