Former ESPN writer and good friend Pat Yasinskas once told me, no matter how close you might get to a player, or think you are, you are never really their friend. You are in their world as a media member, but you are at their job a few hours a day and they have a whole life outside of football. Yasinskas said, “You might be ‘friendly’ but you aren’t their friend.”

And honestly credentialed members shouldn’t be friends with the players they cover. That’s old school journalism even in the blurred partisan lines of the Fox News and MSNBC world we live in today.

While I have never considered any player I have covered for PewterReport.com a friend, there are guys who you tend to secretly root for – just a little. Adam Humphries and Kwon Alexander are two of those guys for me.

For different reasons, but they are both guys I have always wanted to see succeed. Both are extremely hard workers, gave their heart, soul – and even their health to a degree – for the love of the game and the enjoyment of Tampa Bay fans.

Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I remember the first time seeing Humphries on the football field. It was a rookie mini-camp right after the 2015 draft (a rookie tryout for him) and despite being an Florida State fan, I had no idea who this short, blond-headed guy from Clemson was who was running all over the field and never dropping a pass. He looked more like a water boy than a football player at the time.

During one of the following OTAs or perhaps another mini-camp, I made a joke about Florida State whipping up on Clemson. He laughed and said Clemson would get up there with FSU one day. I laughed. He didn’t.

Since that day Clemson has two national championship titles, while FSU fans are ready to run head coach Willie Taggart off after one 5-7 season. My, how fortunes have changed in college football in the South.

People tend to forget that Humphries was very much on the bubble in his rookie season, and when he finally did make the 53-man roster, he was the team’s fifth receiver behind Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy and Russell Shepard. His performance against the Dolphins in the final preseason game (four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown) was the boost he needed to secure a roster spot.

Many forget Humphries was actually waived early in the 2015 season, went unclaimed, and ended up on the practice squad. Without that Dolphins game (the same game former kicker Kyle Brindza made the team) who knows where Humphries is today?

Bucs WR Adam Humphries has stepped up since the loss of two veteran receivers – Photo: Getty Images
Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: Getty Images

Hump, as he is affectionately called at One Buccaneer Place, survived and just went to work. During the season, and during the offseason, Humphries just worked to get better and better. And his stats showed that, culminating in a career year in 2018 where he recorded 76 reception for 816 yards and five touchdowns.

Those numbers propelled him into a new tax bracket on Monday after reaching a deal with the Tennessee Titans that will pay him $36 million over four years. Not too shabby for an overlooked guy who had to earn a spot as a rookie tryout player.

And while Humphries was a good NFL receiver for the Buccaneers, he was an even better man in the community. Never once when PewterReport.com asked Humphries to commit to a charity function did he decline. He was there for a bowling event to raise money in my late mother’s honor at Pin Chasers to benefit the Humane Society last spring. He came to a private function PewterReport.com held two years ago. He was at the What The Buc annual golf tournament the last three years helping to raise money to fight pediatric cancer. He made a video for a retiring military member and sent it to me to be played at his retirement celebration. Whenever we asked, Hump just said, “What time and where?”

Alexander didn’t get involved in any of PewterReport.com’s charity events, but his time in Tampa was just as impressive. I remember the Saturday afternoon at One Buc on the day he was drafted in the fourth round, and after his name was called Scott Reynolds and I looked at each other and said, “Huh?”

A pretty good college linebacker at LSU sure, but the Bucs had recently given former Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter a contract worth $5 million per year as a free agent just a month before. I think it was the second mini-camp when we got word from the Bucs’ brass that Alexander was going to beat out Carter for the starting job. We both kind of chuckled, but they weren’t wrong. When training camp began in late July that year, Alexander was the starter at middle linebacker, Carter was moved to the strong side and was then waived a year later.

Bucs LB Kwon Alexander accounted for two of Tampa Bay's four turnovers in Atlanta in Week 8. (Getty Images)
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Getty Images

Sports brings fans a reprieve from real life. An escape, so to say. Lots of laughing, smiles, some cursing, but also occasional tears.

The tweets were cryptic that late Friday night in 2015 coming from Alexander, but we all knew something bad had happened. As it turned out Alexander’s younger brother, 17-year old Broderick Taylor had been gunned down in an altercation in their hometown back in Alabama. No one expected a distraught Alexander to even travel with the Bucs to Atlanta to face the Falcons two days later, but he did. And not only travel with the team, he played.

And played well. Very well.

Former Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander
Former Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: PewterReport.com

In fact, so well Hollywood studios would have turned down a script of that game for not being believable enough. Alexander had a career afternoon in the old Georgia Dome notching 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and interception during a 23–20 Tampa Bay victory. Alexander was awarded the game ball in the locker room that afternoon and there were more than a few tears shed.

By coaches. By players. By fans. And even some in the media.

A couple days later the media purchased a sympathy card for Alexander and we all signed it. We waited until late in the open locker room period and I and several media members walked up to him and gave our condolences. Alexander couldn’t really speak other than a quiet, whispered, “Thank you.”

And if that violated any journalistic rules, well damn those rules and damn us all for signing that card.

When Alexander crumpled to the field clutching his knee last October it was every player’s worst fear. An ACL tear in a contract year usually cost players millions of dollars – sometimes even their careers. The unknown had to be tough for Alexander and his family. The uncertainty of what was next after working basically his whole life for that second contract that could set his family up for life had to make Alexander wonder, “Why me?”

But you never saw that from Alexander. Instead just constant social media posts showing him working hard to get better and thanking God for each day.

Former Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander
Former Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: PewterReport.com

Last summer Jameis Winston held his youth football camp at the Bucs’ new indoor training facility. My son, who was entering his senior year in high school, was volunteering that weekend, and Alexander was helping out the Winston camp, working with the young kids in attendance. At one point there was a break and I introduced my son, Douglas, to Alexander. They hit it off when Douglas told him he was switching from kicker to linebacker as a senior, something I strongly advised against.

Alexander did the exact opposite, and he told him, “Go do what you want to do and don’t let anyone – your dad included – tell you that you can’t.”

Alexander gave him some pointers, along with Lavonte David, and told him he was going to have to outwork the returning players if he wanted to see the field. He also told him don’t mess up in the classroom either.

Douglas lit up, and it gave him the confidence to chase his dream, even if old dad thought he was crazy. It took until the end of fall practice for his high school coaches to stop calling him kicker. But by Week 3, my son was starting and ended up being voted the MVP of the linebackers for his high school team. More importantly he made the All-Academic team.

After Alexander’s injury it wasn’t until mid-December before we saw him again in open locker room. I went up to him and asked how his knee was but Alexander only wanted to know, “How did the linebacker do?”

I showed him the picture of my son holding up his MVP award and his All-Academic award and Alexander smiled and said the award for his grades was even better than for football. Alexander looked like a proud papa, and said, “Tell him, ‘Way to go.’ And that I am proud of him.”

He then looked at me and smiled and said, “Told you!”

Former Bucs WR Adam Humphries
Former Bucs WR Adam Humphries – Photo by: PewterReport.com

Football is a business and a tough one sometimes. For players and for fans. The league tends to chew these guys up and spit them out. Bring on the fresh meat in the NFL Draft.

As a reporter you see the struggles and the work that goes into it. The pain, the injuries and sometime the tears. So on days like Monday, while it is my job to report the news objectively, you can’t help but be a little happy to see their hard work and physical toil rewarded.

Two different players, from two completely different backgrounds. But two players who beat the odds, put in the work and were rewarded.

Two players who have also become fan favorites in Tampa Bay, and for Bucs fans, it’s hard to see them go.

I think of what Yasinksas told me about being friends with players and he is 100 percent correct. In fact, 10 years from now neither will probably even remember my name. And that’s just fine.

I don’t need to be their friend. It isn’t my job to be friends, but I will remember them. Their success, their story, their charity, their words of encouragement to a 17-year year old football player and the day it all paid off – for them.

Previous articleBucs Monday Mailbag: Bye DJax, Bucs Trades And Scheme Fit
Next articleBucs Re-Sign QB To Backup Winston
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]

45 COMMENTS

  1. That’s good to hear and not surprising for either of those guys – and seeing their (now former) teammates on Twitter cheering them on for getting paid is nice too. You can only hope that the new crop of players will have the same character. Also, it’s been awhile since the talent pool was deep enough that Bucs players were cashing in elsewhere….

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  2. We lost two people we should have kept, but not at those crazy numbers. Especially Kwon coming off surgery. That is one of the craziest contracts I’ve ever seen. I’m ready to turn the page on Gerald and he deserves to go play for a winner. I can’t imagine paying as long as he has and never smelling the playoffs. I wouldn’t do it, LVD too. Feel bad for those two.

    BOL Kwon and Hump!

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  3. Great article Mark, Goes to show you that football is not all about entertainment but inspiration as well. For most us fans it was bitter sweet. Bitter because we loved rooting for these underdogs while helping us win. Sweet because they finally got rewarded for there hard work. I can almost feel the emotion in your writing. Go Bucs!

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  4. Excellent Article Mark. Two of my favorite players too. I will miss both of them. Glad they got paid. Hope we don’t get weaker because of it.

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  5. Face it…..This is not a build and keep going forward franchise….This is a take one step forward and then two back….Again, I get the injury concern and money on top of what Kwon was asking and I’m fine with it IF there is a plan and this organization has none.

    P.S. If you need a reference on how a building and progressing coupled with a good plan, look no further, the Tampa Bay Lightning are right in front of you.

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  6. We lost two great football players and upset about it, but all I can do is wish both of them luck for the rest of their careers, but not against the bucs LOL.

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  7. Nice heartfelt piece Mark. We often forget that these youngsters are real people behind those face masks. They have emotions and dreams just like the rest of us………..including media types.

    It’s no surprise when some of our fans don’t recognize the potential negative impact as two of our better homegrown players hit the exit just as they enter their prime. Sadly, these are two players who were not expected to be stars, who through their own hard work, shined bright enough to be rewarded, albeit elsewhere. Two of Jason Licht’s rare Draft Day successes benefiting another team now must be replaced.

    Days like this, when our team’s headlines involve losing players who are highly regarded and now highly paid, perpetuates our national perspective of the “Yucks”.

    Let’s see what Jason Licht and Bruce Arians do these next few weeks to at least keep this 5-11 team treading water by replacing what we’ve already lost. Good luck! Que up the song, “Starting All Over Again”.

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  8. On a brighter note, DJax is gone

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  9. It’s clear now they are going to strip the roster of starters to make room to pay Jameis Winston and no cap space to sign any stars from other teams.
    Their theory is the coaching change will make the difference. And the coaching change minus a few good starters this team is going to be in serious trouble. And cook and Trevor seemed to make excuses for them I know deep down in their heart cooking Trevor are worried.

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  10. Hey Chef blowhole where’s that Cadre of great players that were going to come and play with the great Bruce Arians I heard the honey badger signed with someone else

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    • Was going to ask if you knew we were less than 24hrs into free agency, but…..

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      • He doesnt even now how to use punctuation. I’m not sure he knows what day of the week it is, let alone if its free agency.

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      • You better have your big deals already made by the free agency opens because you have minutes before the good players are gone

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        • Right, because there are no good players left available in free agency after the first 15 minutes of the legal tampering window….. please don’t tell us you actually believe most of this drivel that you type BAB.

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    • Buc ass, you know there is such a thing as a salary cap right? You kind of have to stay under it. That might be a little difficult for you to grasp,as most things appear to be, but that’s the facts of the game.

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      • I definitely understand salary cap that’s why I was kind of concerned when they give Smith so much money and bringing your boy up to 21 million is a big reason these players getting cut. IT WOULD BE OK TO PAY JPP BIG MONEY FOR HIS RUSH IF HE COULD STOP A RUN. One of the other things you never understood when DeSean Jackson went to the endzone he took a d back and a safety with him opening up Lanes for the other Bucs receivers and now that’s gone. For the last three years they’ve added weapons for number 3 and now they’re taking them away you should be more upset than anybody.

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    • Hey bob, where’s your boy nick foles? Oh that’s right, he’s playing elsewhere. And name me one place that I stated people would come to play for us you illiterate troll. It burns you so bad that jameis is making all this money. But what can I say, you’re the clown who thinks Vea isn’t worth a damn and that the only reason he posted stats was because of McCoy. Keep pretending you have it all figured out, one day you might get one right. I’ll then you’re just a mouth whose running out of excuses

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      • I love it when the chef responds look like Nick Foles is going to be somewhere else not Tampa I think you’re right I think Bruce Arians and Jason on the same page they’re going to go with Jameis and what’s left of the roster once they get done cutting everybody to get down to cap.

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        • You flatter me bob. Keep this up and I might have to give you a “thumbs up” on a post sometime soon. Lol. #trolllivesmatter

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  11. Would love it if we could get the rules on compensatory picks from the Pewter Report crew. If we get picks in this year’s draft that would be some consolation.

    Losing two good players in their prime is terrible. The reality is the salary structure in the NFL just shifted up. What we all think is outrageous looks like the new going rate for talented players. We have so mismanaged our salary cap and roster that we apparently have “no choice” but to let good players go. Yet we still have deadweight on the roster sucking up the resources needed for us to sign the good players we have to let go.

    Way to go Jason….

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    • Per Greg Auman, looks like we will probably get a 3rd for Kwon (who was drafted in the 4th) and possibly a 4th for Humphries (UDFA) in 2020. Compensatory picks are awarded the year following the transaction. Also picked up a 6th this year for DJax, so overall it could’ve been worse.

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      • Thanks, FlyBoy!

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        • My mom called me FlyBoy once…… ONCE!! 😉

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          • SORRY, LOL, Won’t happen again!

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      • We only get those if we don’t sign any Free Agents during this signing period. We were told that entire 2017 season by PR that the Bucs would get a Compensatory 3rd for Mike Glennon. We signed Jackson, Baker, & Wilcox which negated it. The local media drank the Koolaid!

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        • It’s also based on the $$$ size of the deals we sign FA’s to. Just signing a FA to a lower priced deal does not negate the comp pick. Those three deals combined you mentioned far outweighed the deal Glennon signed, which in turn negated the comp pick.

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        • That’s why Pats continually get comp picks. Their guys are signing top $ deals with other teams and they simply draft or sign replacements to typically lower $ deals, thus insuring they still receive the pick.

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          • They also always have a ton of picks from trades in addition to all if those Compensatory picks. It doesn’t matter if they only hit on 30-50% of them. They have so many that they can throw them against the wall and see who sticks. Where if we only hit on 30-50% it sets us back because we have less chances to hit.

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  12. I can see how hard it must be being an objective reporter. You have a day like that with Kwon then down the road he misses several tackles, and his defense gives up 40, and you have to write how bad he sucked in that game. Be nice if you could keep everybody, and write positive story’s about our wins. Well the salary cap is real, everyone can’t get paid, and the world don’t work that way. Thanks Kwon, and Hump for all the good, and bad, we’ll be following your careers, and thanks Mark for trying to be that objective voice for your followers.

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  13. John Lynch to Denver. That was a dagger. This is maybe a knife. Thank you Kwon & Hump. The WO room can take the loss. The LB’s roles are changing. Their room is getting redecorated. Stay strong Tampa. I truly believe after 6 worthless seasons, the rubber is finally meeting the road. Hold on tight my friends.

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  14. This is going to be a terrible, slow, boring offseason for the Bucs. I can already tell. We’ll lose GMC along with Hump and Kwon, who have signed elsewhere and sign probably no one or little minor moves.

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  15. I see Suh wasn’t a “whatever it takes to sign him” because he’s not worth as much as he may think. I like Gerald McCoy, but 13 mil is too much. I would ask him to take a 2-3 million pay cut.

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  16. Nice piece Mark Cook. It will be interesting to watch their stories continue to unfold, albeit in different cities.

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  17. I hope we don’t look back years from now and see Humphries with multiple pro bowl appearances and regret the fact that we could have kept him for a couple more million a year. This reminds me of when the Dolphins traded away Wes Welker to the Patriots for a couple of draft picks. Wondering if in hindsight they would have still made that deal. He will not easily be replaceable.

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    • Welker had Brady throwing him passes after that deal, while if he had stayed in Miami he would’ve had Pennington, Henne, Thigpen, Moore and Tannehill…..

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  18. Articles like these are what set PR apart from that rag (TBT) and the other online services. In depth analysis, X’s and O’s, through research, and a personal touch that goes beyond just reporting the facts. NIcely done.

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  19. I think what we r seeing as Buc Fans is what happens when mediocre players are giving salaries that r not commiserate with their on the field abilities. When average players r overpaid u find yourself in cap hell and unable to compensate those going on their 2nd contracts and deserving of a raise based on their on field abilities. We can’t continue to to pay average players star money! It’s not just the Bucs either. Other teams have similar issues. U have to admit ur mistakes and have the courage to make the necessary moves to get yourself out of cap hell. Fire up the chainsaw… unfortunately when u lose players of Hump and Alexander abilities u r no longer in a win now mentality. We clearly need to bite the bullet make the cuts and rebuild through the draft. We HAVE to hit on all our picks this year… I’m just saying

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  20. Humphries and Alexander are both good men and this community will miss them.

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  21. I like both of these guys, but the contracts for each (esp. Kwon) are insane for the production they actually provide. It also remains to be seen if Kwon can pass a physical.

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  22. Great article, Mark. Keep up the good work! Those two players will indeed be missed, but the game goes on.

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  23. Nice article Mark, I wish them both the best with their new team.

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  24. Good article mark, but the’re gone. Get over it men. I’d feel sadness if they had contributed to a winner. I’m happy for them though as they both got a lot more then they deserve. Those numbers were ridiculous.

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  25. The Bugs could lose a quality control coach and BucAssbBob would blame Winston’s cap number and cry hystericaly that the Bugs have no plan and are doomed.
    OT Trent Brown just signed a record contract with Raiders but he hasn’t proved he could hold a block for more than 3 second since 95 percent of Brady’s game is getting the ball out of his hands in 2.5 seconds,
    David Carr holds on to the ball due to the Raiders deep passing game longer than that so it will be interesting to see what happens,
    Whatever happens Smith ‘s contract wasn’t unreasonable. Just the going rate for a serviceable LT nowadays.

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    • You’re making sense drD, which means fuck ass bob won’t understand. He seems to think quarterbacks should only make $10 million a year. Hell, the safety from The giants just signed for almost $18 million a year! That’s just under what Winston will make. But alas, bob won’t be able to grasp that kind of math….

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  26. They are both fierce competitors and will be missed, but you can’t sign everyone. I hope the Bucs look to Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow as a possible slot in the mid rounds…

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