TAMPA — Bucs coach Bruce Arians couldn’t hold back Tuesday, his first day at voluntary minicamp with his team on the fields back of its headquarters,
“I was excited,” Arians said.
About 2,500 miles west of Bucs headquarters, Bucs defensive tackle and Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, a no-show here, was on the beach in California, doing everything but going through the motions during a workout, later posted on Instagram.
And the tide continued to go out.
It’s a strange, airless way for McCoy and the Bucs to part ways, while a country away, but they have. It might become official at the NFL Draft, when the Bucs trade their former Pro Bowler and get what they can. Or maybe June when the Bucs cut McCoy loose without getting anything in return. Yeah, that would be nice.
The Bucs have somehow bungled what they couldn’t bungle.
Hey, it’s what they do.
“It’s up to him,” Arians said of McCoy’s absence. “We have open arms. If he wants to be here and practice with us, that’s great. He’s under contract and part of the team. Yeah, I mean, that’s a player’s decision, that’s all I can do.”
But Arians is already part of the problem, with his comments in late March, when he wondered, aloud, if McCoy could be as “disruptive” as he once was, and if any player can maintain his enthusiasm this late in a career and a contract.
Yeah, that’ll drive the price up.
What is it about the Bucs and saying goodbye to veteran stars and train wrecks?
It didn’t have to be this way, McCoy on one side and the Bucs on the other. It shouldn’t be this way, McCoy staying away from activities he has attended since he hit the league in 2010, the consummate camper, very good on the field and beyond good in the community.
Look, the Bucs should have cut him a few years ago, before he became a $13 million anchor around their necks. They should have done it last season, at the trade deadline, even with all McCoy brought to this franchise. The Bucs have a nose tackle in Vita Vea and need to go to a 3-4 scheme. This was not rocket science. This was a milk run.
And the Bucs have messed it up.
I don’t blame the Bucs for wanting to lose McCoy. Just count up his playoff seasons. I don’t blame McCoy for not wanting to stay here for less money. He could go somewhere else and be on a contender. Why, he could replace Ndamukong Suh on the Rams. He could haunt the Buc twice a year on the Saints. The Bucs don’t know how to be the Patriots and move on. They only know how to be lousy. And this is part of it. Tuesday was weird. It sounded weird, too.
“We know Gerald is working,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. “This guy, he’s one of the best players in this franchise. I think he’s earned his stripes. He doesn’t have anything to prove out there with us. I talk to him every week, man. He’s always sending me Scriptures, Bible studies. We’re constantly communicating.”
But the lines are definitely down between this franchise and its six-time Pro Bowler and future Ring Of Honor inductee. And that’s a shame. It would serve the Bucs right if they had to dump McCoy while getting nothing in return. This could have been handled last season.
At minicamp Tuesday, Bruce Arians liked what he saw.
“Probably the biggest pleasing thing I’ve seen is only one false start,” he said. “We were doing a lot of hard counts, we were doing a lot of things. That was very pleasing to see very, very few penalties.”
Make it two false starts.
A Bucs minicamp beginning without Gerald McCoy. A country apart. And a mess in between. A strange, airless afternoon.
Contact Martin Fennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.