Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lovie Smith: final two games could build momentum for Bucs

TAMPA — Bucs coach Lovie Smith already has declared the next two games as the start of the Bucs' 2016 season, hoping to build momentum that will sustain them for eight months.

But December hasn't been much to remember for the Bucs (6-8). In the past five years, Tampa Bay is 3-18 during the final month of the regular season.

"I'm a firm believer — big believer — that it's about momentum and how you finish up," Smith said. "Yes, I believe that. We know that we are going to be a good football team, but how about confirming it right at the end. There's a good chance we can play the Chicago Bears next year. For us, we know we are going to play the team with the best record in football right now (that) is in our division. We're going to have to eventually beat the Carolina Panthers. To have an opportunity to beat the Bears and to finish up with the possible Super Bowl champion or whatever, yeah, I think that momentum can help us as we start working in the offseason."

It's difficult for teams to be consistent from one season to the next because of the amount of roster turnover each year. But with the Bucs' core of players in either their first or second seasons, Smith doesn't believe a lack of continuity will be a concern.

"It will change from year to year, but the foundation will not change," Smith said. "Our core players will remain in place. We talk about young players. When you go through what we've gone through with young players, you think we're going to let somebody have them? No, these are foundation pieces we're talking about that we're going to go forward with."

COMING BACK: DE T.J. Fatinikun has been on injured reserve since an ACL injury to his right knee in Week 4, but the 24-year-old is doing well in his rehabilitation and eager to return healthy for the 2016 season.

"It tests your mental strength," he said from the Bucs' locker room Wednesday. "My biggest thing is covering the bases, not overlooking stuff. It helps you see things in a whole different perspective, which I think will make me a better player. It's a tough process. It's ridiculously hard, but I've had great support from these guys, my family and my friends, and it helps keep you going and getting better."

Fatinikun, born in Lagos, Nigeria, has decided to now go by his given name, Olatunji (oh-lah-TOON-gee), from which his nickname is derived.

His full name is Ayokunle Olatunji Fatinikun.

"I'm growing into a man," he said. "This injury was definitely a life-changing experience for me. I was stunned by it. I just wanted to change things and make sure I'm becoming a better man and fully be the man I can be, starting with my name."

Fatinikun, who had nine tackles as a rookie in 2014 and three in two games this season before the injury, still has months of rehabilitation ahead but is hopeful he can be back at practice, perhaps by offseason workouts or mandatory minicamp in early summer. The Bucs have a handful of promising young linemen, including second-year pro Jacquies Smith and first-year player Howard Jones, both 25.

"I feel better now, and I'm not even all the way healed yet," Fatinikun said. "I'm excited about the opportunity when I am fully healthy."

JACKSON, SPENCE OUT: The Bucs will be without WR Vincent Jackson (knee) and DT Akeem Spence (ankle) again Sunday against the Bears. S Chris Conte (ankle) and DL Kourtnei Brown (groin) are doubtful. G Logan Mankins (knee) is questionable and could be a gametime decision. DE George Johnson (calf) is probable.

ETC.: The Bucs say Sunday's game, the season finale at Raymond James Stadium, is approaching a sellout.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Comments
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Published: 06/19/18
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Will Gholston is painfully honest about a 2017 season that wasn't anything close to what he wanted it to be. Ask him about last year, and there are no parentheses in his world to soften what he remembers here."I just played (crappy), completely. That...
Published: 06/18/18
Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

The Bucs had four extra coaches during organized team activities last month as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, including former Tampa Bay receiver Lawrence Dawsey.Dawsey, 50, played for the Bucs from 1991-95, finishing his time ...
Published: 06/18/18
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

TAMPA — The last pass thrown by Jameis Winston in a regular-season game was his best. The perfectly arced, 39-yard strike to Chris Godwin for a touchdown with nine seconds left gave the Bucs a 31-24 win over New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

The first Bucs home game of the 2018 season is still three months off, but the franchise is busy getting Raymond James Stadium ready with the fourth phase of its $160 million renovation, highlighted by a new East Stadium Club.Construction continues t...
Published: 06/15/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

The Bucs wrap up minicamp as Gerald McCoy sounds off on the team getting help for him, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner yelling at the veteran defensive tackle and advice for the young players who now have five weeks off before training camp.Plu...
Published: 06/15/18
Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

TAMPA — On the last day of minicamp, DT Gerald McCoy made it clear that the new additions to the defensive line are what the entire team needed, not just himself."It's not about me. It's about the team," McCoy said of the addition of five new l...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18