1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

It’s preseason football, so stay awake!

Fennelly: Bucs history, all of history, is about exhibitions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians observes his team during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp at One Buc Place in Tampa, Florida on Monday, August 5, 2019. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Aug. 9

TAMPA — Preseason football is here! The Bruce Arians Bucs exhibition era begins tonight in Pittsburgh. It gets real, or as real as exhibition football can get, which is not very.

Not everyone is making this trip. I think Arians is leaving his golf cart in the shed at Bucs headquarters. By the way, the Times will be providing instant analysis of Jameis Winston’s snaps. All four of them. For those of you planning watch parties, well, stop.

I have no idea if we’ll see much of top draft pick Devin White. Bucs starters will barely sweat. They ought to show a continuous video loop preseason football to make suspects confess. They ought to put Bucs preseason football under houses to make the mice run out.

There will be no position battles won or lost tonight. We will not know anything more about Winston’s future here than we do going in. Todd Bowles’ defense and Byron Leftwich’s offense won’t be on full display.

Likewise, Arians’ approach is still under wraps. I say this despite eye witnessing the Bucs’ final pre-Pitt practice Wednesday, where cameras were discouraged from filming from high atop the bleachers, looking down on “install” day, when teams put in their game offense and defense.

Cut to a “fan” with a hidden walkie-talkie connected to Steelers camp:

“Samson, this is Delilah, Winston under center, two-back set.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) passes the ball during training camp on Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2019 at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa. ALLIE GOULDING | Times

It’s preseason. It simply must be endured, showers optional. Maybe we’ll see first-team offense make a touchdown.

“If they play that long,” Arians said with a smile. “I might call a timeout and take them out.”

The real news out of tonight might have happened before the Bucs ever jumped on the plane to Pittsburgh. Nose tackle Vita Vea’s injured knee is of prime concern. It might mean Ndamukong Suh has to start trying a lot earlier, which could be problematic.

Back to tonight. What’s to see?

“Young players,” Arians said. “They’re going to play the majority of the game, 80 percent of it. One or two of them are either going to get exposed or have good exposure.”

I don’t want to totally discount the importance of these games, especially as it pertains to the life and times of Ronald Jones. Preseason still matters. A brief history of preseason tells us that.

275-339 CE Assistant on Noah’s Ark knocks on third camel’s door, says “Coach wants to see you. Bring your humps.”

1861 Lee plays first team whole time at First Bull Run, catches up with him later at Gettysburg. Grant’s squad well rested.

1937 Preseason at Lakehurst, back-up Hindenburg QB: “Morning mast, on three!”

I was just thinking about the great preseasons in Bucs history.

There was 1976, when the first-year expansion Bucs beat Atlanta in Jacksonville for their historic first preseason win. “Ho-hum, another dynasty,” Bucs coach John McKay said. The Bucs then lost 26 consecutive regular-season games.

There was the 4-0 preseason start in 1983. That’s when running back James Owens said “we have to guard against overconfidence.” The Bucs went 2-14 in 1983.

There was the 1995 preseason, when Bucs coach Sam Wyche, leading by 13 in the fourth quarter, tried a fake punt on the Steelers. The Bucs went 7-9, Wyche was fired.

All we know is you have to start somewhere, and Arians and the Bucs do exactly that tonight, against one of his old teams no less. The key will be for every starter to get in and get out in one piece. We’ll follow up when the real games get closer. They’ll be here before the Bucs know it. Or know what hit them.

Why be in a hurry?

Contact Martin Fennelly at Follow @mjfennelly.


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) celebrates his sack on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan during the first half of a Nov. 24 game in Atlanta. JOHN AMIS  |  AP
    The Bucs rookie has 14.5 sacks, two shy of the club record held by Warren Sapp.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (45) celebrates with teammates including linebacker Kevin Minter (51), free safety Jordan Whitehead, second from left, and outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) after scoring a touchdown on a Jacksonville Jaguars fumble last weekend. PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    The rookie linebacker had 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a TD.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians watches play against the Jacksonville Jaguarsduring the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville. PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    The Bucs coach reminded his team they still have a chance to make the playoffs but can’t lose now
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (33) follows a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    Time for another look at that Bucs’ last two draft classes, the young secondary and that home loss to the Giants.
  5. Bucs kicker Matt Gay's colorful cleats bring  awareness against bullying. Gay said he was bullied as a kid because of his last name. RICK STROUD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Kicker Matt Gay knows what it’s like to be bullied, and wants to people to have a little more “faith in humanity.”
  6. Bucs center Ryan Jensen showed off his cleats for Sunday's game, which will bring awareness to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which offers assistance to those who have lost a family member in the military. The name Cooper is also on his cleats to honor a child he met through the program. EDUARDO ENCINA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Center will wear red, white and blue cleats for a youngster who lost his father in the line of duty. The boy connected with him because they both had long red hair.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3), wide receiver Mike Evans (13) and head coach Bruce Arians stand on the sideline for the singing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) PHELAN M. EBENHACK  |  AP
    The coach says he will wait another month because there’s been good and bad things about his quarterback.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) runs the ball while being tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) STEPHEN B. MORTON  |  AP
    The Bucs running back has gotten back into his playbook since being benched for missing a block Sunday
  9. Tampa Bay Vipers coaches and players had their first team meeting Tuesday. Workouts and football activities begin Thursday. XFL
    The Vipers unveiled their game-day look Tuesday, and they’re kinda Power Rangery.
  10. Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is seen prior to an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) MIKE MCCARN  |  AP
    Carolina parted ways with their head coach after nearly nine seasons.