In the past week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have incurred much criticism in re-signing tight end Jerramy Stevens. The outbreak of the controversy stems from a story that was published in the Seattle Times on Jan. 31. That story outlines Stevens' troubled past, including DUI arrests and an alleged rape case.

Bucs tight end coach Bob Casullo coached Stevens in Tampa Bay last year and in Seattle for two seasons. Casullo spoke exclusively to this week and shared his opinion of Stevens, including whether he has noticed a change in Stevens over the years.

"Well, you know here's the thing. In my four years that I've been with Jerramy Stevens, he's never had an issue in those four years," said Casullo. "He's never been a problem. I know Mike Holmgren and the Seattle Seahawks people were very in-tuned to him. He had issues before I got there. Nothing while I was there. Since he came down here it's been a breath of fresh air for him.

"He's from the great Northwest and he's out of there and he came down here. He's starting over anew. He likes the people. He likes the players. He likes the coaches. The administration has been very fair with him and he appreciates that. It's a second chance for him that he knows he can't throw away and he's not going to."

Casullo was on the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff as a special teams coordinator in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Those were Stevens' last two years as a member of the Seahawks. In early 2007, the Buccaneers hired Casullo to be their tight ends coach. Tampa Bay reunited Stevens and Casullo on April 29, 2007. Stevens signed a one-year contract. The majority of Stevens' legal trouble was before he and Casullo came together in Seattle.

The most recent legal incident for Stevens occurred in March of 2007. Stevens was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He was later convicted of the DUI charge in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Sept. 7, which ultimately led to his most recent suspension from the NFL.

In 2003, Stevens had pleaded guilty to reckless driving. Prior to that, Stevens, 28, had been convicted on a hit-and-run charge in 2000 after driving into a nursing home while he was attending the University of Washington.

The most alarming accusation leveled against Stevens was an alleged rape that took place while at Washington. At his press conference on Wedneday, Stevens only commented that he would not address what he deemed "false accusations." Casullo discussed the limitations that have been put on Stevens.

"There are certain things that you can and can't say," said Casullo. "Obviously he can't say his side of the story. We don't know why because we don't know what happened in the legal system, and he is adhering to what the legal system told him he could and could not say. But there are certain people that don't want to accept that. They're making an issue out of it when his hands are tied."

Bucs fans and media members have stated their opinion of Stevens over the last week, and many believe Tampa Bay should not have re-signed him due to his troubled past.

Stevens was dismissed of any charges stemming from the alleged rape incident, and was sued by the supposed victim. The suit was settled out of court for $300,000 in 2004. Stevens denies the rape allegations.

After reading the Seattle Times report, some believe Stevens was guilty of the rape allegations against him. But the Bucs are standing by Stevens and their decision to re-sign him.

"One of the reasons why we live in America is because we have the greatest judicial system in the world, and the system works," said Casullo. "The saying is: you're innocent until proven guilty. I think that's what everybody needs to understand."

On Tuesday, Pewter Report first reported that Stevens would have a two-game suspension in 2008. Last year, Stevens was suspended for the Bucs game against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 16. If Stevens violates the NFL Personal Conduct or Substance Abuse policies prior to the start of the 2008 regular season, he would be suspended without pay for a third game. According to sources, Stevens delayed the rest of the suspension last year in order to help Tampa Bay make the playoffs.

In his Bucs debut, Stevens played 15 regular season games (three starts) and the team's playoff contest vs. the New York Giants. He had 18 receptions for 189 yards and four touchdowns. Stevens was second on the team in touchdown receptions last year. His four touchdowns came in the final month of the season. For his career, Stevens has 148 receptions for 1,647 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Stevens re-signed with the Buccaneers on May 30. The contract was for one season worth $700,000 and did not include a signing bonus.

After finishing the season strong, Stevens and the Buccaneers are hoping he can pick up where he left off at end of last year. In order to do that, Stevens will have to play through the controversy that is surrounding his second season in Tampa Bay. Stevens said on Wednesday that he had not read the Seattle Times story, but was aware of the backlash that the Bucs were getting for re-signing him.

"It's upsetting to him. He's a human being," Casullo said of Stevens. "He has feelings like everybody else. To be a year in Tampa Bay, where literally he's done nothing wrong. He's been an asset to the program. He's been an asset to the community and no one, last year if you go back, not one iota of negative reporting was done on him, and he's the same kid this year, with no more issues since January of the last game that would change anybody's mind. But all of a sudden his world is falling apart. Of course he's frustrated. He's a got feelings like anybody else."

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