NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lavonte David a well-kept secret

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:30
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The comparisons started among Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans as soon as Lavonte David was drafted in 2012.

It seemed far-fetched, or at least very premature, but David instantly was seen as the second coming of Derrick Brooks. These days, that doesn’t seem like quite a stretch.

“It’s very early in his career and Derrick’s a Hall of Famer, so it’s hard to say that at this point,’’ Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “But if there’s anybody that has a chance as an outside linebacker to end up on the Derrick Brooks level, Lavonte has those qualities. His instincts, his ability to make big plays, and his ability to lift everyone up around him are similar to what Derrick had. Lavonte has those qualities. He has the chance to be one of the great players in this league.’’

As Brooks was, David is a weakside linebacker with a knack for big plays. David is coming off a 2013 season in which he had 145 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and five interceptions. Look at what Brooks did in the first two years of his career and David stacks up pretty well.

“It’s nerve-wracking being compared to that guy," David said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. All it does is motivate me to keep working hard, and maybe one day I can get to where he’s at."

Despite the brilliant start to his career, David remains one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets -- outside of Tampa Bay. David was overlooked for the Pro Bowl last season, but was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. In ESPN.com's rankings of the NFL's top 100 defensive players, David came in at No. 25. He was 98th a year ago.

“[The Pro Bowl snub] didn't bother me as much as people might think," David said. “I can only control what I can control. I just go out there and play my hardest. Being voted first-team All-Pro is better than being voted to the Pro Bowl, in my opinion."

The Pro Bowls will come as long as David continues to produce, and all indications are he will. With Lovie Smith taking over as head coach, the Bucs are returning to the Tampa 2 defense that was famous back when Brooks was playing. Weakside linebacker is a crucial position in the Tampa 2 as that player is expected to go from side to side against the run and drop in coverage or blitz against the pass. Frazier said David is a perfect fit for the scheme.

“He sees things before they happen," Smith said. “He studies extremely hard. You should see him in the classroom. He’s asking questions all the time. He’s always looking for more. And then he goes on the football field and you can see that he’s applying what he’s learned. That’s not always the case. That makes him a very special talent."

How special can David be?

“The sky is the limit," Frazier said. “The way he works, as smart as he is, the talent he has -- he should go to a lot of Pro Bowls before his career is over. I’m looking forward to being a part of his evolution. He can be as good as any outside linebacker that’s played the game, in my opinion. I think he has those traits."
Most significant move: The team released Eric Page, who handled the return duties last year. This is a pretty clear sign that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go with undrafted rookie Solomon Patton as their primary return man. Page was reliable but unspectacular. Patton has the potential to be more explosive.

Surprise, surprise: Most fans thought wide receiver Tommy Streeter would make it to the final cut and maybe even make the roster. That's because Streeter had flashed promise early in camp and caught a touchdown pass in the first preseason game. But Streeter’s shot at a roster spot was doomed because he didn’t have the tools or experience to play regularly on special teams.

What’s next: The Bucs have to trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

Bucs' cuts: Released OT Matt Patchan, OT J.B. Shugarts, CB Deveron Carr, WR Tommy Streeter, LS Jeremy Cain, DT Euclid Cummings, G Jace Daniels, WR Skye Dawson, OL Jason Foster, DE Ryne Giddins, G R.J. Mattes, WR Eric Page, DE Chaz Sutton, QB Alex Tanney and FB Ian Thompson. Placed CB Danny Gorrer on injured reserve. Claimed CB Marc Anthony and G Jeremiah Warren off waivers.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Ever since they were hired, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have been saying they want to win right away. They also have been saying they want to do things the right way.

What happened Tuesday showed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are very serious on both counts. The Bucs traded tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick next year to the New England Patriots for guard Logan Mankins. That’s a steep price, and Mankins also will take up $6 million of Tampa Bay’s salary cap for this season.

But you get what you pay for. What the Bucs got is a quality player to patch their problems at guard. Mankins, 32, is a six-time Pro Bowler and known as a great locker room guy.

“We have a responsibility to our team and to our fans to put the best possible football team on the field that we can,’’ Smith said. “By adding Pro Bowler Logan Mankins to the mix, we feel like we’re definitely a better football team.’’

Mankins beats the heck out of the alternative, which was Richie Incognito. The Bucs visited with Incognito, who was the central figure in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal last season, on Monday night. On Tuesday, talks with the Patriots heated up in a hurry, and a deal got done.

Licht said the trade doesn't necessarily mean the team no longer is interested in Incognito.

“We always are going to leave options open of players that we think can be good fits and also be good players for us,’’ Licht said. “So, I wouldn’t put an end to that. That’s just one of several options that are out there right now.’’

But I think Licht was just being politically correct. I don’t think the door really remains open for Incognito. That’s because Mankins gives the Bucs precisely what they need. Unlike Incognito, there aren’t really any questions about Mankins, except for his age. Mankins is only a year older than Incognito.

“This was a guy we just felt like we couldn’t pass on,’’ Smith said.

Licht, who worked in the Patriots’ front office for three years, said he hasn’t seen any signs that Mankins is slowing down.

“To me, he looked the same as when I was there in 2009, ’10 and ’11,’’ Licht said. “He’s a good athlete and he’s very strong. He’s very smart. He’s very tough. He’s a tenacious player. A quiet type of toughness that as a defensive player you just don’t like playing against him. He brings that to the field and he brings exceptional leadership off the field.’’

Incognito might have looked appealing when the Bucs were desperate for help at guard. But Mankins is a better player and a much better fit in the locker room. The Bucs aren’t desperate anymore.
TAMPA, Fla. – He has gone from starter last season to backup this season. But Mike Glennon is expected to be a starter again -- for one night anyway.

Coach Lovie Smith has indicated he might rest some or all of his starters in Thursday night’s preseason game with Washington. That likely means Glennon will be playing in place of veteran Josh McCown.

Glennon
“It’s a dream to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, whether it’s preseason or a regular-season game,’’ Glennon said. “I’m real fortunate to be in that situation, so I’m looking forward to it.’’

Glennon started 13 games as a rookie last year. Without complaining, Glennon has accepted his backup role. In the first three preseason games, Glennon has completed 22 of 33 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

“I think it’s gone well,’’ Glennon said. “There have been some good things and some not as good things. But overall I feel like I’m a much better player this preseason than I was last preseason. I want to continue to grow as a player and I think I did that this preseason.’’

But the preseason isn’t over for Glennon. He’s likely to play most or all of the game against Washington.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith haven’t had their personnel decisions second guessed very much.

That’s largely because the Bucs have made a lot of good moves. But, with the team getting desperate enough to bring in guard Richie Incognito for a visit, there’s room to question at least one move by Licht and Smith.

Was it really necessary to draft running back Charles Sims in the third round? The Bucs already had good depth at running back with Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey and Mike James. But the team saw a guy who had caught over 200 passes in his college career and decided to bring Sims in as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

It was a nice idea. But, at the time, the Bucs already knew they had a bigger need at guard. Had they not taken Sims, they could have taken Spencer Long, Gabe Jackson, Chris Watt, Trai Turner or Brandon Linder -- all guards who went in the third round.

Any of those guys would have been an instant candidate to start. Sims never was a candidate to start. That job belongs to Martin. Sims was going to be a rotational player.

But he won’t even be playing for at least the first half of the season. Sims suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out 12 to 14 weeks. You can’t control injuries and you can’t blame Licht and Smith for what happened to Sims. He still might turn out to be a terrific player.

But you certainly can question why the Bucs didn’t use a third-round pick on a guard.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- This is what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' situation at offensive guard has come to.

The team will consider taking a chance on something that once caused as much trouble in an NFL locker room as the MRSA outbreak the Bucs dealt with last year.

The Bucs had Richie Incognito in for a visit Monday. Team officials were adamant that they simply were doing their due diligence on a free agent.

"I'm going on the facts right now," coach Lovie Smith said. "The facts are we're bringing him in for a visit. So, guys, there's nothing else for me to talk about or tell you from there. We evaluate all prospects. He's a prospect and we're looking at him."

But the fact the Bucs are looking at Incognito is a move that smacks of desperation and danger. You don't waste time (and risk negative publicity) bringing in a player with as much baggage as Incognito unless you plan to sign him.

Last season, Incognito was involved in one of the bigger scandals in recent NFL history. A league investigation determined that Incognito, then with the Miami Dolphins, engaged in persistent harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin, as well as other teammates and a member of the Dolphins' staff. The NFL's investigation showed Incognito used racial and homophobic slurs. He was suspended for the final eight games of last season and the Dolphins let his contract expire after the season.

Until Monday, no other NFL team had shown any interest in Incognito. There's a reason for that. The guy is toxic.

So why are the Bucs, who ran receiver Mike Williams out of town after his legal issues, suddenly interested in a guy who came out of the NFL investigation looking so bad? Remember, the Bucs have been making a lot of noise about how they want to once again give their fans a team they can love. Last I checked, Incognito didn't qualify as a lovable guy.

The reason for stooping so low is simple: The Bucs are horrible at guard. They've been starting Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh, and the fact they're even talking to Incognito shows they're not happy with at least half that tandem.

At this time of year, any guard who can play already is on a roster. Except for Incognito. He has never been great -- he played in one Pro Bowl during his nine-year career -- but he's better than anything the Bucs have. And no matter how the Bucs might like to present themselves, this shows that winning matters more than anything else.

"As long as he can help us win, that's all I'm concerned about," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, one of the team leaders. "If there's a problem, then we'll deal with it accordingly."

The problem is, the Bucs shouldn't be in such dire straits in the first place. They had an entire offseason to get their guard situation set. They didn't and now they're forced to go down a dangerous road with a player who already tore up the locker room in Miami.

People can change, but past behavior can also be an indicator of future behavior. Signing Incognito could be a threat to a locker room that's full of young, impressionable players.

"Would I have a football player on our football team that I thought would mess up our team chemistry?" Smith asked. "The answer is no, simple as that. But I can't assume that's the case. To me, as you go through the process, you look and you talk face to face with everybody that's available. That's what we're doing. You think I'm going to bring someone here that's going to hurt what we have in our locker room? No. But I need to see that. I can't go on hearsay. I need to see that for myself."

I wouldn't call the NFL's report hearsay. I'd call it fact. Incognito bullied a teammate until he walked away from the team, and it's tough to put a positive spin on that.

"I would like to talk to him myself," Smith said. "If you know my history, I believe in second chances. ... I'm not holier than thou. I'm going to give everybody the benefit of the doubt until I have information that tells me otherwise."

Second chances are nice. But the bottom line here is Incognito wouldn't be under consideration for a second chance if the Bucs just had better guards.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jonathan Casillas said Monday he violated a team rule, which resulted in him being held out of Saturday’s preseason game at Buffalo.

Casillas
Casillas
Casillas wouldn’t go into detail about the rule he violated. But he did imply that a miscommunication caused him to not be somewhere at the proper time.

"That’s basically what it was," Casillas said. "If anybody knows me you know my track record speaks for itself. I’m not a person that violates a code of conduct or anything like that. It’s something that happened. I take full responsibility for everything that I do on the field and off the field. I think it was handled appropriately. Me and (coach) Lovie (Smith) talked it out and I’m back to work and looking to get better."

Casillas did not make the trip to Buffalo, and Danny Lansanah started in his place at strongside linebacker.

"I don’t really think it was that big of an issue," Casillas said. "Of course, the team did. It’s understandable. I made a mistake, a bad mental decision on my behalf. It happens. I’m not perfect. I try to do things the right way here like I’ve always done in my career. I made a mistake and it got dealt with."
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
If there's a third quarterback, he'll be on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Keeping Demps might be a luxury, but the Bucs are infatuated with his speed.

RECEIVERS (6)

Patton appears likely to make the roster as the return man.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Veteran Luke Stocker is probably the odd man out.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Even though they were drafted, Edwards and Pamphile aren't guarantees to make the roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Da'Quan Bowers is on the bubble and his chances don't look good.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Bucs still could pick up a backup linebacker off waivers and Glaud's spot isn't that secure.

CORNERBACKS (6)
Deveron Carr still could be in the mix for the final roster spot.

SAFETIES (4)

The Bucs felt this position was deep enough to trade away Kelcie McCray last week.

SPECIALISTS (3)

DePaola edged out Jeremy Cain out for the job as long snapper.

Tommy Streeter among Bucs' cuts

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
4:44
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Wide receiver Tommy Streeter, one of the stars of training camp for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn’t make it past the first round of roster cuts.

Streeter was one of 12 players released Sunday as the Bucs started trimming their roster. They now are down to 78 players. Rosters have to be down to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon and to 53 players by Saturday.

Streeter had looked good early in camp and caught a touchdown pass in the preseason opener. The coaching staff had been very complimentary of Streeter. But he seemed to disappear recently and likely was hurt by the fact he wasn’t viewed as someone who could be a regular on special teams.

“It’s always tough when you’ve been with a group of men throughout the offseason and training camp,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. "But eventually the roster has to get down to 53 with 10 practice squad guys. That’s just part of the business.’’

In another minor surprise, the Bucs released veteran long-snapper Jeremy Cain. That means Andrew DePaola will be the long-snapper.

Also waived by the Bucs on Sunday were defensive tackle Euclid Cummings, guard Jace Daniels, wide receiver Skye Dawson, offensive lineman Jason Foster, defensive end Ryne Giddins, guard R.J. Mattes, receiver Eric Page, defensive end Chaz Sutton, quarterback Alex Tanney and fullback Ian Thompson.

The release of Page could be a sign that Solomon Patton has won the return job.

Bucs' Mike Evans is moving on

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
9:44
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans put the past in the past twice Saturday night.

First, the rookie caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown in the second quarter of Tampa Bay’s 27-14 victory against Buffalo. That helped make up for last week when Evans, who was carrying the ball in the wrong arm, was stripped and fumbled at the 1-yard line against Miami.

Evans
“I was telling everybody I was going to try to redeem myself," Evans said. “I did and I’m happy I got in. I talked to (defensive tackle) Clinton McDonald (who scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery) and I said, “Why you got to score one before me?’’

But getting in the end zone wasn’t the only thing Evans was asked about. He became the center of controversy Friday when TMZ aired a video of Evans in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. TMZ initially reported the incident happened last week. But Evans and his agent said it took place in March, two months before he was drafted No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay.

“Honestly, I forgot about the whole situation," Evans said. “I put that behind me and it came up. I guess somebody’s trying to make some money or something. I don’t know what it is. I put it behind me. The situation was unfortunate. I could have handled it better and I plan on handling it better in the future. It happened and I can’t change it. But I put it behind me and I’m just worried about the season."

The Bucs said Evans has been a model citizen since joining the team.

“As I said, I’m aware of it," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “Mike, as a 20-year-old, before he became a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, got into a fight. We couldn’t be more pleased to have him on our football team. We started judging Mike from the time he became a Tampa Bay Buccaneer."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Since his arrival in Tampa Bay, we’ve heard coach Lovie Smith talk a lot about “Buc Ball". But what that meant exactly never was very clear.

On Saturday, we started to get a picture of what Smith’s been talking about. His defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason victory against the Buffalo Bills. The offense wasn’t spectacular but it was opportunistic.

Clinton McDonald
Bill Wippert/Associated PressClinton McDonald returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
“I talk about a full game," Smith said. “When I say full game I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. We talk about scoring on defense. It’s not a good defensive game unless we’re able to do that. I thought the defense did a great job of setting the tempo on what type of day it will be.’’

Linebacker Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster. That set up a quick touchdown by the offense. In the second quarter, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scored a touchdown after picking up a fumble that was caused by an Adrian Clayborn sack and a Michael Johnson strip.

Is that what Buc Ball is all about?

“Yeah, man," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The defense takes the ball away and puts it back in the offense’s hands and the offense puts it in the end zone. That’s kind of what we want to do. It felt good and we want to keep that going. It felt good to actually see it come alive today and now we have to take this into next week and into the regular season.’’

It had been difficult to see any signs of Smith’s philosophy in the first two preseason games, both losses. The Bucs produced only one turnover and the offense was largely ineffective.

But the offense showed some promise against the Bills. With some of the starters playing into the third quarter, the Bucs built a 24-0 lead before the backups let the Bills back in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doug Martin rushed 12 times for 38 yards, Vincent Jackson had five catches and rookie Mike Evans had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.

That’s a pretty good sample of what Tampa Bay’s offense is going to look like.

“I think we had 17 rushes in the first half," Smith said. “That’s what we want to do. To be a running football team you need to have attempts as much as anything."

We haven’t seen all of Buc Ball yet because the team likely is keeping tricks up its sleeve for the regular season. But what we saw Saturday was a rough outline of the type of product Smith wants to put on the field.

Observation Deck: Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
7:38
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said earlier this week that he wanted to see more sacks and takeaways. Mission accomplished.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 27-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble by C.J. Spiller that was recovered by Mason Foster. Tampa Bay’s offense punched the ball in for a quick touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense was far from spectacular, but the defense more than made up for it.

The defense produced a touchdown of its own. As Adrian Clayborn sacked Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, Michael Johnson reached in and knocked the ball loose. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald picked the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

All of Buffalo’s points came in the second half after Tampa Bay’s starting defense had left the game. The Bucs held a 24-0 lead at halftime.

Some other observations:
  • Tampa Bay’s offense hadn’t been putting together long drives this preseason. That finally changed late in the second quarter. The Bucs had an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards and ended with a touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans. That shows the Bucs can sustain a drive. But it’s important to remember that we’ve seen only a very small sampling of coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. The Bucs are saving most of that for the regular season.
  • I’ve got a feeling what we saw Saturday will be repeated a lot during the regular season. The Bucs played fantastic defense and were rather ordinary (but opportunistic) on offense. That’s not flashy, but that fits Smith’s philosophy perfectly.
  • Smith said he wanted to take an early look at recently acquired defensive end Larry English. He did, putting English into the game early. He responded with two sacks. The former first-round pick by San Diego still faces an uphill battle to make the team but might be gaining ground on Da'Quan Bowers, who missed the game with a groin injury.
  • Smith said he wanted to play his starters into the third quarter. He did play his starting offense into the second half, with one notable exception. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon replaced McCown to start the third quarter. That was a smart move. With the offensive line still a work in progress, there’s no sense in exposing McCown to possible injury before the regular season starts.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not play for the Bucs. He was held out for a disciplinary reason, according to a team official. Danny Lansanah got the start in his place and played well. Lansanah has had a strong preseason and appears to have secured a roster spot.
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t get a lot out of the 17th overall pick of the 2009 draft. Maybe they’ll get more out of the 16th pick.

The Bucs used the 17th pick in the draft on quarterback Josh Freeman. His career fell apart last season during a well-publicized feud with former coach Greg Schiano. Very quietly last week, the Bucs acquired the guy that was taken one pick ahead of Freeman.

That was Larry English. A defensive end at Northern Illinois, the San Diego Chargers drafted English with the intent of using him at outside linebacker. The position switch and injuries helped prevent English from ever producing anything close to what the Chargers had hoped. San Diego gave up on English just before the start of training camp.

[+] EnlargeLarry English
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsLarry English (center) signed with Tampa Bay after five seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
English said his arrival in Tampa Bay represents a fresh start.

“I feel rejuvenated," English said. “I feel excited about this opportunity. In a lot of ways, I feel like it’s my first year all over again in the sense that I feel like I’ve got a new energy. I say that in the positive light in the sense of being reenergized. Situations happen and you get released; it makes you look inside yourself a little bit and really analyze the situations and what could have been handled better. It was a little bit of a hard time when I was in limbo, but now that I’m back learning and working every day, I feel really energized."

English said he doesn’t like to make excuses, but acknowledged that injuries prevented him from developing in San Diego.

“When you’re in a situation for a long time you can’t really see outside of it," English said. “It’s hard to be able to really analyze if the grass is greener or not. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. I like the spot I’m in right now and I’m excited about this opportunity."

In Tampa Bay, English is getting a look as a defensive end.

“I really do like the scheme a lot," English said. “I think I fit well in the scheme. As a defensive end in this scheme, it’s a lot about motor, it’s a lot about heart, it’s a lot about playing fast and getting off the ball. I definitely think that will work well for me."

English might be a long shot to make the roster. But he was a low-risk signing who possibly could bring big rewards.

“We’re always looking for outside pass rushers," coach Lovie Smith said. “We brought Larry in, hoping that he could give us some of that. In practice, the first day he was OK. The next day he was better. So we’re anxious to let him play. You might see him early in (Saturday’s preseason game at Buffalo). We want to see him against good competition to see exactly what he can do."
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is a realist.

Bowers
A day after coach Lovie Smith implied that Bowers' roster spot could be in danger because of missed practice time due to a groin injury, Bowers said he knows what is at stake.

"Everybody’s on the bubble," Bowers said. "There are a select few guys here that have got their spots. The rest of us are competing for jobs. Nobody’s set in stone, definitely not me. I just take that into consideration each and every day."

Bowers said he understood Smith’s comments and is doing everything possible to get back on the field as quickly as possible.

"You can’t prevent injury," Bowers said. "It happens. Like coach said, any time you can’t perform on the practice field it gives someone else another opportunity. When you do get on the practice field, you’ve got to make your reps count and I think I did a pretty decent job of that this camp with the reps I’ve gotten in the game and in practice. Like coach said, the only way to perform and compete is to be on the field."

The reality is the Bucs are set with Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn as their starters. They also are high on backups Steven Means and William Gholston, and newcomer Larry English has made a good impression. Before the injury, Bowers had been getting some work as a defensive tackle.

Bowers' best hope of making the roster is to make a good impression at defensive tackle and convince the Bucs he can swing between the two positions.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith stepped out of character and criticized tight end Tim Wright for not performing as well as expected.

Wright
This week, it appears as if Smith had a plan to light a fire under Wright. On Thursday, Smith said he’s happy with what he’s seen out of Wright recently.

“He’s responded well,’’ Smith said. “Let me go back and talk on Tim. I love Tim Wright as a football player. You go through spells where you don’t play your best ball for a short period of time. When I talked [previously], there was a little period of time where Tim hadn’t played his best ball.

“But, you look at the big picture, Tim Wright has been a good football player for us. We like what he’ll be able to do. There have been other days we’ve talked about, going forward, what we’re going to do with him. You can split him out, the matchups we have with safeties and linebackers. You can catch me at any time and I might be disappointed in a player. But, big picture, no, there’s no disappointment with Tim Wright. We like him being on our football team.’’

Wright said he was surprised by Smith’s comments, but was motivated by them.

“It does, for sure, especially when you’re in camp and it’s Week 3 and you’re grinding and grinding,’’ Wright said. “You go in robot mode a little bit. Once you hear those comments, it just drives you more to go out there and try to be even better.’’

Wright appears to be back in good graces and I think his roster spot is safe. The Bucs have been using Wright at times as an H-back and he’s expected to be an important part of the offense.

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