Copyright 2009

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Here are five things that caught my interest this week:

FAB 1. I discussed the tightening in the race between Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich to be the Buccaneers starting quarterback in last week’s SR’s Fab 5, and indicated that the job is still McCown’s to lose.

The St. Petersburg Times also ran a story on the same day last Sunday suggesting the same thing, but generating the assumption that Leftwich might have the lead based on how players reacted to a touchdown pass he threw right before the practice’s 20-minute rain delay in Thursday’s OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buccaneer Place. Here’s what was written in the St. Pete Times:

“Byron Leftwich walked to the line of scrimmage during a red zone drill one day last week and surveyed the defense. Barking out the cadence, he took a short drop, looked quickly to his left and launched a perfectly thrown spiral to the left corner of the end zone, where Kelly Campbell made the catch while sliding past the pylon for a touchdown. It was just another play in the middle of summer that is duplicated throughout 32 NFL cities every day. But the Bucs’ offensive players and coaches erupted, chest-bumping Leftwich, Campbell and coach Raheem Morris. At any minute, you expected to see confetti, a podium and the Lombardi Trophy.”

Everything in that OTA recap is true, but the insinuation was that the players were reacting to Leftwich’s touchdown throw because it was from Leftwich, given the context of the St. Pete Times’ story. But that account needs to be put in proper context. The Pewter Reporters were standing closest to the practice field where the plays were occurring while the Times reporters were close to 100 yards further away from the action. Perhaps they didn’t hear Morris tell his team in a mid-field huddle that they were going to be practicing a “quick change of possession” drill, such as a blocked field goal or an interception return.

The offense was only given a minute or so and had to score a touchdown. The fact that the offensive players erupted and high-fived Leftwich was because he threw a touchdown pass as time expired. Had that been Luke McCown, Josh Johnson or even Brian Griese the players would have exhibited the same type of jubilation because they were celebrating what had happened, not who threw a particular pass.

Did that throw last Thursday help Leftwich’s cause? It certainly didn’t hurt it. But who is to say that McCown hasn’t had a similar type play in a practice on Tuesday or Wednesday that the media didn’t observe because the practice was closed?

Based on that play, which wasn’t described in the full context, the following assertion was written for the St. Pete Times readers:

“Leftwich might have an advantage in the huddle and locker room. McCown needs to improve his assertiveness, and he knows it. When you’re following somebody out of the woods, you tend to walk behind the guy who doesn’t need to look at his compass. It’s just a feeling you get when you see how the team responds to Leftwich. But it’s May. And let’s be clear about this: All three quarterbacks, including first-round draft pick Josh Freeman, will play this season. The starter in Week 1 could be replaced by the bye (Week 8). The backup will likely give way to Freeman.”

I’ve got two points to make about this. First, the media has gotten to see Leftwich throw the ball only three times – on May 13, May 28 and June 4. I don’t know how anyone in the media can definitively say, “It’s just the feeling you get when you see how the team responds to Leftwich” just from watching three voluntary OTA practices. They are entitled to their opinion, but I certainly don’t share it.

I think Leftwich is gaining ground and stated that in last week’s SR’s Fab 5. But I will need to see a lot more from Leftwich, a newcomer to this team who already missed the team’s first mini-camp, before I get any type of feeling that he’s in the driver’s seat ahead of McCown.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that he wasn’t on the mark on Wednesday and from what I witnessed on Thursday, Leftwich was erratic with a good deal of his throws.

The reason I am writing this is because when a report like the one in the St. Pete Times comes out it may influence the opinions of respected writers like Sports Illustrated’s Peter King or ESPN’s John Clayton, both of whom have said that Leftwich is all but assured to start. King just said as much in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback:

“I think I cannot believe – and will refuse to believe until I see him stink it up in training camp, which won’t happen – that Byron Leftwich will not beat out Luke McCown for the Tampa Bay quarterback job. Leftwich is just better.”

I’m certainly not in anyone’s corner on this one and may the best man win. If McCown doesn’t win the job, he had his opportunity and failed. But everything I have heard from team sources tell me that it is McCown’s job to lose right now and after the last two Thursday practices I witnessed I can see why. Leftwich’s strength is throwing the ball downfield and he pushes the ball downfield more than McCown, but McCown has been more accurate and keeps the chains moving.

Let’s remember that McCown was signed prior to the start of free agency and given a signing bonus whereas Leftwich was given no upfront money and wasn’t signed until April after being on the market for over a month. That should tell you what the organization thinks of both players. And I don’t think a touchdown pass or two in practice has done enough to change that opinion just yet.

The second interesting point in the St. Pete Times piece last Sunday was the definitive declaration that all three quarterbacks, including rookie Josh Freeman will start this year. That was the implication. It’s certainly not out of realm of possibility, but to come out and state it as fact in May is a bit stunning, especially after what I witnessed in Thursday’s practice. More on that in a second.

One more thing about Leftwich. The guy has an absolutely rocket arm and he will take a lot of shots to the end zone. That will get his teammates excited and he’s going to look really good in 7-on-7 drills in shorts and helmets because he is not going to get sacked in practice. But he will in games and he still has a slow, wind-up delivery and isn’t very mobile despite looking like he’s shed some serious weight.

However, if he avoids those sacks and delivers the ball without telegraphing it too much with his wind-up and suffer interceptions in the preseason, then Leftwich very well could be starting QB in Tampa Bay this year. But something about his game is going to have to change from his days with Jacksonville and Atlanta, especially, for that to happen. There is a reason the guy has been on four teams in four years. And there’s a reason why if Leftwich and McCown are even, McCown will get the first shot at starting.

Don’t look for a starting quarterback to be named prior to training camp. I expect this battle to continue through the preseason games and for a starter to be announced after the third preseason contest.

FAB 2. So with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich battling it out for the starting quarterback job, how are the two Joshes – Johnson and Freeman – faring? Well, Johnson is not factoring into this starting race at all, despite Raheem Morris’ instance that he’s getting his shot. Virtually all of the reps with the starters are divvied up between McCown and Leftwich, while Johnson is relegated to throwing to rookies and camp fodder.

At this point in time, it appears as if Johnson will be the odd man out – after Brian Griese is gone, of course. I used to think that Johnson would be battling Leftwich for a roster spot, but Leftwich has been splitting the starting reps evenly with McCown, so I think he’ll stick on the roster. The only way I don’t see Leftwich staying with the Bucs is if he plays well in the preseason – but not as well as McCown – and he develops some trade value for general manager Mark Dominik.

Outside of that or an injury to Leftwich or McCown, I just don’t see how the Bucs keep Johnson. I certainly don’t think the Bucs will keep four quarterbacks in 2009.

But one thing is certain regarding Johnson, he’s much further ahead than Freeman, the team’s first-round pick back in April. Johnson has really developed some touch to go along with his rifle-like velocity. Freeman has both touch and a strong arm, but you can tell that the rookie quarterback is thinking too much. During the 7-on-7 red zone period on Thursday in which Freeman and Johnson were paired together at one end of the field while Leftwich and McCown were at the other, Freeman was seen telegraphing too many of his passes.

On a pass to wide receiver Joel Filani, Freeman stared him down the entire route and that allowed rookie cornerback Marshall McDuffie to break on the ball and swat the pass away. Freeman suffered through a couple other pass break-ups from staring down receivers during the period where Johnson was a lot more quick and decisive in his decision-making.

Freeman and wide receiver Amarri Jackson were not on the same page on two throws within five minutes of each other with Freeman throwing the ball one way and Jackson going the other. After the play, both rookies were blaming each other for the screw-up, so there was plenty of confusion over the routes on those plays.

While Freeman was far from perfect, you could definitely see the potential he possesses. Freeman threw a nice touchdown pass to wide receiver Pat Carter, who was well covered by rookie corner Evan McCollough. That was followed by a laser touchdown strike to rookie tight end Ryan Purvis down the seam in between linebackers Jamall Johnson and Niko Koutouvides.

But Johnson had the best throw of the session when he lofted a pass into the back corner of the end zone to Filani, who skied up for the touchdown catch over rookie corners DeAngelo Willingham and E.J. Biggers. It would have been nice to see Johnson make that throw to Antonio Bryant over Aqib Talib and Sabby Piscitelli to gauge his progress against Tampa Bay’s better players.

And don’t get the idea that Freeman will be competing for the starting job anytime soon. The 21-year old out of Kansas State definitely needs a year on the bench to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, better his anticipation and shorten his release time. I know it’s still very early, but based on what I saw on Thursday, I would bet that Freeman, who entered the draft as a junior, doesn’t get a start this year – even if the Bucs’ season is going down the tubes. I just don’t think he’ll be ready. I think he’ll be a work in progress and when he eventually becomes the starter in 2010 or 2011 he’ll be really be ready to play.

One of the other interesting things in watching Freeman and Johnson in the 7-on-7 drill was seeing which players they were throwing to and throwing against. Aside from Filani, Purvis, Jackson and Carter, tight Jason Pociask and wide receiver Dexter Jackson were also in the group. That does not necessarily bode well for Jackson, a former second-round pick, who will not make the team in this reporter’s opinion. The fact that Jackson was relegated to running with the likes of Filani and Purvis instead of being with Bryant, Michael Clayton, Kelly Campbell and Maurice Stovall speaks volumes of the lack of progress he is making as a wide receiver.

And aside from Biggers, Willingham, McDuffie, McCullough, Johnson, Koutouvides and safety C.J. Byrd, linebacker Adam Hayward was also in the mix of defenders. What Hayward has going for him is that he is a starter on special teams. For those Bucs fans that have been wondering why Pewter Report has been framing the battle between Quincy Black and Angelo Crowell, now you know why. Hayward seems firmly planted in third place on the depth chart right now without much chance to get into the starting mix based on his limited practice reps.

Kind of like Josh Johnson.

FAB 3. With the start of Buccaneers training camp less than two months away, I figured this would be a good time to give you a “State of the Buccaneers” address to let you know how I see the team shaping up heading into football season. In FAB 3, I’ll be addressing the five things I like about the 2009 Buccaneers, followed by the five things I don’t like about how the team is shaping up in FAB 4.

First, here’s the good news.

1. The emphasis on speed and physical play on defense. One of the trademarks of the Tampa 2 defense under Monte Kiffin was speed. While the Bucs defense was in its prime, there might not have been a faster defense. But the Bucs got old and slow and somewhat weak down the stretch last year and that played a big part in the team’s 0-4 collapse that cost Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen their jobs. Tampa Bay’s defense is noticeably faster and the only way to do that is to get younger, which the team did by cutting several thirty-something players like linebacker Derrick Brooks and running back Warrick Dunn among others. Younger players will also be able to withstand the punishment and the pounding that will come as Tampa Bay becomes a more physical team. It’s bad enough when aging players like Brooks and defensive end Kevin Carter were targeted in game plans by opponents with punishing rushing attacks like Carolina and Atlanta, but when a team like Oakland beats you with a power running game and a plodder like Michael Bush outruns the defense for 177 yards, that’s embarrassing. The faster and more physical this defense can get the better.

2. The competition improves virtually everywhere. Give Bucs general manager Mark Dominik credit for beefing up most positions with competition, including quarterback, linebacker and even kicker, where incumbent Matt Bryant will face a stiff training camp challenge from newcomer Mike Nugent. Granted, the competition at some positions, such as wide receiver and cornerback, is lacking a good deal of experience. But the corners and receivers do possess the raw, physical skills to play in this league and I do think the Bucs will discover some real gems at each position this year. Some positions, such as linebacker, quarterback, running back, tight end and the defensive line are stacked with bodies ready to legitimately start in the NFL. All that appears to be lacking at those positions, except for running back, is a great deal of experience. But a lot of the unexperienced players on the roster at those spots aren’t exactly camp fodder. It will be interesting to see which 53 players wind up sticking around come September after what will be one of the most spirited training camps I can remember.

3. The return of the philosophy to run the ball. Two things were generally assured about Jon Gruden’s offense. It would start off the season as a running team and wind up as a passing team by December. Somewhere around midseason the Bucs’ running game would just disappear. I don’t envision that happening under head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. The Bucs are not only emphasizing the run with their play calls and zone-blocking scheme, the team is also emphasizing it with its personnel. Having feature back Earnest Graham, change-of-pace back Clifton Smith and a recovering Cadillac Williams, who is trying to get back on track health-wise, wasn’t good enough for the Bucs. The team went out and landed the top free agent runner on the market in Derrick Ward. The Bucs’ young and talented offensive line, already proven to be adept in pass protection (zero sacks in 67 pass attempts at Chicago last year), is excited about the proposition of committing to the run – not just for an entire game, but an entire season. The key to a successful running game will be the offensive line working in synchronicity.

4. Raheem Morris. No one knows how Morris’ first year as a head coach will play out. At 32 years of age, you get the sense that Morris will make his share of mistakes that come from a lack of experience. On the other hand, Morris exudes a sense of coolness enveloped in hype and pure energy. Tony Dungy had the same type of coolness, the kind that makes players believe and follow orders, but his coolness was surrounded by a sense of calmness. Dungy was more even keeled, an approach that too often resulted in slow starts, but featured strong, furious, back-to-the-wall finishes in Tampa Bay. The enthusiasm that Morris generates has created a real buzz among the players, who all say they love playing for him. The question is will they sell out for him like they did for Dungy and didn’t do for Jon Gruden? I really like how Morris is trying to model the toughness of physical AFC teams like Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Baltimore and instill that mentality in this Buccaneers squad. He also is using the word “violent” a lot to drive that point home. Football is a violent game, so there is nothing wrong with that to try to make the team tougher.

5. The drafting of Josh Freeman. I don’t know if Freeman will pan out and become a superstar, a starter, a journeyman or a bust, but I do like the fact that the Bucs are at least trying to draft and develop a franchise quarterback. The last time they tried to do that was back in 1994 with Trent Dilfer. By contrast, the Redskins have drafted three quarterbacks in that time span – Heath Shuler, Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell, or the Chargers who drafted Ryan Leaf, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers highly. With the Bucs having so many journeymen-type quarterbacks over the years like Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia and Byron Leftwich, it’s time this franchise tried to develop one instead of bitching about never having one. The pressure is on Freeman to deliver and become a franchise guy, but his even-keeled demeanor will greatly assist him in that task. Freeman played through a tremendous amount of pressure under the wacky Ron Prince at K-State, so he has the mental toughness needed to succeed at the position along with the physical tools.

FAB 4. We pride ourselves at providing objective and balanced coverage of the Buccaneers, so I’ll continuing with my “State of the Buccaneers” address by focusing on five things I don’t like about how the team is shaping up in FAB 4.

Here are my concerns.

1. This team is going with young guys at the expense of winning. The job of a general manager is to create the best 53-man roster possible that gives his team the best chance of winning – now and over the long term. Sometimes it is hard to accomplish winning now and building a winner over the long haul at the same time given players ages, whether they be young and raw or long in the tooth and slow. I understand the rationale behind Mark Dominik’s plan of playing a bunch of young, unproven players this year to see what type of talent already exists on the roster, but it’s going to be a painful process this year unless the learning curve for the multitude of young players is a quick one. What Dominik is doing is going with young guys at the expense of winning. No place on the roster is this more obvious than at the cornerback position, which is the position that drives Jim Bates’ defense. Aside from Ronde Barber, no other player has more than one year’s worth of experience, although the team is high on Aqib Talib, Elbert Mack and Kyle Arrington. These players will get needed and valuable experience this year, but it will come at the expense of touchdowns – and wins. Meanwhile, free agent cornerback Patrick Surtain, who played for Bates in Miami, could come in to help the Bucs for one year and show the young corners how to play this style of defense.

2. The offensive line may not be as strong as once thought. For the record, I like the Bucs offensive line. They are a bunch of great guys and very good players. On paper, this unit has the potential to be among the league’s best this year. But I don’t like left tackle Donald Penn staying away from the OTAs, I don’t like how Arron Sears has not been medically cleared to practice, and I don’t like that center Jeff Faine has had a minor yet troublesome back issue. Thank goodness for the foresight of former general manager Bruce Allen and college scouting director Dennis Hickey in selecting Jeremy Zuttah with the team’s third-round pick last year – a move I initially criticized due to guard already being a strength of the team. Without Zuttah, the line would have even more question marks, but he’s been a bright spot in practice. But Faine could be a back flare up away from the sidelines, and it’s hard to establish chemistry without the starting left tackle present in the offseason. For the zone blocking scheme to really work, the offensive line has to move in concert and rely on the man next to them now more than ever. That’s hard to do without Penn’s presence because it’s just not Penn working with Zuttah, he also has to develop good chemistry with tight ends John Gilmore, Jerramy Stevens and Kellen Winslow, too. It will be interesting to see how the line adapts to this new scheme, but don’t expect the Bucs to run for 150 yards against Dallas in Week 1.

3. Aqib Talib’s judgment. I don’t mind seeing tempers flare in practice and a good scuffle breaking out. It’s something that team leaders don’t usually participate in, but it has happened before. Back in 1993 when free agent middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson was tired of seeing former first-round pick Keith McCants loafing, Nickerson picked a fight and proceeded to royally kick his butt. That clearly established Nickerson as the new sheriff in town at One Buccaneer Place and helped lay the no-nonsense foundation that Nickerson later bestowed upon the likes of Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. I don’t mind seeing Talib getting in a scrap if there is a valid reason behind it. Nickerson’s scrap actually showed good leadership. Talib’s showed poor judgment when he used his helmet as a weapon to swing at left tackle Donald Penn and actually injured Torrie Cox by cutting his face. Former head coach Jon Gruden said that one day Talib would be the “face of the franchise.” You don’t get that reputation by slugging teammates and Talib has done that twice now with the Penn-Cox incident and an incident with fellow teammate Cory Boyd at the NFL Rookie Symposium. The one positive out of the Talib fight was seeing Raheem Morris make the entire team run scores of wind sprints the next day under the guise of a conditioning-rich “special teams practice.” Talib pulled a high school stunt and Morris treated he and his teammates like they were back in high school. I’m surprised Morris didn’t take the Bucs over to Raymond James Stadium to run the stadium steps. Talib, a former first-round pick that just had his likeness appear on an 80-foot banner outside of Raymond James Stadium, has got to show better judgment if he ever wants to be thought of as a leader.

4. The overconfidence in Gaines Adams and Jim Bates’ system. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik steadfastly opposed Jim Bates’ lobbying to sign free agent defensive end Jason Taylor, one of the league’s most proven pass rushers. The reason was to stick to his youth movement that was outlined in the first concern. Behind the cornerback position, the defensive end position is the second-most important spot in Bates’ defensive scheme and the Bucs lack any proven pass rushers. Dominik is relying on the young talent to rise to the occasion and has strong faith in Bates’ system taking good ends and making them double-digit sackers just due to the scheme itself. It’s a very big gamble that if it doesn’t work out, will backfire horribly on the Buccaneers this year. Having inexperienced corners is one thing in man coverage, but not having a pass rush to go along with that is a deadly double whammy. Taylor, or a player like former Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith, who signed with Houston during free agency, could have provided a more proven pass rush to a unit which has just 31.5 career sacks at the end position between Gaines Adams and Co. The pressure is on Adams to rise up and fulfill his promise as the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. With only drafting one defensive end (fourth-round pick Kyle Moore) and signing one (street free agent Louis Holmes) end this offseason, Dominik is really rolling the dice that Adams will deliver and Jimmy Wilkerson will have a breakout year as a full-time starter at left end. That’s a gamble that I wouldn’t take if I were the general manager.

5. The lack of experience at wide receiver. If I am head coach Raheem Morris, I would wrap Antonio Bryant in bubble wrap during the week to preserve him for Sundays. The reason? If Bryant goes down with an injury, this wide receiving corps lacks any star power and consistent playmaking ability. Imagine if Bryant goes down for the season. Who are the starters, Michael Clayton and Kelly Campbell? Who is the third wide receiver, Sammie Stroughter, the team’s seventh-round pick? I actually like the talent of these players, what I don’t like is the NFL inexperience that Campbell and Stroughter possess, along with the unreliability of Clayton. I understand that the presence of tight end Kellen Winslow essentially serves as Bryant’s number two receiver in the passing game hierarchy, but if Bryant is gone and teams start doubling Winslow, who can consistently get open and make plays? Yes, the Bucs have inquired about Plaxico Burress, but as Pewter Report has reported, that was a simple, due diligence health inquiry and the team believes Burress will do some jail time in New York or at least serve an NFL suspension. There is a greater chance of Ike Hilliard returning to Tampa Bay than Burress becoming a Buccaneer. Once again, general manager Mark Dominik is gambling on Bryant staying healthy and a couple of the team’s myriad of young receivers stepping up and contributing. But whether it is at cornerback, defensive end or wide receiver, Dominik is just too much gambling with the roster this year to ensure a winning season in my opinion. With the NFL easing restrictions for teams to associate themselves with lotteries and gambling, Dominik could probably be the local spokesperson for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Bet on red, Mark.

FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:

• The Tampa Tribune reported that Michael Pittman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, reached out to the Buccaneers recently to try to persuade the team to sign his client to play fullback, especially with Tampa Bay losing fullback Byron Storer to another torn ACL injury. But sources tell Pewter Report that the Bucs have rebuffed Rosenhaus’ efforts and aren’t interested in re-signing Pittman, who will turn 34 this August. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team tries to convert undrafted rookie free agent Josh Vaughan, who weighs close to 240 pounds, into a hybrid halfback-fullback and back up B.J. Askew and Jameel Cook in training camp.

• Stylez G. White’s motorcycle accident last week, in which he suffered some minor injuries, did not help his cause towards making the Buccaneers 2009 53-man roster. Some within the organization are questioning his hunger level after a very hungry White made the team in 2007 out of the Arena Football League and led Tampa Bay in sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (seven). But White’s play dipped last year and some believe that the fact that he changed his name from Greg White to Stylez G. White as a way to draw attention to himself. Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden once told me there are two types of guys in the NFL – “players” and “playas.” A “player” is a guy who loves the game of football. A “playa” is a guy who simply likes being a football player. I like White, who is 30, a lot, but I’m beginning to think that he may be a “playa.” He really needs to get serious about learning this new defense, playing the run better and finding that hunger that he had in 2007 otherwise a player like Louis Holmes is going to rise up and steal White’s roster spot in the preseason.

• One of the stories to look for as training camp draws near is whether Cadillac Williams will be cleared to participate in training camp or whether he will start camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. If he’s smart, Williams will go on PUP because he unless he does that, he will not be eligible for the PUP list when the season starts. Of course that would cause him to miss the first six games of the year, but it would buy him an extra 2.5 months to get 100 percent back from his second torn patellar tendon injury in two years. If Williams tries to give it a go in training camp and passes the physical on July 31, the pressure is on for Williams to make the team on his own merit because he won’t have the PUP list to fall back on. It’s safe to say that after missing the entire offseason on-field program that he won’t start ahead of Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward, and probably won’t get many snaps ahead of Clifton Smith, either. That would relegate him to fourth-string status, and can the Bucs keep four halfbacks when the team might need six wide receivers for special teams purposes and to make up for some of the inexperience at the position behind Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton? If Tampa Bay keeps four halfbacks, Williams will be called upon to cover kicks and punts like most backup running backs do. Williams has no experience doing this and it’s hard to imagine him doing it. Williams’ situation will be one to monitor on the eve of training camp to see if he goes the PUP route or if he’s ready to fight for a roster spot. You get the feeling that general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris don’t have the allegiance to Williams that former GM Bruce Allen and ex-coach Jon Gruden had.

• A year ago, Clifton Smith was an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State who made the Buccaneers roster after a rookie try-out camp. What better person to go to to ask which young or unheralded players are really lighting it up behind the scenes? Here’s what Smith had to say about the guys on offense who are catching his eye: “The person who has really impressed me as far as the young guys go is Sammie Stroughter. He’s a great talent. He just looks like a natural out there. Then we have Kelly Campbell out there doing a terrific job, especially with the deep ball. His whole game is starting to come around, especially with the chemistry with the quarterbacks.” On the defensive side, Smith singled out a couple guys: “I’m surprised by Louis Holmes. He comes off the edge hard and he gives our tackles a lot of great work. He’s been tough to run around. Then you have Dre Moore in the middle. He penetrates every time it’s an inside run. He’s always in the backfield. At corner, Elbert Mack is coming on along with Kyle Arrington. They are doing a great, great job of competing and making our defense better.”

• Bucs right guard Davin Joseph is among those along the offensive line that have lost weight to be better conditioned for Tampa Bay’s zone-blocking scheme, which requires a lot of lateral movement off the snap to create running lanes for the running backs. “I’m a lot lighter than I was at this point last year,” Joseph said. “I’m about 305 right now. Last year about this time I was at 320. So it’s a big difference from last year. They warned us when we first showed up that we would have to drop some weight.” Joseph said it’s been several years since he has played this light. “It’s been a while since I’ve been 305 – probably my freshman or sophomore year at Oklahoma. Actually, I’m probably closer to 301 or 302. I’m trying to move better.”

• Memo to the St. Pete Times Bucs beat writers – and I know they’ll read this because they read our Pewter Insider content – please use proper attribution when citing information that was obtained from other media sources, especially when it’s exclusive from only one media outlet. Friday’s Times’ report about Arron Sears said: “An unconfirmed report said Sears is absent because of issues that arose from complications related to past concussions. Attempts to reach Sears were unsuccessful.” That “report” came from Pewter Report, yet the Times didn’t properly attribute the source, which is a professional courtesy they almost always ignore. When Pewter Report cannot get confirmation on a story, yet it is too big not to report in the meantime, we always give attribution, whether it is to,, Steve Duemig and 620 WDAE, The Tampa Tribune or the Times. In fact, I mentioned the St. Pete Times five times in Fab 1 in this very article. I could really care less about Pewter Report getting its name in their paper, either. My beef with The Times centers on the principle of the matter. If Roy Cummings had broken the Sears story, I would expect to see the St. Pete Times say “an unconfirmed report in the Tampa Tribune said …” But I guess professional courtesy is impossible due to their arrogance.

• The Pewter Report/Pewter Insider renewals and subscription extensions keep coming in – largely due to the fact that the subscription is 75% off right now. With Father’s Day coming up on June 21 a subscription to Pewter Report and the Pewter Insider makes a great gift for your dad or your grandfather. A one-year subscription is only $10, which includes 10 issues of Pewter Report magazine and the Pewter Insider content on, and that would do the trick. Or you can really show him how much you love him with a three-year subscription for just $30! Remember that the regular price for Pewter Report is $39.99 for one year, so you could renew his subscription for a whopping three years for less than the cost of one year under the regular price. Call 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) right now while you are thinking about it or subscribe online by clicking here.

• Two quick “promgramming notes” – Yours truly will be appearing on Fox 13’s Good Day Tampa Bay around 7:30 a.m. on Monday, June 8. I’ll be talking some Bucs football and promoting our $10 subscription offer for Father’s Day. I’ll also be appearing in the Chat room with my esteemed colleague, Bucs beat writer Charlie Campbell, on Monday at 1:00 p.m. to chat with Bucs fans for half an hour. This chat will make up for the one that had to be cancelled on Friday due to technical difficulties.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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