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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

McShay not buying talk of Bucs taking QB Manziel

Todd McShay was fairly dismissive of the Bucs as an option for Johnny Manziel.

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Todd McShay was fairly dismissive of the Bucs as an option for Johnny Manziel.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay held an hourlong conference call with reporters on Wednesday, and the Bucs came up twice in questions, with curious answers on both counts.

First, asked about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, reported to be a player the Bucs are strongly considering if he's available when they are on the clock with the No. 7 overall pick, McShay was fairly dismissive of the Bucs as an option. Tampa Bay had coach Lovie Smith at his pro day and general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday that his visit to One Buc Place was "very impressive," but McShay doesn't buy it.

"I think it's 4 (Cleveland) or it's going to get really interesting," McShay said. "I think Cleveland is a good fit for him. I think the organization, if they choose to bring him in and make him the fourth pick, they have the right people in place and the right system in place. …

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Video: Tom Jones, Rick Stroud preview Bucs draft

Tom Jones and Rick Stroud discuss the Bucs' draft prospects after a news conference at One Buc Place with head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht.

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Verner, Collins show there's hope for mid-round picks

TAMPA -- New Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner has a message for players who have to wait until the third day of the NFL Draft to hear their names finally called next weekend: It's nothing you can't overcome.

"There are too many examples out there that guys have played well, being later draft picks," said Verner, who was part of the NFL's first three-day draft in 2010, having to wait until the third day to go in the fourth round to Tennessee. "You have to work a little bit harder probably. You learn you may have to go through special teams. Most important, you have to work hard and seize the opportunity you have."

Verner had 101 tackles as a rookie that season, starting 12 games and intercepting three passes. He started all 32 games over the past two seasons with the Titans before landing with the Bucs this offseason. He points to another standout cornerback -- Seattle's Richard Sherman -- who went from a fifth-round draft pick to perhaps the best corner in the NFL and a leader on a Super Bowl champion. …

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Bucs' top pick must be 'mentally strong,' Licht says

Bucs GM Jason Licht and first-year coach Lovie Smith have worked hard in recent months to develop a staff consensus as they create their draft board, ranking the players as a guide for making their picks.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Bucs GM Jason Licht and first-year coach Lovie Smith have worked hard in recent months to develop a staff consensus as they create their draft board, ranking the players as a guide for making their picks.

The projected players for the Bucs' top draft pick -- No. 7 overall -- cover several prospects at positions on both sides of the ball, but Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the quality he needs most from someone with such high expectations is being mentally strong.

"There's a high bust rate up there, especially where we're picking," Licht said Tuesday in his pre-draft interview with reporters. "You want somebody that can handle the expectations that are placed on them, from us, from you guys, from our fans. So he has to be a mentally strong player, in addition to being a great player. That's probably the No. 1 thing we look for."

Licht and first-year Bucs coach Lovie Smith have worked hard in recent months to develop a staff consensus as they create their draft board, ranking the players as a guide for making their picks. The draft starts a week from Thursday, and Smith said that evaluation process will continue all the way up until the Bucs are on the clock. …

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Bucs impressed by Manziel

The Bucs were impressed with Johnny Manziel during his visit to the team's training facility.

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The Bucs were impressed with Johnny Manziel during his visit to the team's training facility.

The Bucs were impressed with Johnny Manziel during his visit to the team's training facility, coach Lovie Smith has raved about his workout and the off-field behavior of the enigmatic Texas A&M quarterback is not a concern.

Now all that is left to be determined is whether Tampa Bay would write Manziel's name on a card and hand it to commissioner Roger Goodell if the Heisman Trophy winner still is available with the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft.

"He had a very impressive interview,'' Bucs general manager Jason Licht said of Manziel Tuesday. "We had a great day with him. Lovie and him have Texas roots. We enjoyed every minute that he was here. Sharp guy.

Licht said he is confident Smith and his staff could handle whatever challenges come along with Manziel, who has been forced to answer questions about his thirst for celebrity and the nightlife after winning the Heisman Trophy.

 …

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Spring pro league scraps showcase game at Ray-Jay

The All-11 Football League, which aims to resurrect the Tampa Bay Bandits with a new spring pro league in 2015, has scrapped plans for a nationally televised showcase game next month at Raymond James Stadium.

Mike Keller, the league's president, said Friday that the All-11 league decided to drop scheduled showcase games in Tampa and Dallas and focus on preparing for the league's first season in spring 2015. The league is expected to announce its eight initial franchises in the next few weeks, Keller said, with continued plans to have the Tampa Bay Bandits playing at Raymond James.

The league had announced its ambitious future in February in California, including teams in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Keller said Friday the league no longer plans to have teams in California, citing the state's workers' compensation laws as the reason. He declined to confirm whether three other teams initially promoted -- in Dallas, Chicago and New Jersey -- would be part of the league's new plans, only saying that all teams will be in major markets in pro-level stadiums. …

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NFL commish talks about Super Bowls, concussions, more

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Tampa on Friday morning for a breakfast fundraiser to benefit Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, and as part of his appearance in a room of about 500 people in a ballroom at the Hilton Tampa Downtown, he talked with Times writer Rick Stroud for about 20 minutes about various issues the NFL is facing. Here are some highlights:

-- On Goodell actually writing his father in college, telling him he would someday be commissioner of the NFL: "I said I have two things I'd like to do in life. That's make you proud, and I'd like to be commissioner of the NFL. I'm sure he laughed, probably at both of them, but certainly the second one. ... It's always been my passion, always been my dream to work for the NFL. To serve as commissioner, I couldn't be prouder." …

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Foster will call Bucs' defense from middle in '14

Another minor change as the Bucs change defenses under new coach Lovie Smith is that the team's middle linebacker -- fourth-year pro Mason Foster -- will make the defensive calls after two years with weakside linebacker Lavonte David doing so.

"Our Mike linebacker will make our call," Smith said. "As a general rule, the Mike linebacker, they need to see you out front all the time. ... He should do that, just like the quarterback should make the call on offensive side of the ball."

Foster said he welcomes the role in setting up the defense -- it's something he did in the NFL as a rookie in 2011, the year before David arrived, and he did so in college at Washington as well.

"It means a lot, being the leader, getting a chance to look everybody in the eyes before every snap," Foster said. "I'm excited. We've got a great defense, so it's not going to be hard."

Foster said often he had the microphone in his helmet in practice the last two years, getting signals from coaches to relay to the defense, so he looks forward to having a more vocal role on the field this fall.

"It's one of those things all linebackers have embedded in them," he said. …

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Print out souvenir 2014 Bucs schedules

Gerald McCoy souvenir schedule

Times/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gerald McCoy souvenir schedule

Print out Bucs 2014 souvenir schedules featuring defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin.

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Bucs' schedule closes with tough five-game finish

Quarterback Josh McCown works out under the watchful eye of head coach Lovie Smith.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Quarterback Josh McCown works out under the watchful eye of head coach Lovie Smith.

TAMPA -- Lovie Smith's first season as Bucs head coach will open with two home games and close with two more, with two of the NFL's most difficult stretches of road games in between.

Smith makes his Bucs debut on Sept. 7 against Carolina, which not only won the NFC South, but beat the Bucs by 18 and 21 points last season.

But as Tampa Bay looks to improve on a 4-12 record in 2013, they'll want to get off to a strong start, thanks to a very difficult final month -- four of the six 2013 playoff teams they'll face come in the final five weeks of the season. The Bucs close the year with a home game against division champion Cincinnati, then go to Detroit, then to NFC South champ Carolina, then home against NFC North champion Green Bay and NFC wild card New Orleans.

The Bucs drew just one prime-time assignment -- a tough Week 3 game at the Falcons on Thursday night, just four days after a home game against the Rams. That matches the fewest prime-time games in the NFL -- 10 teams have at least five games in prime time or on Thanksgiving. …

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Agent: Bucs not taking '15 option on Clayborn

TAMPA -- Both the team and player reiterated Wednesday that it won't change his future or how he approaches this season, but the agent for Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn said Wednesday the team has told him it won't be picking up a $6.96 million option for 2015.

The Bucs can still sign the 2011 first-round pick to a longterm extension -- and could still cut him next spring even if they'd exercised the option -- but a breakout season could give Clayborn a big payday as an unrestricted free agent next spring.

"It doesn't matter either way to me," Clayborn said. "Even if they did give it to me, it's not guaranteed. I just have to come out and have a good year. Either way, it works out for itself."

Clayborn, 25, had 5.5 sacks in 2013 after missing much of the previous year with a torn ACL. The Bucs made a major free-agent signing in Bengals star Michael Johnson, which will move Clayborn over to left end this upcoming season.

"It's been a rough two years for me, being hurt and then last year not playing the way I wanted to," he said. "I feel like with this system it's really prime for me to have a good year. It's up to me to make it happen." …

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Smith pleased with perfect attendance for minicamp

TAMPA -- This week's three-day minicamp is officially a voluntary workout, but new Bucs coach Lovie Smith wasn't surprised to have all 75 players in attendance Tuesday afternoon for the first practice under his new coaching staff.

"Everyone has been here all offseason really, and that's what you expect," Smith said after a non-contact practice went 2 hours and 20 minutes at One Buc Place. "It's voluntary work, but if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity? I appreciate that from the team. All you can do in April is just show up and try to get better."

There were new wrinkles on a sunny afternoon -- quarterbacks wearing orange jerseys with the offense in white and defense in red, with spirits high as the optimism of offseason changes pushed back the frustration of last year's 4-12 record. This week's three practices give the current players a chance to show the new coaches where the team needs -- or doesn't need -- to upgrade positions in the draft, fast approaching May 8. …

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Quick notes as Bucs open voluntary minicamp ...

Bucs open their first practice of voluntary minicamp at 1:30, so there's only a minute to run through some quick notes tweeted out from 45 minutes of open locker room. Talked to 13 players and have lots of notes to share -- can go into more detail after practice this afternoon.

Bucs are setting a policy of having no tweets sent out during practice, so this is what you'll have until 4 or so ... lots more coming then.

-- Plenty of notes from open Bucs locker room. LB Jonathan Casillas, TE Luke Stocker are both fully recovered from injuries last year.

-- Bucs' Jeff Demps said he's worked on slot in offseason, ran only one meet with focus on football. Said he likes being at football weight.

-- Bucs' Johnthan Banks embraces competition with Mike Jenkins. Reminds that nobody gave him starting corner job last year as a rookie ...

-- Bucs DT Akeem Spence took signing of Clinton McDonald as chance to learn from veteran with similar body type. Excited about new defense.

-- Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn said he isn't discouraged about team not exercising option for 2015. Said he had no guarantee even if they had ... …

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Nicks has nerve damage, pain in foot but hopes to return

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have suffer with the rest of the life.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have suffer with the rest of the life.

Carl Nicks says he has pain and nerve damage in his left foot, something he will probably have to suffer with the rest of the life.

After signing a 5-year, 47.5-million contract two years ago, Nicks has only played in nine games with the Bucs. Foot surgery, followed by another operation due to a recurrence if MRSA, has left him still unable to participate in the team's first minicamp this week under coach Lovie Smith.

Now Nicks suffers from a new malady -- he can't stop itching to play.

"I got the chicken pox when it comes to that,'' Nicks said. "I've been scratching a long time. Now I'm itching. I don't want to force it, I don't want to rush it. When I come back, I want to play a lot more than two games.''

Nicks says he has been limited to light jogging and typical rehab drills. He said his goal is to be ready for the start of training camp. And Nicks admitted he may never be 100 percent.

"Lovie told me the other day my 80 percent is still pretty good,'' Nicks said. "If I'm not 100 percent, hopefully I can hit 99 percent, or 99.9. I'd be happy with that. …

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Bucs preseason schedule released

The Bucs today released their 2014 preseason schedule:

Friday, Aug. 8: at Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 16: MIAMI, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23: at Buffalo, TBA
Thursday: Aug. 28: WASHINGTON, 7:30 p.m.

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