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. KOETTER HAS ENERGIZED THE BUCCANEERS
It took me a couple of months to see Dirk Koetter in action before I realized what he was all about. Koetter’s commanding presence stood out in his first OTAs and mini-camps as the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator last year.
While former head coach Lovie Smith was stoic and quiet in leading Tampa Bay’s defense down a vanilla path of despair last year, Koetter was upbeat, energetic and full of vitality in leading a young, exciting offense to success with a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston, who would throw for 4,000 yards and make the Pro Bowl, along with Doug Martin, who would become the league’s second-leading rusher.
The Bucs offense was having fun, rolling up 6,000 yards in franchise history for the first time and finishing in the top 5 for the first time in team history. Tampa Bay’s defense was not having fun, watching rookie and backup quarterbacks complete 70 percent of their passes and pile up the points week after week. There was a stark contrast between the two units – and the men that led those units – last year.
The primary reason was that I believed Koetter was simply the best coach the Bucs had on staff last year and the offense was productive and fun. Through my observations and my discussions with many Tampa Bay players, I believed Koetter would be a better leader. There was just something different about him, and I felt he deserved to have the chance to lead the Buccaneers, who underachieved over the last two years with Smith at the helm.
Ultimately, the Glazers and general manager Jason Licht saw what I saw and opted for Koetter’s energy and enthusiasm and the results he produced on offense over Smith’s low-key, old-school approach and how far Tampa Bay’s defense had fallen. Smith was fired three days after a 38-10 beatdown in Carolina in Week 17, and the moment he was, there was talk that he was going to be replaced by Koetter
There was no coup. Koetter didn’t lobby for the job or collude with Licht to overthrow Smith. The NFL is a results-oriented business and Koetter was the guy clearly delivering results on one side of the team.
Now it was time for him to energize all the Buccaneers – not just the ones on offense.
The player who has known him the longest, center Joe Hawley, who played for Koetter for three years in Atlanta prior to coming to Tampa Bay in 2015, knew he was the right man to lead the Buccaneers.
“He brings great leadership to the team and I think he’s doing a great job,” Hawley said. “Dirk brings a lot of energy and a lot of confidence and it all kind of radiates from him. I think bringing in Mike Smith to be the defensive coordinator was a great decision and it’s helping him focus on the offense while Mike focuses on the defense.”
Hawley hasn’t seen any drop off from Koetter’s play-calling since he assumed his head coaching duties.
“I’ve been a part of the offense for a while and have seen the offense evolve over time,” Hawley said. “He’s a real smart guy and he’s focused on the details. He doesn’t overlook the little things. The devil is in the details. He just gets it. It’s hard to explain. He has the ‘it’ factor. He’s the kind of guy you want on your side. He’s already a great head coach. As a player there is not a lot of wasted time. Everything we do has a purpose.”
Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson is the longest tenured player in Tampa Bay and has now played for four different head coaches since joining the team in 2009. When it comes to being able to compare and contrast the different leaders the Bucs have had over the past eight years, Dotson is the go-to guy.
“The best way to put it is that Dirk has that ‘it’ factor,” Dotson said. “You don’t know what it is, but he has something that makes you believe he can get the job done. There’s not one thing you can identify, but he has that ‘it’ factor. You can feel it. You just believe that this is the guy that is going to take us to a successful season.
“This is new. When I came here with Raheem [Morris] I was new and didn’t know nothing. Then [Greg] Schiano came in and I was still young. I didn’t feel it with Lovie as much, either. This is my eighth season and having been through all these coaches, I can feel it now. I can feel that there’s something different happening. I can’t pinpoint it, but he’s trying to create a different atmosphere and guys are buying into it.”
After struggling through a year without a true offensive coordinator in 2014, it didn’t take much convincing for Tampa Bay’s offensive players to quickly jump aboard the Koetter train last season. But what has Dotson excited is how quickly the defensive players have bought into Koetter.
“I’ve never seen a coach come in here and guys jump on board so fast,” Dotson said. “With Lovie and Schiano, our guys – even the defensive guys – didn’t buy into the system as much. Now you see the defensive guys with Dirk – they’re flying around and they want to play for him and win for him. They’ll break their necks for him. That’s the kind of person Dirk is.”
Koetter has brought the Buccaneers together like never before, and it’s that type of unity that led to a throttling of the Cleveland Browns, 30-13, last Friday night in the team’s third preseason game. The offense, defense and special teams combined for a slew of plays that showed how unified this Buccaneers team has quickly become.
But it was only the lowly Browns you say?
I’ll remind you that the Bucs lost to plenty of lowly teams last year, including the Giants, Rams, Bears and Titans. Things are changing in Tampa Bay under Koetter’s leadership.
“He’s been on winning teams, and he his way of going about doing things,” McCoy said of Koetter. “He carries himself like a head coach and he always has, so stepping into a head coaching role was going to be easy for him, and it has been easy for him. He’s got a trial run – just like us players – but his mentality and how he has us prepare is what is going to take him to the next level.
Like Dotson, McCoy has also seen the head coaching carousel spin around in Tampa Bay. He too has played for four different head coaches, but agrees Koetter is the real deal.
“From Day 1, he’s carried himself differently,” McCoy said. “We’re excited about what Coach is doing and how things are going. He has his hand directly on our franchise quarterback, which none of our defensive-minded headed coaches had before. He has his hand directly on Jameis, and that’s important.”
Although Koetter is an offensive-minded head coach, Tampa Bay nickel cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah believes he would fit right in on the defensive side of the ball.
“Although he has an offensive-minded background, Coach Koetter definitely has a defensive mindset,” Adjei-Barimah said. “He wants us to be aggressive and take the ball away and stop the run, just like he wants to be aggressive with the run game, hit big plays in the passing game and put points up on offense. That’s great when you have a head coach like that who has that type of philosophy and lets you play aggressively and try to make plays. That’s a big plus for this team.”
Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who has never played for an offensive-minded head coach before, was startled to see Koetter cheer the defense on in practice – even at the expense of the offense.
“Dirk has a defensive mentality, which is cool, and some days when we’re giving Jameis a headache on the practice field, he actually likes it,” Spence said. “He doesn’t care. He’ll say, ‘Come on, defense! Keep coming!’ Usually you don’t get that from offensive-minded head coaches, but he’s different. He’s a cool coach.
“From a defensive standpoint, he brought in a great coordinator that guys want to play for in Mike Smith. He brought in a great D-line coach, great safeties coach and on down the line. None of them are A-holes. They treat you like professionals and grown men. You can reason with them. Some coaches are only ‘it’s their way or the highway.’ Dirk is a players coach and we love playing for him.”
Spence said it’s not only how Koetter carries himself on the practice field or in the meetings that makes the difference, it’s also in how he sets the schedule for the players so that they get adequate rest and recovery time.
“If we have some extra time after practice, he gives us that extra time we need,” Spence said. “One day we had a three-and-a-half hour break during camp. I don’t think we’ve had that since I’ve been here, and we were still getting done at a decent hour. I like that, and the players liked that – to have a little bit of leeway. He makes us feel like grown men.”
Talk to the older Bucs players and they’ll tell you.
Morris was too lackadaisical and inexperienced.
Schiano was too controlling and tight.
Smith was too complacent and blasé.
Koetter appears to be just right.
“Dirk is very cut and dry,” Spence said. “He’ll say, ‘Try it your way, and if you can do it, then do it. But if you can’t, I’m going to dog-cuss you and you’re going to have to do it my way!’ That’s great to get some leeway and players like to have some say-so. Because most head coaches aren’t like that, I appreciate Dirk for that. I like the energy he brings to practice, but also his calm demeanor. He never gets too high and he never gets too low. Guys have just bought in. Guys love to play for him. I love to play for him.”
Koetter has energized the Bucs in a way that I haven’t seen since Jon Gruden walked the sidelines in Tampa Bay.
Expect a good season, Bucs fans.
Can’t you feel it?
FAB 2. WITH HANDCUFFS OFF, BUCS HAVE MOMENTUM HEADING INTO 2016
Should we read too much about Tampa Bay’s 30-13 preseason win over Cleveland last week?
After losing four straight games to end the 2015 season and having two lackluster showings in their first preseason games this year, it was important that the Bucs have an impressive showing against the Browns, especially in the one preseason game where Tampa Bay’s starters would play the most.
It was good for the fans to see, and it was good for the team’s confidence, too.
Tampa Bay’s offense rolled up over 300 yards of offense in just one half as Jameis Winston threw two touchdown passes, including one to receiver Mike Evans, who had five catches for 115 yards. Tampa Bay’s defense swarmed all night and produced eight sacks, which eased some concern about the pass rush. The Bucs’ special teams also stepped up with Roberto Aguayo having a perfect outing with three field goals and three extra points, and the punt return unit aiding Bernard Reedy on a 43-yard return and helping Adam Humphries score on a 73-yard return.
So what was the difference?
The players said the pre-game speech delivered by new head coach Dirk Koetter had a lot to do with it. Koetter implored the team to “take the handcuffs off” and relax and have fun before they took the field against the Browns in a newly renovated Raymond James Stadium before a nationally televised audience on CBS.
“As a coach, I like the atmosphere Dirk creates around here,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “He creates a lot of energy. He lets guys go out and play free. Before Friday’s game he used the terminology, “take the handcuffs off” for that last game we played. He creates an atmosphere where guys play loose, and that’s the best way to play this game. You’re loose, you’re not tight and you’re not scared to play for him. Now he expects guys to know what their assignments are, but that’s so guys can go out there, take the handcuffs off and play free.”
Dotson said it was the first time Koetter had delivered that particular message to the team.
“That’s the first time I heard it,” Dotson said. “Right before we played Cleveland he said, ‘take the handcuffs off.’ I don’t know if from watching film he saw us playing too tight, but it felt good. It worked. Guys definitely bought into it immediately and played free. Jameis played free. The O-line played free. The defense was flying around. You could see the energy out there on the field. If we can play like that for 16 weeks, man, we can do some good things.”
Tampa Bay cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah said the message really resonated with the players in all phases with a nearly perfect night from the offense, defense and special teams.
“When he said “take the handcuffs off, I think he meant everything that we have been preaching this offseason, such as cutting down on penalties, playing clean football in terms of no turnovers, running the ball, stopping the run, making explosive plays on offense and getting off the field on third down with big plays on defense,” Adjei-Barimah said. “These are the things we’ve been talking about the last year or so that we haven’t been able to do, and he wanted it to all come together on that night and to go out there and display it for the fans. That’s what it is all about. We are trying to be a good team and get to the playoffs, but we want to put a good product out on the field when we go out there for the fans in our first home game. I’m glad we were able to do that last Friday night.
Adjei-Barimah said that a dominant performance like the one the team put together against Cleveland was a confidence booster heading into the regular season.
“We didn’t have many penalties – three I think,” Adjei-Barimah said. “We weren’t able to take the ball away, but we were able to pressure the quarterback like never before. We were able to get explosive plays on offense and special teams that were huge. That was a big boost of confidence to be able to go out there and play a game like that. We know we can do that once, so why not be able to do that week in and week out? I feel like that’s what he wanted to see and that’s what we got accomplished. Now it’s up to us to carry that momentum into the regular season.”
As great as Tampa Bay’s pass rush was with eight sacks, including two from defensive end Jacquies Smith, one each from defensive ends Noah Spence, Will Gholston, Howard Jones and Kourtnei Brown and linebacker Kwon Alexander, and half a sack from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Robert Ayers, the Bucs actually missed a few more.
“It just goes to show you the talent that we have,” Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. “We’ve bought in to the system that Coach [Mike] Smith brought and guys are playing hard for him. When we had eight sacks I was amazed, and we left a couple more out there, too. If we would’ve collected all of them, we would be up to maybe 10 in that game. It was just a great performance. Our guys love this defense and it will be a much easier and better year for us.”
The addition of Ayers, Noah Spence and defensive line coach Jay Hayes has helped the team’s pass rush, which has been inconsistent over the last couple of seasons. Tampa Bay finished the preseason with 16 sacks, an average of four per game. Eleven or twelve of those sacks came from players that will likely be on Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster, which is encouraging.
“It is,” Bucs nose tackle Clinton McDonald said. “It’s exciting to see guys rushing well. It’s always encouraging to know that’s our potential with the talent that we have that we can generate that type of pass rush.”
On the offensive side of the ball, running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims averaged 3.5 yards per carry in the preseason and that number will improve once they get more carries and get into a groove during the regular season. Evans finished with a team-high 143 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches, while Winston ended the preseason completing 26-of-44 passes (59 percent) for 384 yards with a healthy 8.73 yards per attempt and four touchdowns and one interception. Winston’s preseason QB rating was 108.5.
“We’ve got the players, we’ve got the quarterback, we’ve got the defense,” Dotson said. “We showed that last Friday night. We’ve got momentum. I think we’ve got everything we need to be successful. If guys play free and play with the energy that Coach Koetter is trying to bring we’ll be successful.”
Bring on the Falcons.
FAB 3. BUCS WANT TO WIN IN WEEK 1 FOR SMITTY
As good as the selection of quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the acquisition of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter might have been just as significant.
After one year of working with an extremely young offense, Koetter produced a unit that was ranked fifth in the league, produced over 6,000 total yards for the first time in Bucs history and sent three players – Winston, running back Doug Martin and guard Logan Mankins – to the Pro Bowl. That success led to him taking over the team’s head coaching duties after the Glazers fired the ineffective Lovie Smith.
The Bucs had another successful offseason in 2016 with free agent imports defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Brent Grimes, in addition to drafting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive end Noah Spence and kicker Roberto Aguayo. But the best acquisition this year may be another coach – defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who was the head coach in Atlanta from 2008-14.
“We love playing for Coach Smith,” Bucs nose tackle Akeem Spence. “He’s just a great coach, and like Dirk, he’s full of energy. He has us flying around making plays and getting after the quarterback. He’s been a great addition for us.”
Smith brings a 4-3 base defense that features multiple personnel groupings. On short yardage and obvious run downs, the Bucs can feature Will Gholston at left defensive end, Gerald McCoy as the three-technique tackle, Clinton McDonald at nose tackle and Ayers at right defensive end. On obvious passing downs, Smith deploys a nickel rush unit that features Jacquies Smith at left end, Ayers moving inside next to McCoy to replace McDonald with Noah Spence coming in at right end.
Smith likes to disguise his coverages and give quarterbacks false pre-snap reads. He also blitzes often, and brings linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks after the quarterback. Smith’s defense is a far cry from last year’s predictable, vanilla Tampa 2 scheme that Lovie Smith ran.
The Bucs players love the man called “Smitty” and his new, aggressive defensive scheme, which has produced the 18 sacks and five interceptions from the secondary in the preseason alone. Keep in mind that last year’s defense generated just six interceptions from the defensive backs in 16 games.
As fate would have it, the Bucs open the 2016 regular season on the road in Atlanta where Smith became the Falcons’ all-time winningest coach with a 66-46 record (.589).
After going 11-5 in his first year in Atlanta, Smith produced two division champions in 2010 and ’12 as the Falcons finished 13-3 in both seasons. But the fact that Smith had a 1-4 record in the postseason with a loss to San Francisco in the 2012 NFC Championship Game, coupled with a 4-12 finish in 2013 and a 6-10 end to the 2014 campaign led to his firing.
When Smith was fired after the 2014 season, Koetter was let go, too, and resurfaced in Tampa Bay in 2015. When the Bucs swept the Falcons last year Koetter extracted some revenge against his former team. Now it’s time for Tampa Bay to do the same for Smith.
“Mainly, it’s Week 1 against the Falcons, and the opener for us this year in 2016,” Koetter said. “But, anytime a coach goes back to a place that he used to coach there is a little something extra there. And in Smitty’s case, he’s the winningest coach in Falcons history. I’m sure there will be a little something there. I can’t speak for him, but that was there for me last year.
“It will be my first game as a head coach in the NFL, too, but I’m just excited. I do know I speak for Smitty when I saw we are both excited about getting this season going.”
I asked Smith if he was looking for some payback against the team that fired him, and while he smiled wide and had a twinkle in his eye, he wouldn’t take the bait.
“Well, when you play in the NFL for a number of years you are going to play against teams you’ve worked for,” Smith said. “Hey, this game is the first one, and it gives us a chance to start off with a division win. Really, that’s the only focus I have.”
Smith may have kept his true feelings inside, but his defensive players certainly want to win this one for Smitty.
“The focus shifts to September 11 at this point,” McDonald said. “Getting prepared physically and mentally to revisit the Falcons since they are a division team. The biggest thing about the NFL is winning in your division and winning home games. We have a chance to get up early in our division, so we’re definitely studying Atlanta right now.
“And hey, it’s is going to mean a little extra for Coach Smith, and you can tell by the look on his face that he’s excited about it. He’s game-planning to get ourselves right. No matter who we are playing, if we don’t have ourselves right, we won’t be victorious and we won’t be successful. He’s done a great job of pounding us on the fact that the small things making a big difference. We’ll be ready.”
The fact that Koetter and Smith spent years in Atlanta and drafted Pro Bowlers like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Desmond Trufant among other players could give the Bucs a significant edge when it comes to studying personnel and player tendencies. No coaches in the league know the Falcons better than the leaders of Tampa Bay’s offense and defense, although Smith downplayed that notion.
“Listen, there are a whole bunch of new faces on that team, but there are a few that we’re familiar with,” Smith said. “We study our division opponents all the time. To me, you know you are going to play those guys twice a year and it just so happens that it’s going to be in Week 1 and that’s how they put the schedule together.”
But McDonald said that Koetter and Smith’s intimate knowledge of the Falcons has already helped in their preparation for Week 1.
“They drafted most of these guys and they know their personalities and their tendencies,” McDonald said. “Under duress and under pressure our coaches know what their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s a great asset to not just have Mike Smith, but Dirk Koetter helping us prepare for Atlanta.
“As an offensive coach, Dirk is always about scoring points. It’s a little bit different having an offensive-minded head coach now. I like it. Going against Dirk when he was in Atlanta, you were always amazed at how he was able to get guys open and put points on the board so fast. He’s been steady throughout his career doing it. He brings a certain attitude and a certain excitement that we all feed off. The coaching staff he’s brought in, especially Mike Smith as our defensive coordinator, these are all guys that coach fundamental football and making plays. Like Coach Smith says, the best defense we can have is offense in terms of taking the ball away – getting picks and getting sack-fumbles – and creating scores on defense.”
For Tampa Bay’s offensive players, the focus isn’t winning this one for the former Falcons head coach.
“It’s Week 1 and it’s a must-win against a division team,” Dotson said. “I’m not looking at it any more than that. Dirk won twice against them last year and settled the score, so we don’t have to keep the revenge thing going every year.”
But to the defensive players, the Falcons game in Week 1 has more meaning.
“We definitely know what it means to him and have had the Falcons game circled on our chart,” Spence said. “That’s Dirk’s first game as a head coach, too, and we want to get to 9-11 so bad and get in that Georgia Dome and do what we did last year, but do it for those guys. They were on the opposite side before. We want to go in there and make a great statement and start the season off right with a great game from our offense and defense. We want to come out with a ‘W’ for those guys.”
FAB 4. KAEPERNICK SHOULD BE FINED FOR DISRESPECTFUL STANCE
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a firestorm this week by refusing to stand for the National Anthem for the past two preseason games, while protesting police treatment of blacks that is akin to how the Black Lives Matter movement is operating.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
When asked if Kaepernick would continue his protest on Thursday night for the preseason finale in San Diego on what happens to be “Military Night,” he said he would. Instead of sitting on the bench, Kaepernick kneeled instead of standing for the National Anthem.
“This is something that has to change, and when there is significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand,” Kaepernick said.
If Kaepernick will stand when this country finally represents people the way it’s supposed to, then he will be sitting – or kneeling – for a long, long time.
Kaepernick’s misguided beef has nothing to do with the United States of America, which is the freest country in the history of mankind.
The American flag and the National Anthem actually do represent what they are supposed to represent. The American flag and the National Anthem are symbols of American freedom, patriotism and the rights that we enjoy as American citizens, and the flag is a symbol of the men and women who have died to fight for and preserve those rights for nearly 300 years.
Does Kaepernick have the right to sit or kneel for the National Anthem?
Yes, and he did.
Do I have the right to view his sitting as disrespectful and ignorant, and object to him doing so?
Yes, and I do.
Kaepernick picked the wrong thing to object to when trying to draw attention to some episodes of police brutality that have been highlighted the past few years by social media and the media. Instead of focusing on what Kaepernick’s intentions are, most of America is focused on a young, failing quarterback who is about to get cut by the 49ers, who is disrespecting the American flag and the National Anthem by not standing with his teammates prior to kickoff.
His sitting – not what he’s actually standing for – is getting all the attention and it is offends a good deal of people, including myself.
If Kaepernick, who signed a $100-million contract extension a few years ago, wants to protest the police, then he should actually organize a march or a sit-in on his day off, and go to a police station to draw attention to the perceived oppression.
By the way, Kaepernick is so ignorant that he wore a t-shirt with Malcolm X and former Cuban Communist leader Fidel Casto, who was one of the most oppressive dictators in the world, to a recent 49ers press conference.
Oh, the ignorance and the irony.
I’m not going to applaud a guy that disrespectfully sits for a few minutes for a cherished and patriotic American song. Sorry, there is nothing heroic or admirable about that.
What Kaepernick is doing is like me boycotting a restaurant because I object to how my local mechanic overcharged me for my car repairs. It’s not the proper correlation to draw.
As Americans, we have the right to side with Kaepernick or take a stand against him. Kaepernick’s former coach Jim Harbaugh came out against his stance on the National Anthem, as did former 49ers legend and Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who chastised Kaepernick on Twitter:
“All lives matter. So much going on in this world today.Can we all just get along! Colin,I respect your stance but don’t disrespect the Flag.”
Former NFL player, Super Bowl champion and author Burgess Owens, who is black, pointed out Kaepernick’s ignorance.
“We have failed to teach our kids – our young people – anything about our history,” Owens said. “They are ignorant about our country and they are totally unappreciative of the freedoms that have been gained by people who have paid the price for them. What this young man doesn’t understand is that the very first martyr for freedom in our country was a black man (Crispus Attucks). He doesn’t understand the Tuskeegee Airmen – hundreds of whom died over the skies of Germany so that he can sit and be free to be as great as he wants to be today.”
Former Bengals quarterback and NFL commentator Boomer Esiason had an even harsher rebuke towards Kaepernick’s stance.
“I cannot say it in the strongest, most direct way, that it’s an embarrassment and it’s about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been,” Esiason said, as reported by Bob Glauber of Newsday. “And I don’t care what the cause is. The NFL football field is not a place for somebody to further their political ambitions. Can you imagine if a player went out on the field with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat and let’s vote for (Donald) Trump? It’s the same thing.
“He is severely under-informed, and I welcome him to go ride in a cop car and take numerous 911 calls, going into places where guns and violence are everyday occurrences. Put on that blue [police] uniform and put the shield on and see what it’s like to put your life in harm’s way every single day, and then get back to me when you’re making $35,000 or $40,000 a year, as opposed to the $11 million he’s making.”
All great points.
When asked about Kaepernick’s stance earlier in the week, Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins alluded to the fact that Kaepernick should actually do something positive with his money or his time in affected black communities rather than simply sit down in an NFL stadium.
I agree wholeheartedly.
What Kaepernick is doing seems too easy, too cozy and too lazy. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans – black, white and people of all color – gave their lives fighting in wars for the flag and the freedoms it represents to this country.
Kaepernick’s real beef isn’t with America, but he’s too ignorant to know it.
This has nothing to do with America, which enjoys more rights and freedoms than any other country in the world.
What this has to do with is mankind. Kaepernick’s real issue is the human race.
We are imperfect beings.
We are not free of sin.
We are prone to bias.
We make mistakes as human beings, and hopefully over time we correct our mistakes.
History suggests we do as a country. Just look at how far America has come as a country with the suffrage movement and civil rights for people of color and sexual orientation over the past century alone.
Will America ever be a perfect society – a utopia? Absolutely not, and we are fools to think it ever will.
Will America ever be free of bias, sickness, crime, mental illness, poverty, and evil? Not completely, because we are imperfect beings, although we strive to be free of those ills as a society. And that striving is what reflects the goodness of mankind and of America.
What gets me is that Kaepernick is choosing to illustrate the point of alleged wrongful police shootings of black men – and I say alleged because some have proved to be justified, while others have not – instead of something much grander, such as helping inner city youth in urban cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and in Chicago where black teen unemployment is ridiculously high, poverty is on the rise, and crime and murder are rampant as a byproduct of the hopelessness felt in the inner city. Chicago ended the month of August with 90 murders and has 467 murders in the city so far this year with the majority of them being black males.
According to FBI crime data, 258 black people were killed by police gunfire in 2015, while nearly 6,000 black people were killed by other black people that year – yet black-on-black crime doesn’t draw the media attention for some reason, and the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t seem to care about black-on-black crime – only white-on-black crime, especially at the hands of the police. All deaths are tragic, but which group of data – the 258 or the 6,000 – reveals a larger problem that needs attention and needs to be addressed?
Of course, this is America and Kaepernick has the right to protest whatever he wants, and I support that right – just not how he has gone about it.
All of the Buccaneers and Redskins players decided to stand for the National Anthem during Wednesday night’s preseason finale, and that was a good thing. That had to have pleased Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter, who was asked if there was a team policy about standing for the National Anthem earlier in the week.
“Well, believe it or not, we have practiced how to lineup for the National Anthem, we’ve worked on it,” Koetter said. “I don’t know if our organization has the right to tell a guy that he needs to do that. I would be disappointed if any of our players didn’t stand up for the National Anthem, personally. I look at that as a salute to the people who have paved the way for us, but at the same time this is a free country and I think freedom of speech is something that we all believe in and freedom of expression. That’s an individual’s choice, that’s a fine line there. I would personally be disappointed, but I think it would be hard to enforce that rule.”
In light of what Kaepernick has done, I think the NFL should make standing for the National Anthem a rule, and fine those players who don’t.
Don’t think that’s possible or justifiable?
The NFL is full of rules that inhibit certain player freedoms in exchange for the luxury of playing a child’s sport for a king’s ransom.
NFL players have to appear for mandatory mini-camps and training camp or they are fined. Players are fined for being late to team meetings, or curfew in training camp or on road trips, and are not allowed to freely come and go as they please in those circumstances.
Players are fined and even suspended for drinking sports drinks that contain certain banned supplements, and are not allowed the freedom to consume whatever they want.
There is a dress code for players on game days and they can be fined for uniform violations, such as not wearing NFL licensed and approved gear, and not having their socks pulled up high enough. Players are not allowed the freedom to wear whatever they want.
Players are not allowed to use drugs, including marijuana, and are subject to drug testing and fines and suspensions for failed tests.
Players must even play on some religious holidays, including Christmas, when it falls on Sunday. The Ravens and Steelers, and Broncos and Chiefs all play on Christmas night this year.
If players are told where they must play and when, when they have to report for a meeting or a bed-check, what they can and can’t wear, and what they can and cannot consume, why should standing for the National Anthem be any different?
The NFL makes a really big production out of the National Anthem for every game with military flyovers, celebrity singers and unfurling huge American flags at every game. If it puts so much importance on the National Anthem, which it should, why not fine players like Kaepernick $50,000 for each instance of not standing for the National Anthem? Then the NFL should take that money and use it to benefit inner city youth with education and after-school programs, or police or military families that are struggling financially due to the death of an officer or soldier.
That would actually be doing some real, tangible good – unlike the misguided lip service from a disrespectful, multi-millionaire backup quarterback.
Coming under intense scrutiny over the past week, Kaepernick has now said he would donate the first $1 million of his $11.9 million salary this year to “different organizations to help these communities and help these people.” Is this a P.R. stunt to help his tarnished image, or will he actually follow through? And if Kaepernick ends up donating money, will it be to help at-risk youths or to an anti-police group like Black Lives Matter?
Hey, it’s a free country. Kaepernick can do what he likes with his money.
But if he keeps sitting or kneeling, the NFL should do what’s right and stand up for the American flag and the National Anthem, enact a fine, and give some of his money to charities that support law enforcement and the military.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• One of the hurdles that the Buccaneers jumped during the 2016 preseason was seeing if new head coach Dirk Koetter could effectively handle juggling both the head coaching duties as well as the play-calling for Tampa Bay’s offense. If last Friday’s 30-13 drubbing of Cleveland was any indication, Koetter passed that test with flying colors as the Bucs offense racked up 20 of the team’s 27 points in the first half.
“My college coach once told me that play-calling is a gift, and he’s got that gift,” Bucs cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah said of Koetter. “If you are a good play-caller you want to remain a play-caller even if you’re a head coach. Coach Koetter has done that his whole coaching career. With the way the offense has been playing in the preseason and the camp, he’s done a great job of balancing the head-coaching duties and the play-calling duties. I think everybody in this locker room feels a different energy this year on both sides of the ball plus special teams. He’s doing a great job.”
• When it’s all said and done, Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald may be the lone product from the University of Memphis on Tampa Bay’s roster. But during the summer he was enjoying having four other Tigers alumni in red and pewter, too.
“We had four Memphis guys with Martin Ifedi, Taylor Fallin, Alan Cross and myself, and that’s great to see,” McDonald said.
Ifedi and Fallin were released in earlier cuts, while Cross, who was battling Danny Vitale for a backup fullback-tight end job, is still waiting to see if he made the 53-man roster. Cross is deemed to be a better lead blocker and has outplayed Vitale in the preseason games.
“Memphis my alma mater and I love it,” McDonald said. “I’ve definitely been following Memphis, especially the last two years with Paxton Lynch being there. We’ve had several guys from Memphis here in Tampa. Alan Cross is a very exciting guy with great hands and great knowledge of the game. It’s amazing to see Memphis guys in this realm of the sport. We’ve come a long way as a university.”
McDonald might get the chance to sack Lynch if he becomes the Broncos’ starting quarterback by Week 4 when Denver comes to town.
• Tampa Bay is expected to release rookie middle linebacker Luke Rhodes and only carry five linebackers into the season. Backing up middle linebacker Kwon Alexander will be starting strongside linebacker Daryl Smith. Backing up Smith at Sam linebacker will be rookie Devante Bond. Backing up weakside linebacker Lavonte David will be Adarius Glanton.
• After struggling in the first two preseason games, Tampa Bay rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has quieted his critics with two perfect preseason games and heads into the regular season with some much needed momentum. Aguayo was 6-of-6 against Cleveland, connecting on all three extra point attempts and field goals, including a 48-yarder. Against Washington in the preseason finale, Aguayo was 3-of-3 with a successful extra point attempt and two field goals, including a 50-yarder in the rain.
The Florida State product, who was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay, has now made his last 11 kicks dating back to the second preseason game at Jacksonville. Against the Jaguars, Aguayo made an extra point and a field goal after his last miss before making all nine kicks against the Browns and Redskins. Aguayo now gets the benefit of kicking in a domed stadium in Atlanta for the first time in his NFL regular season debut.
• One of the big takeaways from last Friday’s 30-13 win over Cleveland that has to be a concern was how Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes was getting picked on by Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III. Grimes gave up a 44-yard catch to Josh Gordon in the first quarter and a 43-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. He also allowed Terrelle Pryor to get a first down on a wide receiver screen.
What was interesting to see how Browns head coach and offensive play-caller Hue Jackson targeted Grimes and matched Gordon up with him rather than rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who split starting reps with Alterraun Verner on the right side of Tampa Bay’s defense.
The Atlanta Falcons will move Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones all over the field on September 11 in the 2016 season opener, but I’m curious to see which cornerback Matt Ryan picks on the most – the rookie, who had two interceptions in the preseason, or the undersized, aging veteran? My money is on Grimes, who undoubtedly is looking forward to getting a shot against his former team when Tampa Bay travels to Atlanta.
• Thank you for helping @PewterReport surpass 23,000 followers on Twitter last week, which makes us one of the most popular media outlets on Twitter when it comes to covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you haven’t done so already, click here to follow @PewterReport, the official Twitter page of PewterReport.com. And you can also follow PewterReport.com on Facebook by clicking here.
• PewterReport.com’s regular radio appearances on 620 WDAE, the official flagship station of the Buccaneers Radio Network, start next week, so take note of these weekly scheduled times:
Mondays at 9:30 am – Mark Cook with Ronnie “Night Train” Lane and Tom “TKras” Krasniqi
Mondays at 1:30 pm – Scott Reynolds with Ron Diaz and JP Peterson
Fridays at 9:30 pm – Scott Reynolds with Ronnie “Night Train” Lane and Tom “TKras” Krasniqi
Mondays at 1:00 pm – Mark Cook with Ron Diaz and JP Peterson
• Our first Pewter Report Happy Hour at Two Henrys Brewing Company and Keel & Curley Winery is scheduled for Wednesday, September 14 starting at 6:00 p.m. Come out and meet PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook and I, drink some beer and talk Bucs football with us and get the inside scoop on your favorite team. Bring your Bucs-related questions and we’ll have the answers.
Derek Fournier of WhatTheBuc.net will be joining Cook and I for a live taping of the WhatTheBuc.net podcast immediately following the Pewter Report Hour. You can stay for dinner at Two Henrys and Keel & Curley as food is now served in the tasting room.
Two Henrys and Keel & Curley is the official beer and wine of PewterReport.com, and is located at 5210 Thonotosassa Road in Plant City, right off I-4 and about 10 minutes away from downtown Tampa and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
• PewterReport.com is once again excited to host our Pewter Watch Parties for Tampa Bay’s away games this season. The majority of the Pewter Watch Parties will take place at Hard Rock Cafe at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, including the 2016 season opener at Atlanta. Arrive at noon for this 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff as I take the stage at 12:30 p.m. for a Q&A with fans right before kickoff, and there will even be a former Tampa Bay player in attendance as a special guest.
Hard Rock Cafe, which is located at 5223 Orient Road in Tampa, will have food and drink specials and you can watch the Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta game on their giant 18-foot TV screen. Two Henrys Brewing will be on hand with FREE beer and cider samples, and Two Henrys Gilded Age Lager and Bellview Biltmore Vanilla Blueberry Wheat beer will be on sale for $4, along with Bud, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Goose Island IPA, Blue Moon and Yuengling.
Hard Rock Cafe will also have $5 chilled shots of Jagermiester, Fireball, Tito’s Vodka and Cuervo Gold, in addition to $6 Rocketizers, including Popcorn Chicken Bites, Bang-A-Gong Shrimp, Loaded Fries and $1 Wings ($1 per wing). Or you can get Hard Rock Cafe’s PewterReport.com Special, which is a special Ol’ Bay Burger made with crab meat and hamburger and two Two Henrys beers for only $20.
Stay tuned for a special announcement this weekend on PewterReport.com regarding the Pewter Watch Parties for the 2016 season. The second Pewter Watch Party will move to Sports Legends Bar & Grill in Clearwater for those fans in Pinellas County. Come watch Tampa Bay take on Atlanta at Sports Legends Bar & Grill at 4:05 p.m. ET. We’ll have full details about that Pewter Watch Party in next week’s SR’s Fab 5.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.