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Here are some things that caught my attention this week:
FAB 1. Pewter Report finally got the chance to tour the new One Buccaneer Place on Friday, along with some other members of the media. Our thanks to the Glazers, Bucs’ chief operating officer Eric Land, public relations director Jeff Kamis and his wonderful staff for the opportunity to view the new team headquarters. Pewter Report will be doing a multi-page photo gallery in our March issue with some great images from the new, state-of-the art One Buccaneer Place, but I will try to describe some of the highlights from the Bucs’ facility.
I’ve had a chance to see the foyer/lobby, the dining hall, the practice fields, the locker room, the press conference room and, of course, the media room before, but that’s all I or anyone else in the media have really been allowed to view due to the ongoing construction during the fall and winter. On Friday, about six months after the new facility opened, Tampa Bay’s public relations staff allowed us to tour areas such the weight room, the players’ lounge, the training room (complete with hydrotherapy pools with underwater treadmills), the unit meeting rooms, the coaches’ offices, the offensive and defensive coaching conference rooms, the scouting offices, the Bucs’ draft war room and the video room where Dave Levy and Pat Brazil make all of the videos and cut-ups for the scouting department, coaches and players to watch.
As I was touring the facility I kept thinking to myself, this building will make the difference in landing a free agent or two that normally would have gotten away and signed with another team back when the Buccaneers were in their old, outdated facility. After seeing this $30-million team headquarters, how could a visiting free agent not want to be a Buccaneer if the money was right?
Couple this facility, with the chance to play for Jon Gruden and Monte Kiffin, the chance to play alongside Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Cadillac Williams, the chance to play in Raymond James Stadium, and reside in Florida, which has no state income tax, and you’ve got a recipe for success in free agency.
I’ll let the pictures in the March issue of Pewter Report speak for themselves when it comes to describing the opulence of the new One Buccaneer Place, but there are a couple of interesting tidbits that I want to touch on. First, when you walk in the palatial lobby at One Buc Place, the team has put alternate logo, color, jersey and helmet designs that the Glazers considered before settling on the red and pewter color scheme, and the jerseys and helmets that the team wears today. There were white helmets, silver helmets and black helmets, which were bastardized versions of the logo that eventually became Tampa Bay’s unique new look back in 1997.
What was interesting to note were the different color schemes the Glazers were considering, such as a couple that kept the old orange, but with a new logo. There were also logos that introduced a dark blue into the mix. There must have been a dozen different variations of logos, helmets and uniform drawings on display.
While the Glazers made the right call to go with the current logo and the unique pewter color, a color which was not prominent in the alternate helmets that were under consideration, it was still very interesting to see what could have been. Out of all of the alternates, I liked the black version of the helmet that is pictured in this article the best.
It’s hard for you, the Buccaneers fan, to truly appreciate how fabulous the new One Buccaneer Place is if you haven’t seen the old facility, which, as Allen famously once said, was outdated the day it was built back in 1976. While the players certainly have a lot of new amenities, Tampa Bay’s coaches really have it made in this new facility.
You’ve probably heard before how some of the assistant coaches’ offices were the size of broom closets. It’s true. But at the new One Buc Place, the coaches have spacious offices where they can watch film on huge, flat screen TVs on vast, expansive desks. At the old facility, some of the position coaches’ offices actually doubled as their squad’s meeting room. That made watching film a real problem.
Not any more. Now, coaches and players don’t have to fight over two projectors to watch film – one in the coaches’ office/squad meeting room and the other in the team meeting room. At the new One Buccaneer Place, players can watch film in the squad meeting room or the coaches’ offices. The coaches can watch film in their own office, the squad meeting room or the offensive or defensive staff conference rooms. There isn’t a shortage of enormous flat screens or projectors to watch film on anymore – thanks to the Glazers, who went first class all the way when building and outfitting this new facility.
Speaking of watching film, the auditorium where the entire team gathers to watch game film is simply enormous. The padded leather oversized chairs are super-comfortable, can swivel and come complete with a small, wood table on the arm for players to take notes on. I don’t know how big the projection screen was in the stadium-style seated room, but let’s just say it rivals any screen at the local AMC movie theater. The sound system was also very, very impressive. All that was missing was the buttered popcorn.
One of the amazing things I learned during the tour was that all of the Bucs’ video is done digitally now and is accessible through XOS software. Here’s how it works. If a position coach like Valero wants to watch a certain clip, cut-up or game, he can simply punch it up from any meeting room, conference room or coaches room because the XOS system resides on the same, giant server that resides at One Buc Place.
The same holds true for a player. He can watch any film in any room by accessing the team database. If Barber wants to watch every time the Carolina Panthers were in third-and-3 situations in 2006, he simply types it into the computer database and it pulls up on a flat screen or a projector, depending on what room he’s in. This is cutting technology folks, and the unsung hero at One Buc Place is Levy, the video director who has worked for the Bucs for well over a decade now.
My last comment on the new team headquarters is the Glazers’ executive offices. They were the only offices we didn’t get to tour. Do you know why? They aren’t finished yet.
That’s right. I found it stunningly impressive that the Glazers’ offices were the last ones to be fully constructed. Some NFL owners who take themselves way too seriously, such as Dallas’ Jerry Jones, Washington’s Daniel Snyder and Atlanta’s Arthur Blank, probably would have insisted on having their office done first – or at least completed by the time the open house occurred. Not the Glazers. They wanted all of the team’s other employees from the players to the coaches to the scouts to the video department to the public relations, marketing and ticket departments to be done first. That just shows you why the Glazers are committed to winning and running a first-class organization.
To view photos of Tampa Bay's alternate helmets that are on display at One Buc Place, click here.
FAB 2. Why did Tampa Bay bring wide receiver David Boston back in 2007? He was very close to making the team out of training camp last year while coming off a knee injury he suffered in Miami in 2005. Word has it that he is much closer to regaining his old form than he was a year ago.
Boston actually made the Bucs’ roster in 2006 until rookie guard Davin Joseph suffered a knee injury during the practices leading up to the season opener at Baltimore. With left guard Dan Buenning also getting injured right before the season opener – with an ankle injury in the preseason finale at Houston – the team had to keep more offensive linemen than receivers, so Boston was the odd man out.
What was strange at the time was how an established veteran like Boston was released over an unproven youngster like Paris Warren. The reason? Warren had a better grasp of Jon Gruden’s system and was 100 percent healthy. Boston was not.
When he was released it was understood that Tampa Bay was interested in bringing Boston back in 2007 if he showed progress in his knee rehab and his conditioning. The Bucs gave the 6-foot-2, 228-pound wide receiver another workout in late January and liked what they saw.
Tampa Bay also wanted Boston to participate in the entire offseason program. Last year, he wasn’t added until after the draft and missed a couple of rounds of OTAs (organized team activities). Now that he is healthier and gaining more of his speed back, Boston stands a much better chance of making the team in 2007 by beating out Warren this year for the fifth receiver spot.
If he shows significant improvement, and Tampa Bay were to land a premier wide receiver like Calvin Johnson in the draft, it gives the Buccaneers the flexibility to consider trading Michael Clayton if they don’t feel he is able to regain his rookie form. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Boston still has to make the team first, which is something he really didn’t do last year – except for a couple of days leading up to the Baltimore game.
FAB 3. Wide receiver David Boston wasn’t the only big name free agent Tampa Bay brought in for a workout this offseason. The Bucs, who are desperate for pass rushers along the defensive line, brought in former Baltimore defensive end/outside linebacker Peter Boulware, former Arizona defensive end Andre Wadsworth and former New Orleans defensive tackle Kenny Smith.
All three players were out of the NFL last year. Wadsworth has been out of the league for six years.
So why did the Bucs even consider working out these players? General manager Bruce Allen’s philosophy is to give any player who has acquired a reputation or has produced a proven track record in the league a workout if they want one. There’s no harm in it and that’s how a team can uncover a diamond in the rough.
Tampa Bay hasn’t necessarily found one yet, although former Oakland defensive tackle Darrell Russell was showing great promise in 2004 before slipping up and allegedly testing positive for alcohol consumption, which led to his dismissal from the team given his past transgressions. Two years ago, Russell was killed in an automobile accident in the early hours of the morning.
The Bucs didn’t sign Boulware, Wadsworth or Smith, but bringing these players in shows how desperate Tampa Bay is to find defensive line that can rush the passer this year. All three players cleared the Bucs’ physicals, so that isn’t necessarily a concern. But none of the players wowed Tampa Bay officials enough during the workouts to merit a contract, either.
However, just because these players weren’t signed in February doesn’t mean that one of them won’t become a Buccaneer later this year. Tampa Bay didn’t sign David Boston until May last year after two months of free agency and the draft, so anything can happen.
The guess here is that Tampa Bay will see how it fares in the initial stages of free agency and the draft. If it doesn’t add the quantity or quality of defensive linemen in March and April, it may elect to bring one of those players back and sign them.
Allen is an information-collecting general manager. He can never have enough info on a player to make a personnel decision, which is why he is open to bringing in just about any player with a reputation for a workout.
That philosophy has served him well with some players such as kicker Matt Bryant, defensive tackle Chris Hovan, cornerbacks Juran Bolden and Phillip Buchanon and others. But as cornerback Mario Edwards and offensive tackles Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese have pointed out, even a lot of information can’t save the franchise from signing a bust.
Time will tell if Boulware, Wadsworth or Smith wind up as Buccaneers, but don’t expect it to happen until May at the earliest – if it happens at all.
FAB 4. In 2004, Pewter Report advocated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafting a return specialist, going so far as to put Texas Tech’s Wes Welker on the front cover along with Kentucky’s Derek Abney, South Florida’s J.R. Reed and Virginia Tech’s DeAngelo Hall, whom we advocated the Bucs taking in the first round.
Well, four years later after witnessing Tampa Bay’s pungent return game, Pewter Report is again advocating the drafting of another return man. In 2004, we advocated the drafting of just about anyone who could serve as a kick or a punt returner. We applauded the Bucs for at least listening when they selected Tennessee’s Mark Jones in the seventh round, although we didn’t recommend him at the time.
In fact, I’ve soured on Jones, who has shown that he’s essentially a one-trick pony – nothing more than a punt returner. Yes, he’s fast. He runs in the 4.4’s whereas Welker, who went undrafted due to a 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash, has gone on to have a much better career in Miami where he has returned one kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, as well as 12 punts over 20 yards. Welker’s stock as a kick returner, punt returner and wide receiver (he caught 67 passes for 687 yards and a TD last year) is rising so fast that the Dolphins are expected to tender him a restricted free agent contract that comes with second-round draft pick compensation.
As for Jones? He has yet to catch a pass in the NFL and hasn’t come close to stepping on to the field on offense. Not only is he not even doing kick returns on a regular basis, Jones isn’t even covering kicks on special teams. By not being a full-fledged return specialist or even a gunner on special teams, he’s essentially wasting one of Tampa Bay’s precious roster spots.
If the Bucs didn’t have such a high second-round pick, I’d suggest Tampa Bay go after Welker in restricted free agency and sign him to an offer sheet (no, they can’t go after him with Indianapolis’ second-rounder as compensation). But because that option isn’t feasible, I think the Buccaneers should spend a second-day draft pick on Kansas State return man Yamon Figurs.
You are probably thinking two things. First, is his name really Yamon Figurs (pronounced yeah-mon figures)? Yes, it is. And second, is Reynolds pitching yet another K-State Wildcat to Bucs fans? Yes, I am.
I’ll admit that I am a K-State grad who lobbied hard for ex-Wildcat Frank Murphy to be the kick return guy in Tampa Bay in the early part of this decade (and I still think he would have returned a kickoff for a touchdown by now if he had the chance). And of course I was thrilled that Tampa Bay drafted KSU alums Martin Gramatica and Darnell McDonald in 1999. But I wasn’t too thrilled when Tampa Bay drafted K-State’s Aaron Lockett in 2003 and thought he would be a bust after the first mini-camp, which he was.
And if you’ve noticed, I haven’t sung the praises of any Wildcat in quite a long time (there haven’t been many worth praising) – until now with Figurs. If you haven’t heard of Figurs by now, you will hear about him next week at NFL Combine in Indianapolis where he could very well be the fastest wide receiver there. Heck, he may be the fastest player in Indy. He ran a 4.29 at K-State and is expected to run in the 4.3’s before NFL scouts and coaches.
Figurs will go from being a seventh-round pick to a fifth-round – or even a fourth-round – pick because every NFL team wants a Devin Hester-type player who can quickly flip field position and score points on special teams. Figurs’ resume´ at Kansas State includes two punt returns for touchdowns in 2006 (an 81-yarder versus Illinois State and a 78-yarder against Rutgers) as well as a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2005.
Figurs had another scoring play – a 93-yard touchdown on a punt return in the Hula Bowl – wiped out due to a bad call. The officials in the Hula Bowl all-star game mistakenly ruled that Figurs had stepped out of bounds at the opponents’ 34-yard line, even though replays showed that he stayed in bounds. Still, a 59-yard punt return is nothing to sneeze at. Neither was his 52-yard punt return against No. 4-ranked Texas when he was finally run down at the 4-yard line.
The Wildcats would score a touchdown a couple of plays later and pull off the upset, also thanks in part to Figurs’ four catches for a career-high 123 yards, including two touchdowns against All-American Aaron Ross, who could be a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Figurs is not the most accomplished receiver, hauling in only 28 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns as a senior.
He was mainly used as a deep threat due to his speed and didn’t have very good quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his three years at K-State. His only other 100-yard game in 2006 came against Baylor when he caught four passes for 101 yards, including a career-long 68-yarder. Figurs’ speed was put to good use on end-arounds, as he scored on a pair of 38-yarders against Colorado and Illinois State.
But the thing that excites me about Figurs is his return prowess and special teams ability. On kickoffs, teams generally kicked away from him. As a result, K-State had three touchdowns on kick returns in 2006 – covering 85, 88 and 95 yards – by players other Figurs, and the Wildcats managed to lead the NCAA with a 27.7-yard kick return average. Figurs averaged 22.6 yards per kick return last year and 14.7 yards per punt return.
So aside from the ability to return kicks and punts, what else could Figurs bring to Tampa Bay? He could be a gunner on par with some of the greats in Bucs history, such as Cory Ivy, Dwight Smith and Torrie Cox. Although he has a wiry, 5-foot-11, 173-pound build that would remind you of Karl “The Truth” Williams, Figurs is a tough special teamer who has forced one fumble and recovered three loose balls on punt coverage during his Wildcats career.
I first discussed his NFL merits with Tampa Bay’s defensive backs coach Raheem Morris on my visit to K-State for the Texas game last November when Morris was the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator. Morris loves the kid, thinks he’s a stud. Expect Morris to lobby hard for him in the war room on the second day of the draft, but I’ve come to learn that he’s not the only one at One Buc Place who is quite fond of Figurs.
“That’s the thing they don’t know about Yamon – how fast he really is,” Morris said. “I can speak about this guy because I was with him all of last year. He’s one of those special personality guys. He’s a great guy. He’s going to learn and get better as he goes. He’ll probably have a better NFL career than he did a college career. His speed is elite and he wants to get better. He’s naturally a tough kid. Those guys go far in the NFL. I think he’ll have a great opportunity with this Combine and this draft coming up.
“He is like Karl Williams in terms of his body structure and what he can do as a punt returner, but when you turn him loose on the other side and have him cover punts and turn him into a defender, that’s what separates him from others. You’ve got to love that guy. I like everything about him. I like the character. I like the player. I just like Yamon Figurs. He’s one of my guys.”
I had a chance to meet Figurs after K-State’s win over Texas in which he was one of the game’s big stars. I found him to be very engaging and humble, despite his big evening. Morris is right. He does have a magnetic personality. I told him he would look good in red and pewter and he smiled and told me his mom lives in Lakeland, Fla. and hails from Fort Pierce.
That would be quite a homecoming. I bet Figurs could make a home out of the end zones at Raymond James Stadium, too. Go get him, Buccaneers. Pair him up against return specialist Chad Owens in training camp and may be the best man win.
FAB 5. Here are some things to hold you over until next time:
• There have been a lot of requests for updates on injured players. There’s not a whole lot to report other than the players are rehabbing quite vigorously with team trainer Todd Toriscelli over at One Buccaneer Place this month. The most serious injury was to left guard Dan Buenning, who tore his ACL on Thanksgiving at Dallas. Reports out of one Buc Place suggest that his rehab is going to schedule, but no timetable was discussed with Pewter Report. Buenning will certainly play in this year, it’s just a matter of when. Torn ACLs typically require 9-12 months to recover from. Nine months puts Buenning on pace to return in August, which means training camp and the preseason. It’s just too early to tell if he will be able to participate in training camp yet or play in preseason games. But you can expect the Bucs not to count on him at the start of the season and add another guard to the mix through the draft or free agency.
• Although it hasn’t been released to the media yet, the Buccaneers have a new assistant coach in Dwayne Stukes. Stukes’ role with the team has not been made clear, but he is a former safety out of Virginia who was on the Buccaneers’ 2002 practice squad. The guess here is that he could be helping out on special teams, replacing Ron Middleton, who left to coach tight ends at Alabama this offseason, but don’t hold me to it.
• Are the Buccaneers disappointed by the franchise-tagging of Cincinnati defensive end Justin Smith, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs and New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel? Sure, but they saw all of these moves coming. In fact, they are preparing for the franchising of Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney, too. The Bucs were hoping that the Bengals might franchise guard Eric Steinbach instead of Smith because Smith was atop their free agent list alongside Freeney and Briggs. Now expect the Bucs to pursue New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant hard. They’ll also give some real consideration to Baltimore linebacker Adalius Thomas and Atlanta defensive end Patrick Kerney.
• And finally, two weeks is just too long between NFL championship games and the Super Bowl. I’m a huge Tony Dungy fan, but two weeks worth of articles by the media on Dungy – or anybody – is absolute overkill. After the first week, I had Dungy, Lovie Smith, Peyton Manning, Colts and Bears fatigue. Yes, the participating teams would like to have two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl, especially to get tickets and travel accommodations out to friends and family, but that’s not what fans want. Having two weeks between championship weekend and the Super Bowl doesn’t necessarily result in better games, either. Remember, the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII with only week to prepare against Oakland. Just imagine how bad the beatdown could have been with Jon Gruden having two weeks to prepare against his former team.
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