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Todd Bowles reaffirms Bucs’ quarterback competition will linger

Notebook | The coach is not concerned about the eventual starter getting ample reps. Also, Lavonte David suggests the latest version of the creamsicle jerseys could come with a surprise.
 
Bucs quarterbacks Kyle Trask (2), Baker Mayfield (6) and John Wolford (11) participate in the opening day of the team's mandatory minicamp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs quarterbacks Kyle Trask (2), Baker Mayfield (6) and John Wolford (11) participate in the opening day of the team's mandatory minicamp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published June 14, 2023|Updated June 14, 2023

TAMPA — As skepticism swirls over his drawn-out quarterback competition, Todd Bowles doesn’t seem inclined to call an audible.

Following Day 2 of his team’s three-day minicamp, the Bucs’ second-year coach reaffirmed the duel between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask will stretch at least into August, precluding the ultimate winner from getting the normal starter’s allotment of practice reps until then.

“Sometime during camp or right after camp there will be a decision made,” Bowles said. “It’s still a quarterback competition right now. We’re not going to award nobody in shorts and T-shirts.”

Bowles has faced mild criticism for allowing the competition to linger, especially in light of the team’s installation of a new offense under first-year coordinator Dave Canales. While popular sentiment indicates an early decision on a starter can give that player more reps in the new system, Bowles said Wednesday he’s not worried “at all” about the starter ultimately getting enough snaps.

“In any competition, there’s waiting involved,” Bowles said. “You have to see who wins out ... so we’re good.”

Creamsicle with a wrinkle?

Inside linebacker Lavonte David, who assumes the title of team’s oldest player (33) and is the only member of the current roster to wear the retro creamsicle jersey in a game, expressed delight at the recent announcement they’ll return in 2023.

“I love it, I love it,” said David, a rookie the last time Tampa Bay brandished the jerseys in a game. “I got a little glimpse of them, they’re not like the ones I wore in 2012.”

So what’s different about the latest version? “I can’t tell y’all right now,” he said. “But they’re really nice, and I definitely like the way they look.”

Bucs sign Kancey, Diaby

Bucs rookie linebacker Yaya Diaby (0) participates in the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs rookie linebacker Yaya Diaby (0) participates in the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp Tuesday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The Bucs announced Wednesday afternoon they’ve formally signed first-round pick Calijah Kancey and third-rounder Yaya Diaby, leaving second-round pick Cody Mauch as the only unsigned 2023 draftee.

To create cap space for the pair, the team restructured the contracts of safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, both entering the fourth year of their rookie deals. Wirfs’ fifth-year option already has been picked up.

Can pass breakups become picks?

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David (54) does some pass-catching work during mandatory minicamp Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David (54) does some pass-catching work during mandatory minicamp Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Wednesday’s 11-on-11 sessions featured assorted images with which Bucs fans have become all too familiar: defensive backs getting their hands on passes but failing to secure them for interceptions.

After leading the NFL with 30 picks in the 2019 regular season, the Bucs failed to collect more than 12 in any of the ensuing three years. Their 10 interceptions in 2022 tied for seventh-fewest in the league.

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“We’ve got to do a better job of catching the ball,” Bowles said. “Defensively, we’ve talked about it and we drill it all the time. We talk about getting turnovers, and we’ve just got to come down with it.”

Veteran safety Ryan Neal, signed in April after four seasons in Seattle, indicated his group’s ball-hawking — and ball-securing — mentality will become top priority once training camp commences and players are in pads.

“Right now, we’ve got to kind of take it easy, because it’s not that point of the season yet — guys kind of hesitant on taking their shot,” he said. “When we get to training camp, it’s going to be a different story.”

Injury update

Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58), rehabbing a torn Achilles sustained last season, does some agility work during minicamp Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58), rehabbing a torn Achilles sustained last season, does some agility work during minicamp Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

For the second day in a row, center Ryan Jensen and guard Aaron Stinnie — both of whom were sidelined the entire 2022 regular season with knee injuries — ran and did work on blocking sleds, with nary a sign of a limp.

Bowles remained noncommital on whether Jensen — who avoided surgery despite three torn knee ligaments — will be ready to participate fully in training camp, set to begin on the back end of July. “We’ll monitor it as it goes,” the coach said.

Also working with a trainer for the second day was outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, still rehabbing a torn Achilles while coping with the accidental death of his 2-year-old daughter in April. Bowles also indicated Barrett’s training camp status remains unclear.

Miscellany

The Bucs wrap up minicamp Wednesday, then disburse until training camp commences in late July. ... Bowles said if Jensen reassumes the starting center job in time for the season opener, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett will contend for the backup job. ... Bowles on veteran receiver Russell Gage, who remains a minicamp observer while rehabbing an unspecified injury. “He’s a good pro, he’s watching everything. Obviously, he’s got to shake the rust off when he comes back, and I think he’ll get up to speed pretty quick.”

Audible

“Immediate impact. A guy who can create mismatches one-on-one off the line and can be disruptive in the run game. People always look for those big Vita Veas, but sometimes those small, compact guys can split double-teams and get in the backfield and create havoc in the backfield.” — David on 2023 first-round pick Calijah Kancey, who hails from the same youth league (Liberty City Warriors) and high school (Miami Northwestern) as David

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