Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Trio of rookies give Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope for future

The running back bursts through the hole, low and fierce, intent on going places. He is not a huge man, but still, he runs as if he is the hunter instead of the hunted.

And you look at Doug Martin and think … maybe.

The linebacker runs to the sideline, fast and aggressively, intent on getting to the open field before the opposing ballcarrier. He plays without hesitation, without doubt.

And you watch Lavonte David and think … perhaps.

The safety crashes into the wide receiver, and the passengers on arriving planes can hear the echo of his pads. Soon, opponents will not see a ball in flight without wondering where he is.

And you nod toward Mark Barron and think … finally.

Could it be? After all of this time, after all of the disappointments, after a wait that seemed as if it would never end, could the Bucs have brought in a new shipment of greatness at last?

The kids are brand new. That should be pointed out, and re-pointed out. They are one game into their careers, and nothing is promised, and there is a lot of football to be played before any of them have arrived. All of us understand that.

And yet … weren't all three of them something to see in their debuts?

Furthermore, isn't it about time the Bucs discovered their next wave of sellable jerseys?

For years, the Bucs have searched and, for years, excellence eluded them. It didn't matter where they drafted, or what position they picked, the Bucs couldn't locate a star with a search party and a GPS. Oh, every now and again, the Bucs have run across a good player — Carnell Williams or Davin Joseph or Aqib Talib — but mostly, it has been like watching a team sift through broken promises. Some years, you would swear the Bucs were drafting by throwing a dart into a roulette wheel in a darkened room.

You know the last truly great player the Bucs picked? The last time they picked a guy who will be in serious discussion from Hall of Fame voters? That would be Ronde Barber a decade and a half ago. Yeah, the same Barber who was celebrated for having such a long, long career on Sunday.

Since then? There have been Dexter Jackson and Gaines Adams and Michael Clayton and Sabby Piscitelli and Brian Price and the rest of the headache brigade. If you are wondering why the crowds have dwindled over the years, that's a good place to begin.

So, yeah, it's a little early to get excited about three newbies. Given the viewpoint of those who have been waiting, it's a little late, too.

The Bucs need these three players to make an impact, of course. It has been a long time since the draft of '95 turned this franchise around. No, no one is comparing any of these guys to Warren Sapp or Derrick Brooks, but for most teams that blossom into contenders, it starts with the addition of young impact players. (And yes, Gerald McCoy and Josh Freeman still have a chance.)

For three rookies, it was a good start. For a franchise, perhaps it was a re-start.

Martin carried the ball 24 times (and caught four passes), in his first game, and there wasn't one of those when anyone wanted anyone else with the ball under his arm.

David led the team in tackles with six. You noticed him more than any linebacker you have seen for years.

Barron? He led the team in bruises delivered. In one game, Barron showed why the Bucs jumped all over him in the draft. It isn't hard to imagine him as a punisher in the Bucs' secondary.

You could not watch without wondering just how good these guys might turn out to be. None of them looked green, and none of them looked indecisive and, frankly, none of them looked like rookies. In a town that has always preferred its stars to be homegrown, they looked like a promise of better days.

I know, I know. Michael Clayton was good for a while, too. Williams was sensational in his first four games. A career isn't judged over one game, no matter how impressive it might be.

Still, if you have been waiting for reinforcements, they might have arrived.

Barron. Martin. David.

Welcome to town, guys. Play a while, won't you?

Gary Shelton can be heard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on 98.7-FM The Fan.

Comments
DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

DeSean Jackson says Jameis Winston needs to stop trying to “impress the world,” and play his game

Receiver DeSean Jackson stopped short of saying he regretted his decision to sign a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a free agent with the Bucs last March. But he certainly is disappointed in his lack of chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston...
Published: 01/17/18
Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander headed to Pro Bowl

Kwon Alexander is headed to the Pro Bowl.The third-year Bucs linebacker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, was announced Tuesday as an injury replacement for Seattle's Bobby Wagner.Alexander, 23, won't have to go far, as the game is back in...
Published: 01/16/18

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

TAMPA — It was a brutal year. That’s how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs’ 2017 season.Start with Hard Knocks and the surrounding expectations, some he embraced and others he "cringed at." They all went unfulfilled, mostly due to injuries, ...
Published: 01/15/18

NFL playoffs schedule

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP• Jaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. Sunday, CBSNFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP•Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. Sunday, FoxSuper Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis TV: NBC...
Published: 01/15/18
Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

It was a "brutal year." That's how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs 2017 season.Expectations, many of them he said he "cringed at," nonetheless went unfulfilled due to injuries, particularly the right shoulder sprain suffered by quarterback...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

With the NFL investigating allegations against Jameis Winston that potentially could result in a suspension, the Bucs will need to address the backup quarterback position again this off-season."That's another position I always want to do whatever we ...
Published: 01/15/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

The NFL’s final four teams are set, and the starting quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down this past weekend’s games, including the Vikings’ miraculous fin...
Published: 01/15/18
Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

MINNEAPOLIS — This doesn’t happen, not in the NFL, not in the playoffs, not when what is on the line are such things as legacies and franchise curses and — oh, my. All of it.The Vikings were dead, just as they have always been in the playoffs. Their ...
Published: 01/14/18