Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Gather ’round, folks. It’s story time.

In the summer of 2011, I was just a young college kid. I was 20, and wasn’t exactly into being a rebel, finding places to sneak drinks while under the age of 21. At that time, I was attending Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. It was the summer going into my junior year. But during those swirling hot months I wouldn’t be in Lakeland. I would be at home not too far down the road in Bradenton staying with my former roommates (you mean your parents, right, Trev?) – for a few months. I had a summer job working landscaping, and obviously, the rent was free. It was a pretty good deal.

The night of this story takes place on July 21. It was a Thursday. I had just gotten home from a hard day at work. I remember that week being particularly long, as it truly was the dog days of summer. I was just trying to make it to the middle of August to finally get some rest and go back to school.

Since my job was one that involved many hours out in the hot sun, it was pretty typical for me to stay in on most Thursday nights during that time of my life. On that weekend specifically I remember calling up one of my best friends to come over, hang out and play video games with me – probably one of the Call of Duty games since the new Madden wasn’t out yet. He ended up swinging by and as we started to become one with the couch we didn’t plan on moving from for the next six hours my friend checked Twitter.

Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh
Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh

At this point in time, Gerald McCoy had just completed his rookie year with the Bucs. Though there was heated debate between who Bucs fans wanted more – McCoy, a defensive tackle who hailed from Oklahoma, or Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Outland Trophy winner. When Tampa Bay selected McCoy with the No. 3 overall pick Bucs fans thought they had their next Warren Sapp.

The Bucs were coming off a 10-6 season in McCoy’s rookie year. Things were looking up and there was plenty of excitement.

Twitter was also relatively new, at that point. Twitter had been around since 2008, but even in 2011 it wasn’t anything like the news outlet app it is today. So when my friend saw that McCoy was giving away free tickets to go see Captain America with him, we both sat there, thought about the hour drive it would be, thought about how we wouldn’t get back until 4:00 a.m. just to wake up early and go to work the next day, and said to each other:

We have to go.

So we did.

After we got in the car and started to make out way up the theater, McCoy tweeted out that he wouldn’t be alone. The Bucs drafted defensive end Adrian Clayborn in the first round just a few months prior, and later in the night Clayborn said he’d be join McCoy to see the movie with fans.

We had no idea how many people were going to be there. I mean, this was McCoy we were talking about. Every single Bucs fan in the Tampa Bay area knew who he was. And he was only giving away 15 tickets? Chance were we weren’t going to get there to be one of the first 15, but we figured you only live once, why not try?

When we got there, not only were we one of the first 15, we were like the third and fourth people there – I told you Twitter wasn’t nearly as powerful as it is today. When we arrived McCoy and Clayborn were already there, we got to meet with them and chat with them as they waited for others to show up.

Former Bucs DT Gerald McCoy
Former Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Getty Images

I remember asking McCoy about his first season and how it felt to get his first sack. He was all smiles the whole time talking about how happy he was to be in Tampa Bay and be in the NFL. I asked him about his favorite Marvel movies so far and what he thought of the Avengers.

When I talked to Clayborn, I asked him about his time at Iowa. I asked what he did for fun. He laughed and said, “Drink.”

As other fans began to make their way, there were only about 13 or so that even showed up. So McCoy brought us all in the theater – the people working at the theater had no idea who he was. And he bought 15 tickets at the counter. No special treatment. No VIP line. Just him buying a whole mess of tickets.

After the movie we all exited the theater to geek out about it and talk about the upcoming avengers movie. It was in that moment I got to see McCoy truly be a kid; happy as can be. And I can’t tell you how cool it was that he wanted to share in that joy with others – us.

We said our goodbyes to McCoy and Clayborn and thanked them for letting us see the movie with them. They seemed just happy to have people to see it with.

I had no idea at the time but that night would be something I remembered, something that eventually propelled me towards the career I have today. Before that night, I had never really talked to an athlete in a manner that went beyond their sport. It was always in settings where they were clearly more important that me, and the conversions were often led by words of idolatry.

But that night it was different.

That night the most known player on the sports team I grew up watching was just like me, just going to see a movie. It was the personal side of an athlete I had never really experienced before. Being there that night is without a doubt a root of why I came to the realization I wanted to be a sports journalist. To tell the human side of sports just as much as the achievement side. That these guys are more than just what you watch for a few hours on a Sunday.

I’m entering my third year of covering the Buccaneers professionally for PewterReport.com. I’ve seen McCoy a countless amount of times, and yet I never told him this story. I always thought it was silly or that I would always have another chance to tell him one day, reminisce and even thank him.

You never have as much time as you think you do.

Panthers DT Gerald McCoy
Panthers DT Gerald McCoy – Photo from Panthers Twitter

Bucs fans know the ending to the McCoy saga in Tampa Bay. After nine seasons, he’s now in Carolina with the Panthers.

Some fans are happy with that. There are some that couldn’t wait for the Bucs to move on from him.

As the No. 3 overall pick in 2010, McCoy was part of just two winning seasons. Despite being third all-time in franchise history in sacks, he couldn’t help the team enough do what fans so desperately want them to do: win.

Many people wanted McCoy to be different. They wanted him to be Sapp. They wanted him to be Suh. They wanted him to be something else. But he wasn’t. He was Gerald McCoy, and that’s okay.

McCoy may not have been what you wanted him to be; on the field; off the field; on social media; in his personal life. But to ask him to be anything other than who he is isn’t fair. I am not saying that he shouldn’t have pushed himself or that he shouldn’t have worked hard to change and improve. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying isn’t promoting someone being stagnant. I’m talking about McCoy simply being who he was – as a worker, as a teammate, etc. All of what made him a player and person, and the output that followed. You don’t have to take it so personally. He was who he was. He did it his way. Maybe that wasn’t enough to be the next Sapp. But it was enough to be the only McCoy, and that’s okay.

At a professional football level, did he live up to the standards he needed to? Clearly his employers in Tampa didn’t believe he did, at least at the end. That’s why they moved on from him. And if that is your barometer for judgement, then you are justified.

They thought they could get someone better, and they believe they did in Suh (we’ll get to that on the next page). But through the good and the bad, through the expectations and through the true identity, nights like July 21, 2011 taught me that these athletes can only be who they are, and that includes a whole other side off the field, whatever results that may yield on the field. You don’t have to take it any further than the fact that you might believe he didn’t perform enough or the right way for your team, if that is what you believe.

Maybe the results on the field weren’t what you wanted them to be. They aren’t what any Bucs fan would say they wanted them to be. But through them, through everything, he was Gerald McCoy. And that was a guy who made my small story and much bigger stories for many others a reality. Maybe he wasn’t this mean, ruthless son of a gun who went in the ways of Sapp. Maybe he wasn’t your cup of tea as a football player. Maybe he wasn’t even your cup of tea as a man. You having that opinion is yours to have, and it might not even be wrong in some ways.

Former Bucs DT Gerald McCoy
Former Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But, as for McCoy, he was always the real McCoy, and that, being who he was with the perfect moments and the not so perfect ones, is okay.

After all, we’re not always going to be what everyone else wants us to be. We can only be ourselves, be the choices we make, and live with what follows.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. 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: [email protected]

38 COMMENTS

  1. Bucs defense is going in a different direction it was time to move on. Wish McCoy well.

    Suh is exactly what Bowles wants on defense. Mixing it up with Suh, Vea, Allen, and Gholston up front is going to be interesting. Throw in the bltizing from the backers and DB’s and you have a recipe for some serious disruption. Just need the back end secondary to hold up to generate some turnovers and coverage sacks.

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  2. Looking forward to the new defense with Such, Vea and the cast of new players.

    As for GMC, good lord, can we just let this go. The guy has moved on, Trevor, I wish you would do the same.

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    • I had not been able to write my side/opinion on all the McCoy stuff yet since returning to PR.

      Nothing I’m not letting go here. Just telling a memory.

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      • I am not sure if it was the same movie that you attended but one of my friends told me a very similar story. Said that McCoy paid for he, his wife and his son’s tickets to one of the Marvel movies. My friend said that his wife had helped set up an event for McCoy and he just went out of his way to share with them some things in the future.

        Whether we thought he was a great football player in the end or not, he was a very gracious and generous man in this community. I suspect he will retire in the Oklahoma City area in the end (I believe he and his wife’s family still live in Oklahoma) but would love it if he came back to the Tampa community after he retires from football.

        Best wishes to him and his family.

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  3. I enjoyed McCoy’s time with the Bucs and like Sapp was before he was traded, there are always going to be some fans that feel the guy wasn’t as good as they expected. I think McCoy gave his best to the Bucs and wish him well in Carolina (just not against us).

    JMO, I do think Suh is better for this defense and also better for this team.

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  4. That was a great article to read and a great break down of Suh. Wow, I cant believe the speed on the outside. Poor Rivers…lol

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    • Thanks! And yes, Rivers never stood a chance in that clip.

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  5. I can’t wait for JPP to return to the mix.

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    • If he can get back and this team is still in contention in November and December, watch out.

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  6. I loved McCoy’s personality as a man. Good guy, you could bring your kids around and be happy about them looking up to him. The thing about him as a football player is that yeah, his personality might not be the best for a defensive lineman, apologizing for hitting QB’s and all that but the guy is and was a darned good football player. He was a successful draft pick and a successful and even really good NFL football player. Fans often behave as if a guy like McCoy was a waste of skin…. if they happen to not like him. Football is hard and McCoy was a good player for the Bucs and I hope he really will be back when he retires but it was time for the Bucs to move on because of the money. Guys have to be some sort of value to stick with a team. The minute a team can get equal or even better play for less money you’re out the door.

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  7. Great article Trevor, good having you back. I think Vea and Suh will be a headache for most offensive lines but I haven’t seen the final product on the field to judge yet. I hate the fact that myself like most Bucs fans have a guarded optimism but can you blame us for the last 10 years. That being said I have a good feeling about this years defense barring injuries.

    The handling of McCoy could have been better, seems like they were shopping him early too.
    A few of McCoy’s outbursts on social media didn’t look good for him either.

    I like McCoy and wish him the best just not when he plays us.

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    • Thanks! Glad to be back!

      I agree the Vea, Suh combo has a lot of potential.

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  8. I wish McCoy well. He was solid. Not an elite, but definitely solid and consistent. It’s not easy to be one of the best players on a losing team and get compared to Sapp but in a less than positive way. He gave us 9 good years.

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  9. On a scale of 1-5 where 5 is elite, both McCoy and Suh are 4’s. They’re just different 4’s. There’s just a nastiness that Suh brings, an attitude when he steps on the field, that is the difference between them. In some cases that element is huge. McCoy is a nice guy. It shows in his play, and while there is ZERO wrong with that, we’ve missed the edge, that attitude, with the on the field play. We have that now. Vita will learn it. McCoy has moved on, I wish him well. Everyone wins.

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  10. It’s Bitter Sweet Trevor. Great story about McCoy, there’s probably hundreds more stories like yours as well. You’re by far the Best Writer on here and it’s nice to know McCoy was a part of that. Welcome Back Trevor!!!

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    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. I felt like it needed to be told.

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  11. Someone can be a great person and still not a good fit for a team anymore.

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    • This is correct

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  12. Personally, I am ecstatic we don’t have to listen to his constant whining anymore. Nice guy smice guy, HE told anyone and everyone how great he was daily. HE put himself out there as the “Leader,” of our terrible defenses constantly, and if you dared to give him even the mildest criticism he’s going to throw a fit and cry about being “disrespected,” (which is the most over used and dumbest term in sports btw) and block you, he has the thinnest skin this side of Sham Newton. Those two entitled clowns are perfect for each other. Suh is a much better football player than McCoy period, the TFL’s are not even comparable. Lastly, I don’t know of anyone who would be stupid enough to compare him to Sapp. 99 is a first ballot HOF’er. The only way McCoy is going to Canton is if he buys a ticket.

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  13. The additions of D. White, Suh, Edwards, Murphy-Bunting, Dean, Nelson and Beckner indicates a culture change on defense along with a scheme change. McCoy was not going to be a good fit for the scheme or the new culture.

    I wish McCoy the best and look forward to the new look defense from a schematic, personnel and cultural change attitude. A new day for the Bucs defense that will bring a different attitude and approach to defensive play with Bowles orchestrating it all.

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  14. While I appreciate McCoy’s time with the Bucs, I would have gladly parted ways with him at any time during his nine year stint with the Bucs to bring in Suh as his replacement. I can’t wait to see the pressure and chaos that Vea and Suh cause in Bowles defense and just imagine what might be if JPP can come in and be effective during the 2nd half of the season. I guess I have drank the Kool-Aid again…..getting excited. Damn….said I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I’ll close by saying I am not the least bit concerned with McCoy being in Carolina….look forward to the matchup.

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  15. You haven’t gotten to say your piece about McCoy yet so I’m glad you were able to here, and did a great job of it! That first page was about as good of a lesson on how to accept a player for who is is as you can get.

    I always liked McCoy an appreciated that he was one of the best Defensive Players we had for years, even if he wasn’t as good as we wanted him to be. At first I wanted us to keep him because it seemed like we had so many holes that we needed as many fixed pieces as we could, but his salary was exorbitant so with things so tight it was a tough call. That’s exactly how I feel BA and Licht felt which is why his situation drug put so long this year, but they were hoping to move on if they could turn that money into an advantage which is what they did.

    Now, although I am sad he left on what he felt was bad terms but I am very happy at how the Defense ended up looking. It seems we have the right Veterans remaining and enough new players and Youth that I don’t feel there is any leftover baggage or bad habits. Everyone is buying into the new system and we have So much speed and strength that it seems we have a the best Defensive situation we’ve had in years. Even if it takes some time to get things goin or for the Rookies to catch up, I think moving forward we are going to have a solid Defense again and it’s exciting. McCoy and Alexander both were hard working nice guys but I feel they weren’t quite as good as people wanted them to be or even thought they were based on their numbers. Now we get to start fresh and when we lose a couple Vets like Suh and David they can be replaced because the rest of the Defense will have an identity by then hopefully.

    It’s just all exciting. I would Love to see Wins this year but most of all I wanna see progression and improvement.

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  16. On top of that Suh is still a Beast and seems as strong and fast as ever. I truly believe teams having to plan for him last year is why Aaron donald had such a great year. Donald is obviously a great player, but I would not be surprised at all if he didn’t have anywhere near the 20.5 Sacks he had last year without Suh next to him. For us, Suh is gonna make Vea better and give us the Nightmare up front that we need to help our Speedy secondary to learn how to be great. Suh is exactly what we needed.

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  17. Great article as always Trevor. I love the breakdowns of Suh. Did anyone else notice in the clip against the Vikings Suh comes off the right edge from the wide 9 stance and hits the QB so hard that his momentum carries him into the left tackle and nearly kills him? This guy can still play. He may not be a Superstar anymore, but he can still play at a high level. I hope Bowles uses him in a way that maximizes the skills he still has this year. It will be interesting to say the least.

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    • Thanks, Malcolm

      And no kidding. Suh has a TON of power.

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  18. When I first saw the headline to this article, I was afraid there was going to be something negative said about GMac. Was happily surprised to find a nice human interest story. Gerald always seemed like a great guy, as a teammate, in the community, and as a family man. I’m glad he’s a part of my city.

    Thanks for writing the article, Trevor!

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    • Haha! Thanks for reading!

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  19. Are you comfortable with how the Buccaneers handled Gerald McCoy’s departure? Hell no! It was a completely mess. The Bucs should have made a move sooner or at least give McCoy a heads up about the situation specially because everybody and their brothers knew he isn’t worth what he was due to.
    Do you think McCoy had it coming? C’mon, the world knew it
    Do you mind that McCoy went to NFC South rival Carolina? I mind the trash he talked about the Bucs once he left until the interview I was OK
    What do you think went into the timeline of when Bruce Arians was hired to when McCoy was no longer a Buccaneer? They never wanted to pay him his contract and he didn’t want it to take a pay cut to stay here with them onc they haven’t show him any love
    And most importantly, how will you remember McCoy? Great player, great person and the second Bucs player that answer a question sent from me 😉

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  20. Football has taken over as America’s game because of players like Mike Alstott, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. These players imposed their will on the field and we, vicariously feel for a moment, that we are as invincible as they. They give us pride because of their dominance and violence on the field. They make us feel strong. McCoy is a talented player but he rarely gave us those moments where he would blow our minds with imposing plays. That badass mentality that he lacked is what fans need/want to connected. Love the dude and hope for the best for him. But I couldn’t be happier with the change in culture on the team this year. Wake up Bucs fans, this is going to be fun again. Thus team will truly bring the hammer.

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  21. Since McCoy has been a Buc every new coach we got couldn’t praise him enough, and said how lucky they were to have him as leader of their defense. All those coaches are gone, and I believe Arians had that in mind when he decided move on. Remember we got throttled by BA twice when he was with Az. He had to game plan for McCoy, and I guess he found that McCoy wasn’t the game wrecker Bucs fans wished he was. With Suh in play it was a no brainer to swap players. There’s never an easy way to break off a relationship that lasted for eight years. The Bucs did what they thought was best. Since we play against him twice this year, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about McCoy. I just wish it wasn’t so.

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  22. I think the criticisms of GMC have been unfair mostly – up until last season the best line mate we gave him to play with was……Michael Johnson? Robert Ayers? Clinton McDonald?

    GMC was regularly double and tripled teamed in a way Suh has not been to that same extent.

    Last year (as a 30-year old) we finally gave him 29 year old, one-handed JPP to play with….and that was by far the best help he ever got in Tampa.

    I put the blame squarely at the feet of Jason Licht – he was constantly drafting for offense, whiffing in FA, and GMC was left to largely play the entire defensive line by himself for years. Is it any wonder his numbers were only good enough to earn him 6 pro bowls. Imagine what he could have become had Licht drafted an actual DE to play with him?

    But he’s gone now, so here’s hoping that Vea is progressing enough to be a viable sidekick for Suh and we can see some fantastic numbers of out of Suh!

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  23. McCoy will forever be remembered as the best player on the worst NFC team of the 2010s (and hey, the Browns are actually improving)

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  24. A fine brush with greatness story.

    GM had to replace a Buc legend, never an easy task. Class act on and off the field, but never disruptive enough in fact or appearance to fill those shoes. Might have weighed heavy on such a sensitive guy, which may have resulted in some bitterness and possibly leaned the scales towards heading for evil Carolina. Arians was no nonsense about it and certainly didn’t cater to the sensitivity, that GM had a tendency to portray. Can always count on change being stressful, good or bad.

    Suh’s style of play and demeanor would seem more similar to Sapp, possibly more familiar/appreciated by Buc fans. Seems to me that is advantageous on the D line, even if not required. Vea & Suh rotating out to the end spot sure looks like a handful and should make a difference in our D, if they can stay healthy for 16+.

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  25. I would be cool with McCoy if he just said his thanks and left. But he had to complain about the fans here and then the video with Cam. Im just not a fan at this point.

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  26. I went down to a Bucs/ Cowboys game from New York a couple years ago. After the game myself and a couple of friends that are Cowboy fans walked around the outside of the stadium and McCoy was signing autographs for the fans. Someone approached McCoy and they talked. McCoy announced that he needed to speak to a women who had cancer and for no one to leave. McCoy said he would be back and sign an autograph for everyone that wanted one. After a couple minutes McCoy returned, thanked everyone for being patient and started to sign autographs. Trevor I got to witness the human side of this man that I had never met. He is a class act and made me proud to be a Buc fan! My Cowboy friends both said that was the coolest thing to see the human side of an athlete!

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  27. Trevor: I suspect it won’t be long before your outstanding writing skills and football knowledge are noticed by a more widely recognized publication. Pewter Report is far better because of you.

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  28. Trevor:

    Thank you for sharing this story! This explains a lot. Gerald McCoy was an inspirational figure in your life that changed your life’s direction. McCoy is an outstanding person. No one has ever said otherwise. However, it is important to be able to separate personal and professional feelings for people. I have coworkers who I love as people, yet they suck at their job. McCoy is an outstanding person. He is a gifted athlete with a huge heart! However, he is and will always be soft. Too nice for football. As the leader of our defense, this niceness rubbed off on all the young impressionable players around him and that is why I strongly believe this Defense would implode when things got rough instead of rising to the challenge and being mentally tough. I wish McCoy the best in his life, not his career as he is now with the enemy. I for one am happy to see a little nastiness come to Tampa reminiscent of Sap and Lynch. McCoy should have played offense where you can be a nice guy!

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  29. Great story. Thanks for sharing and welcome back. Looking forward to all your future pieces.
    Cheers

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