Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running backs Martin, Freeman will be in Bucs-Falcons spotlight

TAMPA — Quarterbacks have stolen the spotlight in the NFL. But in Sunday's Bucs-Falcons game at the Georgia Dome, the most exciting plays are likely to happen after Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston simply turn and hand off the ball.

The game will feature the NFL's Nos. 1 and 3 rushers: former Florida State star Devonta Freeman, who leads the league for the Falcons with 621 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and the Bucs' Doug Martin, who has 541 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

"It'll be a fun matchup," Martin said. "(Freeman) is an explosive back. I've seen tape on him while watching other film. It'll be a cool matchup."

A fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Freeman showed flashes as a rookie but took over as the Falcons' primary ball carrier this season. At 5 feet 8 and 208 pounds, he is a combination of speed and power. He also has 34 catches for 310 yards and a score.

"(He presents) problems in the backfield, out of the backfield, carrying the ball, catching the ball," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "(He's) just a good football player. He runs hard. He can make you miss. He can make you miss in tight quarters, so when he gets out, it's even harder."

Martin has resurrected his career in a contract year and returned to his rookie form, churning out three straight 100-yard rushing games.

"A lot of the things we are saying can be said about Doug Martin," Smith said. "Doug's having a heck of a year. … Two good running backs will be on the field."

Martin also has been a factor in the passing game, with 14 receptions for 129 yards and a score.

Sunday's game is a throwback to an era when watching running backs such as Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith were worth the price of admission.

"I think you look throughout the league, though, running backs are becoming more part of the offense and giving the offense a different dimension that maybe we haven't had in a while," Smith said.

INJURY UPDATE: WR Vincent Jackson (knee), defensive tackles Clinton McDonald (pectoral) and Tony McDaniel (groin), T Reid Fragel (concussion) and S Major Wright (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. G Logan Mankins was held out for a maintenance day but should return today. C Evan Smith had full participation.

The best news for the Bucs is that TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins practiced again on a limited basis. He has not played since injuring a shoulder in Week 2 at New Orleans.

"(Wednesday) in pads you could see a little bit more, even though he didn't do a lot," Lovie Smith said. "But no problems for the day. He was able to practice on a limited basis (Thursday), a non-padded practice. He can catch the ball, and he has fresh legs and all that, so we assumed we would see that."

Comments
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Published: 04/21/18
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Published: 04/20/18
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Published: 04/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Published: 04/20/18
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Published: 04/19/18
Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Minkah FitzpatrickPosition: SafetyCollege: AlabamaHeight/Weight: 6-1, 201Draft projection: First roundWhy Fitzpatrick makes sense for the BucsOne of the Bucs' biggest needs is to improve their secondary. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, arguably the best ...
Published: 04/17/18
Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

TAMPA — Jameis Winston is headed for a big pay day after this season, whether he gets a contract extension or not.The Bucs on Tuesday picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie contract worth $20.9 million for 2019. The deal is not gua...
Published: 04/17/18