TAMPA — With one preseason game remaining and their high-profile run on HBO's Hard Knocks ending next week, could the Bucs emerge from the potential distraction all the wiser from the experience?
"No distraction at all," quarterback Jameis Winston said Tuesday, speaking on a panel at the Bucs' "Back to Football Forum" luncheon at the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center. "I think we all enjoy it, and it actually pushes us, to have the camera on you constantly, to be a better player and to be a better person."
The Bucs, and especially Winston, have been cast in a positive light by the show. Winston's development as a young leader as been a central part of the show, though it's also been clear that he needs to eliminate costly mistakes, resulting in some colorful conversations with coach Dirk Koetter.
Koetter poked fun at that Tuesday when asked about the benefits of continuity on his staff, which returns nearly intact in his second season as coach.
"When the players don't have to change systems, and you can keep your staff intact and build on what you did the year before, that's a huge plus," Koetter said. "I think our defense will really reap the rewards of that this year, and if Jameis just listens to me, our offense will …"
Koetter paused for effect as the room filled with laughter, and Winston smiled at his coach. "He's right, though," Winston said, drawing more laughs.
There was a light-hearted optimism to Tuesday's event, which saw Koetter and general manager Jason Licht on a panel with Winston, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, receiver Mike Evans and linebacker Kwon Alexander. The players swapped jerseys before taking the stage, with the 297-pound McDonald wearing Winston's No. 3 and vice versa.
"That's the first time I've ever seen No. 98 get that many cheers," Koetter joked.
Part of the allure of Hard Knocks is the chance to get an inside look at the NFL that few people can see. As it turns out, that includes NFL owners.
Bucs co-chair Bryan Glazer, speaking at Tuesday's luncheon, said the cameras have taken him places that he hasn't been in two decades with his family owning the team.
"It's interesting for me, being in this for 20 years, how much of this are things that I don't get a chance to see," Glazer said. "As an owner, I'm not in the small team meetings. I get to watch practice and I get to be at the games. To see the players in their personal lives, with their wives having a quiet dinner or a player in his hometown, those are the things that are really special to me, to get to know the players better, and for the community to get to know these players better. It's as much fun for me to watch the show as it is for you."
Glazer said he's glad to have the added national interest in the Bucs as a result of being on Hard Knocks, but said the excitement would be there regardless for the upcoming season.
"I think the buzz would be here with or without Hard Knocks," he said. "But Hard Knocks is only making it better, especially for all those in the community to see the Bucs behind the scenes."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.