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Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer

Rick Stroud

Rick Stroud covers the Bucs and the NFL for the Times. He joined the paper in 1983 after graduating from Arkansas St., where he played baseball. He has reported on national sporting events including more than 20 Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four, and the Major League Baseball playoffs. While working as the beat writer assigned to the University of Florida at the Times, Stroud's stories documented NCAA rules violations by the football and basketball programs. He began covering the Bucs in 1990. Since then, the team has undergone seven coaching changes, the death of owner Hugh Culverhouse and the sale of the franchise to billionaire owner Malcolm Glazer and a stadium referendum and a Super Bowl XXVII victory. He co-hosts a sports talk show weekday mornings from 6-9 on WDAE 620-AM, 95.3-FM.

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E-mail: stroud@tampabay.com

Blog: Bucs Beat

Radio talk show (620-AM, 95.3-FM): Listen live

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  1. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays

    Blog

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making good contact in the batting cage before throwing out the first pitch in the Rays-Angels game at Tropicana Field.

    There was a time, before enrolling early at Alabama and forgoing his senior seaosn in baseball, when Howard dreamed of a career on the diamond.    

    "It could've been, it's cool to be around it again, definitely I loved it when I played it back in high school, and since I got to college I haven't played it, so I'm having withdrawals a little bit,'' Howard said. "It's a fun game. I'd probably play right, rightfield or leftfield.''

    Howard's decision to concentrate on football already is paying off. On Monday, the Bucs' first-round pick signed a four-year contract. Terms of the deal were not released but it is projected to be worth more than $11-million with a signing bonus of more than $6.2-million.

    "It feels great, that's something that you look forward to doing, and to finally get it out of the way and sign on the dotted line is definitely very exciting and very encouraging,'' Howard said. "So I was excited it happened today.

    "Its exciting because sometimes you see a lot of guys who hold out for a while before they get signed, we had good parties on both ends that were very cooperative and that's the reason it happened so fast.''

    Howard said he is anxious to begin full squad acitivities in OTA's which begin Tuesday. 

    "We got to do a little bit of that last week so now we have OTAs tomorrow and thats very exciting to finally just to finally put everybody on the field together at the same time and work on communiucation,'' Howard said.
    ...

  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit

    Blog

    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    "I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come to a team that's really on the rise, with a great young quarterback in Jameis, just to come and try to provide some of my experiences," Fitzpatrick told the team’s website Monday. "I just met him for the first time today. He seems like a great kid, though, lots of energy. I'm very excited to work with him and I think he's excited to have me here. We'll get to work pretty soon....

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  3. Starting at top: O.J. Howard becomes first Bucs rookie to sign

    Blog

    The Bucs have begun the process of signing their rookie draft picks and they started at the top.

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, the team’s first round pick (19th overall), has signed a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option.

    Terms of the deal were not released but it is projected to be worth $11.2-million with about $6.2-million to sign.

    Howard is the first member of the Bucs’ rookie class to sign with the Bucs. He was projected to be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft last April. But a run on quarterbacks, running backs and receivers unexpectedly pushed him down to the Bucs. They had not even included Howard in their 30 player visits to the team’s training facility prior to the draft....

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has signed a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option with the Bucs.
  4. Bucs putting pressure on WR DeSean Jackson to live up to contract

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you think the Bucs will pressure WR DeSean Jackson to live up to his contract, well, you're right on the money.

    At least that's the message from offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken to the 30-year-old Jackson, who signed a three-year, $33.5 million contract as a Redskins free agent in March with $20 million guaranteed.

    The Bucs have a pretty good group of receivers with Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, a third-round pick from Penn State. But by far the biggest addition this offseason was Jackson, whose speed should draw some defensive heat off Evans and help stretch the field for QB Jameis Winston....

    DeSean Jackson is being asked to help stretch the field for the Bucs after signing a three-year, $33.5 million contract in the offseason.
  5. What the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing says about the Bucs' expectations

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It's a bad idea. What are the Bucs thinking? This is simply not the right guy to be the No. 2 quarterback to sit behind franchise savior Jameis Winston. Not with that beard. Not in this heat.

    Aside from that, Ryan Fitzpatrick would seem to be a perfect fit for the Bucs.

    He's 34. He's played and started for six NFL teams. Only two seasons ago, Fitzpatrick passed for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading the New York Jets to a 10-6 record....

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ OCTOBER 12 Ryan Fitzpatrick #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes the ball against the New York Jets on October 12, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.   (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
  6. Bucs opt for experience by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Bucs

    No longer content to enter training camp without an experienced backup for Jameis Winston, the Bucs have signed vagabond veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    The 34-year-old Fitzpatrick, who was a starter the past two seasons for the Jets, has played for six NFL teams in his career.

    All off-season, the Bucs had said they were okay with entering 2017 with two relatively inexperienced quarterbacks behind Winston after Mike Glennon signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears....

    FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2016, file photo, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick sacks Kent State quarterback Mylik Mitchell in the first half during an NCAA college football game, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Southeastern Conference's two stingiest defenses will take the field for Alabama and Florida in the league championship game.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File) NY168
  7. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was a starter the past two seasons for the Jets, has played for six NFL teams in his career.
  8. Three Bucs keys to a better Jameis Winston

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Every turnover has its own story. In the past two seasons, Jameis Winston has co-authored at least 42 of them.

    Let's flip to the ending of 2016, where you won't find Winston and receiver Adam Humphries on the same page.

    The Bucs trailed the Panthers 7-3 late in the first quarter, facing first and 15 with the ball on the Tampa Bay 18-yard line. Humphries is split outside the numbers to Winston's left. Carolina cornerback James Bradberry is playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage in zone coverage....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) points to the fans after a victory over the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.
  9. Bucs say Winston must be more accurate and precise

    Blog

    The last interception Jameis Winston threw in 2016, his 42nd turnover in two seasons, was an example of what the Bucs and their quarterback can no longer do.

    Tampa Bay trailed 7-3 to Carolina and faced first and 15 from their own 18-yard line. Four receivers and a tight end were split from the line of scrimmage, including Adam Humphries, who was outside the numbers to Winston’s left....

    Jameis Winston's accuracy and precision is a focus for the Bucs this off-season.
  10. Monken: DeSean Jackson took the money and better be great

    Blog

    If you think the Bucs will pressure DeSean Jackson to live up to his contract, well, you’re right on the money.

    At least that’s the message from offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken to the 30-year-old Jackson, who signed a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a Redskins' free agent in March with $20-million guaranteed.

    The Bucs have a pretty good group of receivers with Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, a third-round pick from Penn State. But by far, the biggest addition this off-season was Jackson, whose speed should draw some defensive heat off of Evans and help stretch the field for quarterback Jameis Winston....

    DeSean Jackson signed a three-year, $33.5-million contract as a Redskins' free agent in March with $20-million guaranteed.
  11. Most targeted Vernon Hargreaves must be more aggressive

    Blog

    It may say more about the respect teams have for Brent Grimes, but Vernon Hargreaves was targeted more than any defensive back in the NFL as a rookie last season.

    Opposing quarterbacks looked his way 113 times and completed 80 of those passes, a stunning 70.7 percent of their attempts.

    With that many targets, Hargreaves allowed 1,069 yards passing, becoming the only player to top 1,000 yards allowed in 2016....

    Vernon Hargreaves allowed 1,069 yards passing, becoming the only player to top 1,000 yards allowed in 2016.
  12. Why Bucs LB Lavonte David will be back to his old self in '17

    Blog

    Having averaged more than 140 tackles through this first four NFL seasons, linebacker Lavonte David saw his production take a substantial dip in his first year under defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

    David, 27, struggled with injuries but did not miss a game. He recorded 87 tackles in 2016.

    “Like you said, last year I didn’t have my best year, so I just want to be able to get better and get back to my old self,” David said....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after sacking Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the second half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.
  13. Explaining why Doug Martin remains relevant to Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — One thing the Bucs had to consider with Doug Martin's comeback from his suspension and rehab is his popularity with teammates and coaches. Consider this reaction from linebacker Lavonte David when he first saw Martin at One Buc Place during off-season workouts.

    "As soon as he saw me, he ran up to me and gave me a hug," David said. "Me, Doug and (Keith) Tandy are the only guys left in that 2012 draft class here, so we kind of take that to heart....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) takes the field for the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Cleveland Browns 30-13.
  14. How to calculate the Bucs improvement on defense

    Blog

    Mike Smith’s decision last winter to stop chasing an NFL head coaching job and remain in Tampa Bay as defensive coordinator meant the Bucs wouldn’t be starting over. In fact, they could work on subtracting mistakes while adding some new players and wrinkles to the equation.

    “We’re not starting from two plus two is four,’’ Smith said Wednesday. “We’re into calculus.’’...

    This time last year, Mike Smith was installing his defense for the first time with the Bucs.
  15. Bucs not expected to sign Clearwater's Riley Cooper

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs are not expected to sign former Eagles receiver Riley Cooper after a three-day tryout with the team during rookie minicamp.

    Cooper, 29, hasn't played in the NFL since being released by the Eagles in February 2016. Coach Dirk Koetter said the former Gators and Clearwater Central Catholic star was promised a tryout before the NFL draft, when the Bucs took Penn State receiver Chris Godwin in the third round....

    Wide receiver Riley Cooper, a tryout player, participates in drills during the first day of rookie mini-camp at the team's practice facility, One Buccaneer Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, May 5, 2017.