The busts of Tampa Bay Buccaneers that reside in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio are limited, with just the sculptures of Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks prominently displayed.
But that number could be growing soon, as two former Bucs made the cutdown to 25.
On Tuesday night, the Hall announced next year’s semifinalists, and former head coach Tony Dungy, and hard hitting safety and fan favorite John Lynch, are among those that will be debated for election.
Dungy was hired in 1996 after former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier turned down the job offered to them by the Bucs new owner Malcolm Glazer. Dungy coached the Bucs from 1996 to 2001 and led them to four playoff appearances. Dungy, who was fired by the team following the 2001 season, was then hired by the Colts where he went on to became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. Ironically the win came against the Chicago Bears, who was coached by current Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith in the game.
Lynch was known for his ferocious style of play and hard hits on the field, but a gentle personality once the game was over. Lynch played 11 seasons for the Bucs, then four more for the Denver Broncos. The former Stanford star finished his Tampa Bay career with 973 tackles, which ranks him fifth all-time in team history.
Bucs SS John Lynch & DT Warren Sapp – Photo by: Getty Images
The 2016 class will be announced on January 31 but both Lynch and Dungy face some tough competition, as former Packers QB Brett Favre is almost certainly a first ballot Hall of Famer. Others who the Bucs duo will have to compete against include Terrell Owens, Steve Atwater, Roger Craig and Jimmy Johnson, just to name a few.
Buccaneers.com Senior Writer Scott Smith recently published an excellent case for Lynch on the teams website and you can read it here.
It’s not often that you see an opening drive as impressive as the one the Buccaneers had to start the second half last Sunday.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Taking nearly 10 minutes off the clock, Tampa Bay drove 80 yards down the field on nine plays, all while overcoming three penalties – one of three teams to score on a drive with three flags this season – and converting on four third downs. The last third down, of course, being Jameis Winston’s 8-yard TD pass to Cameron Brate to extend their lead to 35-14 in the third quarter.
“If you just talk about an offensive drive in an NFL game, it doesn’t get any better than that,” head coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “To have that many plays, to fight through adversity – having to convert on quite a few third downs and overcome quite a few penalties – it did so much for our team.”
Beyond the poise and resilience shown on that possession by Jameis Winston and his offensive teammates, the nine-play drive also gave the Bucs defense an extended rest. One way to defend an up-tempo strategy is by not even having to defend it, and that was largely the case Sunday as the Bucs dominated time of possession, 35:54-24:06. Not to mention Philadelphia became quite predictable down 21 points with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“When you play a fast-break offense like they have, you can get a little gassed at times,” Smith said. “The way you can offset that a little bit is to have a long drive on the offensive side. That will be a drive that we will be talking about for a long time.”
It was a drive that proved Tampa Bay out-coached the Eagles on both sides of the ball. The defense responded to Chip Kelly’s up-tempo strategy by getting three takeaways and one score, never having an issue with play-calling or positioning, and the offense, for its part, methodically drove down the field, looked far more composed and held the ball for 10 minutes longer over the duration of the game.
Tampa Bay announced another roster Tuesday after being awarded defensive end Kourtnei Brown via waivers from the Houston Texans.
To make room for the addition, the Bucs waived defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.
Brown, 6-foot-4, 253-pounds, played one game with the Bucs earlier this season and played another with Houston.
He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 and spent that offseason and preseason with them before being waived. The Clemson product has also spent time with the Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams.
Sidbury played this past weekend in Philadelphia, getting in for six defensive snaps and 12 on special teams without logging any stats. It’s the third time this season the sixth-year defensive end has been let go by Tampa Bay.
After a 235-yard rushing performance by Doug Martin and a 246-yard, five touchdown effort through the air by Jameis Winston, the Buccaneers’ running back and quarterback are, to no surprise, nominated for a few league awards this week.
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 22: (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Winston is up for both Pepsi Rookie of the Week and FedEx Air Player of the Week, while Martin is nominated for the FedEx Ground award.
For Winston, this would be his third ROTW after earning it for his Week 2 performance against New Orleans – throwing for 194 yards and a touchdown in his first career victory – and his Week 5 game against Jacksonville where he finished 13 of 19 for 186 and two TDs (one rushing). For the Buccaneers, this would be their fifth win in this category, as linebacker Kwon Alexander took home the award in Weeks 3 and 8.
Other players nominated for Pepsi ROTW this week include Seattle RB Thomas Rawls, Arizona WR J.J. Nelson, Seattle WR Tyler Lockett and Chicago S Adrian Amos.
Fans can vote for Rookie of the Week on NFL.com until Friday at 3:00 p.m. when the winner will be determined.
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 22: Doug (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
As for the FedEx Player of the Week, this is the first time Winston has been nominated and the second time this season for Doug Martin. The fourth-year running back was selected as the winner for his performance in Week 5 against the Falcons in which he rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Other nominees in the “Air” category include Carolina’s Cam Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, while “Ground” candidates are Martin and Seattle’s Thomas Rawls. For this award, fans have until Thursday at 3:00 p.m. to submit their vote.
During the offseason Tampa Bay elected not to pick up the fifth-year option on Doug Martin’s rookie contract, opting instead for the “prove it” type approach with their fourth-year running back while making sure to put him in position to succeed.
Eleven games and 941 rushing yards later, including Sunday’s most recent 235-yard effort, it’s safe to say things have worked out for both parties.
“Is Doug Martin a priority? Yes, he definitely is,” head coach Lovie Smith said Monday, after praising Martin’s vision, instincts and ability to make people miss. “And I don’t think that’s a bad thing to go into the fifth year (without a contract extension). I think it’s helped Doug as much as anything. He’s in a great position right now.”
Whenever a player enters a lame duck year, there’s a common notion that a great season can put the team in an unfavorable position given that they’ll likely have to pay him more. Smith assured that wasn’t the case. From the player’s perspective, some believed Martin would feel disrespected by not getting re-signed before becoming a free agent. But that, according to Smith, was also never the case.
“I don’t think Doug came into the season thinking he wasn’t wanted around here. It’s the complete opposite of that,” Smith said. “We have acknowledged everything he’s done along the way and we have put him in a position to have the type of year he’s having right now.”
In four seasons, Martin has never looked more like a complete running back than he does now. That should pay off financially.
“If I’m Doug Martin, I’m pretty happy I didn’t sign a contract before,” Smith said. “I like the position I’m in right now.”
Tampa Bay entered this weekend with an open spot on its 53-man active roster and the team filled it Saturday evening.
The organization announced that rookie linebacker Josh Keyes has been promoted from the practice squad to suit up Sunday in Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay signed the 6-foot-2, 223-pound rookie out of Boston College as an undrafted free agent this past offseason. Keyes was with the team through the preseason and spent the first two weeks of the regular season with the Bucs before being released. He came back to Tampa Bay on Nov. 18 after a two-week stint on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad.
Head coach Lovie Smith stated on Friday that no decision had yet been made to fill out the active roster but that it would likely be a practice squad call-up.
“We have a couple of options,” Smith said after the week’s final practice. “When you are in this position on a Friday, most of the time you’re kind of looking toward your practice squad or something like that; someone available if you need that. We’ll see.”
Other current players on the Bucs’ practice are: WR Rannell Hall, RB Mike James, OL Josh Allen, OL Antoine Everett, DE Martin Ifedi, OL Ryan Groy, DT Derrick Lott, TE Tevin Westbrook and WR Evan Spencer.
The debut on television of the documentary, The Hunting Ground, is set to be broadcast on CNN this Sunday at 8 p.m. and takes a look at college campus sexual assault and the universities that the filmmakers claim cover it up. One of the main focuses of the documentary revolves around former FSU star, and current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused, but never charged with an assault while in college in Tallahassee.
On Friday, two days before the planned broadcast, lawyers for Winston sent a stern warning to the network threatening them with a lawsuit if the airing goes as scheduled.
In a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, attorney John Boudet writes, “”We are writing to formally caution CNN that the portions of the film ‘The Hunting Ground’ pertaining to Mr. Winston are false and defamatory to Mr. Winston, “We urge CNN to reconsider the reckless decision to proceed with the broadcast of this deeply-flawed documentary in the face of the overwhelming evidence the film’s producers consciously and intentionally failed to adhere to any accepted journalistic standards.”
Later in the letter Boudet wrote, “CNN may have persuaded itself that Mr. Winston’s status as a public figure insulates your company from a libel judgment,” states the letter. “If CNN decides to proceed with this broadcast, we will perhaps have the opportunity to test that legal proposition in a court of law.”
The letter also references correspondence from one of the film’s producers, Amy Herdy, to the alleged victim’s attorney, Patricia Cornwell, that states, “We don’t operate the same way as journalists, …so there would be no need to get the perpatrators side.”
The Herdy to Corwell correspondence also talks about “ambushing” Winston.
To read the full story, and see copies of the letters, please click this link.
Of all the reasons for the Buccaneers’ recent success on defense, perhaps none have been more apparent than the performance of the secondary and its newfound ability to play man coverage.
While head coach Lovie Smith made it clear in the past of his desire to play more single coverage, the first combination of cornerbacks – Johnthan Banks, Mike Jenkins and Tim Jennings – struggled with technique in the Cover 2 defense, often failing to press and re-route wide receivers in the zone scheme. As a result, Tampa Bay didn’t feel like it could mix up coverages and benched (or released, in Jennings case) said defensive backs after the Week 8 game in Atlanta.
Bucs CB Sterling Moore – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Since then, the Bucs have turned to Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah in the backend and seen the latest cornerback tandem cooperate in zone and shine during their opportunities in single coverage.
“They’re definitely playing man-to-man coverage a little bit better than we have in the past,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday. “It definitely makes a difference when you’re trying to stop some of these high-powered offenses that we face in the National Football League. Credit to those two guys.”
Those “two guys'” path to becoming starters once appeared unlikely. In Adjei-Barimah’s case, the undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green caught the coaches’ attention during training camp and continued to impress after earning a spot on the practice squad, eventually getting the nod on game-day.
“It’s quite a story when you consider how he made our team,” Frazier said. “He was one of those guys we had conversations about all throughout training camp because he kept catching our eyes, just some of the things he was doing – his mannerisms and poise. And then when he got in ball games in the preseason it was like, ‘Boy, this guy has a chance.’ As time has gone on the game has never been too big for him.”
As for Moore, the former Cowboy who signed with Tampa Bay in March, was initially presumed to be the Day 1 starter at nickel corner. Plans changed, however, and Moore found himself in a backup role in the beginning of the season. But he never lost his motivation.
“He was patient and waiting for an opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it, to his credit, as opposed to moping and having a bad attitude,” Frazier said about Moore. “When his number got called he played well. Hopefully he will continue.”
It remains to be seen if the tandems’ steady rise and ability to play man coverage will continue, but over the past two weeks, it’s been just that that’s taken the Bucs defense to the next level.
“You can’t discount the play of our corners,” Frazier said. “That makes all the difference in the world in our league when you have to match up with some of these really good receivers. You have to be able to defend the passing game. (The defensive improvement) is a combination of things, but I’d point to our secondary as much as anything.”
The Buccaneers and Eagles released their third injury reports of the week on Thursday. Updates in BOLD denote a change from the previous day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
WR Vincent Jackson – Knee – Limited Participation – Questionable
DE George Johnson – Calf – Did Not Participate – Out
G Ali Marpet – Ankle – Limited Participation – Questionable
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Shoulder – Limited Participation – Questionable
DE Josh Shirley – Calf – Did Not Participate – Doubtful
G/C Evan Smith – Knee – Limited Participation – Questionable
DE Jacquies Smith – Ankle – Limited Participation – Questionable
S Major Wright – Hamstring – Full Participation – Probable
G Josh Andrews – Concussion – Full Participation – Probable
LB Connor Barwin – Quadricep – Full Participation – Probable
QB Sam Bradford – Shoulder – Did Not Participate – Out
S Jerome Couplin – Shoulder – Did Not Participate – Out
WR Josh Huff – Back – Full Participation – Probable
RB Ryan Mathews – Concussion/ Groin – Did Not Participate – Out
T Jason Peters – Back – Limited Participation – Questionable
LB DeMeco Ryans – Hamstring – Full Participation – Probable
S Walter Thurmond – Hamstring – Full Participation – Probable
Limited in practice for the second straight day, Vincent Jackson’s status for Sunday’s game in Philadelphia remains uncertain at this point.
Jackson has been sidelined since injuring his knee in Week 7 against Washington.
“As soon as Vince is ready to go we’re ready for him,” head coach Lovie Smith said Friday after practice. “We have 48 hours or so before the game, and once you get close, every hour counts.”
While he couldn’t give a definitive answer on if Jackson will play, calling him a game-time decision, Smith can confidently say that the veteran wide receiver has made “a lot” of progress, not just from the time of the initial injury, but from Wednesday practice to Friday.
“I think you have all see him running around. He’s getting closer, which is right on schedule,” Smith said. “Hopefully he will be able to (go), but we’ll see.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Tampa Bay is also hoping to return Jacquies Smith. The team’s top defensive end has missed the past two games with an ankle injury and the Bucs have seen their pass rush decline as a result.
“He wasn’t 100 percent this week, but we have a little bit more time before the game,” Smith said. “He’s getting closer and that’s encouraging. Our rush hasn’t been exactly what we would like for it to be, so we need a guy like that as soon as possible.”
Other injury updates: Austin Seferian-Jenkins still hasn’t been cleared medically, though Smith said he’s doing “everything he’s supposed to do” and wants to get back on the field as soon as possible.
Evan Smith (knee) hasn’t been full-speed this week but hasn’t aggravated anything since Wednesday, either.
The only player officially listed as Out for Sunday’s game is defensive end George Johnson, who’s nursing a calf injury.