For one Bucs veteran, Sunday could be farewell

Bucs Journal: Offensive tackle Demar Dotson hopes to be back next season, but just in case ...
After 11 seasons with the Bucs, offensive tackle DeMar Dotson (69) could be playing his final game in Tampa Bay on Sunday.
After 11 seasons with the Bucs, offensive tackle DeMar Dotson (69) could be playing his final game in Tampa Bay on Sunday. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Published Dec. 24, 2019|Updated Dec. 25, 2019

TAMPA — Offensive tackle Demar Dotson will play in his 130th career game and make his 105th start for the Bucs at 1 p.m. Sunday against Atlanta. He is fully aware it could be his last in a Tampa Bay uniform.

The 34-year-old veteran has played all 11 seasons with the Bucs and will become a free agent in March. It’s unknown whether the team will make a big effort to re-sign him.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of emotions because I’ve been here 11 years and this is the first time since I’ve been here that my contract is running out,’’ Dotson said. “So you look at the reality of it, this might be your last opportunity in your home stadium as a player. I’m just going to relish the moment and go out there and give it everything I’ve got and when it’s done, just let it play out.’’

Related: Evaluating Jameis Winston: Assigning game-by-game credit and blame

Dotson is an amazing NFL success story. A basketball player at Southern Miss, he walked into coach Larry Fedora’s office as a fifth-year senior and asked to play football. Intrigued by the 6-foot-9 Dotson, Fedora asked him when he last played football.

His answer: Never.

Somehow he earned a spot on the team as a reserve defensive lineman and the Bucs had in him for a tryout after the draft.

“When I look back over my years, I’m truly blessed,’’ Dotson said. “God has been good to me. Coming from a basketball player who came out here with tennis shoes on and now I’ve played 11 years in the NFL for one team. I think that’s an accomplishment all within itself.’’

Dotson said he would like to continue his career, hopefully with the Bucs.

“I’ll let tomorrow take care of itself,’’ Dotson said

Winston’s Christmas gift

Jameis Winston’s biggest Christmas gift to the Bucs would be a turnover-free game Sunday, something he’s accomplished only twice this season. After throwing four interceptions in Tampa Bay’s 23-20 loss to the Texans Saturday, Winston leads the NFL with 28. What did he learn from watching film of that game, which featured two interceptions — including a pick-six — on his first four passes?

“I think some people made some good plays but also, it’s something you’ve just got to keep working at and I’m going to keep working at it and I’m going to eliminate them,’’ Winston said. “I will. And when I do that, we’re going to be tough.’’

Winston has played the last two games with a fracture in his right thumb that again prevented him from gripping a football in practice Tuesday. In addition, some of Winston’s struggles last week might have to do with hamstring injuries that sidelined Pro Bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Instead, Winston has been throwing to Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Ishmael Hyman and Cyril Grayson. Much of the Bucs passing game is based on timing routes and Winston has to believe his receivers are going to win one-on-one matchups and run good routes.

“It’s all trust,’’ Winston said. “And make no mistake, it doesn’t matter who is out there. We’re going to trust them and we’re going to let it fly. We’re also going to be more open to the flow of the game. Our defense is playing really good right now, so we have to take care of our possessions.’’

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Related: Bucs expect Byron Leftwich, Todd Bowles to be hot candidates

Bucs best against the run

The Bucs defense will likely finish as the NFL’s best against the run, an improvement of eight spots over 2018. They are allowing 72.9 yards per game. The second-closest team is the Jets (87.9).

“The standard has been set and everybody knows what we have to do when we go out there,’’ rookie linebacker Devin White said.

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud.