Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 'Turk' looms as Bucs fall to Washington in preseason finale

TAMPA — Thirty-seven of your favorite Bucs players did not get a uniform prior to Thursday night's 13-10 loss in the preseason finale against Washington.

Roughly that many who actually played in the game might never wear an NFL uniform again.

Think about it. A game you played since you were 8 years old came down to 60 minutes in a more than half-empty Raymond James Stadium. Closing time. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

The Bucs and every NFL team started with 90 players, and they will each release roughly 37 of them by Saturday at 4 p.m. The U.S. unemployment rate will rise by 1,184 jobs. The Turk will need roller skates.

As many as 320 could be signed back to practice squads. The rest will be updating resumes.

It wasn't so much the Bucs vs. Washington as teammate vs. soon-to-be ex-teammate.

"It's tough because every year we grow attached to these guys, and then they're gone," veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Especially now because there are no cuts until after the final preseason game. But that's the nature of our business."

Veteran George Johnson, who spent all of 2016 on injured reserve, was likely battling Tavaris Barnes for the fifth defensive end spot. Both started the game, but Barnes injured his right leg and left in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Riley Bullough, aka "Joe Dirt," was going against Cameron Lynch, a third-year pro from Syracuse who started Thursday's game, for the fifth linebacker spot. Bullough remained on the sideline for the first half.

Donteea Dye, featured on Hard Knocks watching the solar eclipse, needed to produce something to earn more NFL sun days. He was likely locked in a battle with Freddie Martino and Bernard Reedy for fifth receiver.

Reedy had a 10-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter from Sefo Liufau, the Bucs' first touchdown pass of the preseason. Dye had two catches on that drive.

"That was a big deal because we were looking for someone to make a play for someone to make the score closer," Reedy said. "So I made a post."

Receiver/kick returner Josh Huff was among those not in uniform. That could mean either he had won the job or the Bucs decided to take him out of the mix so he wouldn't become injured and remain a candidate to possibly be traded.

Rookie running back Jeremy McNichols, who had struggled this preseason, got a long look in the second and finished with 36 yards on 10 carries.

"I approached this game different," he said. "I just wanted to run hard, and I ran with a chip on my shoulder."

To be honest, the players in Tampa Bay uniforms had a better chance of making the roster of one of the 31 other teams than they did sticking with the Bucs. In reality, there were about three, maybe four spots that hadn't been decided.

It's a good thing, too, because the Bucs wouldn't want to have to play a real game with these guys.

The offense mustered only 242 total yards. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 2-of-7 passing for 6 yards. The defense yielded 360 total yards.

General manager Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter won't have that tough of a job trimming this roster to 53. That's a good thing because it means their team is better than at any point in the past four years.

There will be some players, such as defensive end Jacquies Smith (knee), who will be placed on the physically unable to perform list, making him eligible to return after Week 6. Quarterback Ryan Griffin, who signed a one-year extension this week, will be kept on the roster for at least one day then moved to injured reserve, where he can be recalled after six weeks to begin practicing.

After that, the cutting begins.

In some way, it's the cruelest of sports. You just hope a bunch of guys had fun playing football one last time Thursday.

     
                                   
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