FAB 2. Toughness Is A Key Trait In Bucs’ Player Evaluation

Part of the reason why PewterReport.com – and Buccaneer Magazine back in the day – was able to hit on so many Bucs’ Best Bets when it came to our pre-draft coverage was the fact that Tampa Bay had certain models the team was looking for at certain positions.

Monte Kiffin was the Bucs’ defensive coordinator from 1996-2008, and if you paid attention, you knew what he was looking for when it came to a Buccaneers cornerback or linebacker when watching college football.

I could literally watch a college football game and say, “That guy would fit in the Tampa 2.”

That’s why linebacker Quincy Black and cornerback Torrie Cox were identified as Bucs’ Best Bets. The Bucs liked fast, athletic linebackers and smaller cornerbacks with great agility, quickness and reaction time.

Players with certain traits helped PewterReport.com nail other Bucs’ Best Bets throughout the years. Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden had tried unsuccessfully to land veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia before he signed with Philadelphia in 2006, so he drafted a Garcia-like quarterback that year in Bruce Gradkowski, who was also identified as a PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bet.

Three years later we would accurately forecast the selection of Josh Johnson, another Bucs’ Best Bet, in 2008 because he had the similar traits Gruden was looking for. We also hit (unfortunately) on the drafting of wide receiver Dexter Jackson, who was a Bucs’ Best Bet at wide receiver, because Gruden wanted a speed receiver to replace Joey Galloway.

Ex-Bucs QB Josh Freeman - Photo by: Getty Images
Ex-Bucs QB Josh Freeman – Photo by: Getty Images

Quarterback Josh Freeman was easy to project as a Bucs’ Best Bet for a quarterback-needy Tampa Bay team, given the fact that he played at Kansas State where Raheem Morris coached for one season in 2006. So was defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in 2010, because the Bucs needed a defensive tackle and everyone knew that Ndamukong Suh was going to be drafted by Detroit at No. 2, one pick ahead of Tampa Bay. Nailing both Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams in the 2010 draft was easy because the Bucs wanted a pair of big, athletic receivers for Freeman to throw to.

Outside of running back Charles Sims in 2014, quarterback Jameis Winston in 2015, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in 2016 and wide receiver Chris Godwin last year, it has been more difficult for us to hit on multiple Bucs’ Best Bets until recently. That’s because a consistent trait theme has emerged this offseason.

After suffering through a 5-11 season in which the team routinely lost the battle of the trenches on both sides, the Bucs wanted tough, physical players, and that was evident in free agency when the team signed center Ryan Jensen, defensive linemen Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein and Vinny Curry, and traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. That theme carried over to the draft.

“Toughness and competitiveness,” said Bucs director of college scouting Mike Biehl. “He’s got to be a competitor. It’s so hard to play in this league and the physical nature of it if you’re not tough and competitive.”

Bucs GM Jason Licht (grey suit) and director of college scouting Mike Biehl (blue suit) - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs GM Jason Licht (grey suit) and director of college scouting Mike Biehl (blue suit) – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It’s taken Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek and Biehl a few years to hone in on the type of Buccaneer player the team is looking for. Biehl uses the word “competitive” when talking about player traits. Licht has used the word “resilient” when talking about player traits. Put them together with passion and you get toughness.

“When we all came together, especially when Spytek got here – we all have our different backgrounds – so when you first come together, everybody has their own ideas,” Biehl said. “Over the last couple of years we have fine-tuned and figured out what we want to do. All of those ideas had come from other places. Now it’s come altogether for us. Now they are the Buccaneer way.”

Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter have chimed in with their thoughts on Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class, but I wanted to get Biehl’s analysis, too.

On DT Vita Vea: “Vita is a freak for being as big as he is and moving as well as he does. He’s really untapped. We feel he’s got a high ceiling. He’s big, strong and tough. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to rush the passer in college and we think he can be a three-day player for us.”

On RB Ronald Jones: “We’re excited about Ronald – me in particular,” Biehl said. “He was one of my favorite backs in this draft. You’ve got Saquon, who is probably the clear-cut best one, but I think after that you could ask a lot of people and there are a lot of different opinions – Ronald Jones is right there in that mix if not on top of it. Speed, toughness, runs hard. With his speed he adds a dimension to our team that we don’t have and haven’t here in awhile. He’s a guy that didn’t get a lot of chances to catch the ball, but we see him being a three-down back. Ronald is only 20. He’s still learning. I really liked his interview the other day when somebody said he’s arrived and he snapped and said, ‘I haven’t arrived yet.’ He’s got the right attitude, which I think most of these guys in this draft class do.”

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

On CB M.J. Stewart: “The thing we’ve tried to do is find guys that are versatile. Jason has talked a lot about that and Coach [Koetter] has talked about that. He’s just a guy that checked a lot of boxes about the type of guys we want around here. He’s tough, smart, coachable, physical and he just plays the game the right way. We just seem him being able to play several positions in our defense.”

On CB Carlton Davis: “He’s different from a lot of the guys we have because of his size. He has the size and length that we haven’t had here in a while. He’s a competitive kid and he’s not afraid to mix it up and get involved in the run. He can run too, for a guy that is big and long. He’s another young guy coming out early that hasn’t even tapped his potential yet. He’s got a pretty big upside.”

On OL Alex Cappa: “You turn on his college tape and the kid is the ultimate competitor. He’s just throwing people around. The first thing you look for when you are scouting small school guys, especially when you are doing offensive linemen, is are they dominating? He’s definitely dominating. You get to see him go to the Senior Bowl like Ali did, and he took his lumps the first day, kind of like Ali did. Ali had a rough start, but by the end of the week he was one of the better offensive linemen there. I think he’s in that category. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know right now coming in from Humboldt. But from the moment he’s stepped on the field the coaches have been excited is his ability to learn and his coachability. That’s the kind of stuff our scouts said, and it’s exciting to get those things validated.”

On S Jordan Whitehead: “The versatility that kid has is appealing. He played some tailback there and was productive. We see him playing safety, and possibly playing nickel. He’s a good athlete. He’s got good speed and he’s tough. If you look at all three of those DBs we took – Stewart, Davis and Whitehead – they’re all tough and physical. They all play the run. They’re all two-way players. We’re excited about him.”

Bucs WR Justin Watson - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR Justin Watson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

On WR Justin Watson: “We’re excited about Justin. He’s a guy that has been counted out every step of the way. He goes to an Ivy League school and guys don’t pay much attention to him and all he does is go produce three 1,000-yard seasons. Then he goes to the East-West Shrine Game and competes. Then he gets called up to the Senior Bowl and competes. We had him in for an interview and pretty much everyone in the building was unanimous about the type of kid he is. He’s got what it takes to be a Buc. Every year there are guys that slip through the cracks that don’t go to the Combine and he was one of those guys this year. You bring in guys for (Top) 30 visits for different reasons, but one of them is that they weren’t there so we need to get a physical on them. We needed to get a physical because we knew we were going to target him as a draft pick. You don’t want to draft someone you don’t have a physical on.”

On LB Jack Cichy: “Jack is a versatile guy. He’ll be a guy that can come in and be able to play all three spots and play on all three downs – four downs, really, because of special teams. I think we’re pretty fortunate to get him in the sixth round. He’s going into last year and then the injury happens. He looked pretty good in the mini-camp. Jim Leonhard played in the league for a while and he is their defensive coordinator. His fingerprints are all over that defense and I think Jack has learned the right way. He didn’t do much at his pro day because he’s still coming back from that knee injury, but you can watch the movement. We seem him as a three-down guy because we feel he can play in coverage, and he’s big, tough and physical enough to come up and play the run. He’s exciting. The versatility is the thing that stands out there.”

The thing that stands out about all of these draft picks is that they are tough and competitive. After a couple of years of honing in on the traits they are looking for, Licht, Biehl and Spytek have created the Buccaneer way, which is to find tough, competitive players like Vea, Cappa and Watson – who were all Bucs’ Best Bets this year – among others.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Pete Wood
2 years ago

I agree that everybody was way too enthusiastic about the Bucs chances last year. But, who wrote this Fab Five?
Chicken Little?

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Darin
2 years ago

Stacking wins should not be a saying heard at One Buc. Dirk should have learned by now. This, along with other things he does, makes me hesitant to believe. I would be willing to bet most every playoff team is looking at the next game, and then the next. Cant look past the next one in this league. Shoot at this point they shouldnt look past the next practice.

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jb™
2 years ago

my biggest concern for the upcoming season, is COACHING! The fact that Koetter and Licht decided to pass on Alvin Kammera, TWICE, and trot Doug Martin out there doesn’t instill much confidence in the putting together a playoff team. My biggest fear is they continue their stubborn ways, and start Barber over RoJo, even with RoJo’s far superior skills.

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FLyBoy
2 years ago
Reply to  jb™

jb – I agree with the coaching statement. Better decisions in the RedZone and getting players involved at the right moment/play. I was dumbfounded when we kept Martin and then used him no matter the production he had. I think they learned their lesson. That brings me to the second point; as much as I love to see RoJo starting, he hasnt done anything in this league to warrant a start over Barber. I think even himself will tell anyone that. He wants to start but he also wants to prove himself and earn that starting nod. Barber has paid… Read more »

plopes808
2 years ago
Reply to  jb™

I’m not so sure on this one. Rojo hasn’t proven to be starting caliber…yet. Barber on the other hand has proven to be a beast out there. I say give Rojo a lot of touches in preseason and see where he’s at. Barber is ideal for those tough short yardage situations. I also worry about Rojo’s size and ability to carry the load at the next level. Setting up a good rotation throughout the season will limit the mileage on both backs and keep them fresh, much like the DL rotation will do. May the best man win…but maintain the… Read more »

ayron54
2 years ago

Maybe I was lead to believe something that wasn’t true but isn’t one of the things that the American flag stands for and represents, freedom?? So how is it anyone’s right to say what freedoms one can exercise and what freedoms one can’t when everything is completely legal and within their constitutional rights that lots of people fought for amd died for in order for people to have those freedoms to do so. Go Bucs!!

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Destino102
2 years ago
Reply to  ayron54

I think I understand what your asking, and maybe this will answer it. The first amendment protects you freedom of speech and your right to protest from the government itself. It does not protect you from your employer. When you are employed, you have to adhere to the rules of the employer to remain employed. You can say or protest what you want, but they have the ability to punish or fire you for it. They can also make rules that dictate what is expected from it’s employees. This is why players get fined for celebrations, having stuff written on… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  Destino102

Agree

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Devasher
2 years ago
Reply to  Destino102

While I understand that point your point of view, there are limits to what an employer can ask you to do regardless of who owns the business. An employer cannot require me to pray, they cannot force me to believe something or do things that violate the law. As with all rights, there are limits. The question of whether a professional athlete must stand for the flag is a question between the owners and the union that represents the players bargain for. In the case of the NBA, they bargained that piece in their contract. If the union agrees to… Read more »

buccaneerNW
2 years ago
Reply to  ayron54

The employer argument is the only logically valid argument against the anthem protests. Employers do have a right to constrain behavior during work hours. The only question is whether they should limit some forms of speech and expression. Some owners want to, and others don’t.

The flag means different things to different people. Military people don’t own the flag or the national anthem. Protest is protected free speech (unless it’s on somebody else’s dime).

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Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  buccaneerNW

Agree

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e
e
2 years ago

Nice work, Scott… I particularly like the piece on Bowers. I wonder if Licht or staff go through every single draft choice that the team has picked and done analysis on how and why that player failed to live up to expections? Then, using that data moving forward? Interesting to hear the inside story. I also don’t believe that mandating patriotism is the correct way to go with the NFL. If you want to set a policy of “free market” principles, the NFL should that that any player that is perceived to being disrespectful to the flag can be cut… Read more »

macabee
2 years ago

I’m a Buc fan. I’m always cautiously optimistic. It’s in my DNA. Twelve seasons of no playoffs (not since January 2006) justifies my guarded optimism, but I still remain optimistic because as I do every year I see enough change to start to believe again! Are we there yet? No! But we look pretty darn close this time. We already had the offensive skill pieces in place and with the addition of a quality RB, they have the table set to be a complete offense. A couple of questions remain on the O-Line, but I think those questions will be… Read more »

e
e
2 years ago
Reply to  macabee

Agreed Mac… It’s on Koetter & coaches at this point.

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plopes808
2 years ago
Reply to  macabee

Agreed 100% Licht and the rest of his team have done well adding quality pieces. It’s time for Koetter and the coaching staff to put the puzzle together. If they can’t do so this year with the pieces available to them, they should be gone. I do feel that regardless of the coaching staff’s fate, Licht and his crew should stay. They have proven to be able to learn from their mistakes and adjust course accordingly. The pieces they are adding now fit the “mold” of what we want on the roster and will continue to improve this team “on… Read more »

SaskBucs
2 years ago

Yep, impossible to get hyped for this season. Week by week hope for the best. As far as the anthem thing goes, didn’t care then, don’t care now. I just want to watch football. I think these athletes should use their platform to raise social awareness but it is clear this way was too divisive. I am glad you shared the story about gaining perspective from sharing time and viewpoints with someone who has learned from different experiences and has opposing opinions. Most people don’t understand that is the only way to truly educate yourself on issues. This is why… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  SaskBucs

So agree.

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chetthevette
2 years ago
Reply to  SaskBucs

I wish i could put my self in their shoes. But that is not possible. I can only imagine Africa Amricans fear and disgust when being confronted with racism spewwed out by White people.
My thought is this.
The entire Black race should be commended and applauded for protesting in such a civil and non-violent manner. I’m not sure if i was in their shoes I would show such restraint.
GO BUCS

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majc32
2 years ago

The nfl made a bigger mess with this rule. I hope you know “a great deal of Americans” are upset these players voices have been silenced. Protests are supposed to make you uncomfortable. During the 60’s blacks would have sit ins in White only restaurants. It was uncomfortable for both but it was needed and it changed the black of segregation. Just because some were offended, the message these players were making is necessary. Nothing makes me more mad then comments made in the comments section saying that police brutality towards minorities is a false narrative etc. We see it… Read more »

buccaneerNW
2 years ago

Some good stuff, but Bowers isn’t deserving of a spot in the Fab 5.

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thewbacca
2 years ago
Reply to  buccaneerNW

On his merits, no. Due to the fact that we are in the doldrums of late May and this is more of a “whatever happened to” human interest story – yes. I think the theme of passion runs across every section of the Fab 5 – from getting talent to gel, to seeing which players want to start and also to lead, to getting insight into the mind of the scouting team and front office, to see what makes players walk away, and what makes them kneel or not – the common thread is passion. When reading this article I… Read more »

EastEndBoy
2 years ago

In the spirit of trying to help, “I don’t understand the “fake patriotism” part of Kerr’s comments”

Kerr was making a comment that purporting to be patriotic because one shows deference (i.e., standing at attention) to an inanimate object, in complete contrast to the underlying values that that object is in fact representing (e.g., freedom of expression), seems like fake patriotism by that individual (i.e., not real patriotism, which would be the respecting of the underlying values).

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QueDogg86
2 years ago

Scott, very powerful! I have a new level of respect for you and your logical, approach to the flag issue. Hopefully, the rest of your readers will agree to disagree, in a respectful manner.

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buccaneerNW
2 years ago

Scott, I think the “fake patriotism” that Steve Kerr was speaking of was the bloviating windbaggery of King Cheeto, a man not known for respecting much of anything, and hardly a patriot. Trump is a fake patriot because he whips up issues around the flag not out of deep conviction, but out of desire to whip up resentment among his voting base. He’s the disinformer-in-chief. And the NFL policy is a direct result of this lunatic’s unhinged attack on the NFL players and especially African-Americans. He’s invested energy in dividing the country along racial lines and along issues of patriotism.… Read more »

chetthevette
2 years ago
Reply to  buccaneerNW

King Cheeto.
Love it

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surferdudes
2 years ago

I’m one of the more liberal people you’ll meet. I also worked for a government agency for 34 years. We had rules we had to follow one of them being no political talk on the work room floor. I did not feel like that rule infringed on my rights. I was being paid to work after all not talk politics. I don’t believe players, or anybody at their job should be forced to stand for an anthem, or pledge of allegiance, or listen to, or have to say a prayer. I see the new NFL rule as a good compromise.… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  surferdudes

Agree Scott is opening his eyes and listening too; I respect Scott because he change.

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plopes808
2 years ago
Reply to  surferdudes

That’s a great idea with the tv spots. I think most will agree that the message was never the issue here. This was a case of “right message, wrong platform.” I for one, never had any issue at all with the message of addressing police brutality and racism. However, choosing to protest during the National Anthem and “disrespecting the flag” (depending on personal opinion) created more divide than was intentioned. I think this is why so many players who originally knelt, decided against doing so later. As you said Scott, the dialogue has definitely been opened up though so…mission accomplished… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago

Good Article Scott. I was born and live in the TB area for 72 years and there is no doubt in my mine Tampa PD is rougher on blacks than whites. The Tampa Bay area was very racist up into the early 1960’s. If you were born after this time frame then please listen to white people like me, because I saw it over and over. Sports was no different, and if a few of us white kids wanted to play with black kids back then, there was hell to pay for our actions by family, friends, and the community.… Read more »

chetthevette
2 years ago
Reply to  Horse

Horse. Awesome as usual. I remember when the pads started being passed out first day of practice.
There was actually a separate pile for the black kids. Damn, that was long ago.
GO BUCS

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martinii
2 years ago

It’s the time of year again when you can be optimistic, pessimistic, or any combination of the two emotions. Everyone is right and we can celebrate an imaginary Super Bowl in 2018, or like so many fans who have spent the last decade angry and disappointed during the playoffs and off season because we were all wrong. I think fans who follow teams like the Buc’s should condition themselves to appreciating good football when it happens, and like a CB who has to have a short memory when they get beat on a rout or miss a tackle move on… Read more »

Mike.Seven
2 years ago

This team has 1 major talented Defence player McCoy one major talent offence player in Evans those 2 should go back to pro bowl based on their own talent they have others Winston included that could be really good but they are going to need help from coaches, someone once said there are no bad teams just bad coaches. Last year the coaching left a lot to be desired, the head coach and OC DC are back, I did not see any great moves draft or free agency, this is the toughest schedule I ever remember. I have been very… Read more »

Devasher
2 years ago

Scott, I was dreading that you would inevitably wade into the National Anthem topic, as you’ve missed no opportunities thus far to talk politics on this site, including the past times Bucs players have knelt, making readers fully aware of your feelings on the topic. But I will say I was pleasantly surprised in how you wrote this article. Usually your attempts to take a middle ground are ham-handed and show that you’re really just trying to prove a point which roughly half the readers disagree with and more object to. This wasn’t one of those times. You made a… Read more »

Brooks Dunn-Winston
2 years ago

Scott, your little story about you and your black friend is a little sad. There are other points of view?! Wow, what a revelation! But, hey, I’m glad you learned something.

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Mike.Seven
2 years ago

I am one that would love to see politics left out of football, Last year NFL saw 10-15% drop due to politics in football, Football is a place to escape problems in our lives, Politics should be left outside football, Go ahead stand a protest in the locker room and watch another year of declining ratings does not seem real smart to me.

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bueller
2 years ago

Wow have the Bucs wasted Gerald McCoy’s talent he may surpass the waste of talent waste of James Wilder who could have been in the greatest RB of all time had he played for another team. His pass catching was way ahead of his time for an every down RB.

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scubog
2 years ago
Reply to  bueller

Absolutely correct about James Wilder. He was easily best back of all time playing on one of our worst teams. The youngsters should take a few minutes to watch a few of his highlights.

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Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  scubog

Yes, agree. Best running back we ever had.

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scubog
2 years ago

I really hate when this “football fan” site turns into a political forum. People always wanting their own rights to be recognized, but have no problem rejecting or shouting down the rights of others who might be a bit different from their own. Back to football. I’ve entered each Buccaneer football season for the past 42 years with optimism and hope. Often exiting with disappointment and worse yet, brief apathy. Even the most critical fans [Mike. Seven and sometimes Pinkstob] care. They just try to shield themselves from the disappointment, that has so often surrounded us, by being a bit… Read more »

rocko23
2 years ago

The Anthem issue is truly a case study on society. People are upset because others choose to sit or kneel during the playing of the song. When you have bigger issues like school shootings police brutality homelessness poor education and high Healthcare. In the grand scheme of things which is the gigantic big universe we live in that flag and that song is about insignificant as a tick. As for the Bucs I’m more worried about coaching that I am skill set of our players, we have plenty of talent to win and win that. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit… Read more »

WiltheBrewer
2 years ago

Though I’d like to join the Anthem discussion, I’ll bring it back to football for a sec-
Sweezy is injured again??? WTF

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kapmorg
2 years ago

I see we got six interceptions during one of the practice days during OTA’s, but how did our pass rush look, Scott? I know there are no pads, but would like to read about a some hope for a pass rush this season compared to last year.

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owlykat
2 years ago

As a Veteran who was not drafted but volunteered to serve my Country during the Vietnam War as my Father did also though entitled to a deferment as an only son during WWII and survived the Battle of the Bulge, I was not happy to see players refusing to show our flag respect during a football game. But I didn’t boycott the NFL as a protest either. I respect the right of any citizen to peaceably protest at the proper time and place but a football game is the wrong time and place. It should be non political place where… Read more »

EastEndBoy
2 years ago
Reply to  owlykat

Thank you for your service @owlykat – and your father too! I agree that Sunday’s at the games should be about football, not national anthems….it was and is a strange oddity to be playing national anthems at sporting events.

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mattym3
2 years ago

I hope Tevita Tuliʻakiʻono Tuipulotu Mosese Vaʻhae Fehoko Faletau Vea plays for more than the “3 days” Bucs director of college scouting Mike Biehl is quoted as saying he will. 😛

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Crook
2 years ago

Don’t forget…Bowers is also the reason Michael Bennett isn’t still a Buc. You could argue that pick was as bad as Aguayo

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Devasher
2 years ago
Reply to  Crook

The clear reason why Bowers is nowhere near as bad a pick as Aguayo and the comparison is laughable: 1. Bowers showed potential as an elite pass rusher in his Jr year with 15.5 sacks and 26 TFL. 2. Bowers was a 5 star prospect coming out of HS so his production was not unexpected. 3. If you have a player with elite pass rushing production/ability you take him high. Usually in the top 5. You never take a kicker in the top 5. 4. Aguayo was coming off his worst year with only 80% FG and a blocked kick… Read more »

EastEndBoy
2 years ago
Reply to  Devasher

Well said @devasher

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Crook
2 years ago
Reply to  Devasher

We’re making two different points. Your point is that when they actually made the picks, Bowers in the 2nd round was a much better selection than Aguayo in the 2nd round. I agree with that 100% and also agree it isn’t even close. My point was hindsight and the long term impact the picks have had on the franchise

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drdneast
2 years ago

Samuel Johnson said it best years ago.
“Patiotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
He should have added religion as well.

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drdneast
2 years ago

It’s simply hysterical when someone who dodged military service four or five times, is a serial cheater on his wife and has a campaign staff that met with the Russians in an attempt to rig the election can question anyone’s patriotism and loyalty.

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EastEndBoy
2 years ago
Reply to  drdneast

Yes – but it would be less hysterical if he didn’t have his finger on the nucs.

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Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  drdneast

Mr. bone spurs thinks he can.

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