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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs fire special teams coordinator Ligashesky

The Bucs have fired special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky after one season.

Tampa Bay was 30th in the NFL in kickoff return yardage last season with a 20.3 yard average. The Bucs were tied for 19th in the league in punt returns with a 9.0 yard average.

Ligashesky's firing is part of a shake up of coach Greg Schiano's staff after only one season. Defensive backs coach Ron Cooper was given permission to take a similar job with the University of South Florida, where he also will serve as associate head coach. Quarterbacks coach Ron Turner left to take the head coaching job at Florida International University and was replaced by Cardinals assistant John McNulty, a long-time assistant for Schiano at Rutgers.


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Bucs hire Jags assistant Oden as DBs coach

The Bucs have hired former Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Tony Oden to coach defensive backs.

Oden, 39, replaces Ron Cooper, who took a similar job at the University of South Florida where he also will serve as associate head coach. He inherits a pass defense that ranked last in the NFL in 2012. The Jaguars were 22nd in the league in pass defense last season.

In 2006, Oden was hired as an assistant secondary coach with the New Orleans Saints where he remained for five seasons. He was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2011 by coach Sean Payton.

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What's Mike Williams worth in contract talks with Bucs?

Bucs receiver Mike Williams has a very capable agent who does not need my help.

Still, it’s a worthwhile exercise to kick around some ideas about what Williams might garner in these contract talks that now are underway with the Bucs.

Williams has a few things going for him: He’s young, still just 25-years old. He's durable, never missing any of the 48 games played since he's been on the roster. And he’s been consistent. Despite his dip to just three touchdowns and 771 yards in 2011, widely considered a down year for him, he has averaged 910 yards and 64 catches in his three seasons.

That’s very good production in a league where far less-accomplished players are doing quite well for themselves.

Working in the Bucs’ favor is the fact that they aren’t bidding against anyone. If and when this deal gets done this offseason, Williams won’t enter free agency and the Bucs will be able to sign him for less than they would on the open market.

So, with all that in mind, I went looking for a couple of reference points and a couple caught my eye. …

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Bucs and receiver Mike Williams in early stages of contract talks

Teams and player agents often don’t see eye to eye.

But there is universal agreement between the Bucs and the representative of receiver Mike Williams on one important point: He’s earned a new contract.

Coming off a season in which he rebounded from a down season in 2011, Williams is the subject of preliminary conversations between the Bucs and his agent about a contract extension, though nothing is likely for at least a few more weeks.

“I can report that we have begun dialog and it was mutual,” said Hadley Engelhard, Williams’ agent. “We will speak again at NFL Combine.”

The combine doesn’t begin until Feb. 20 in Indianapolis. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik prefers to hold conversations regarding contracts in person and planned to hold discussions with agents for several players at the Combine.

Williams is scheduled to earn $1.4 million in 2013, the final year of his rookie contract. After falling to the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2010, Williams has earned no more than $540,000 in each of his first three seasons. …

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Ravens RB Rice lauds team-first approach of his former coach Schiano

Ravens running back Ray Rice has long been a favorite of Bucs coach Greg Schiano since their days together at Rutgers.

The feeling is mutual. Rice said Schiano's team-first approach reminds him a lot of the one deployed by Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

"Coach Schiano did a great job,'' Rice said from the Super Bowl Monday. "He’s always had my respect as a man, as a father and as a husband. I’ve seen the way not only that he took care of us as his kids, but you see the way he takes care of his family. He’s always about team first, and it reminds me of our coach. One thing about the Baltimore Ravens is that we have the guys that are stars or whatever you want to call them, but no one is bigger than their team, and that’s what makes the Baltimore Ravens special. We’ve got a general, Ray Lewis, that’s going to be a Hall of Famer, and Ray will be the first to tell you that he wants to be there to shine amongst others, and that’s how our team is. Coach Schiano implemented that same kind of format in us.”


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With the help of the Bucs, Pro Bowl effort much improved

Fact: The 2012 Pro Bowl was embarrassing for all involved. Effort was nonexistent and players made a mockery of a game intended to showcase the best the NFL had to offer. As a result, the game was anything but that.

Fast forward a year to Sunday’s all-star affair and, frankly, I was pleasantly surprised. The effort was better. Players seemed to take commissioner Roger Goodell’s threats to eliminate the game seriously. And fans were the ultimate winners.

Look, this is the Pro Bowl, not something that is vital to the existence of football. But players like the reward of having a trip to Hawaii and the honor of being selected as one of the best by their peers. After a grueling 16-game season, that’s a nice carrot.

And it was all potentially going to go to the wayside after the debacle of 2012. This year, with Bucs stars Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Gerald McCoy playing major roles, the players stepped it up. …

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Is Bucs tight end Dallas Clark leaning toward a return?

Tight end Dallas Clark, who is scheduled to become a free agent this spring, sounded as though retirement was on the table after the Bucs’ season finale.

That day, in Atlanta, Clark said, “We’ll see what the options are and we’ll go from there and make a reasonable response for myself and my family. Whatever else happens, it’s been a heck of a run with this team.”

Now that some time has passed, things seem to be clearing up a bit.

General manager Mark Dominik said that based on Clark’s conversations with coach Greg Schiano, the 10-year veteran does appears likely to return to the NFL – either here or elsewhere.

“I know Greg talked to him at the end of the season,” Dominik said. “I don’t think Dallas Clark is contemplating retirement. I don’t get that sense from him. But at the same time, you have to sit back and look at the whole situation, and he’s making his decision.”

Whether Clark returns to Tampa Bay is a different question. Clark was relatively productive, catching 47 passes for 435 yards even though, at times, he was an afterthought in the Tampa Bay offense.

Tight end is a need for the Bucs, whether they address the need by re-signing Clark or looking at other options. …

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Bucs fans want Revis, but there's a lot to consider

Before I had even heard the rumblings that Jets cornerback Derrelle Revis might be the subject of trade talks, Bucs fans were already sending tweets and emails with questions about the likelihood of Tampa Bay acquiring the All-Pro.

It was no surprise. Given the Bucs’ personnel issues in their secondary, grabbing Revis would be one sure way to address the problem. Right?

Well, maybe.

There are two main reasons a potential trade for Revis is complicated for any team, not just the Bucs.

For one, there’s the obvious: Revis suffered a very serious injury last season, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and undergoing season-ending surgery. Many players bounce back from these injuries with flying colors, i.e. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. But that’s something that can never be assumed.

Will Revis still have his speed? Will his recovery timeline be what everyone expects? Perhaps, but there’s always a chance those things won’t happen. Given what a team would have to give up for Revis in terms of draft picks and/or players, this is a serious roll of the dice. …

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Senior Bowl observations through Day 2

MOBILE, Ala. – After two days of practices here for Senior Bowl week, we’ve gotten a chance to see a little more of some of the cornerbacks we told you about earlier in the week.

There are more practices later today, but so far the guy who’s caught my eye is Washington’s Desmond Trufant. He’s a good package and will appeal to a lot of teams, perhaps even as a late first-rounder. He’s got good size at 5-11 and 190 pounds, and he can flat-out cover.

He has done a good job of staying step for step with receivers, not biting on moves. And he has shown he’ll be solid in man-to-man coverage, a prerequisite if he wants to be considered by the Bucs. He didn’t back down from the toughest matchups, either, ably taking on Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton and Marshall’s Aaron Dobson. He’s done nothing but help himself this week. …

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Mark Dominik tackles offseason moves, Josh Freeman and other matters

MOBILE, Ala. – I had the chance, along with other Tampa media, to spend more than 30 minutes today with Bucs general manager Mark Dominik during the South practice at the Senior Bowl.

He covered a number of topics, but let's just touch on a few:

Regarding the talent level of the team and whether the roster needs more retooling, he said, "When you don’t have a winning season and don’t get to the playoffs, there’s something that still needs to get done and taken care of. And from a player personnel standpoint, that’s a part of it. Absolutely."

Simply signing Vincent Jackson and the other additions from 2012 won't be enough. So, there might be more to come.

"We knew it was a process," Dominik said. "And Greg (Schiano) knew it was a process. When I look back at the season, I say there were a lot of strides made. But we do need to get to that next step."

Of course, quarterback Josh Freeman's performance came up. Dominik recently finished reviewing Freeman's whole season. Here are his thoughts: …

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Surgery on tap for injured Bucs linebacker Quincy Black

MOBILE, Ala. – Bucs linebacker Quincy Black is a long way from playing football again.

That much is clear based on the latest development in his road back from a neck and shoulder injury sustained Nov. 11 that required hospitalization.

Black is scheduled to undergo surgery later this month to help accelerate the healing of a damaged nerve, putting his future in more doubt.

“(Doctors) were waiting to see how much regrowth would happen naturally,” general manager Mark Dominik said. “This is supposed to promote the growth.”

Black’s agent, Harold Lewis, said last month that improvement was coming along slowly, but that Black’s level of discomfort had at least subsided from “excruciating pain.” Lewis said at the time the injury was not considered career-threatening, but the fact remains doctors don’t have a timetable for recovery.

Right now, Black’s not close.

“Quincy Black is still in the early stages of where he’s going to be long-term,” Dominik said. …

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Former Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin happy to be back

MOBILE, Ala. – Monte Kiffin is back, and he’s as energetic as ever.

The longtime Bucs defensive coordinator and, now, recently-hired Cowboys coordinator stopped by Ladd-Peebles Stadium this morning to scout players ahead of this weekend’s Senior Bowl, and he hasn’t lost a step.

“I love it in Mobile today,” he said, with his typical enthusiasm. “The sun is out. I love it. It’s just fun to be back and get it going and start scouting some of these players.”

After four years in the college ranks working with his son, Lane, at Tennessee and USC, Monte decided to part ways after the season and go back to the pro game, where he made his mark.

He said the decision wasn’t easy.

“It was good,” said Kiffin, who still owns his home in Madeira Beach. “I like college. College is fun.”

But there’s something to be said for being back in his most comfortable environment, as well as for having familiar faces around. Another former Bucs ssistant, Rod Marinelli, has joined Kiffin’s Cowboys defensive staff. Watching the two work together again will be compelling, at minimum.
Kiffin is pumped up about it. …

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Monday wrap-up from the Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. – Today was the first day of workouts here at the Senior Bowl, and I got the chance to see some interesting prospects who Bucs fans might have some interest in.

We got a little face time with some of the better cornerbacks playing in the game, including Jordan Poyer of Oregon State.

Poyer, who had seven interceptions this season, described himself as “scrappy” and said he has learned to become “a student of the game. I really study the game a lot. I think I’ve been able to understand the game a lot more and that’s helped me take my game to the next level.”

At today’s weigh-in, Poyer came in at 5-11 ¾ and 182 pounds. He’s got enough length to be effective, but he does not have much bulk to him. Poyer admits he needs to show physicality this week, which he knows scouts are looking for. But I wouldn’t dismiss his 51 tackles this season, either.

I also caught up with Washington’s Desmond Trufant, the youngest of three Trufant cornerbacks/brothers. …

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Bucs rookie Martin headed to the Pro Bowl after 49ers win

You couldn't blame Doug Martin if he was rooting for the 49ers Sunday.

The Bucs rookie running back was added to the NFC Pro Bowl team, replacing 49ers running back Frank Gore following his team's 28-24 win over Atlanta in the NFC Championship game.

Martin becomes the third Bucs player to earn a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team, joining defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and receiver Vincent Jackson, who was added last week to replace the Lions' Calvin Johnson.

Martin, the 31st overall pick by the Bucs, rushed for 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also had 472 receiving yards and an a touchdown. Martin's 1,454 rushing yards were the fifth-most in the NFL this season and his 11 rushing touchdowns were tied for the fifth-most in the league. Martin's 1,926 yards from scrimmage were the third-most in the NFL.

It's the fourth time in franchise history that Tampa Bay has sent a running back to the Pro Bowl joining Mike Alstott (1997-2002), Warrick Dunn (1997, 2000) and James Wilder (1984). It is also the first time the team has sent a rookie to the all-star game since 2008 (KR Clifton Smith).


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Cowboys assistant John Garrett agrees to coach Bucs WRs

When Cowboys tight end coach John Garrett left his first NFL job in Tampa Bay as a pro personnel assistant after the '94 season, he was replaced by Mark Dominik. Flash forward nearly two decades later and Garrett is returning to the Bucs as the receivers coach where Dominik is general manager.

Garrett, 47, is the brother of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and has served as the passing coordinator for Dallas since 2011. He replaces P.J. Fleck, who left to become the head coach at Western Michigan.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity in Tampa," Garrett told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "We had a had a great time interviewing down there, getting to know coach [Greg] Schiano more and more and the offensive coaches and the rest of the staff of the Buccaneers. It really went well, and I'm thrilled for the opportunity and just really excited to get started working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers."

Garrett began his post-playing career as a pro personnel assistant for the Bucs from 1992-94. During the week, he would work with Bucs receivers and assist defensive coaches on game days. Garrett's father, Jim, worked with Schiano at Penn State. …

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