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Bucs’ Carl Nassib is the same player, but a bigger sports figure

One of the Buccaneers’ more productive pass rushers returns to the team as the only openly gay player in the NFL, changing lives for the better.
Bucs linebacker Carl Nassib (93) puts his helmet on before taking part in drills during a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee.
Bucs linebacker Carl Nassib (93) puts his helmet on before taking part in drills during a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. [ MARK ZALESKI | AP ]
Published Aug. 17|Updated Aug. 18

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It should be the smoothest of transitions.

Carl Nassib is back with the same Bucs team with which he thrived as a pass rusher. He’s playing in the same defense. He has the same coaches and many of the same teammates.

“I love Tampa,” Nassib, who re-signed with the Bucs on Tuesday, said after Wednesday’s joint practice with the Titans. “I love the team. It’s a great opportunity. Really thankful.”

The only thing different about Nassib since the last time the Bucs had him on their roster is the number of lives he has changed.

Last year, Nassib became the first NFL player to announce he is gay while still playing in the league.

Sports stars have come out in the past when their careers were over. But with one Instagram post from his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Nassib made history and became a champion for the LGBTQ community.

“I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in a video 14 months ago. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest. I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for.”

Cut by the Raiders after two seasons in March, Nassib re-joined the Bucs, with whom he played in 2018-19, on Tuesday night at the team hotel in Nashville, signing a one-year, $1.035 million contract with a $152,500 signing bonus. He is replacing outside linebacker Cam Gill, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a Lisfranc injury to his right foot.

While he never took off as a pass rusher with the Raiders, totaling only four sacks in 27 games, Nassib said he wasn’t surprised that training camps began around the NFL this year without him on a roster.

“I was being kind of selective,” he said, “and this was a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Nassib didn’t do much Wednesday, mostly individual drills. But at 6 feet 7 and 275 pounds, he appeared to be in tremendous shape and looked happy to return to the club where he totaled 12½ sacks in two seasons playing opposite Shaquil Barrett.

“Shaq was killing it (Wednesday),” Nassib said. “He’s an All-Pro guy, and I’m excited to keep learning from him and getting a chance to work with him again.

“(Wednesday) was my first day back in the scheme, and some things are still up there. But it’s going to take me a little time to get back into the speed of this scheme, for sure.”

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Carl Nassib had a combined 12-1/2 sacks with the Bucs over the 2018-19 seasons while playing opposite Shaquil Barrett.
Carl Nassib had a combined 12-1/2 sacks with the Bucs over the 2018-19 seasons while playing opposite Shaquil Barrett. [ MARK ZALESKI | AP ]

Coach Todd Bowles held Nassib out of the team scrimmages but said he liked what he saw from the outside linebacker on his first day back.

“We still have a great relationship with him,” Bowles said. “We thought he could still play. We thought he’d be great because he brings a lot of versatility to what we do and he knows the system.”

Nothing Nassib does on the field will be as important as the announcement he made in June 2021.

No openly gay or bisexual player had ever participated in an NFL regular-season game until Nassib did it for the Raiders last season. There have been 15 players who came out after their careers ended. Michael Sam did so after being drafted by the Rams in 2014 but never made an NFL roster.

Nassib didn’t stop with his announcement. He also matched all donations to The Trevor Project up to $100,000 and did so again in June. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention program for the LGBTQ community. It provides a number of resources, including call and text lines for young people to speak to counselors confidentially, and access to inclusive online communities.

Since announcing he is gay, Nassib said the support he has received has been overwhelmingly positive.

“That’s been the most rewarding thing the last year, people coming up to me and telling me the positive impact I’ve had,” he said. “It’s just really, like, so rewarding, and that’s the reason why I did it. I think everybody can continue to help and be that positive person in anyone’s life that make the day a little bit better. So yeah, I hope I can be a push in a positive direction.”

Nassib is versatile enough to play outside linebacker or defensive end in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme and will be an immediate help on special teams.

“I’ll go where they need me,” Nassib said. “I’m here to help the team any way that I possibly can. If that means going inside, outside, getting snacks — whatever they need me to do, I’m here for it.”

Carl Nassib is versatile enough to play outside linebacker or defensive end in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme and will be an immediate help on special teams.
Carl Nassib is versatile enough to play outside linebacker or defensive end in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme and will be an immediate help on special teams. [ MARK ZALESKI | AP ]

At the Titans’ training facility, right down the intersection of Rosa Parks Boulevard, the trailblazer who is Nassib pulled a Bucs No. 93 jersey once worn by Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh over his head and went to work.

“(The number) was available,” Nassib said. “That’s why I chose it. It was available. Gerald McCoy texted me (Tuesday) night, (and) he was like, ‘Don’t mess it up.’ "

McCoy said the Bucs got better by re-signing Nassib.

“Carl is one of the most passionate, energetic, hard-working teammates I’ve ever had,” McCoy said in a text message. “Any room he’s in, he brings energy. On the field, he brings energy, and he only wants what’s best for the team. He’s great to be around, and most importantly, it’s never about him. Those are the best teammates.

“(The) Bucs sure got better as a group of men and as a team by bringing Carl back.”

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.

Need help?

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.

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