Sunday, July 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buc-Packers: Evan Smith gets rare start in return to Green Bay

TAMPA — Evan Smith spent his first five NFL seasons playing for the Packers. As the veteran offensive lineman returns to Green Bay for the first time this weekend, his fondest memories are still as vivid as they are personal.

Small-town Green Bay is unique among NFL homes, and Smith still loves the Packer traditions. On Saturday night, he’ll meet up with the young fan whose bicycle he borrowed to ride to training camp practice.

"I rode his bike for like three years," Smith said. "His mom messaged my wife, said he still talks about it. It was just riding his bike, but it was a big deal to him. It’s humbling to me, knowing I made an impact on him."

Even as a lineman, Smith, 31, got to share in another Green Bay classic, the Lambeau Leap; the team scored enough touchdowns that the starting linemen got a chance to rotate in with their own jumps into the stands. That thrill still has a firm grip on him, even if the fans didn’t that day against the Steelers.

"I barely made it. That wall’s a lot taller than it looks," the 308-pound lineman said. "I was a little banged up, too, so I didn’t really have the hops at the time."

Smith and his family still call Wisconsin home. He stays there in the offseason, with his wife Misty and their two children, daughter Jocelyn, 7, and son Blake, just 10 months. Smith is from California originally, but Wisconsin feels like home now.

"It’s Lambeau. It’s always a cool place to go. Not a lot of guys really understand the history. I got all of it. It’s a special place for the NFL in general," Smith said. "I was telling the guys all of the traditions, all the songs you’re going to hear, all the crazy stuff. You see fans with no shirts on, screaming."

Smith, memorable for his thick black beard and full sleeves of tattoos on both arms, is in the final month of a four-year, $14.2 million contract he signed with the Bucs in 2014, sticking around with toughness and versatility. Not all free-agent deals in the NFL get to go to fruition, but Smith has shown his value, being able to serve as a backup at center and guard.

Case in point? With two offensive linemen suffering season-ending injuries last week, he’ll step in as the starting left guard Sunday, serving as the backup center as well. This is just his second start in 2017, but he has played 331 snaps.

"The biggest thing for me is to show guys that it can be done," said Smith, who came into the league undrafted and was cut by the Packers his second year before earning his job back. "I hope to play a couple more years, too, but a lot of guys around the league, it’s a couple of years and you’re out. I’m happy I was able to prove my worth and play a vital role in showing these guys leadership."

To have such experience in the team’s depth is an asset for coach Dirk Koetter, who has had to weather multiple injuries at other positions.

"I’m sure this is a special game for Evan in a lot of ways," Koetter said Friday. "He’s getting the start and he’s going to play hopefully the whole game."

Smith missed last week’s game with a concussion and was cleared from protocol on Thursday. Smith is grateful for his time now in both of the NFL’s Bays.

"I’ve created a lot of great relationships with everybody down here, the staff and the players," he said. "I hope it works out and I can finish it out here for the rest of my career."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Comments
Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Turns out Donald Trump wasn't the only person that Bucs receiver Mike Evans reached out to on Twitter on Saturday.The Bucs receiver fired back at the president after a tweet suggesting that NFL players who protest during the national anthem should be...
Published: 07/21/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs receiver Mike Evans fired back at President Donald Trump on Saturday, responding to another tweet from the White House criticizing NFL players who want to protest during the national anthem.Trump's latest tweet came after Thursday's joint announ...
Published: 07/21/18
Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

TAMPA — Jameis Winston would like to move forward with his career now that he has accepted the NFL's decision to suspend him three games and apologized — for something — to the Uber driver that the league says he touched in an "inap...
Published: 07/21/18
Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Times wiresThe NFL can't seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue.The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league's wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violenc...
Published: 07/20/18
Bucs, Jensen reach out to fans as training camp approaches

Bucs, Jensen reach out to fans as training camp approaches

SARASOTA — The backdrop at University Park Country Club had a larger-than-life image of Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy with one of the team's slogans for 2018: "JOIN THE KREWE."New Bucs center Ryan Jensen was on hand for a luncheon hosted b...
Published: 07/20/18
Jaguars’ Dante Fowler suspended one game for 2017 arrest

Jaguars’ Dante Fowler suspended one game for 2017 arrest

Former Lakewood and Gators star Dante Fowler, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been suspended from the upcoming season opener for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in a 2017 arrest in St. Petersburg.Fowler, 23, was arrested in his hom...
Published: 07/20/18
NFL, NFLPA freeze anthem rules amid backlash to Miami policy

NFL, NFLPA freeze anthem rules amid backlash to Miami policy

The NFL’s two-month old national anthem policy is on hold. Hours after The Associated Press reported that Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the anthem could be suspended for up to four games under a team policy issued this week, ...
Published: 07/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What will Jameis Winston say to his teammates?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What will Jameis Winston say to his teammates?

What will Jameis Winston say to his teammates when training camp opens next week? What other storylines are significant for the Bucs?Plus, how will the Rays fare without Wilson Ramos, who has been placed on the disabled list and is expected to m...
Published: 07/20/18
Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

It was Dec. 20, 1981, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season, and the NFC Central title was on the line. The Buccaneers were in Detroit, where the Lions hadn’t lost all season.The Lions, who were favored by a touchdown, took a 7-3 lead in t...
Published: 07/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs camp, Erik Karlsson, British Open, more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs camp, Erik Karlsson, British Open, more

Besides Jameis Winston, what is the biggest storyline for the Bucs entering training camp? How would you describe the Rays season in one word?Is the Lightning deal for Erik Karlsson dead? Who will win the British Open? Rick Stroud answers these quest...
Published: 07/19/18