LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, shown before Sunday's season opener against the Bears, returned to practice Thursday after missing a day with an ankle injury.
The Bucs are dealing with injuries and illness as they prepare for their first road game of 2017 at the Vikings on Sunday.
DT Gerald McCoy (ankle) was back at practice with limited participation, but the rest of the Bucs' injury report was unchanged -- LB Kwon Alexander missed a second straight day with the hamstring injury that sidelined him early in Sunday's game, though he said he'll be able to play Sunday in Minnesota.
Two players battling illness -- DT Chris Baker and DE Jacquies Smith -- missed a second day of practice, and coach Dirk Koetter said "we are talking about influenza officially diagnosed (and) contagious, so guys when they have it, they've got to stay out of the building." Baker started at defensive tackle in Sunday's win, while Smith was inactive as he recovers from knee surgery.
The Bucs had two players sidelined with illness last week, and both (Alexander and OL Evan Smith) played against the Bears. CB Brent Grimes is also listed as being limited by a shoulder injury, but should also be able to play Sunday.Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs defensive back Josh Robinson, who led the team with 12 special-teams tackles last season, is excited to play Sunday at Minnesota, where he played his first four NFL seasons.
For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the Bucs.
"I knew that was coming, knew I would miss out on opening that new stadium," said Robinson, 26, who established himself as a special-teams leader last year with 12 tackles on coverage units and is now a special-teams captain after re-signing in the offseason. "I'm excited to go back there and compete against those guys."
The Vikings player that Robinson has kept in closest contact with is a guy he'll be going afte Sunday -- punt returner Marcus Sherels -- but he's still close with much of the Minnesota secondary, playing more as a defensive back than on special teams with the Vikings.
"It's exciting, just because I spent some time there," Robinson said. "Excited to go back and play against guys I competed against a lot in training camps. I'm looking forward to it."
Robinson said he knows the Vikings defense well -- he played under current head coach Mike Zimmer in 2014-15 -- and can lend some insights to the Bucs offensive players on what they'll face Sunday. …Full Story
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy (ankle) and LB Kwon Alexander (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. DT Chris Baker and DE Jacquies Smith with out with an illness. CB Brent Grimes (shoulder) was limited. LB Devante Bond (knee) had full participation.
“We have a little flu bug going through our team,’’ coach Dirk Koetter said. “We had a couple guys out today with the flu as well. It is going around. We’re taking every precaution we can. But it’s like everything else. You’ve just got to deal with it.’’
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A rendering of the Bucs' indoor practice facility.
The Bucs indoor practice facility still is under construction. There is no air conditioning. Some walls are open and the turf field is not fully installed.
But it has a roof to shield the sun and the Bucs took advantage of that Wednesday.
For the first time, the team held its walk-through indoors in an effort just to escape the heat for about a half hour or so.
“It was fine,’’ coach Dirk Koetter said. “It was nice to get in there. It’s not done yet, but it was good to get us out of the heat for those 30 or 40 minutes. It’s going to be awesome. It’s not quite ready yet, but it’s going to be awesome.’’
The team had hoped the indoor facility would be completed sometime in Sept., but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Once it is fully operational, the Bucs will use it for all their walk-throughs and some practices to escape the heat or inclement weather.
In preparation for games on artificial surface like Sunday’s contest in Minnesota, the Bucs may opt to practice indoors as well.
“It’s possible,’’ Koetter said. “I’m not going to pigeonhole anything right now. Today would’ve been a good day to go in there mainly because of the heat.’’
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs receiver Adam Humphries had two catches for 18 yards in Sunday's 29-7 win over the Bears.
Bucs receiver Adam Humphries will have a familiar face lining up against him Sunday when he's in the slot and the Vikings have Mackensie Alexander guarding him as their nickel defensive back.
The two were teammates at Clemson -- they played together in 2014, and were both with the Tigers in 2013 when Alexander redshirted. They have identical roster measurements at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds and are even represented by the same agency.
"It'd be fun to go against him -- he's a good competitor and I used to go up against him every day in practice," Humphries said. "I know a lot about his game. He knows a lot about my game. It's 'Good to see you again, but I'm going to try my best.'"
Humphries has something else to remind him of his Clemson days -- the influx of talent on offense this year, with DeSean Jackson and rookies O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin adding to the Bucs' options in the passing game. …Full Story
How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?
It nearly happened. Tampa Bay was set to select Cook in the first round, but Alabama tight end O.J. Howard unexpectedly tumbled to them with the 19th overall pick. Howard was one of the cleanest players in the draft due to his production and character and was projected to be gone with the first 10-15 picks.
The Bucs were very familiar with Cook, who as a teammate of quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State. Had he come to the Bucs, running back Doug Martin may not be on the roster instead of serving a three-game suspension. Cook lasted until the ninth pick in the second round, most likely due to some off-field concerns.
But Cook has quickly proven to be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. In his first game, Cook broke Adrian Peterson’s record for the most rushing yards by a rookie in his debut when he gained 127 yards in a 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints. …Full Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | TIMES
The Bucs stopped Case Keenum on this two-point conversion last season, but he's beaten Tampa Bay in each of the last two years, throwing for four touchdown passes.
Who, you might wonder, will be the first NFL quarterback to beat Jameis Winston three times?
The natural guess would be a division rival, and Carolina's Cam Newton and New Orleans' Drew Brees have beaten Winston twice already.
But the first quarterback this season with a chance to beat the Bucs for a third time in three seasons is ... Case Keenum?
If Sam Bradford's knee keeps him out Sunday as it did for the Vikings this past week, then the Bucs will face Keenum, who led the Rams to victories against Tampa Bay in each of the last two seasons.
Keenum has been sharp -- in 2015, he was 14-for-17 for 234 yards and two scores (a 158.0 QB rating) and last year, he was 14-for-26 for 190 and two touchdowns with an interception. His specialty? Beating the Bucs with the deep ball. …Full Story
TIMES ARCHIVES (2006)
Twin brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber, shown during a Bucs-Giants game in 2006, will be in the broadcast booth together as Tiki joins Ronde and play-by-play man Kenny Albert for the Bucs-Giants game in Tampa on Oct. 1.
FOX announced Monday night that former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber will have a familiar face joining him as a guest analyst for the Oct. 1 Bucs-Giants game in Tampa: his twin brother Tiki, who will join play-by-play man Kenny Albert as the brothers watch their old teams play.
"I probably wouldn't want to be part of a three-man booth with too many people, but I'm happy to share the FOX booth with Tiki," Ronde said in a statement. "Tiki is a novice in terms of calling games, and there are so many different mechanics that go along with it. We have always shared our life experiences with each other, so he knows what he is getting into by virtue of me. He is very 'big picture' and not myopic when it comes to football. Because of his history in New York and mine in Tampa, we will be able to offer a different perspective to these two markets and a global viewpoint on both teams to any viewer." …Full Story
LUIS SANTANA -- TIMES (2010)
Ron Gutschmidt is perched on top of the Buccaneer pirate ship ready to activate the ship's cannons with the press of a button after a Buccaneer touchdown in this 2010 photo.
As good as the Bucs looked in their season-opening 29-7 win against the Bears on Sunday, fans couldn't help but notice that the success didn't sound the same at Raymond James Stadium.
The signature firing of the cannons from the pirate ship in the north end zone of the stadium -- a warning shot to mark the Bucs entering the red zone, and one blast for every point scored by the home team -- was never heard in Sunday's win. Fans were concerned enough that in looking for answers online, one of the most-read stories on tampabay.com over the weekend was an August story on the Redskins' Josh Norman asking why the Bucs can fire their cannons, but he can't make a bow-and-arrow gesture in celebration without a fine.
There's good news for Bucs fans -- the team said Monday night that water damage from Hurricane Irma impacted the electrical systems that control the cannons. Those systems are being repaired and the Bucs expect that the cannons will be fully functional for the Bucs' next home game, on Oct. 1 against the Giants. …Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, shown in a photo shoot for the Times' Bucs season preview section, got a look for the Vikings in rookie minicamp in 2014 before signing with the Bucs.
As the Bucs head to Minnesota this week for a game against the Vikings, tight end Cameron Brate can wonder what might have been.
Before he got to the Bucs as an undrafted rookie in 2014, he got a look at Vikings rookie minicamp, even completing one of his final exams to get his degree from Harvard with a proctor in the lobby of the Vikings team hotel. Minnesota didn't sign him, however, and he tried out for the Bucs, signed a contract and worked his way up with Tampa Bay and tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season.
"I don't think it would have gone as well if I'd stayed there," Brate said Monday of his weekend with the Vikings. "I can't imagine it. Things worked out here. I was there for three days. I'm happy with how everything has worked out."
Brate said he does remember another long shot from that rookie minicamp -- receiver Adam Thielen, who had been on the Vikings' practice squad in 2013 and participated in the minicamp. Much like Brate, Thielen had 20 total catches in 2014-15 before a breakout season last year, catching 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns. …Full Story
LARA CERRI | TIMES
Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who made his NFL debut on Sunday, joined QB Jameis Winston in St. Petersburg on Friday in serving food at a giveaway in St. Petersburg for hurricane victims.
Lakewood's Bernard Reedy had tried to earn his way into an NFL game for three straight years but Sunday he achieved that goal, handling the Bucs' punt and kickoff returns in their season-opening win against the Bears.
"It feels great. It's still surreal to be my first career regular-season game. It's priceless," said Reedy, who earned one of the last spots on the Bucs' 53-man roster as the team's fifth receiver.
Reedy only had one actual return, taking a punt 17 yards in the third quarter, and got seven snaps on offense as well, though he wasn't targeted for any passes. Reedy had worked as the primary backup on both punt and kickoff returns in preseason, and found out last week he'd take over for Adam Humphries on punts and Ryan Smith on kickoff returns.
"It's something I always dreamed of, returning kicks," said Reedy, thrilled his debut could come in a home win. "I was ready to go ... That's what you practice for, what training camp and preseason are all about is leading up to the regular season."Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs receiver Mike Evans makes a catch during Sunday's win against the Bears. His 17-yard catch just before halftime set up a 50-yard field goal as the Bucs executed their two-minute offense well.
As much as the Bucs offense missed out on some scoring with red-zone inefficiency in Sunday's 29-7 win against the Bears, the team's best execution might have come in the final minute of the first half in setting up a 50-yard field goal.
Up 23-0 already, given the ball at their 25 with 1:04 left, the Bucs could have easily just run out the half, content to go to the locker room with a dominating lead. Instead, they worked on that two-minute drill, with Jameis Winston completing four passes for 53 yards to set up the kick.
"It feels great. We wanted that two-minute opportunity," quarterback Jameis Winston said after the game. "We got a chance to run a play that we have never run in a real game before, with Mike Evans catching that ball, then getting out of bounds, so it was good to be able to work that and we saw how it did. I think that's the happiest I've ever seen Coach Koetter -- during that two-minute drive, on that final play -- than I have since I've been here." …Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs receiver Mike Evans gets his feet in bounds on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston in Sunday's win against the Bears.
It was an efficient debut for Bucs receiver Mike Evans, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and had seven catches for 93 yards on just nine targets in Sunday's season-opening win against the Bears.
What was encouraging, even exciting for Evans was how often he drew single coverage from the Bears defense, a testament to the improved options added to the Bucs offense that opponents must now account for.
"The last couple of seasons, the Bears double-teamed me crazy," Evans said. "I probably saw maybe one or two double-teams today. It was great. We had a lot of one-on-one opportunities. We have a lot of talent, so all we have to do beat the one-on-one matchups. I hope it's like this every week, but it's obviously not."
Asked about Evans' touchdown catch for a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he saw what Jameis Winston saw and acted on.
"I saw one-on-one coverage," Koetter said. "I figured that's where Jameis was going to go with the ball. That's something we work on a lot, and Mike and Jameis have put a lot of time in that red-zone fade ball. We don't get single coverage on Mike very often, so when we do, we're happy to see it." …Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs nickel Robert McClain pulls away from Bears receiver Kendall Wright for his first career touchdown on a 47-yard interception return in Sunday's win against Chicago.
The Bucs are Robert McClain's fourth NFL team and his third in the past year, but Sunday gave him a memorable first -- his first touchdown, intercepting a Mike Glennon pass and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown as the Bucs pulled away to a 29-7 win over the Bears.
"It's been a while -- I have dreams of just getting my hands on the ball," said McClain, who jumped in front of a pass intended for receiver Josh Bellamy. "That's all I wanted. If you're on defense, you just want to get your hands on the ball. I'm happy I got that pick and made that play, but there's a lot of stuff I still have to work on."
McClain, 29, beat Bellamy down the sidelines, but nearly was brought down by receiver Kendall Wright, who dived at him inside the 10 but couldn't tackle him, allowing him to celebrate in the end zone.
"I was thinking about him the entire time -- this one guy right behind me, and as long as he doesn't tackle me, I'm getting this. I just wanted to stay in-bounds," said McClain, who kept the game ball from his touchdown in his locker.Full Story
LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES
Bucs linebacker Cameron Lynch, right, pounces on a loose ball after Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith forced a fumble from Bears rookie Tarik Cohen on a first-quarter punt.
The Bucs were only ahead 3-0 and punting in the final minute of the first quarter when cornerback Ryan Smith saw the punt bounce again and again and wondered: Would Bears rookie Tarik Cohen really try to field the punt?
"I didn't think he would go for it, but when he did, I made a play," said Smith, who knocked the ball loose, and linebacker Cameron Lynch jumped on the loose ball at the 13-yard line, setting up a Jameis Winston touchdown to Mike Evans on the next play for a 10-0 lead.
Smith and Cohen go way back -- both are from rival I-AA programs, with Smith at North Carolina Central and Cohen at North Carolina A&T. Smith beat him twice in college, the first time pouncing on a Cohen fumble at the 1-yard line to thwart a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. He said he liked facing Cohen again, even if it wasn't completely reciprocated.
"It was cool going against him again. After the game, he said he was tired of seeing me," Smith said. "He's my boy though. It was good seeing him out there. I made a play, but I'm just doing my job." …Full Story