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Josh McCown settles in with Bucs

TAMPA — On a perfect spring afternoon, the new kid in town decided to take his new car out for a spin.

Along the way, maybe Josh McCown could lead his offense toward an answer or two.

In the moment, he was a kid again. McCown, 34, dropped back in the sun and lofted a soft, high pass toward the right corner of the end zone, where it nestled into the hands of Tim Wright. And with it, maybe one of, oh, a million questions about McCown was answered.

Granted, a lot of quarterbacks can do this. A minicamp in late April is the dominion of a great many average quarterbacks, and practice throws are quickly forgotten once the play becomes serious. Still, for McCown, think of it as a toe-in-the-water, a fresh canvas. If you believe in McCown, you believe that everything else will come.

This is where it starts. This is where McCown takes over the Bucs offense, and hopefully, where he begins to take it places. This is where he shows his teammates that he has enough arm, enough feet, enough leadership to be the quarterback that coach Lovie Smith believes he is.

And if you doubt?

Well, McCown understands that, too.

"Absolutely," McCown said. "There are always going to be doubters. Every year. It doesn't matter who you are. There were people lining up to doubt whether Peyton Manning could do it again.

"You kind of understand as a player. With my resume vs. other guys, there is no question. There is some doubt there. But that's external. Internally, I feel good about my chance to make the most of it."

It is easy to question. McCown has built a career in which he has watched other guys play. In 11 NFL seasons, McCown has started only 38 games, and he's won only 16 of those. It is hardly a resume to inspire the followers of a team.

Yet, McCown played well last year for the Bears — with three straight games of 348 yards or more — and Smith is counting on McCown to be one of those players who acquires greatness late in his career. Like Rich Gannon. Like Kurt Warner with the Cardinals.

And so McCown, wearing new colors, surrounded by new teammates, soaking in a new offense, goes about his paces.

"I think he showed what we said he was as much as anything," Smith said. "Nowadays, when a new player comes in, you can find out anything you want on the Internet. Guys talk. Guys coming in have a reputation and people want to see if that's true.

"Right away, you see he's a genuine guy. A hard worker. A vet. He knows how to lead. He's a positive guy, too."

And why not? McCown has rarely had an opportunity like this, where a team trusted its future to him. Maybe the Cardinals in 2004, the year before they acquired Warner. Maybe the Raiders in 2006, the year they wanted McCown to keep the seat warm for JaMarcus Russell. But hasn't come often, and it hasn't lasted long.

This time? This time, McCown thinks it will last.

"I don't know if I would be standing here if I thought the doubters were right," McCown said. "If I agreed with them, I would have sought an opportunity to stay a backup. I have too much respect for Lovie to come here if I had any doubt in my mind. I wouldn't do that to him. I wouldn't do that to the guys in this locker room. It's a big deal to me to be a pro and to do what you're expected to do on the field."

Who knows? Maybe this works. Two of the best quarterbacks the Bucs have had — Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia — had some treadwear when they arrived, too. Johnson was 34, and he took the Bucs to a Super Bowl title. Garcia was 37, and he took the Bucs to their last playoff game.

The thing is, however, both of those players had been longtime starters when they arrived. It's going to take McCown some time before he is the answer that Smith sees and not the question that so many others do.

Why does it happen like this for different players? What has McCown finally figured out at 34 that eluded him all of those years, and all of those teams, before now?

"That's just how things work," McCown said. "That's life. It gets pretty deep philosophically. I don't know. There isn't one thing you can put your finger on.

"There are different circumstances. Different things happen for a reason. Some of it is experience. Maturity. You grow up a little bit. When you're young, there are lot of things you think you know, but you don't know. Sometimes it's timing. It's what system you're in, who you're playing with."

Here? McCown just got here. He doesn't know enough of the offense yet. He does like the looks of some of his teammates. He might not yet know that he's wearing the same number as former Buc Trent Dilfer.

As for the proving?

That's just getting started. McCown has a lot of passes to complete before the eyebrows lower. He has a lot of touchdowns to throw before anyone is convinced.

Still, it has begun. The new guy is in charge. The end zone is ahead.

Soon, it will matter.

Josh McCown settles in with Bucs 04/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 9:01pm]
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