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Bucs journal: Jameis Winston has friendly foe in Panthers cornerback James Bradberry

Published Dec. 21, 2017

TAMPA — When Bucs QB Jameis Winston looks to throw downfield Sunday against the Panthers, he'll do so against a familiar face: Carolina CB James Bradberry.

Winston, 23, and Bradberry, 24, grew up in towns eight miles apart outside Birmingham, Ala., with Winston in Bessemer and Bradberry just north in Pleasant Grove.

"We go way, way back," Winston said, smiling, Thursday. "I've been playing football against James Bradberry since I was about 7, 8. We've been (in) rivalries really since we started playing football."

In Little League, Bradberry played for the Hueytown Saints and Winston for the Bessemer Tigers. "We beat them then," Winston said.

In middle school and high school, Bradberry played for Pleasant Grove and Winston for Hueytown.

"My junior year, they beat us and he had a great game," said Winston, whose only regular-season loss that season came against Bradberry's team.

RELATED: The flip side of the Bucs' rash of injuries.

The two have met twice in the NFL. Bradberry intercepted a pass from Winston in last year's finale, which the Bucs won, and Carolina won their meeting earlier this season.

When Winston filled out his Pro Bowl ballot last week, he gave Bradberry one of his nods at cornerback.

"It's so good to see people from your hometown doing great," said Winston, noting that the Panthers have another player with Birmingham roots, DE Mario Addison, and had another last year, QB/WR Joe Webb.

Line dance

The Bucs are missing three starters on the offensive line with C Ali Marpet, OT Demar Dotson and G J.R. Sweezy on injured reserve. But they still have managed to be very productive on offense because of depth and flexibility.

"We're fortunate enough to have a Joe Hawley, an Evan Smith and a Caleb Benenoch, who we drafted a year ago,'' offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "Who else has that kind of situation with O-line depth? There is nobody in the league that I can think of.

RELATED: Five more players, including O.J. Howard, go on injured reserve.

"(On the Bucs' line) okay, Evan is in there. All of the sudden J.R. Sweezy goes down, so (Smith) moves over. Joe comes in.' I didn't see a difference. I didn't feel anything different from a guy that's played and won a bunch of games for us the year before. Caleb is still learning and getting better, so I feel real good about it.''

Benenoch struggled a bit with communication in his first start at Green Bay on Dec. 3 but has been solid in three games.

"It is still a matter of communication,'' Monken said. "I don't know the number of reps that he has actually played at tackle. … But I think he has held up pretty well. I think we've done a good job of helping him in protection when we can, but I think he has done a real good job."

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Stat of the day

Over the past three weeks, QB Jameis Winston is tied for the most touchdown passes in the NFL (seven) and ranks second in passer rating (109.0), while ranking in the top 10 in passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt.

Injury updates

WR DeSean Jackson (ankle) and DE Robert Ayers (shoulder) did not practice again, making it less likely they will play at Carolina. DE Ryan Russell (shoulder) was added to the injury report and was limited.