TAMPA — It took a year and a half, but as he comes back to Raymond James Stadium, Sam Barrington has found himself as an NFL linebacker.
The former USF standout did not play a single down on defense as a Packers rookie last year, totaling just two tackles on special teams before a hamstring injury ended his season after only seven games.
But as the Packers bring him back to the stadium he called home with the Bulls, Barrington has become a key part of the Packers, starting five games. In the last three games, he has 22 tackles, more than he'd totaled in his 16 games before that....
Russell Shepard has played a key role on the Bucs' coverage units, leading the team with 11 special-teams tackles, but with Louis Murphy out with a season-ending ankle injury, he's ready to help out as his actual offensive position as well.
"It's a great opportunity," Shepard said Wednesday. "You never know when your number's going to be called, but at the same time, every week we prepare as if our number will be called. Before anything, I'm a receiver. It doesn't say 'special teams Russell Shepard,' it's receiver. I take pride in teams though and am still going to do that to the best of my ability."...
With two weeks left in the NFL's regular season, the Bucs still stake claim to the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, a huge asset to help build the team back from its current two-win status.
It's understandable that many Bucs fans are rooting for the team to lose its final two games, which would help lock up the No. 1 pick, and potentially, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It's not that simple, however -- the Titans, Jaguars and Raiders are also 2-12, and the NFL tiebreaker for draft position is based on strength of schedule. Add up the combined record of a team's 16 opponents, and the team with the worst combined record gets to pick first within a group of teams with the same record....
TAMPA — The Bucs are blunt about the challenge they face Sunday against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The MVP candidate has the league's top passer rating, 111.2, to go with 35 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
"Best quarterback in the league, if you ask me," coach Lovie Smith said, "and I've seen him quite a bit."
Smith praised Rodgers' ability to move in the pocket and his decision making. The percentages of his throws that have ended in touchdowns (7.6 percent) and interceptions (1.1) are the best in the league....
Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury, was back at practice for the first time Wednesday, joined by middle linebacker Mason Foster, who has missed two games with an Achilles injury.
The only active players sidelined during Wednesday's drills were safety Major Wright (ribs) and nickel defensive back Isaiah Frey (ankle), with returner/receiver Solomon Patton back practicing after missing Sunday's game with a foot injury....
On a day where the Bucs lost an unusual name in Crezdon Butler, they added another, signing cornerback Varmah Sonie of Northern Iowa to the practice squad.
Sonie, 24, is the second player the Bucs have signed this year from the Arena Football League's Portland Thunder -- the first, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, has earned his way into the rotation at end, with six tackles off the bench.
Sonie, 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, was a first-team All-Arena selection after getting nine interceptions and a team-record 86 total tackles as a rookie with the Thunder. The Bucs were the first NFL team to bring him in for a workout, flying him in Monday after seeing tape from his Arena season. He had been limited by a sprained knee after the season, and had returned this fall to his hometown of Apple Valley, Minn., where he worked as defensive backs coach at Apple Valley High School....
TAMPA — For the second straight year, WR Vincent Jackson was named as the Bucs' man of the year, making him one of 32 players up for the NFL's Walter Payton man of the year award.
Jackson, 31, one of the team's most active players in community service, has put considerable time into his efforts for military families, including publishing a book he wrote, Danny Dogtags, about the challenges children face while relatives are deployed in military service....
TAMPA — When the Bengals tried for a surprise onside kick on Nov. 30, Orie Lemon was in the middle of the front line on kickoff coverage and alertly pounced on the loose ball before Cincinnati could recover it.
He was in the right place at the right time and stepped up, much as he has in the last three games after being thrust into a starting role at strongside linebacker.
"The opportunity means a lot to me. I haven't been able to get this opportunity since I've been in the league," said Lemon, 27, a star at Oklahoma State who played mostly on special teams in two seasons with the Cowboys, 2012-13. "I wanted to make sure I did whatever I had to do to show I deserved that opportunity."...
One day after placing three players on injured reserve, the Bucs filled up the openings by promoting three players from their practice squad: WR Tavarres King, DT George Uko and TE Evan Rodriguez.
DT Gerald McCoy (knee), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) and WR Louis Murphy (ankle) are all done for the season, and the final two games will give the Bucs a chance to evaluate three young players. The Bucs also signed former San Jose State receiver Chandler Jones, an undrafted rookie, to fill one of the openings on the practice squad....
For the second straight year, receiver Vincent Jackson has been named as the Bucs' Man of the Year, making him one of 32 players up for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Jackson, one of the team's most active players in community service, has put considerable time into his efforts for military families, including publishing a book he wrote, "Danny Dogtags," about the challenges children face while relatives are deployed in military service....
TAMPA — Demar Dotson had never played left tackle in an NFL game before Sunday at Carolina, but as he gets adjusted, he's excited about getting a chance to make it his future home in the league.
"It was a little different and a little awkward. My balance felt off a little bit because I was so used to being the at the right," Dotson said after sliding over from starting at right tackle in the first 12 games of the season. "But it's nothing I can't work at, and in due time … I'm going to put in the work and I'm going to get better. … I'm going to put 100 percent effort in to being the best left tackle I can be."...
TAMPA -- Demar Dotson had never played left tackle in an NFL game before Sunday's game, but as he gets adjusted, he's excited about getting a chance to make it his future home in the league.
"It was a little different and a little awkward. My balance felt off a little bit because I was so used to being the at the right," Dotson said after sliding over from starting at right tackle in the first 12 games of the season. "But it's nothing I can't work at, and in due time ... I'm going to put in the work and I'm going to get better ...I’m going to put 100 percent effort in to being the best left tackle I can be."...12/15/14 Blog
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is done for the season after injuring his knee in Sunday's game, with rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Louis Murphy joining him on injured reserve, coach Lovie Smith said.12/14/14Bucs
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner, on a missed interception in the fourth quarter:
"That was huge, and that is why I'm here. I am supposed to make those plays, so I take full responsibility for that. There is no excuse."
Bucs CB Johnthan Banks, on losing another close game:
"It's super-old. I'm tired of it. We should all be tired of it. We go out and work so hard to just let ourselves down. Hats off to these other teams that are beating us, but most of the time, it's just us."...12/14/14 Blog
CHARLOTTE -- Throughout Sunday's loss to the Panthers, the Bucs defense found itself unable to stop Derek Anderson's top two targets -- tight end Greg Olsen and rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin -- from getting open in the middle of the field.
"It was frustrating, because the whole game plan, you already knew that 88 (Olsen) was their guy on third down, 88 and 13 (Benjamin)," linebacker Lavonte David said. "You have to take your hat off to them, but It's something we have to do better."...