Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Former Cardinals serving as ‘tone setters’ for new Bucs coach Bruce Arians

And players like Deone Bucannon, Andre Ellington and Kevin Minter figure to play important roles moving forward.
Bucs running back Andre Ellington (32) dodges Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kevin Minter (51) after catching a pass during training camp at the AdventHealth Training Center last week. Ellington and Minter are two of the former Cardinals who played for new Bucs coach Bruce Arians in Arizona. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Aug. 7

TAMPA — In coming out of retirement to coach the Bucs, Bruce Arians surrounded himself with a large group of trusted assistants, several of whom shared the sideline with him during his time as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

But his Cardinals connections extend deep onto the field, where several veterans who played under Arians are not only fighting for roster spots, but showing other players the Arians way.

The Bucs’ training camp roster includes several players who played under Arians: inside linebackers Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter, running back Andre Ellington, offensive lineman Earl Watford and quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

The five players combined for 130 starts under Arians during his five-year stretch as Cardinals’ head coach from 2013 to ’17.

“It helps them, they know what to expect," Arians said. "They can answer questions for the other guys on what to expect. They’re here because I know they’re good football players, and they’re tone setters.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Deone Bucannon (23) waves to a fan at the AdventHealth Training Center during training camp on July 27, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON | Times

And now, as the Bucs open their preseason slate on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday at Heinz Field, some have even more significant roles as leaders and contributors.

"He drafted us and he believed in us," Minter said. "He knows we can still get it done. I know he wanted more veteran presence and that's just how B.A. is. He knows at one point we helped bring him to the NFC championship and he never forgets that."

MORE BUCS: Vita Vea receives MRI on knee, more tests expected Monday.

With starting inside linebacker Lavonte David shelved recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee, Bucannon -- a Cardinals' former first-round pick in 2014 who played four years under Arians -- has filled in David's spot. Bucannon and Minter will play important roles in helping to guide rookie first-rounder Devin White through his first NFL preseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kevin Minter (51) talks to defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) during training camp at the Advent Health Training Center at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

“Damn near every year (in Arizona), we were a top-five defense,”said Minter of a defensive unit that was top-six in yards allowed in four of Arians’ five years. “Me, Buc, we were running it, same thing with Dre, we won games with Dre. It’s what it’s all about. He brought in some guys he trusts to help this team along. He obviously drafted some great guys. He’s trying to build something here.”

MORE BUCS: Linebacker Lavonte David’s knee scoped after meniscus tear

Minter has mentored White for years. Both played linebacker at LSU, and White has been getting advice from Minter since he was a freshman in Baton Rouge.

“He was hitting me up since his freshman year,” Minter said. “He was always messaging with me, trying to get little nuggets, ‘Kev, how do I get better at this, how do I get better at that?’ He was trying to beat my records in the (LSU) weight room. I was like, ‘Alright, relax.’ Just to see him now, he’s still that kid who wants to learn regardless of him being the No. 5 pick, $19 million in his pocket, he’s still like, ‘I don’t know nothing, help me out,’ that type of stuff. So you’re more than willing to help him.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kevin Minter (51) participates in workouts during training camp at the Advent Health Training Center at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Ellington, who was out of the game last season, has taken a mentor role with second-year running back Ronald Jones. Like Minter, Ellington is a member of Arians’ first Arizona draft class in 2013. He’s trying to win a roster spot as a versatile pass-catching running back, but doesn’t shy away from helping Jones. When he was a younger player in Arizona, he learned from veterans like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, and he hopes he can do the same for Jones.

MORE BUCS: Wide receiver Mike Evans says is will be a “major disappointment” if this isn’t the Bucs’ year.

"Having those guys around kind of taught me the ropes and I just want to give back as much as I can," Elllington said. "Right now, I'm kind of that guy who when I'm called on, just go out and make a play. Coach knows me really well, but my job now is to really try to be a leader for these younger guys and give them any knowledge that I have, or that I've gained throughout my career and just the best way I can try to help us win."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Andre Ellington (32) runs the ball during training camp at the Advent Health Training Center at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Ellington said this Bucs team is different compared to the one Arians inherited in Arizona — he took over a five-win team, won 10 games his first year, went to the postseason his second and came within a game of the Super Bowl in his third — because it’s much younger, but despite that, it can still be a winner.

“As opposed to the team we started with in Arizona, we have a lot more younger guys on the roster, but we have guys who are real attentive,” he said. “They’re locked in, they’re hungry, they want to win. And with that mentality, I feel like where we are as a team right now is in a pretty good spot. We really have something to build on here.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Emphasizing the role of Cameron Brate, who scored against Carolina last week, should just be one change the Bucs coaching staff should consider. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    Bruce Arians and his staff need to consider making some changes during the bye week to save a 2-4 season
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  3. Teddy Bridgewater (5)  will look to stay unbeaten as Drew Brees' fill-in when the Saints play the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    Here are our picks for this week’s NFL games.
  4. San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch, a former Bucs player and Ring of Honor member, celebrates with 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) after Sherman broke up a pass during the 49ers' 31-17 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    After two seasons of second-guessing, general manager John Lynch has it going with the 5-0 49ers. | Martin Fennelly
  5. The Tampa Bay Vipers kick off their inaugural season in February. XFL
    The Vipers’ initial 71-man roster features numerous players who have ties to Tampa Bay. Plus, why coach Marc Trestman drafted big receivers and why 77-year-old defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville...
  6. Indianapolis Colts running back Aca'Cedric Ware runs during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP
    The move comes days after the team went through a series of roster transactions.
  7. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will supplant Marcus Mariota as the starter in Tennessee. JACK DEMPSEY  |  AP
    The Bucs chose Jameis Winston over Mariota in 2015. Now both the No. 1 and No. 2 picks from that draft appear to be at a crossroads.
  8. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  9. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Bobo Wilson (85) during the second half of a preseason game against the Browns on Aug. 23. MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    Wilson muffed two punts Sunday vs. Carolina, losing one. The team also released LB Devante Bond.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after making a touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter in London. ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    Journal: Also, the 2015 NFL draft is looking like a bust for quarterbacks. Could the Bucs have taken someone else at No. 1 overall?
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement