There were plenty of moments in the Bucs’ 17-16 win over the Panthers on Sunday that made fans in the stands rise to their feet and raise their voices.

Whether it was Mike Evans’ game-winning touchdown, one of Keith Tandy’s two interceptions or one of Lavonte David’s big-time sacks, Raymond James Stadium was as vocal as it’s been this season.

But there was one moment in the game where the crowd was especially animated, and it wasn’t for a big play. It was for a cheap play.

Late in the third quarter with the game tied 10-10, Tampa Bay took over right at the 50-yard line. After a short gain on first down and an incomplete pass on second down, the Bucs faced a third-and-6 where quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked. But after what most fans thought was a routine QB takedown, wide receiver Russell Shepard was on the ground 10 yards down the field away from the play, and Winston immediately got up and in the face of one of Carolina’s defenders. 

It wasn’t until the replay was shown on the big screen that fans in attendance realized what happened away from the ball. As Winston took off to run out of the pocket, Shepard was running a crossing route over the middle and got absolutely leveled by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis from a blindside hit.

Bucs WR Russell Shepard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The play was cheap; it was. It wasn’t dirty or malicious, but it was cheap and unnecessary. A defender can still be as physical as he needs to be when defending and not launch yourself up high at a receiver who is running the opposite direction when the ball isn’t even being thrown.

There was no call on the play. Carolina walked off the field with a sack and nothing more. Yet, after the game, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera expressed that, despite his player committing a cheap shot (if it were the other way around he would be furious about) that the Bucs’ video team showing the replay on the big screen was “bush-league.”

“Well, first of all I think that’s bush-league, to show that play up on the screen,” Rivera said. “What are we trying to incite here? Let’s don’t do that. That’s got no place in the NFL, as far as I’m concerned. TD did something that, the guy scrambles around and he saw Jameis break through. So at that point you can eliminate receivers. I wish it didn’t happen, but that’s a part of the game. But I really do mean that. I don’t think you put that type of play up on the screen. I don’t think that’s right.”

So let me get this straight. Rivera acknowledged that he would have rather Davis not do that the way he did, but just didn’t want the fans to know it happened?

Is he serious?

What’s bush-league about showing a replay, even if it was about a cheap shot?

The video people are showing a play that actually happened. That’s all they were doing. It’s no different than the millions of people at home who might have gotten to see the replay on Fox if the network showed it – which you don’t hear him complaining about.

They didn’t edit the video to show Davis giving the cut throat sign to Shepard before the snap (that didn’t happen), or photoshop brass knuckles onto Davis hand before the hit or something.

The Bucs’ video replay team showed what happened, and Rivera didn’t like that the fans got to see it.

That, to me, is bush-league.

On Monday, Shepard told us that Davis came up to him and apologized for the hit after the game.

Bucs WR Russell Shepard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“He apologized,” Shepard said. “Thomas is a vet. I asked him what he felt about it and why he did it. I could understand his reasoning. We just moved on. He’s a good dude, I know he’s a good dude. He came and found me after the game. He sought me out and we had a little personal talk one-on-one about it. As long as he apologized and we’re on the same page, we’ll move forward.”

I like Davis. He’s a great dude, he’s one of my favorites stories in the NFL how he’s overcome his adversity with multiple knee injuries. He’s not a dirty player, but that hit was cheap shot. It was part of Sunday’s action at Raymond James Stadium, and that’s why it was shown on the big screen.

Was the Bucs’ video team trying to incite the hometown crowd? No, Davis did that on his own.

All the Bucs did was show the play.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at:
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5 years ago

Nice job Trevor! Out of the ball park. Rivera’s comments were a reflection on him. But you know what the irony was? He was REALLY pissed off because the crowd got even MORE animated than it already was and the players really took over the game after that cheap shot.

5 years ago

I agree with that too Trevor (of course I’m a Bucs fan). I’m not sure what the difference is between “cheap” and “dirty” in your analysis though…that sounds like a fine line to me. In terms of Rivera’s comment, the issue I have is his statement that “that’s a part of the game”…no it’s not, or it’s not supposed to be anyway (if LaVonte David jumped on Cam Newton’s head, could we say ‘that’s too bad, but it’s part of the game, so oh well’)…if the referee had seen the play it would have been a clear flag, a 15… Read more »

Reply to  Trevor Sikkema
5 years ago

fair enough – I see your distinction.

5 years ago

I’m thinking in about another week or two, when everything has calmed down, he’ll regret making these comments.

5 years ago

Why even bring it to this level? It happens probably more than we realize and that’s why the NFL is getting tougher on hits. Five years ago most fans would have said it’s part of the game. The player apologized and Revera expressed his opinion about it. This really is no news in my opinion.

5 years ago

I thought the replay was showed simply so fans could see why # 89 was laying in the turf.

5 years ago

Meh … nothing to see or talk about here

5 years ago

Biggly not bushly.