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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Long-snapper Garrison Sanborn returns home with Bucs

Garrison Sanborn was one of the Bills' longest-tenured players.

Photo by NFL via Getty Images

Garrison Sanborn was one of the Bills' longest-tenured players.

When Garrison Sanborn was a student at Jesuit High School, he would drive past Raymond James Stadium on his way to school every day. This fall, the 31-year-old will be back in Tampa, having signed with the Bucs as a long-snapper after eight years with the Buffalo Bills.

"I always wanted to play there. I think it's a dream come true for all players to play with their hometown team that they grew up watching," said Sanborn, who didn't miss a game in his eight seasons in Buffalo, but was released earlier this month. "I'm obviously very happy for the opportunity."

The Bucs have had Andrew DePaola as their long-snapper for the last three years, but he tore his ACL in the 2016 season finale, and he's unlikely to be fully recovered from surgery in time for the start of the 2017 season. The Bucs opted not to tender him as a restricted free agent, so while they could bring him back later, Sanborn and fellow Florida State grad Dax Dellenbach are the only snappers on the current roster. …

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Is Bucs Dirk Koetter a player's coach?

Dirk Koetter is well-liked by players, who find him to be firm but fair.

AP photo

Dirk Koetter is well-liked by players, who find him to be firm but fair.

Dirk Koetter will call out players publicly when they don't perform and isn't soft on discipline. He sent tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins home from an OTA workout before releasing him following his DUI arrest. He benched running back Doug Martin at New Orleans, correctly sensing he had bigger things to worry about which proved to be a four-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs.

But Koetter is well-liked by players, who find him to be firm but fair. Does that make him a player's coach?

“I don’t aspire to be one and I think that would be a question for the players,'' Koetter said. "But I’m pro players. If the players are happy, you’re going to play better. But at the same time, the head coach, no matter who he is, he has to be the final say on discipline. And I think if you ask our players, we’re not soft on discipline. The NFL and the CBA makes a very clear fine system.

"But I learned when I first came into the league, the most important thing is having your players ready on game day.'' …

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Can Bucs follow the Panthers and Falcons to the Super Bowl? 'Our guys say, 'Hey, this is possible'

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter speaks with reporters during the NFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the NFL football annual meetings Wednesday in Phoenix.

AP photo

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter speaks with reporters during the NFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the NFL football annual meetings Wednesday in Phoenix.

At the NFC coaches' breakfast Wednesday morning, Dirk Koetter was surrounded by reminders that the Bucs, despite finishing 9-7 in his first season as coach, still have a ways to go to match the resumes of other teams in their division.

Seated at the table In front of Koetter and slightly to his right, Carolina coach Ron Rivera talked about the comeback from shoulder surgery of his quarterback, Cam Newton, the league’s MVP in 2015 who led his team to Super Bowl 50 where they fell to the Denver Broncos.

Across the way to Koetter’s left, Falcons coach Dan Quinn recounted the MVP season of quarterback Matt Ryan that ended with a devastating blown 25-point lead in the second half to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

Even Saints coach Sean Payton, who has a Super Bowl ring with ageless quarterback Drew Brees, had far more plates at his breakfast table with reporters chewing on every word.

“You’ve got the last two MVPs in our division and the last two Super Bowl teams (from the NFC),’’ Koetter said. “It’s just an unbelievable, competitive division. …

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Bucs will experiment with Ali Marpet at center

The Bucs will experiment in the off-season and preseason by moving guard Ali Marpet (74) to center.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2015)

The Bucs will experiment in the off-season and preseason by moving guard Ali Marpet (74) to center.

In an effort to get their best five offensive linemen on the field and anticipating a return of J.R. Sweezy to right guard, the Bucs will experiment in the off-season and preseason by moving guard Ali Marpet to center.

Sweezy played right guard for Seattle before signing a 5-year, $32.5-million contact as a free agent in 2016. But almost as soon as he arrived in Tampa Bay, Sweezy was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back, eventually underwent surgery and spent the year on injured reserve.

Since $14.5-million of Sweezy's contract was guaranteed, you can get he will get every chance to win an starting job, most likely at right or left guard. That potentially could move Marpet to center and force starting left guard Kevin Pamphile to compete with Demar Dotson at right tackle.

Koetter believes Marpet has the skill set to become a dominant center. …

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Bucs want an Adrian Peterson scouting report from Jameis Winston

The Bucs will certainly wait at least until after the NFL draft to make any decision on Doug Martin.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs will certainly wait at least until after the NFL draft to make any decision on Doug Martin.

The Bucs may need a running back, at least for the first three games next season, and Jameis Winston was pictured on Twitter Tuesday working out with Vikings free agent Adrian Peterson and trainer Tim Grover.

"I've seen Adrian Peterson many times playing and that guy is one of the best running backs to ever play,'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "I'm anxious to talk to Jameis and ask him how his workouts went. That caught me off guard. I didn't know that. I'll be honest with you, first thing I thought when I saw that was Jamies is just an amazing guy. The guy is everywhere.''

Which only serves as a reminder that the Bucs are nowhere with Doug Martin, their own Pro Bowl running back. During the NFC coaches breakfast in Phoenix Wednesday, Koetter would only say that the Bucs have 'time on our side,' since Martin will be suspended the first three games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

In fact, Koetter said he isn't sure how to even prepare to be without Martin until October. …

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The Tampa Bay connection to the shot that sent UNC to the Final Four

North Carolina forward Luke Maye (32) shoots the winning basket in the second half of the South Regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The basket gave North Carolina a 75-73 win.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

North Carolina forward Luke Maye (32) shoots the winning basket in the second half of the South Regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The basket gave North Carolina a 75-73 win.

Sudden basketball celebrity Luke Maye, the former walk-on whose jumper with 0.3 seconds left sent North Carolina past Kentucky and into the Final Four, has a Tampa tie you may not remember: his father Mark, who played football at UNC, was a backup quarterback with the Bucs in 1988, though he never played in a game.

"I loved it down there, but it was unfortunately very brief," said Mark, 52, who was watching from the stands in Memphis with his wife Aimee when Luke hit perhaps the biggest shot of the NCAA Tournament. "What a great city. I really enjoyed it down there. I had a good experience. I just wish it could have lasted longer."

Maye signed with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie in spring 1988 and was in line to be a backup behind Vinny Testaverde and veteran Joe Ferguson, but a lingering shoulder problem put him on injured reserve in August. He stayed with the team all season and was released the following spring, later playing briefly in the World League of American Football with the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks. …

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Joel Glazer says the Bucs were spoiled by winning a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. Now they have one. "The season can't start soon enough.'

It’s been 15 years since the Bucs won their only Lombardi Trophy, which also was their last playoff victory. Co-chairman Joel Glazer said maybe the team and fans were fooled into the belief that they could do it without an elite quarterback.

“We were one of the rare exceptions,’’ Glazer said Tuesday. “Us and the Ravens, who really did it with phenomenal defense and not necessarily elite quarterback play. And I think that experience may have clouded what it really takes to get to the Super Bowl and it doesn’t take long to realize it’s the great quarterbacks who are generally there in the end.

“That’s why we’re so excited with Jamies (Winston).’’

Two years ago, in the very same terrace of the Biltmore Resort, Glazer said the franchise was ‘comfortable,’ with drafting Winston.

But on Monday, comfort had clearly grown to confidence that Winston and coach Dirk Koetter will soon not only end a nine-year playoff drought, but bring championships back to Tampa Bay. …

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Stand pat? FSU's Dalvin Cook explains why he ran 40 again

Dalvin Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds.

AP photo

Dalvin Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds.

Entering FSU's pro day on Tuesday, the expectation was that running back Dalvin Cook would let his 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine stand, rather than run again at the Seminoles' practice facility and risk hurting himself with a slower time.

But Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds, taking his shirt off for the second run as NFL scouts looked on.

"I left everything on the field. That's the most important part, to give it everything you've got in your body," Cook said after running through position drills as well. "No matter what I ran at the combine, I was going to run again. I never said I wasn't going to run."

Cook said the rigorous pre-draft process, with numerous interviews, workouts and visits lined up with teams, is something he's looked forward to and has tried to enjoy with less than a month now before the draft begins April 27.

"It's a one in a lifetime thing," he said. "If you look at it as putting in too much time, flying everywhere to this place and that place, you're going to overlook the experience. I'm embracing the whole experience. This is what I looked forward to as a kid." …

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Jimbo Fisher on Dalvin Cook's character: 'Never had any issues at all'

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Jimbo Fisher said of Dalvin Cook.

AP photo

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Jimbo Fisher said of Dalvin Cook.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was asked after Tuesday's pro day in Tallahassee what he would tell NFL teams that have any off-field concerns about running back Dalvin Cook, who is projected as a first-round pick in next month's draft.

Cook was accused of a misdemeanor count of battery in 2015 but found not guilty in court after a woman accused him of punching her in the face in an argument with other FSU players outside a bar. Fisher reiterated not only his innocence in that case, but Cook's conduct throughout his three years with the Seminoles.

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Fisher said. "Look at the situation. He did nothing wrong. He actually was defusing the situation, and that's him. You're never going to have those issues. He's a great guy, a tremendous character guy, and I never had ... if I got on him, if I challenged him, 'Yes, sir.' That guy was tremendous for us."

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NFL votes to improve replay system and ends leaping

The NFL will have a centralized replay system beginning next season. Instead of referee going under the hood on the sideline to watch a replay monitor, he will watch on a  tablet and communicate with the league’s head of officials Dean Blandino and his staff, who will make the final call.

It’s one of several measures adopted by owners Tuesday that the NFL believes will speed up the game and improve player safety.

The league passed a rule Tuesday that calls for an automatic ejection of any player who commits an egregious hit to the head. It’s not dissimilar to the rule in college football where players can be called for targeting, leading to ejection.
  
A year ago, NFL owners passed a rule that triggers an ejection for any player committing two personal fouls in a game.

The league also agreed to prohibit players from leaping over offensive linemen during field goals and extra points. The change was backed by the NFL Players Association as a player safety measure.

"I would say it's going to go as far as it needs to from a player safety standpoint," said McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We're not going to put players in a position in which we think there is an unreasonable risk of injury.''

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What really is the Bucs' backup plan for Jameis Winston?

The Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Jameis Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Jameis Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston started all 32 of his games since coming to the NFL. He's durable, and that's a good thing, since he's only the most important player on the team.

But what if something were to go wrong, if he got hurt? Would that make the backup quarterback the second most important?

You don't think about the airbags in your car until you have an accident. That's pretty much the plight of the No. 2 signal caller.

They stand there on the sidelines, in the case of Mike Glennon for two years, always preparing without the benefit of live practice, as if they're going to play. But the only decision-making they have to make comes after the game on whether to shower.

But the Bucs thought so much of Glennon — and the importance of winning this season — that they offered him $8-million a year to carry a clipboard and wear a ball cap.

Glennon cashed in as a free agent for the one game he mopped up in a lopsided loss to Atlanta by signing a three-year, $45-million contract as the presumptive starter for the Chicago Bears.

Now the Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin. His next NFL pass will be his first in a regular season game. …

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FSU's Dalvin Cook would love Winston reunion with Bucs

Dalvin Cook may not still be on the draft board when the Bucs pick at 19.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Dalvin Cook may not still be on the draft board when the Bucs pick at 19.

TALLAHASSEE — Running back Dalvin Cook played only one season at Florida State with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, but the idea of a reunion if Tampa Bay were to draft him with the No. 19 pick in next month's draft is, much like Cook, an exciting prospect.

"Longtime brother. Great bond. Jameis is a player I look up to as a role model," Cook said Tuesday after finishing his pro day in front of NFL scouts and coaches at Florida State. "To be in the backfield again would be something special. I feel like we started to build a bond when he was at Florida State, so it would be something special."

Winston simply called Cook "the best running back in college football" last season, and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said that as excited as Winston was to add free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson earlier this month, he'd like one more weapon for his offense in the draft. …

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Chiefs coach Andy Reid: DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston will be a good combination

DeSean Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during his first five seasons in the NFL with the Eagles.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

DeSean Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during his first five seasons in the NFL with the Eagles.

DeSean Jackson played his first five NFL seasons with the Eagles under Andy Reid, who drafted him in the second-round out of California.

Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns during that stretch and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during that stretch as one of the league’s best deep threats.

Jackson is 30 and Reid now coaches for the Kansas City Chiefs. He says Jackson shows no signs of slowing down and should be very successful with the Bucs under Dirk Koetter.

“I think he can still play,’’ Reid said at the AFC coaches’ breakfast in Phoenix. “His game obviously is speed, great hands and he’s very intelligent. He’s a smart, smart kid. I think Dirk will be great for him and with him. They’ll find ways to get him the ball and his quarterback can sling it and DeSean can go get it. That’s a pretty good combination.''

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Bucs plan to lock up Evans but new deal may come after 2017

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) warms up before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) warms up before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.

The Bucs plan to lock up receiver Mike Evans for the long-term and he is eligible for a new contract after completing his third NFL season with a combined 3,578 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns.

But that doesn’t mean a new deal is likely before 2017. In May, the Bucs will pick up Evans’ fifth-year option.

It’s rare for players, even first round picks such as Evans, to be given long-term deals after only three seasons in the league.

Evans signed a four-year, $14.631-million contract as a rookie out of Texas A&M in 2014, including an $8.961-million signing bonus. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $690,000 this season and a roster bonus of $1.725-milion.

That’s pretty good compensation and word is Evans is not pressing the Bucs to tear up his current deal.

“We have plenty of time here,’’ general manager Jason Licht said. “He’s a very good player and he knows it’s no secret, we want to keep him for a very long time.’’

Anything is possible, but it seems more likely now that Evans big payday will come after his fourth season. The fifth-year option will prevent him from testing free agency and the Bucs will still have the option of applying a franchise tag after that. …

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NFL owners approve Raiders move to Las Vegas

Labor union member Geraldine Lacy celebrates Monday in Las Vegas. NFL team owners approved the move of the Raiders to Las Vegas in a vote at an NFL football annual meeting in Phoenix.

AP photo

Labor union member Geraldine Lacy celebrates Monday in Las Vegas. NFL team owners approved the move of the Raiders to Las Vegas in a vote at an NFL football annual meeting in Phoenix.

The NFL always has been wary of the temptations facing any team in Las Vegas, but soon they may have to put a patch over both eyes of the pirate on the Raiders' helmet.

Unable to find a suitable stadium deal after a second stint in Oakland for 22 years, the Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas after receiving the approval from all but one NFL owner at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix Monday.

The Raiders will remain in Oakland for 2017 and possibly longer. Raiders’ owner Mark Davis said the team has a pair of one-year options at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Miami Dolphins were the only team to not approve of the move, according to ESPN.

In the past, the league's owners have steered clear of Las Vegas as a possibility for franchise relocation because of the obvious dangers associated with legalized gambling. But as the market has grown and attracted other industry, the entertainment capital of the world became more appealing.

It will take at least two years for the completion of a new 65,000-seat, $1.9-billion domed stadium to be shared with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that is supposed to open for the 2020 season. …

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