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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.

FAB 1. SR’s Bucs Training Camp Insider

I’ll admit that I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the start of Tampa Bay’s 2018 training camp. After two decades of covering the Buccaneers and watching nearly 10 practices this offseason between OTAs and the team’s three-day mandatory mini-camp, the last thing I want to see is more practices in shorts, jerseys and helmets.

I’m ready for full pads.

I’m ready for hitting.

I’m ready for Sunday – not necessarily Thursday.

But Thursday was full of surprises that intrigued me on the first day of training camp – even if it resembled another OTA in the indoor facility due to lightning in the area. By the time the air horn blew at 10:30 to signal the end of practice – and the beginning of some Jacksonville Jaguars-like wind sprints after practice – my reporter notebook was full of interesting anecdotes and insights that I’ll share with you to lead off this edition of SR’s Fab 5.

• I spent a lot of time during the first hour of practice focused on the defensive line. Not because I have a “coach crush” on Brentson Buckner and his new approach that has already made the D-line more violent and physical even before the pads come on. I’m interested in the defensive line because right now I can rattle off the names of eight players worth filling up the depth chart with in Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein, Will Gholston and Noah Spence.

Does defensive end Will Clarke or defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu have a chance of pulling an upset in the preseason and stealing a roster spot? Or is it just a foregone conclusion that Tampa Bay’s depth chart will in fact comprise the “Great 8” that I already rattled off. The Bucs also like defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert, who shouldn’t be quickly dismissed, either.

It’s worth noting that the Bucs defensive line is not only in good hands with Buckner, but also with assistant D-line coach Paul Spicer. I don’t know if there is another staff that has two former NFL defensive linemen on it, and I think that helps tremendously as Bucker and Spicer coach the positions they played in the league – defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively.

Here are a few other notes from the defensive line. Vea is playing exclusively at three-technique behind McCoy – not nose tackle. Allen, Unrein and Tu’ikolovatu are playing nose tackles.

Spence was nowhere to be found on the two-deep depth chart on Thursday. The second-team depth chart featured Gholston at left end and Clarke at right end. I think Spence is strictly going to be used as a situational pass rusher this year, probably in an effort to help keep him healthy despite the fact that he has bulked up to 257 pounds. In a few nickel pass rush downs the Bucs did line up with Curry at left end, Spence at right end and McCoy and Pierre-Paul inside at defensive end. Tampa Bay also has a package that features Spence at left end and Pierre-Paul at right end with McCoy and Curry inside at tackle.

• While the defensive line was at one end of the practice field, the big news of the day was taking place at the other end as veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was taking the majority of the starting reps at quarterback while Jameis Winston was the primary backup working with the second team. The fact that Fitzpatrick began training camp as the starter was a clear message to the team that the focus is on the New Orleans Saints on September 9 – the first of three games Winston will be suspended for – not necessarily developing Winston or paying attention to the fact that Winston is expected to be under center from Weeks 4-17.

The Bucs can’t afford to start the season behind the eight ball with a 0-3 or even a 1-2 record. Fitzpatrick has to be ready and Koetter’s offense needs to be revved up and humming by the start of the season to avoid that from happening. While he wasn’t spectacular, Fitzpatrick looked sharp on Thursday, which was a sharp contrast to how Winston performed.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Looking humbled and subdued Winston didn’t have any bounce in his step and it showed. He had a very mediocre practice, throwing one fluky interception that was picked off by McCoy after the ball slipped out of wide receiver Sergio Bailey’s hands as he hit the ground.

Perhaps Winston was worried about having to face the media for the first time since the NFL handed him his three-game suspension. Perhaps he was dejected by his demotion. It was odd seeing Winston not high-fiving teammates, smiling and playing with a bounce in his step. We’ll see if Winston’s demeanor changes as camp progresses, and if Koetter will ultimately alternate starting reps between Fitzpatrick and Winston on different days throughout camp, or if Thursday’s practice is a preview of what’s to come for the next month.

• Another revelation on Thursday was Vernon Hargreaves III starting at right outside cornerback in Tampa Bay’s base defense opposite Brent Grimes on the left side. Maybe it’s because Hargreaves has had a pretty good offseason, or maybe it’s because the Bucs have a first-round investment in him, but Hargreaves is being given one final chance to start outside. We’ll see how he fares and if he can remain confident and make plays there.

In nickel defense Hargreaves moved inside and was replaced outside by Ryan Smith, who got the starting nod over rookie Carlton Davis. I expect Davis to make a move up the depth chart in August, and I’m not alone in that line of thinking.

• One thing that wasn’t a surprise was seeing Adam Humphries and Bernard Reedy fielding punts on Thursday. What was a pleasant surprise was seeing DeSean Jackson doing it too, and taking as many reps as they did. Of course linebacker Lavonte David and Grimes were back there fielding a punt or two, but they’ll never see action in a real game on special teams. But having Jackson back there is different.

It’s been four years since the 31-year old Jackson was a team’s primary punt returner, and that happened back in in 2013 in Philadelphia. Jackson has four punt return touchdowns and a career 9.6-yard average. With a stacked wide receiver position that features an emerging star in Chris Godwin, why not use Jackson’s 4.3 speed as a punt returner to help flip field position or even score a touchdown? If I’m head coach Dirk Koetter and I’m entering 2018 on the hot seat (see Fab 2), I’m pulling out all the stops and making Jackson the premier punt returner.

What does Koetter have to lose? If Jackson gets injured returning punts the receiving corps could weather that storm with the likes of Mike Evans, Godwin, Adam Humphries and either Bobo Wilson, Justin Watson or Freddie Martino – not to mention getting by with pass-catching tight ends like Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.

At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds and in his 30s, you better believe Jackson wouldn’t take any unnecessary risks fielding punts with 11 players running right at him. He would know when to fair catch it out of self-preservation and when to turn on the jets and try to take one to the house.

• It was an ominous sign seeing rookie running back Ronald Jones drop a very catchable ball in 7-on-7. Jones was five yards away from the quarterback and the ball hit him in the hands. He has to make that catch.

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

Jones, who is one of PewterReport.com’s Training Camp Diary participants, has suspect hands. There is no other way to say it. He’ll make a few catches and then drop one you think he should have caught. This has been going on since the rookie mini-camp and through the OTAs. Keep in mind that Jones only had 32 career catches in his three-year career at USC. Peyton Barber, Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and Shaun Wilson all have better hands than he does, and that’s a problem because how Jones performs in the passing game will determine if he can be more than a two-down back in Tampa Bay during his rookie season.

As I said on the latest Pewter Nation Podcast, Jones’ electric 4.41 speed can really be used in the passing game on wheel routes and on screens. Jones has the ability to take a screen pass 80 yards while Barber could take the same screen pass eight yards, which isn’t bad – but it’s not a touchdown.

Jones was working after practice on his hands with offensive coordinator Todd Monken. If he can do that on a daily basis and use the JUGGS machine regularly he can make some strides that will help him earn more playing time, and ultimately help the Bucs offense. How quickly Jones improves his hands is definitely something we’ll keep an eye on in camp.

• One last thing. You can forget about Ryan Griffin making a challenge for the starting quarterback job in Week 1. He’s not beating out Fitzpatrick. Griffin had some awful throws off his back foot on Thursday and he doesn’t have the strongest arm to begin with. He’s the kind of QB that needs to step into his throws and for some reason he was throwing off his back foot. It wasn’t the right way for Griffin to start training camp.

Keep in mind this is just Day 1 of training camp. A lot can – and will – change over the next month in Tampa Bay, but it was certainly an eventful start to the Bucs’ 2018 training camp.

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Previous articleInside Bucs Camp 7/27 – Offense: Fitzpatrick Finds His Rhythm
Next articleBucs Camp Play Of The Day 7/27: Jackson In Action
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]

40 COMMENTS

  1. Nice work, Scott. I agree with both assessments on Winston and Licht. I know that’s not a popular position with the PR folks these day… I’m still very surprised to hear that part of Jameis’ daily routine does not involve any counciling? You have a guy that is possibly the future of the franchise, and there is no investment made in this area for Jameis? This does not count against the salary cap. It seems to me that if the team is only going to focus on the on-field improvement for Jameis, they (Licht? Glazers?) are derelict in their duties in not trying to work on the other half. Maybe this is occurring and we just don’t know about it? I also agree that LIcht needs to be extended. The talent base on this team, when you look at all of the hits and misses, has increased dramatically over the last decade.

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    • Thank you, e! Jameis Winston’s counseling is a private matter I’m sure. We’re not privy to any details.

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      • Scott, your understanding Jameis being vague given he was likely drunk and doesn’t remember what happened in the Uber car is confusing. Do you really think that his and Darby’s statements were uncoordinated? Do you think Darby had forgotten about the second Uber ride? Do you think Jameis stated the driver was “mistaken” without learning from Darby that “yeah Dude, you were totally wasted so we put you in a car… yeah, we put you in the front seat”? We don’t know a lot of what happened that night but we sure know Jameis lied when it became public in hopes the driver would back down. There’s nothing vague about his answers… they are obviously attempts to evade the truth.

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  2. Great Fab5 Scott. I think Fitz is good enough to get us one of those first three games. If the run game and defense improve, heck maybe even two of them. Call me an optimist, but Fitz is who he is as well, limitations and all.
    However if Fitz plays well enough, it wouldn’t shocvk me to see him play week 4 as well. AS for Jameis, he handled the questions how he could at this point, as you stated a civil suit could be filed. I’m not sure how the limitations work on that as it’s been 2 years.
    The writers such as TOm Jones and some of the fans never wanted him here in the first place, so this just validates their ability to say those kinds of things.
    Football is jameis’ life, he’s probably dying a little right now, but he has to pick his ass up and get it. He put himself in this position and now it’s time to show everyone what a guy does when he’s down. Those first three weeks will be brutal for him for sure, but he’s got to focus on what he can control. Jameis’ time in Tampa will be decided on the field this year as I’ve stated a couple of posts ago. IT’s all on him to do it.
    I would love to see some of our LB’s blitzing more. Can’t figure out how lavonte went from a blitzing machine in Schiano’s defense and hasn’t done much in that department in the last two defenses. Of course Schiano ran a much more aggressive defense that Lovie and Smith do.
    Great to see the boys back on the field , that’s what matters most to me. Let’s shock a few people.

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    • Thank you, cgmaster27. It was important for me to point that out – that if Jameis Winston admits to anything specific or apologizes for anything specific, he basically incriminates himself and opens him up for a civil lawsuit and a cash grab opportunity.

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      • The easy way to avoid Winston’s dilemma of how to answer the inevitable questions is to, you know, not do the deed. Zero understanding is deserved.

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    • CGmaster in Florida the statute of limitations is seven years for civil sexual abuse, since you didn’t know.

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      • The alleged incident happened in Arizona and the statute of limitation for civil liability is 2 years. Also, in the state of Arizona, Sexual Assault Laws; Title 13. Criminal Code § 13-1406, which covers Sexual Assault, is described by the web to include any of the following acts:
        Sexual intercourse without consent means the penetration of the vulva, penis, or anus using anything. or Oral sexual contact (with the vulva, penis, or anus) without consent – verbal threats, fear, or intimidation may be used to sexually assault someone. There was no sexual assault, an inappropriate touching misdemeanor act at worst case. If anything happened at all. It would still be wrong, if it happened, but was it an act worthy of a hundred thousand dollar plus offense? Not sure.

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  3. Dont discount the effect having a newborn might have on Winston. Hes never been a father before and the challenges of that are probably distracting him just as much as the suspension.

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  4. I don’t like our chances of making the playoffs this year, even if Fitz goes 3-0. There are still three better teams in our division. The impact of a better Bucs team is probably only 2 teams make it to the playoffs from our division this season, as a result of the division beating each other up. The Buc’s need one of those 3 teams to drop off, and my bet is it will be the Saints due to the age of Brees. But not this year. To be a consistent playoff contender we need Winston to step it up and become a top 5 QB. That is a big jump from top 15 and I would not expect him to get all the way there this season. But improvement needs to occur. The weapons are there. The only potential excuse is the OL. RG and RT may let us down this year and a strong left side may not be enough. That said, if Winston cannot break into the top 10, that could be a reason for letting Koetter go, even if we finish 9-7. I am looking forward to a vastly improved defense and I hope it is enough to get us that winning record. The one chance I see of us making the playoffs is that the defense becomes dominant. It is a slim chance due to the secondary and the number of new players. The secondary is very young and our sole star is an old Grimes. And it usually takes more than a year for the new players to gel. Still it could happen.

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  5. This was a very good fab 5. You think just like i do regarding Licht and Koetter’s jobs. I firmly believe regardless of what the teams record is Jason Licht deserves a contract extension. The talent he has brought in not just this off season but his entire time here is the best we have seen since Rich McKays times as GM. Licht doesn’t coach, he doesn’t game plan, or call plays on sunday so it is not on him if somehow this team underachieves like last year that is squarely on Koetter and his staff. I believe that Koetter is and should be on the hot seat. Hell Raheem morris got a 10-6 season out of a much less tallented team than we have right now. I think a 10-6 season is what it will take for Koetter to for sure retain his head coaching duties. A 9-7 or 8-8 season may still get him fired that is barely good enough in my mind. This team is way too talented for that even with our “tough schedule”. You know as well as i do that not every team that went to the playoffs last year will make it this year so I believe our record after 3 games will be better than most people think even with Fitz at QB.

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    • Thank you, Benjamin!

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  6. I am not as much on the bandwagon for Licht as many fans are. For one, I don’t believe that he has not made numerous mistakes in the draft and free agency. How many of those free agents from previous years are still on the team? Not Many.
    Many will point the drafting of a kicker in the second round as proof that he is not a master of the draft. While I did not like taking a kicker with a second round pick I understand why he did it. What is telling is that his reasons for doing it were based on extremely poor player evaluation. He took a kicker thinking that was the last piece and it was not. We have added many “last” pieces since thens and may still not be there. He has made several good picks but I discount the Winston pick as really there was only two ways to go and both are in about the same place. Mike Evans is clearly a success and VHGIII is clearly not one. Justin Evans may be a success but it is too early to tell. Every year the team has had major holes in a unit. Last two years the offensive line, secondary, running back and defensive line all lacked talent. It wasn’t just coaching.

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    • Kram0789–no one was a bigger outspoken critic of Licht than I was because Licht started out with us as a rookie GM and he came in with the belief the best way to build an NFL team was to take BPA without reaching for a player to fill needs and that is what he did right up to this year when his neck was on the line for leaving us with so many holes especially on both lines and at RB and Def. backfield. That taught him a big lesson. Perhaps he took notice of the changes the Jags took after hiring the Retired Giants Coach to right their program. He beat New England with a Giant team built from the trenches first and loaded with Great DEs. The Jags built up both their lines with Free Agency and the draft where they got a Great RB in the first round. Licht rebuilt our DL with great Free Agents and first round pick and got us a good Free Agent Center and an excellent Tackle to help the OL and got us an outstanding RB at the top of the second round and got us two good CBs and a fast Safety who hits hard also in the draft. He didn’t go BPA without concern to needs until the last two picks who will make this team I believe. Oh and he got us a veteran place Kicker too. For those reasons I support him getting a raise now and staying. I am not convinced our OL will be as good as many fans do but that is because of Keeping OL Coach Warhop who has made glaring OL mistakes every year he’s been here.

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  7. QB it’s my concern for the first 3 games; even the fourth game because it’s a Monday night and Winston’s not going to have enough time to get into a decent groove by game 4. if anything happens to Fitzgerald in the first four games we are in serious trouble because Griffin is not the answer.
    We have to get another quarterback and house now. Good article Scott. Is it me or does Winston look like he’s lost some weight? His arms were small before,but now they even look thinner .

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    • Thank you, Horse. I think Jameis Winston looks like he’s in great shape. QBs typically don’t have big arms. Look at Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc.

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  8. Great article Scott. Tom Jones pressing the “Cut Jameis” button?!?! Say it aint so! Then again, thats the norm. Pretty sure that man hates living in Tampa area. Licht has put the pieces together for this team. He had an occasional slip up in personell but has corrected it. How many years does it take to really grade a draft… 3-4years.

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    • I appreciate it, FLyBoy!

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  9. Nice column, Scott. I was at one point torn between the get rid of Jameis Winston now crowd and those willing to see what happens. However, after reading your report that, “Not only did Jameis Winston look awful during Thursday’s practice with the second-string offense, that poor play continued on Friday as the looming three-game suspension and the negative publicity surrounding the suspension appears to be having an obvious affect on his psyche and his performance,” I’m thinking the Bucs may be best served by preparing to cut ties with Winston. When real leaders screw up, they say they’re sorry, which Jameis has done, sort of, in light of the legal jeopardy an outright apology could put him in, then they move on and perform at their usual high level, regardless of any new assignment. By looking awful with the second-string on Thursday and again on Friday, after his first press conference, which should have been a load off his mind, I’m wondering whether Winston feels that unless he’s in the spotlight, it’s not worth the energy to lead the second or even third team with the same commitment he gives to his first team reps? Again, we owe him the courtesy of seeing what happens, but if his play as the third string QB remains poor, his true attitude regarding leading the team is going to become increasingly suspect in my mind.

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    • Let’s give it a few more days before we say it has affected Winston. I’d like some more reporting on Griffin.

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    • Thank you, flarick. We are only 2 days into camp. LONG way to go and WAY TOO EARLY to make any big assessment on Jameis Winston’s play. I just reported what I saw at the start of camp. Don’t jump the gun.

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  10. Vea playing behind McCoy? Instead of Nose? Wow. He is quickly slipping into obscurity. Someone said he was a luxury pick. I am getting a bad feeling.

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    • I think you might be reading into that too much. The NT’s they picked up have experience and one is a super bowl champion. Maybe they want to rotate McCoy more to keep him fresh? How many times has that dude been beaten down but stayed on due to no depth? Just a thought

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    • Hold up! Gerald McCoy is 30 and isn’t going to play forever. Defensive linemen typically take a couple years to really develop. Warren Sapp wasn’t really “Warren Sapp” until 1997 and he was drafted in 1995. Getting Vita Vea in the fold now to learn for a year or two behind Gerald and then replace him is a smart move long-term.

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  11. Injuries and turnovers – watch those and that’ll tell you where we’re headed. Lots of shiny new pieces on defense, but they’ll need a new scheme to shine in TB – let’s hope Smitty has something new up his sleeve beyond the rush-4 and play soft coverage of 2017. All 4 NFC South teams have Achilles heals – hopefully we can overcome ours this year. Go Bucs!

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  12. Carolina and New Orleans will regress toward the mean. They overachieved last year as we were underachieving. We have a lot of new parts and it will take time to gel, but our overall roster is second in our division behind Atlanta. New Orleans is missing a key part for the first four games. That game is winnable. Everything will come down to coaching, execution, and injuries.

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  13. Tom Jones is a Marxist idiot. That’s why I no longer read his articles. I like the singer much better. We need to support our players unless they are convicted of felonies. Winston knows he has 2 strikes. One more and he’s out.

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  14. I don’t know if Jones is a Marxist but he certainly is an idiot.
    Every time a Bucs player gets in a scrape with the law he wants the Bucs to get rid of them for little or no compensation.
    The last player was ASJ.
    Before that it was Aqib Talib, who as we all know achieved All Pro status.
    It took two No. I picks to replace them and so far Hargreaves hasn’t shown he was worthy of a No. 1 pick.
    As far as the Talib incident that caused the Bucs to jettison him, because no one was injured and found the incident humorous.
    The sight of Talib and his mom wrestling over a heater in order to be the one to pump a round into the guy who had just beaten up his sister most have been hilarious. Perhaps Jones might have had a little more empathy for Talib if someone had ever beaten the snot out of his sister if he has one.
    It’s extremely rare to be able to find boy scouts to play in a sport that is fraught with career ending injuries and calls for the person to engage in physical violent contact with another human being.
    Jones can go pound sand.
    Winston made a mistake and is paying for it.
    The job Jones is looking to occupy is already filled by an entity we will all have to answer to.
    And I expect Winston to bounce back as he always has. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit.

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  15. Good article. I don’t agree with the “IT WAS 2 YEARS AGO” argument. That should be completely irrelevant. I mean, if you’re not gonna change your ways after narrowly dodging a rape charge in college, why should anyone believe time or being married will suddenly change his ways. I believe that’s simply blind optimism. There are plenty of scumbag husband and fathers out there. If I killed someone and it took them 10 years to catch me, should people say “oh it was 10 years ago he’s changed now…”? No. People should be held accountable for their actions, and those actions include being stupid enough to put yourself in any situation that could get you in trouble with women. He shouldnt be given a pass from people because it took 2 years for the investigation to conclude.

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  16. Scott, I support your stance on Jameis. If the Bucs should drop Jameis, the Raiders would welcome him with open arms. Their former candidate for Franchise QB was on his way until he had A serious back injury and after surgery looked nothing like his former self, similar to our High Paid Guard who we just dumped, so Gruden knows he needs a new Franchise QB to make him a big success as his own GM. I also believe Jameis loves football and knowing he will be out of football if he doesn’t stick to no alcohol no partying, that is the best motivation for him to stay straight. The only thing that worries me is what happened to a Golfer Legend after he fell from grace with his fans; he has never returned to his former skill set though he has tried. If Jameis continues to get hate from the fans and sports writers, he may never recover or he may refuse any offer from the Bucs and try a fresh start with Chucky.

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    • If the tables were turned, we had Carr and Winston was cut you’d be laughed off the board for suggesting we pick Winston up. Carr has elite accuracy, if Winston can close half of the gap between his play and Carr we are a playoff team. The encouraging thing is that he just might, the frustrating thing is we can’t tell yet. I’m ready for some football.

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  17. Putting Koetter on the hotseat but recommending a fat contract extension for Licht, before any games have been played, makes zero sense. Lict has produced a worse win loss record in his tenure than Koetter has so far, and, uhhh, Licht hired Koetter.

    If the team does not produce again this year, then both Koetter and Licht have to go.

    We’ve done this every season since Licht got here. He makes a supposed big splash in free agency that typically draws yawns from the rest of NFL world, and similar responses, and in training camp we declare the Bucs are finally back … and then THUD! 5-11. And then half those superstars we signed the season before are off the roster when training camp starts.

    This current regime, including Licht, had better deliver THIS season, or the Bucs need to get another regime.

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  18. Scott, having touted yourself as a Christian man, this paragraph baffles me:

    “Winston is helping himself and protecting himself by being as vague as possible, and I don’t blame him. He wants to put this ordeal behind him and not have it linger on with any potential civil suit that he could inadvertently open himself up to by being more forthcoming.”

    Well, yeah, of course he’d like to move on and avoid a lawsuit or legal consequences. He would have liked to have gotten away w his initial lie and not faced any consequences from the NFL. He also would’ve preferred that the Uber driver didn’t even report the incident. Your approving of this lack of accountability is appalling. If this woman, was indeed sexually assaulted, a decent person wouldn’t promote dodging responsibility. She would deserve every penny she could get from this very wealthy, and apparently entitled, man.

    Perplexed that a so-called Christian man doesn’t see the amorality of your statements. Jesus’ message wasn’t one of helping and protecting yourself, it was to treat others as you would like to be treated. Maybe you have a different Bible than I have?

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  19. Thanks for the balance and insight Scott Reynolds. Nice piece of reality reporting.

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