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Bucs fans see familiar faces in NFL playoffs

Even when the Bucs season is long over, Tampa Bay fans can't help having their weekends ruined by watching football.

Did you catch the playoffs?

Well, try a little ginger ale and stick with dry toast. That helps with the nausea.

Let's start with LeGarrette Blount.

He rushed for 166 yards and a team-record four touchdowns Saturday to lead the Patriots over the Colts and into the AFC Championship Game.

His Patriots teammate, veteran corner Aqib Talib, spent Saturday afternoon making life miserable for Colts star receiver T.Y. Hilton.

See the Seahawks-Saints game Sunday? Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was a beast. He had six tackles, half a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to push Seattle into the NFC title game.

You watch guys like this and think, man, the Bucs sure could use players like that.

Just think how well Blount could have filled in for the injured Doug Martin. Sure, Bobby Rainey had a couple of 100-yard games, but he never rushed for four touchdowns in a game.

Just think how well Talib would have looked lining up against Carolina's Steve Smith or Atlanta's Roddy White. With Darrelle Revis on one side and Talib on the other, the Bucs might have had the best cover corners in the NFL.

Then there's Bennett. On a Bucs team that was 23rd in the NFL in sacks, just think how Bennett would have looked chasing down Cam Newton and Drew Brees.

Of course, you know where I'm going with all of this. The Bucs did have all of these players. All three were practically given away — either traded for little or not re-signed.

And when you go 4-12 and miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season while former players are a victory away from the Super Bowl, you can't help but feel a teeny bit nostalgic and whole lot ticked off.

You have the urge to grab a pitchfork and a torch and go hunting for the lamebrains who are responsible for letting go of three players who are apparently good enough to play for some of the best teams in football, but aren't good enough to play for that dysfunctional mess over at One Buc Place.

But you really shouldn't be that upset. Okay, in one case, you should be upset. But not the other two.

Again, start with Blount. You watch him bull for touchdown runs of 2, 2, 2, and then 73 yards and you would like to think that just maybe he could have had a spot on the Bucs roster.

However, think back to last offseason. Martin was coming off a 1,454-yard rushing season, and nearly 2,000 total yards. He appeared durable and reliable. There was no reason to think the Bucs would need Blount, especially because he is one dimensional. He runs the ball up the middle. That's it. He is bad at catching passes and even worse at pass protection. Martin had become a three-down back, meaning there was no situation when the Bucs could use Blount.

He is returning kicks in New England, essentially out of desperation, but didn't play special teams in Tampa Bay and the Bucs weren't going to use a precious roster spot on a player with such limited uses.

You could argue that the Bucs should have gotten more for Blount than a seventh-round pick and the rights to Jeff Demps, but if they could've gotten more, they would have. No one was willing to give up more than that for Blount. Plus, it's hard to imagine he would have been that much better than Rainey.

What about Talib?

No doubt he's talented. When he's not punching cab drivers or getting into iffy situations back home in Dallas during the offseason, getting hurt or (he says) popping Adderall and getting suspended, he's a valuable player.

Problem was, in Tampa Bay, he was doing all those things. He couldn't stay out of hot water and, therefore, couldn't be trusted to stay on the field.

Bottom line: He was a trouble-maker and the Bucs absolutely did the right thing getting rid of him. Tampa Bay had become a toxic environment for Talib and you got the feeling that as long as he was here, he was going to find trouble if trouble didn't find him first.

New England, with coach Bill Belichick and a leadership group led by quarterback Tom Brady, was the perfect landing spot for Talib.

While the Bucs should have no regrets about Blount and Talib, Bennett is a different story.

What a colossal miscalculation. The Bucs were so convinced that Da'Quan Bowers was ready to step in and be the team's premier pass rusher that they let Bennett sign with Seattle for just $4 million and one year. While Bennett was collecting 8 1/2 sacks, Bowers wasn't even getting that many tackles. He finished with seven tackles and only one sack. The Bucs' lack of a pass rush was again an issue.

Maybe former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik wanted Bowers, a second-round pick in 2011, to work out so badly that he let Bennett get away. Or maybe Bowers just can't play. Whatever the case, what a blunder.

So when you're watching football this weekend, don't regret seeing Blount and Talib make plays. But feel free to watch Bennett while rubbing your temples.

Interestingly, all three are free agents this summer.

One would look pretty good back in Tampa Bay.

Conference championships

AFC: Patriots at Broncos, 3 Sunday, Ch. 10

NFC: 49ers at Seahawks, 6:30 Sunday, Ch. 13

Bucs fans see familiar faces in NFL playoffs 01/13/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 11:05pm]

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