Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back

"We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

"We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

TAMPA — Welcome to the proving ground.

Bucs training camp begins today.

Hard Knocks and flop sweat.

Work and more work.

The Bucs are competing against recent history.

That history is going on 10 seasons.

The numbers are staggering. There is no way around them. Only three NFL teams are working on longer playoff droughts than the Bucs' last appearance in 2007. Only six teams have gone longer without a postseason win.

The numbers say that it's high time for this team to take this town back.

I've said that before, and that the Bucs should have never lost Tampa Bay in the first place. It has always been a football town — period. Bit of a front-running football town, but if the Bucs show any kind of pulse, this town is all in.

We're at that crossroads. Bucs camp is underway. All roads point to Jameis Winston. But do they lead to the playoffs?

Is this going to be 1997, when the Bucs, after finishing strong in Tony Dungy's first season, took off and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, winning a playoff game?

Or is this going to be 2011, when the Bucs, under coach Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik, thought they had it knocked after a 10-6 non-playoff season, complete with franchise quarterback Josh Freeman? Yeah, there was that. Went 4-12 in 2011.

What's it going to be this time around?

The Bucs have made moves. They have given Winston weapons to success. But do they have enough to move up and on from last season's 9-7?

I'll believe it when Winston cuts down on his mad, scrambling plays and turnovers. I'll believe it when the offensive line, with a healthy J.R. Sweezy and a new center in Ali Marpet, stands its ground.

I'll believe it when DeSean Jackson goes the whole season without waking up with 40-year-old legs. I'll believe it when rookie tight end O.J. Howard delivers.

I'll believe it when Doug Martin comes back from suspension and stupidity and shows he didn't get lazy when he got his big contract before last season.

I'll believe it when Gerald McCoy backs up his offseason talk about wanting — needing — to be better late in games. I'll believe it when that true edge rusher arrives, and with it this defense, for years to come.

I'll believe it when the Bucs have a kicker they can count on.

Welcome to the proving ground.

This team has some talent, real talent.

It should be better than it was last season.

Should be.

Then there is the history.

"We haven't been to the playoffs since 2010? When was the last time we went to the playoffs?" Bucs receiver Mike Evans said Thursday. "'07? All right, so 10 years. So hopefully we can break that. So yeah, we have a lot to prove. We're good on paper, but we've got to do it."

Got to do it.

Welcome to where it starts.

Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back 07/28/17 [Last modified: Friday, July 28, 2017 7:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fennelly: Even frustrated Bucs fans hold out hope

    Blogs

    Many fans wrote back when I threw out an all-points the other day, asking if Bucs fans are perpetually in a state of expecting the worst.

    Bucs fans cheer during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August at Raymond James Stadium.
  2. Bucs snapper Garrison Sanborn looking forward to return to Bills

    Bucs

    Throughout his eight seasons with the Bills, whenever former players would come to Buffalo for a game, Garrison Sanborn remembers the place to take them for a reunion dinner was a popular Italian …

    Garrison Sanborn enjoyed just one winning season in eight years in Buffalo. [AP photo]
  3. J.T. Brown said first protest already sparked action plan

    Blogs

    Lightning wing J.T. Brown said part of the reason he will no longer raise his fist during the national anthem is because his first silent protest has already sparked an action plan.

    J.T. Brown stressed that he got a lot of support from the Lightning, from ownership on down to help put him in situations to help.
  4. Bucs' Mike Evans, Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines could face off again

    Bucs

    Bucs receiver Mike Evans has gone up against four Pro Bowl cornerbacks in five games, and on Sunday he could be lining up against a corner he has a history with in Buffalo's E.J. Gaines.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a touchdown catch over Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28)  Sunday  in Glendale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: The importance of Kwon Alexander's return

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks the importance of Kwon Alexander's return Sunday in Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, pictured during training camp in July at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]