Carl Nicks' status uncertain

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht wasn't ready to give a green light for the return of All-Pro guard Carl Nicks for the start of training camp.

Speaking with the media following a town hall meeting on WDAE (620 AM) radio, Licht wouldn't rule out the possibility of Nicks starting camp on the physically unable to perform list. Nicks missed all but two games last season with a toe injury and a MRSA infection.

"He's been working hard this summer," Licht said. "I know he's lost weight. He's been doing everything he's supposed to be doing to get out there. We'll know more tomorrow. It's a process there. We don't want to do anything too quick with him and we want to make sure we're making a decision with him that's best for him and best for us. It's a marathon, it's not a race with him."

Players are scheduled to report to camp Thursday morning and the first practice is set for Friday afternoon. Nicks missed the entire offseason program.

Nicks did pass a physical in June, but Licht made it sound like the team would proceed with caution.

"He's been cleared to do football activities," Licht said. "We're going to do it the right way and we're going to make sure."

In other news, Licht told the radio audience that talks continue about a contract extension for defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Licht wouldn't set any time table, but said he has a good relationship with the player and his agent and is confident a deal can be worked out.

Also in front of the audience, Licht had some strong words about much maligned defensive end Da'Quan Bowers -- "To put it bluntly, we need him to show up".
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Jordan Palmer, 30, showed the Chicago Bears' coaching staff enough in the offseason program to enter training camp as the No. 2 quarterback, but Palmer's spot on the roster is far from secure.

The most immediate threat to Palmer appears to be former Notre Dame standout and 2010 Carolina Panthers second-round draft choice Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was a late addition to the offseason roster, but he clearly impressed the coaching staff at the tail end of organized team activities and during the veteran minicamp after signing a one-year deal with the Bears on June 5. The Bears also spent a sixth-round draft choice on quarterback David Fales, who passed for 8,382 yards and 66 touchdowns in two seasons at San Jose State.

"Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being No. 2, [but] it's a competition," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said on Wednesday. "There are three guys who are up for the No. 2, but it's going to start with Jordan. We feel very good about Jimmy and we felt very good about David's performances as well. So we're going to work it like that. We're going to give Jordan the first shot. He's been here the longest. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience so we're going to work him in there, and we're going to provide David with opportunities throughout camp to play and perform not just in practice, but in games.

"It'll be an on-going process [that takes place] day-to-day. We don't have to make a decision for quite some time and we'll get a chance to see a lot of plays of practice and certainly in the preseason games as well."

Bears general manager Phil Emery described Clausen as having "a chip on his shoulder" and "eager to prove people wrong" after the quarterback started just 10 games for Carolina from 2010-13.

Palmer has appeared in only four regular-season games (zero starts) since 2008 with the Cincinnati Bengals, completing 10-of-15 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions.

Finding a serviceable No. 2 quarterback is essential for the Bears after injuries have forced incumbent starter Jay Cutler to miss 12 games over the past three seasons. Josh McCown thrived in the backup role in 2013, but the veteran signed a lucrative contract in the offseason to be the new starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's going to be interesting," Cutler said of the battle for No. 2. "There's not going to be a lot of reps for them. I think a lot of it is going to play out in the preseason games. Because I'm going to get a lot of the reps in camp. Jordan, he's been around a long time, his older brother, he's been able to watch him a lot. Jimmy, he's played in big games at Notre Dame and kind of got the pedigree. He's a high-round pick; he was in a tough position in Carolina. They're both very hungry, they've both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally, which is probably more important for them right now, just trying to figure out the playbook so they can go to the line of scrimmage and be fluent in what they want to do. We'll see how it goes."
Let’s turn to the running backs as we continue our pre-camp position-by-position analysis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This is probably the deepest position on the roster and that’s a good thing because running backs have a tendency to get banged up. That happened to starter Doug Martin last year. Backup Mike James stepped in and was doing a nice job before he got injured. The Bucs then turned to Bobby Rainey, who played well.

Martin is healthy now and James and Rainey have some experience. The Bucs also want to take a long look at former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps. So what did the Bucs do in the draft? They used a third-round pick on running back Charles Sims, who has skills as a runner and a receiver.

Coach Lovie Smith likes to say you can never have enough running backs and he appears to have plenty. Smith has said he doesn’t want Martin to carry the entire load. That’s smart because it will prevent Martin from wearing out. But Martin is a talent and he’s going to get the bulk of the carries.

The biggest question is which of the other backs will get playing time. James and Rainey have shown they can play and the Bucs didn’t draft Sims to have him sit on the bench.

Training camp and the preseason will be used to determine the pecking order.
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position analysis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the defensive backfield.

The new regime quickly decided that Darrelle Revis wasn’t an economic or schematic fit and released the cornerback. The Bucs are switching to the Cover 2, and Revis’ talents might have gone to waste in that system.

The Bucs signed free-agent Alterraun Verner to be their No. 1 cornerback. He came at a much better price than Revis, and he’s a natural fit in the Cover 2. The second cornerback spot still is murky. Johnthan Banks started there last year as a rookie, but the Bucs brought in Mike Jenkins to compete with him.

Logic says the loser of that battle becomes the nickelback. But coach Lovie Smith takes a different approach with nickelbacks. He treats it as an individual position and has a coach (Larry Marmie) responsible just for coaching the nickelbacks. Leonard Johnson and Danny Gorrer got work at nickelback in the offseason program.

The safety spots are a little more certain. Barring injury, Mark Barron will start on the strong side and Dashon Goldson will be at free safety. There’s solid depth behind them with Major Wright and Keith Tandy.

Lovie Smith keeps heat on Bucs

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
video Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas says coach Lovie Smith has strategically scheduled his team’s training-camp practices to take place during the height of the Florida heat.
We continue our pre-camp position-by-position analysis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the wide receivers.

The Bucs unloaded one of last year’s starters, Mike Williams, after a series of off-field problems. But the team may have upgraded that spot by taking Mike Evans with the seventh overall pick in the draft. Evans is a big, physical receiver. He’s much like fellow starter Vincent Jackson.

Evans and Jackson are going to create matchup problems for shorter defensive backs because they’re one of the biggest wide receiver duos in the league. But the depth behind Evans and Jackson remains a question mark.

The Bucs have high hopes for rookie Robert Herron, but it might be too much to expect him to claim the No. 3 spot right away. Chris Owusu and Louis Murphy each have some experience and could end up playing important roles.
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position overview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is linebacker.

This could be a position of strength for the Bucs. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David already is one of the best in the league and he’s just entering his prime. David’s presence alone makes the Bucs respectable at linebacker. But they could end up being much better than respectable.

One of the keys will be how Mason Foster adapts to changes at middle linebacker. Foster is going to be asked to drop in pass coverage more than he has in the past. If he can handle that role, that will be a big boost to the linebacker corps. Foster also will call the defensive signals.

Jonathan Casillas is the front runner to start on the strong side. Dane Fletcher is the top backup linebacker, and he quickly could become a candidate to start if Foster struggles. Ka'Lial Glaud and Danny Lansanah are next in line as backups, but they’ll need to contribute on special teams to secure roster spots.

Dungy: Sam deserves NFL chance

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22

Tony Dungy sought Tuesday to clarify remarks he made regarding Michael Sam, saying the openly gay linebacker who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams "absolutely" deserves a chance to play in the NFL. 

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach said he would be concerned only with the distraction that media coverage of Sam's attempt to make the roster would create if he were his coach.

Dungy's comments to the Tampa Tribune for a story published Sunday created a backlash within traditional and social media. On Tuesday, in a statement released to media outlets, Dungy said he gave an "honest answer" to questions about Sam. Dungy said his comments were made to the newspaper several weeks ago, when "the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael's first season had been announced."

The time frame of when Dungy made his remarks is in question. Tribune reporter Ira Kaufman told "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday afternoon that he talked to Dungy "a week or two back." Also, Winfrey's planned documentary of Sam's rookie season was postponed in mid-May -- long before Dungy was interviewed by the Tribune, according to Kaufman.

Sam, speaking on Tuesday after reporting to St. Louis' training camp, laughed and brushed off Dungy's critical comments.

(Read full post)

Countdown to camp: Tight ends

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
We continue our pre-camp position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the tight ends.

This is one of the deepest positions on the team. There are no superstars, but there are four guys capable of earning significant playing time.

At the moment, free-agent pickup Brandon Myers might have the inside track for the starting job, but that could change if someone steps up in training camp. The Bucs have very high hopes for second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but he might be behind the curve after missing almost the entire offseason program. At the very least the Bucs view Seferian-Jenkins as their tight end of the future.

But let’s not forget about Tim Wright, who caught more than 50 passes as a rookie last year. A converted wide receiver, Wright never is going to be a great blocker. But he could fill a role as a pass catcher.

Then, there’s Luke Stocker. His career has been disappointing, but he still has some potential. Stocker needs to stay healthy and have a big camp to secure a roster spot.
Let’s continue our position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the offensive line. This unit isn't going to look anything like last season and that's a good thing because this was a problem spot.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only player certain to return to the same starting position he had last season. Veterans Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah are gone.

The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency as they sought to rebuild the line. They spent big money on left tackle Anthony Collins and decent money on center Evan Dietrich-Smith. They also brought in guard Oniel Cousins for depth.

But a big question mark remains at guard. That’s the health of Carl Nicks, who has appeared in only nine games the past two seasons due to injury. The Bucs and Nicks have said he’ll be ready for the start of training camp, but he missed the entire offseason program.

If Nicks is healthy, the entire line suddenly gets a lot better because he’s one of the best guards in the league. But, if Nicks has any setback, that’s a huge blow. Cousins, Patrick Omameh and Jamon Meredith will compete for the other starting spot and two of them could start if Nicks isn’t ready.
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get ready to start training camp Friday, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team. Let’s start with the defensive line.

There have been some major changes here and those changes should lead to improvement. Defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald were brought in to help upgrade a pass rush that wasn't very good last season.

All-Pro Gerald McCoy returns at the defensive tackle spot, and he and McDonald should give the Bucs a strong interior pass rush. Adrian Clayborn seems to be the leading candidate to start opposite Johnson. Clayborn, a former first-round pick, has failed to play up to his potential so far in his pro career. And he enters a contract season, too.

But Clayborn isn’t guaranteed a starting job. William Gholston showed lots of promise last season and should at least earn rotational playing time. Steven Means also has some upside. Akeem Spence started last year as a rookie, but he’s likely to be the top backup to McDonald this year.

Bucs' training camp schedule

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
We’re only a matter of days away from the start of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp. It begins Friday at One Buccaneer Place.

Let’s take this opportunity to run through the sessions that are open to the public. Camp kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and lasts until 7. The schedule is the same for Saturday. On Sunday, practice will begin at 2 p.m. and last until 4:30. There then is a break in open practices until July 31 at 2 p.m.

The annual night practice at Raymond James Stadium will be held Aug. 1. The starting time will be announced as the date gets closer.

On Aug. 3, 4 and 5, practice is open and starts at 4:30 p.m. There’s another break in open sessions until Aug. 10 when practice starts at 2 p.m. On Aug. 11 and 12, practice starts at 4:30 p.m.

The final open session of camp is Aug. 14 at 2 p.m.

All times and dates are subject to change due to weather or a coach’s decision.
After adding a new coaching staff and front office, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers embarked on one of the busiest offseasons in franchise history.

The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency and nearly half of the 90-man roster is made up of players that weren’t with the team last year. Let’s take a look at the five most important newcomers.

5. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith. He was signed as a free agent from Green Bay. Dietrich-Smith wasn’t a full-time starter until last year, but the Bucs see him as an anchor on their offensive line. At 28, Dietrich-Smith may be just entering his prime.

4. Left tackle Anthony Collins. Like Dietrich-Smith, Collins has spent most of his career as a backup. But the Bucs view Collins as a starter after giving him a large contract. Collins showed some signs in Cincinnati last season that he can be a solid starter. The Bucs are counting on him to protect the quarterback’s blind side.

3. Cornerback Alterraun Verner. He’s not Darrelle Revis, but that’s not what the Bucs expect out of Verner. They expect him to be the No. 1 cornerback in their new Cover-2 scheme. Verner’s career seems to be on the rise after he made the Pro Bowl with Tennessee last year.

2. Defensive end Michael Johnson. The Bucs think Johnson can bring the kind of output he had when he had double-digit sacks for Cincinnati in 2012. That would provide a huge boost for a defense that got very little pass rush from its ends last season.

1. Quarterback Josh McCown. He’s a career backup who the Bucs believe can thrive as a starter (anyone see a theme in this free-agent class?). McCown stepped in for an injured Jay Cutler last season in Chicago and thrived. The Bucs believe he can do the same thing in Tampa Bay.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster:


McCown is the present and Glennon the future. The third quarterback can be on the practice squad.


Arguably the deepest position on the roster. James, Rainey and Sims will compete to be the top backup to Martin. Demps is a project, but he has value as a return man.


Owusu and Murphy likely will compete for the third receiver spot. But the team is hoping Herron can develop quickly and be the slot receiver.


A position with lots of depth. Seferian-Jenkins is the future at this position, but Myers and Wright might be the present.


There is concern about Nicks’ health. If he’s unable to return, this becomes a real problem area. The depth isn’t great, and the team may have to look to the outside for help.


The starting four of McCoy, McDonald, Johnson and Clayborn is solid. But spots in the rotation after them are very much up for grabs. Bowers needs a good training camp to secure a roster spot.


The last two spots are up for grabs and could end up being filled from the outside.


Banks and Jenkins will compete for the No. 2 job. The loser likely will end up as the nickelback.


There’s good depth here because Wright was a former starter for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago.


This won’t change unless there’s an injury.