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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Five position battles to watch in Bucs camp

TAMPA -- The Bucs have been so active this offseason that now exactly half the 88 players on roster -- 25 veterans and 19 rookies -- have signed with the team since the hiring of Lovie Smith in January. With half the locker room comprised by newcomers, the battles for the final spots on the 53-man roster will be wide-open in August, a sign of the improved depth at most positions from a year ago.

Here are five position battles to keep an eye on, with less than a month before the Bucs open preseason camp July 25.

BACKUP RB: Lovie Smith carried only four total running backs each of his last three years with the Bears, and the Bucs have strong depth here, with starter Doug Martin and rookie Charles Sims as perhaps the only locks to make the roster. Bobby Rainey and Mike James, who each topped 150 yards in games after Martin's injury last year, are battling with speedy Jeff Demps -- even without carrying a fullback, one of those three could miss the cut. Helping on special teams, especially on returns, could convince coaches to carry a fifth back on the 53. …

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Revis moving on from Bucs, excited about Patriots

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Darrelle Revis can smile and laugh about it now.

With a new future in New England, buoyed by a healthy offseason, the former Bucs cornerback looked back Thursday on his lone season in Tampa, appreciative of a team that embraced him and disappointed he couldn't have found success there.

"Every coach has their own philosophy and coaching style. It could work, it could not work. It didn't and we went 4-12," Revis said of former coach Greg Schiano. "The result is 4-12. That's what you get. It's already spoken what happened. A lot of us got fired."

Revis, who turns 29 next month, is back in Florida this week as a guest instructor at the Drew Brees Passing Academy at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Disney. Cut by the Bucs in March, he signed a new deal with the Patriots, where he's eager to try to get Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their first Super Bowl win in 10 years.

Asked what he'll miss about his time in Tampa, Revis quickly answered "the weather," but added that he also built friendships that remain with his Bucs teammates, players he still stays in touch with now. …

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All in: Bucs sign rookie TE Seferian-Jenkins

The Bucs have their entire six-player 2014 draft class under contract, with second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins officially announced as signing his rookie deal on Thursday.

Seferian-Jenkins, a tight end from Washington, had agreed to terms on his contract last week, but wasn't in Tampa so he had to mail the signed contract to Tampa. Because Washington's school calendar operates on the quarters system, Seferian-Jenkins hasn't been allowed to practice with the Bucs except for a three-day rookie minicamp due to an NFL policy designed to keep players in school their final spring.

The Bucs also formally announced the signing of former Baylor and Panthers receiver David Gettis, who was with the team for its three-day mandatory minicamp as a tryout player last week. He's the second tryout player to sign from that group, following former Cardinals defensive end Ronald Talley.

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Bucs' Brooks honored at Sneaker Soiree

Amid a busy summer of accolades, former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks was honored Wednesday night with the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission's fourth annual Sneaker Soiree.

Here's the full story from Thursday's Times ...

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Bucs sign ex-Panthers WR Gettis, waive two

TAMPA -- The Bucs have signed former Panthers receiver David Gettis, who turned heads as a tryout player at the team's minicamp last week, and waived rookie linebacker Steven Jenkins and tackle Emmett Cleary.

Gettis, 26, had a productive rookie season with Carolina in 2010, catching 37 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns, but hasn't caught a pass in the last three seasons due to injuries. He spent the 2011 season on injured reserve with a torn ACL and was limited by hamstring injuries the last two years. Gettis has good size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and has a sprinter's background, having won state titles in the 400 meters as a high schooler in California.

Gettis joins a deep group of Bucs receivers competing for roster spots -- veteran Vincent Jackson and rookies Mike Evans and Robert Herron are safe bets to make the team, but the remaining spots are a battle between veterans Louis Murphy and Lavelle Hawkins, returning Bucs receivers Chris Owusu, Eric Page, Skye Dawson, Russell Shepard and Tommy Streeter and rookies Solomon Patton and Quintin Payton. …

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Bucs sign top pick Evans, fellow rookie Sims

TAMPA -- The dollar figure was no surprise, the signing well-anticipated, but it was still a precious moment for Mike Evans when the Bucs' first-round pick signed his rookie contract on Thursday.

"It's a big relief. I'm already a part of the team, but it feels good to have it on paper," said Evans, who was the draft's No. 7 overall pick out of Texas A&M.

Evans signed a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, as all first-round picks do under the league's new collective bargaining agreement. Multiple reports had the contract as a $14.6-million deal, fully guaranteed, with a signing bonus of $8.96-million.

"It's a blessing. I've never seen so many zeros," he said. "It's a dream come true. I was just thinking about my family, being able to help them out."

Evans, who has been limited by a hamstring injury over the last three weeks, said he'll spend time with his family and then train in Miami in preparation for the start of preseason training camp on July 25. …

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Sno-cone! McCoy cools off Bucs with post-practice treat

Anthony Collins was the first player to get shaved ice as a treat following minicamp today at One Buc Place.


Anthony Collins was the first player to get shaved ice as a treat following minicamp today at One Buc Place.

If you wanted a sure sign of the happier, more laidback Bucs of 2014, you need only look to the corner of the practice fields at One Buc Place on Thursday afternoon, where defensive tackle Gerald McCoy celebrated the end of minicamp by renting a "Kona Ice" shaved-ice truck for the team.

"How often do you get to end it with a sno-cone?" said Lovie Smith, who gave the OK to McCoy's kind gesture. "That was the topping on the cake a little bit. ... Great idea. I talk to the guys about getting their body fat down ... for a day like today, we're not going to count calories. Guys left with a smile on their face."

McCoy said he likes to treat his teammates like family, and his wife had so craved the shaved-ice recently that she asked him to stop a truck as they were driving. He asked the driver if he could get him to come to One Buc, and the rest was history.

"It's a family here," he said. "These are my brothers, this is my family. We've been working hard since April, we're all about to go on break. I figure it's hot out here, I'll do something nice for my family."

The Times' Daniel Wallace has great shots of Bucs players Anthony Collins and Josh McCown enjoying McCoy's hospitality.

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Bucs sign first-round pick Mike Evans

The Buccaneers have signed first-round pick Mike Evans, the team announced Thursday afternoon.

Evans, a 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver, was the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft out of Texas A&M. He started all 26 games in his college career and tallied 151 receptions for almost 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.

He has been limited in action this offseason after tweaking his hamstring during an organized training activity workout last month.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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McDonald proud to share White House story with Bucs

TAMPA -- Like many guests, Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald admits he pocketed a napkin, complete with the presidential seal, when he visited the White House last month with the rest of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

He left with much more, however, and as Tampa Bay sets its sights on returning to postseason glory, McDonald was proud to share to his new teammates how it felt to meet President Obama and enjoy the perks of being a champion.

"It was a special moment. You could really see that hard work pays off," said McDonald, 27, a key offseason free-agent signing for new coach Lovie Smith and his staff. "For a lot of guys, it's just a dream. For the reality of me actually being able to go, to be a part of that, to come back and share that experience, it gives hope to the guys that if we work hard, if we dedicate ourselves to our craft and take this serious, we could be there too." …

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Defense finishes strong with picks at Bucs minicamp

TAMPA -- The Bucs' improved depth at cornerback has shown up at minicamp this week, with second-year pro Rashaan Melvin getting a pair of interceptions, including one in the two-minute drill at the end of practice.

"I guess if you're on the defensive side of the ball, you feel pretty good about how we finished today," coach Lovie Smith said. "The offensive side, of course, can't turn the ball over in those situations."

Melvin, a 6-foot-2 corner from Northern Illinois who spent last season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, is battling with veteran Danny Gorrer (who had a strong practice Tuesday) and others for backup spots in an upgraded secondary.

"Every day it seems we talk about one of the corners," Smith said. "You see the way we practice. Guys are stripping the ball right up until the end. It's about taking the ball away. To a man, they'll talk to you about that. As the head football coach of our defense, that's a great job to finish a game off like that."

The Bucs wrap up their three-day minicamp Thursday, with six weeks until the team reconvenes for preseason camp on July 25. Smith said finishing workouts with positive momentum is a key for him and his players. …

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Bucs' Smith likes Martin, but needs depth at RB

Doug Martin works out during organized team activities May 20 at One Buc Place in Tampa.


Doug Martin works out during organized team activities May 20 at One Buc Place in Tampa.

Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's comments last week about relying on multiple running backs have fans wondering about the role Doug Martin will play with the Bucs this fall. Head coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday that he continues to have a very high opinion of the third-year back, but also understands the need to use more than one back, especially over the physical grind of an NFL season.

"What I've said is I like Doug a lot. Doug's a good football player," Smith said. "Everywhere I've ever been, if you look at my history, our history, we've played more than one running back. We had a great running back in Thomas Jones, and we drafted Cedric Benson and played them both. One running back just can't make it through the season."

Smith's history as Bears head coach works both for and against his argument -- in nine seasons in Chicago, his leading rusher started all 16 games four times, averaging 14.5 starts. Smith's leading rusher each year accounted for 60.4 percent of his team's total rushing yards in Chicago, averaging 1,055 yards per season. …

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Bucs announce 12 camp practices open to public

The Bucs announced Tuesday they will open preseason training camp on July 25, with 12 practices open to the public.

Those practices include an August 1 night practice for fans at Raymond James Stadium. The list is subject to change -- and weather -- but here are the opportunities for fans to see the 2014 Bucs at work:

Friday, July 25     4:30-7 p.m.

Saturday, July 26   4:30-7 p.m.

Sunday, July 27   2-4:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 31   2-4:30 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 1   TBA (night)

Sunday, Aug. 3   4:30-7 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 4   4:30-7 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 5   4:30-7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 10   2-4:30 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 11   4:30-7 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 12   4:30-7 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 14   2-4:30 p.m.

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Nicks says he'll be ready for a modified schedule by t-camp

Having missed all the Bucs' Organized Team Activities because 'they're not mandatory,' injured guard Carl Nicks was a spectator at the first minicamp practice Tuesday but said he will be ready for training camp in six weeks on a modified schedule.

“God, I hope so. I mean, honestly I think I’ll be ready to play,'' Nicks said. "It’s just the waiting game and trying to get back out there.''

Nicks has not played football of any kind since his recurrence of a MRSA infection following surgery on his left foot limited him to playing in only two games last season. He said he has been restricted to working out on elliptical machines and hopes to do some light jogging soon. He has played in only nine games since signing a five-year, $47.5-million contract as a Saints free agent in 2012.


“I’m not frustrated,'' Nicks said. "If it was Week 1 and I was in the same position I’m in, I’d be frustrated. But training camp hasn’t even started, so I’m good...I think I’ll have a modified schedule, but I think I’ll be able to play football. That’s what I’m trying to do.'' …

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Rookie Edwards relishes first chance as starting guard

TAMPA -- It is a significant leap Kadeem Edwards wants to make this fall, and the rookie took a small step toward that Tuesday, lining up for the first time as the Bucs' first-team left guard on the opening day of mandatory minicamp.

It is still only June, and a non-contact practice at that, but a month to the day after being drafted in the fifth round out of I-AA Tennessee State, Edwards is exactly where he wants to be.

"I come here every day with a point to prove," said Edwards, 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds. "The coaches see it in me, in my effort, my ability to play. Even though I came from I-AA, (coach Lovie Smith) had a lot of faith in me."

It is no easy feat to start as an offensive linemen as a rookie, let alone as a fifth-round pick. Edwards also does this as a prospect from a I-AA school, where the level of competition can bring into question even a dominant career like Edwards had at Tennessee State, starting 41 games and finishing as a first-team All-American. …

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Bucs bring in six tryout players for minicamp

The Bucs open a three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday afternoon, and as general manager Jason Licht continues to tweak the bottom of his 90-man roster, the team has six players in as tryout players as well.

The most familiar name is former Iowa State punter Kirby van der Kamp, who we wrote about last month when he came in during the Bucs' rookie minicamp as a tryout player but wasn't given a contract. The Bucs have only one punter on roster in returning starter Michael Koenen, but a solid three days could get the rookie in as a challenger for preseason camp next month. The others:

WR David Gettis: The most accomplished of the six, Gettis had 37 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2010 with the Panthers, who drafted him in the sixth round. Good size at 6-3, 220 pounds, he missed 2011 with a torn ACL and hasn't had a catch in the NFL since. He was signed by the Redskins in January, but cut last month. Bucs will already be cutting WRs who played for them last year. …

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