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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Ex-Bucs QB Josh Freeman working to return to NFL

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The last time the Packers played at Raymond James Stadium, on Nov. 8, 2009, Josh Freeman made his first NFL start at quarterback and won 38-28, becoming the third rookie in Bucs history to win his first start.

    But since being released by the Giants on May 30 — his third team in a year — Freeman has flown under the NFL radar. In a league that employs quarterbacks such as the Bears' Jimmy Clausen and the Cardinals' Ryan Lindley, a guy who passed for 13,724 and 80 touchdowns in five seasons is a relative ghost. ...

    The last time the Packers played at Raymond James Stadium, Josh Freeman made his first NFL start at quarterback and won 38-28, becoming the third rookie in Bucs history to win his first start. [Times files (2009)]
  2. Bucs prepare for NFL's 'best QB'

    Bucs

    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....

    Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the league’s top passer rating, 35 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.
  3. Titans-Jaguars Thursday night preview

    Sports

    Tonight: Titans at Jaguars, 8:25, NFL Network

    Jaguars by 3, 401/2

    Both teams are 2-12 and, with Oakland, are the biggest threats to the Bucs' hopes of landing the No. 1 overall draft pick. Bucs fans hoping for a top quarterback, root for Tennessee; if the season ended today, the Titans would hold the No. 2 pick, and Jacksonville has its long-term quarterback (UCF product Blake Bortles). Tennessee has dropped its past eight since a 16-14 win over Jacksonville in October. Matt Baker's pick: Jaguars, 21-17...

  4. Bucs sign DL Lawrence Sidbury

    Blog

    TAMPA – The Bucs have signed DL Lawrence Sidbury, the team announced Wednesday morning. He takes the roster spot of CB Crezdon Butler, who has been released....

  5. Bucs' Dotson gets chance at left tackle

    Bucs

    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."...

    Demar Dotson gets a chance to start at left tackle for the first time in the NFL. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. Notes: Dotson eager for shot at left tackle

    Blog

    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."...

  7. Scouting the NFC South

    Sports

    SCOUTING THE NFC SOUTH

    ATLANTA

    WR Julio Jones' team-record 259 receiving yards against Green Bay was even more impressive considering he didn't play the entire game, leaving with a hip injury. He is expected to be a game-time decision but will be an obvious matchup problem against a Steelers defense that surrendered 224 yards to Cincinnati's A.J. Green last week....

  8. NFL predictions Week 15

    Bucs

    GAMES OF THE WEEK

    Broncos at Chargers, 4, Ch. 10 | Broncos by 4, 501/2

    Denver clinches the AFC West with a win over San Diego and secures a first-round bye with some help in other games. The more pressing task is fixing the problems from last week's 24-17 win over Buffalo. The Bills held Peyton Manning without a touchdown pass for the first time in four years, and injuries have started to pile up in Denver. But Manning posted a sterling 124.2 passer rating against the Chargers earlier this season, and San Diego hasn't looked great lately, squeaking by Oakland, St. Louis and Baltimore and falling to New England. Matt's pick: Broncos, 28-24...

  9. Lightning-Capitals Saturday night preview

    Lightning Strikes

    .tonight

    Lightning at Capitals

    When/where: 7; Verizon Center, Washington

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: Washington had a three-game winning streak snapped Thursday when it lost on a power-play goal in the final seconds of OT against the Blue Jackets. … The Lightning split its previous two games against Washington this season, winning 4-3 at home last month and falling 5-3 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday. … RW Nikita Kucherov is coming off his first multigoal game (two vs. Hurricanes) since his hat trick Oct. 28....

  10. Danny Lansanah helps Bucs in variety of ways

    Bucs

    TAMPA — For a player who has bounced in and out of the league and nearly quit football five years ago, Bucs linebacker Danny Lansanah knows his key to sticking in the NFL depends on his versatility.

    "They say in this profession the more things you can do, the more valuable you are," Lansanah said.

    If that's true, then few players have been as valuable to the Bucs as Lansanah. It's not only his 66 tackles (second on the team) or three interceptions (first in the league among linebackers) or that he's the only Buc to play every defensive snap over the past three weeks....

    Danny Lansanah, scoring after an interception against the Saints on Oct. 5, leads NFL linebackers with three interceptions.
  11. Evgeni Nabokov adjusts to role with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — After 13 full NHL seasons, goalie Evgeni Nabokov doesn't need extra time on the ice.

    He doesn't have to stay after Lightning practice, as he did Friday at the Ice Sports Forum, trying to stop one-on-one shots. He doesn't have to stand in the locker room afterward, giving detailed pointers to teammate Tyler Johnson.

    But Nabokov does, gladly embracing one of his understated responsibilities as the team's backup goalie....

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Evgeni Nabokov (20) keeps the puck out against Carolina Hurricanes center Jay McClement (18) (left) and Brad Malone (24) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (12/11/14). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  12. Players adjusting to NFL's 'drastic' new contact rules

    Bucs

    As penalty flags flew throughout the preseason, some in the league feared that the NFL's crackdown on defensive contact was too much. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went so far as to tell Sports Illustrated that it was "as drastic a change as anything" since he returned to the league in 2010.

    So with only three weeks left in the regular season, how has the league's emphasis on contact in the secondary affected the game?...

    The numbers show that referees have been calling defensive holding and illegal contact more frequently, defensive pass interference less so.
  13. Lavonte David gets clearance to play against Panthers

    Bucs

    TAMPA — LB Lavonte David has been medically cleared and is "good to go" Sunday after completing the league's concussion protocol, coach Lovie Smith said Thursday.

    "He seemed like he's back to 100 percent," Smith said.

    David left Sunday's game against the Lions after his head collided with WR Calvin Johnson's knee. He was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice because of a possible concussion....

    The Bucs’ Lavonte David, against the Vikings on Oct. 26, was being evaluated for a concussion.