Bucs’ acquisitions Ward, Baker frustrated by lack of playing time

T.J. Ward‘s resume hasn’t translated to snaps on his new team, and he’s none too pleased about it.

The three-time Pro Bowl safety has played sparingly as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer this year, and he vented over his lack of snaps following the squad’s 30-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

“I came here to be an impact player,” said Ward, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “I can’t do that if I’m not out on the field.”

Ward joined the team on a one-year deal just before the start of the season after the Denver Broncos sent him packing to lighten the payroll, and while many believed his addition would bolster a porous secondary, the 30-year-old has remained a rotational player in four games of action – much to his befuddlement.

“You have to ask (defensive coordinator) Mike Smith and (coach) Dirk Koetter about that, but I’m at my wit’s end. I did not come here to rotate. I did not come here to be a part-time player.”

Smith himself reportedly chalked up Ward's lack of playing time to injury and the efforts of a group led by Chris Conte and rookie second-rounder Justin Evans, although the former Bronco maintains he's been healthy for several weeks.

Ward’s stance was soon echoed on Twitter by defensive lineman Chris Baker, who also joined the Bucs this past offseason on a three-year deal worth nearly $ 16 million with $ 9M guaranteed.

In last week’s date with the Arizona Cardinals, Ward and Baker played 55 and 51 percent of the Bucs’ defensive snaps, respectively.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

‘Hard Knocks’ helps show Winston is everything Bucs wanted

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced a colossal decision: Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston?

Two years ago, the Bucs owned the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and vowed never to put themselves in that position again. First, though, they needed to make a franchise-altering choice between polar opposites: a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, dual-threat quarterback and a pro-style passer with a checkered past.

General manager Jason Licht promised he left no stone unturned in researching the latter and confidently selected Winston first overall. In the two seasons since, Winston has not disappointed.

He finished 2016 as the first quarterback to ever begin a career by throwing for more than 4,000 yards in his first two seasons. He set team passing records and broke franchise marks that have stood for years. He's the team's record-holder for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single season. And he had the Buccaneers in playoff contention into the final week of last year.

Yet, for all he's done on the field, what's really important to both the Buccaneers and their fan base is the fact Winston has stayed out of trouble off it. After a two-year college career stained by off-field antics and controversy, he's making positive headlines in the NFL.

Winston is one of a select group of young pros expected to make the leap into superstardom this upcoming season, and that coincides with the camera time he got on the reality training-camp series "Hard Knocks." The show began with the 23-year-old bringing a camera crew to his hometown of Bessemer, Ala., a city of just 27,000 residents.

Aside from giving viewers a glimpse of his background, the five-episode series also showcased Winston's leadership skills, outgoing personality, and enthusiasm. Those are among the characteristics that made Winston the obvious choice for the Bucs in the 2015 NFL Draft.

"He's the best leader I think I've ever been around – in anything," Licht told front-office execs from the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in one episode.

“If you’ve got a guy like Jameis, he’s the reason we got DeSean Jackson, because DeSean turned down more money to come here because he wanted to play with him.”

The list of former Buccaneers who never wanted to play for Tampa Bay is a long one, headlined by Steve Young and Bo Jackson. So imagine the franchise's good fortune when, despite their league-worst record of 2-14, the top draft prospect actually wanted to be selected by the Bucs.

The team was confident in his physical abilities. But would he stay out of trouble?

During his time at Florida State, Winston was accused of sexual assault (though he was never charged and the case was settled in 2016); issued a citation for shoplifting crab legs; and disciplined for yelling an obscene phrase on campus. A franchise hoping to reinvigorate its fan base could ill afford such negative press following its marquee player.

In his two seasons in the pros, Winston's only slipup came this February when he told a group of school children that men are supposed to be strong but "ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle."

He called the statement "poor word choice" and has not shied away from visiting with students since. The player and team quickly moved past the matter and toward a season in which the Buccaneers are expected to end their nine-year playoff drought.

If they do so, it will be because Winston led them there. All-Pro defensive tackle and five-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy has ceded control of the team to the ascendant quarterback. He's confident the youngster is capable of taking the reins.

"(I'm) passing the torch," McCoy said ahead of last season. "Ronde (Barber) gave me the torch. I didn't ask him for it. He passed it to me. So, here you go, Jameis. Go take us to the Super Bowl."

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Bucs, Lightning, Rays call for removal of Confederate monument from Tampa

The trio of major professional sports teams in Tampa Bay are banding together to take a stand against oppression.

In a statement released by the Buccaneers, Rays, and Lightning on Thursday afternoon, the clubs announced a joint initiative to dedicate funds to assist in the removal of a Confederate monument from a public space outside of the Tampa courthouse.

Recognizing that this monument does not reflect the values of our community, in collaboration with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, our organizations have dedicated funds to assist in moving the statue from the public space in front of the courthouse.

Now more than ever before, we must stand united and committed to diversity and inclusion as we all attempt to heal from the tragedy in Charlottesville.

The statement comes on the heels of protests in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend where white nationalist and other supremacist groups attempted to block the removal of another Confederate statue in the downtown core of the city.

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy tweeted that he would donate $ 5,000 to help move the statue from its spot in downtown Tampa.

The teams’ announcement came a day after legislators, in a divisive 4-2 vote, gave fundraisers 30 days to collect $ 140,000, about half of what’s needed to relocate the statue.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Bucs’ Grimes considered retiring, trying out for NBA’s G League

Warning: Story contains coarse language

The rare defensive back to maintain a high level of play well into his 30s, Brent Grimes has shown no signs of slowing down ahead of his 11th season in the NFL.

But given the number of issues he has with the way the league does business, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise if he eventually chooses to walk away on his own terms.

As part of a Sports Illustrated profile on Grimes and his wife, Miko, the Buccaneers corner revealed that he considered retiring and trying out for the NBA Development League earlier this offseason.

“The NFL doesn’t have a cool vibe,” Grimes told SI’s Jack Dickey. “They make everyone look the same, with their shoes and socks the same way.”

Miko, who’s long been critical of the NFL, called the sport “weak” and spoke of its “fucked up contracts and dirty owners.”

It’s unclear whether Grimes will again weigh the possibility of retirement next winter, but the Buccaneers should be thrilled that he elected to put it off for at least another season.

The 33-year-old was one of the NFL's most productive cover men after landing in Tampa Bay as a free agent last March, racking up four interceptions, 24 passes defensed, and 57 tackles across 16 starts.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Koetter apologizes for Bucs trolling Falcons with 28-3 tweet

Dirk Koetter isn't exactly amused by his social media team's decision to take a shot at an NFC South rival earlier this week.

Speaking to reporters during his media availability at OTAs on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach issued an apology to the Atlanta Falcons for a tweet directed at the team in epic troll fashion Monday.

"I want to make sure on behalf of the Bucs organization that I apologize to the Falcons for whatever that was supposed to be that went out on social media," Koetter said, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. "That's not what our organization is about."

In case you missed it, the Buccaneers account had dropped a not-so-subtle reference to the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI during a brief Twitter back-and-forth.

Koetter lamented the move, making sure to point out that the Bucs were sitting at home while the Falcons took on the New England Patriots for the Lombardi Trophy back in February.

“That was totally unprofessional and not smart on our part, whoever was responsible for that,” Koetter said. “Heck, we wanted to be playing in the Super Bowl, and we were home sitting on our butts while they were playing. We’ve got no room to make fun of anybody that was in the Super Bowl, whether they won or not.”

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Did DeSean Jackson fire back at Bucs OC via Instagram?

DeSean Jackson has yet to hit the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he may already be making some waves within the organization.

Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken on Thursday directed some oddly harsh words at Jackson – a player who is still over three months away from appearing in a game with his new team.

After signing Jackson a three-year, $ 33.5-million contract with Tampa Bay, Monken challenged the speedy receiver.

“I’ve told him that, ‘We have paid you a hell of a lot of money to be a damn good player,'” said Monken. “‘We’re not paying you a lot of money, this is a contract where we’re paying you for what you’ve done for us …

“We don’t have any old street cred that we’re paying you. No. We need you to be a great player now, OK? That’s why we gave you the money.'”

While Jackson didn’t make his intentions clear, the 30-year-old shared a pair of posts via Instagram on Friday and Saturday that appeared to be responding to Monken’s quote.

You know why I’m here ‘

A post shared by Desean Jackson (@0ne0fone) on

#Facts 💯💯

A post shared by Desean Jackson (@0ne0fone) on

Jackson has had a bit of a reputation as a confrontational player from time to time, though he is quite active on social media.

If the veteran deep threat doesn’t make an immediate impact on the field, the situation could get ugly – if it isn’t already.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Report: Bucs didn’t consider Kaepernick before signing Fitzpatrick as backup

Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, becoming the team’s primary backup to Jameis Winston.

However, Fitzpatrick was arguably not the best option available following a poor 2016 season. Some would contend that free agent Colin Kaepernick is the superior player, and would be a better option if Winston were to go down with an injury.

The Bucs disagree with that assumption, as Tampa Bay didn’t consider Kaepernick before opting to add Fitzpatrick, a source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

With 12 years of experience in the NFL, Fitzpatrick could provide mentorship to Winston, and offers no challenge to the fourth-year pivot's position as the starter.

However, Fitzpatrick finished last season with a 69.6 passer rating in 14 appearances, throwing 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Kaepernick, meanwhile, had 16 touchdowns to four picks and a 90.7 passer rating.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

NFL Power Rankings: Bucs, Browns on the upswing after 2017 draft

The NFL Power Rankings are selected by a panel of theScore's NFL Editors, including Jack Browne, Mitch Sanderson, Arun Srinivasan, and Dan Wilkins.

1. New England Patriots

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
1st 1st 1st 1st

The Patriots may have won the 2017 NFL Draft before it even started, turning the last picks of the first and second round into Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, yet they still came away with a few late-round goodies to confirm their status as the league's best club. – Sanderson

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
2nd 2nd 3rd 3rd

The Steelers had a promising draft, including picks of T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the opening two rounds, but their ceiling depends on the return of a certain wide receiver. Martavis Bryant could make this offense unstoppable. – Wilkins

3. Dallas Cowboys

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
3rd 3rd 6th 6th

For a team picking in the last few spots of each round, the Cowboys were very productive, restocking the shelves in the secondary, grabbing a pass-rusher, and getting deeper at receiver. – Sanderson

4. Atlanta Falcons

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
7th 8th 2nd 2nd

Get your 28-3 jokes off while you can. The NFL’s highest-scoring offense will be back with a vengeance, with a young, talented defense looking to erase memories of Super Bowl LI at all costs. – Srinivasan

5. Oakland Raiders

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
4th 4th 5th 8th

The Raiders took a big risk by selecting Gareon Conley in the first round. If he's exonerated, however, he's the perfect fit for the Raiders' defense and great value at 24th overall. Plus, some retired running back joined Oakland. He might be pretty good too. – Browne

6. Seattle Seahawks

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
5th 5th 4th 7th

The Seahawks didn't upgrade their offensive line, but this year's class was shallow. Instead, Seattle traded down to load up on picks – ending up with 11 total selections – to improve the depth of its roster, and still snagged a first-round talent, Malik McDowell, in the second. – Browne

7. Green Bay Packers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
6th 6th 7th 5th

Green Bay followed up a productive free-agent period with its best draft in years. Don’t be surprised if this club is right back in Super Bowl contention next season. – Wilkins

8. New York Giants

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
9th 10th 9th 4th

While the Giants failed to address their biggest need (offensive line), first-rounder Evan Engram adds a new dimension to the offense, and the team still looks ready to compete for the division crown. – Sanderson

9. Kansas City Chiefs

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
8th 7th 8th 9th

The Alex Smith era in KC is officially nearing its end thanks to the dramatic first-round trade up to get Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs could afford to do it because their roster is one of the most complete, but it does limit this draft's immediate upgrade. – Browne

10. Denver Broncos

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
12th 11th 10th 11th

The Broncos had a fairly uneventful draft day. First-rounder Garett Bolles strengthens their weakest unit, and tight end Jake Butt could end up being the steal of the draft in the fifth. While Denver isn't significantly better, its roster remains one of the league's best. – Browne

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
10th 13th 13th 13th

Jameis Winston may be the biggest winner of the offseason. Tampa Bay added DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin to a passing game that already included Mike Evans. Let the fireworks begin! – Srinivasan

12. Baltimore Ravens

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
14th 12th 11th 12th

An already stout Ravens defense loaded up on additional talent in the early portion of this draft. While questions remain on the offensive side, that may not matter much if opposing teams can't put points on the board. – Wilkins

13. Arizona Cardinals

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
13th 9th 12th 16th

The Cardinals fooled everyone with talk of interest in several of the top quarterback prospects. Arizona opted not to take Carson Palmer's successor, doubling down on what may be the veteran passer's last year by adding players like linebacker Haason Reddick and safety Budda Baker who can help the team win now. – Browne

14. Houston Texans

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
11th 21st 14th 10th

Deshaun Watson will compete for the starting quarterback spot, J.J. Watt returns to a unit that finished first in total defense, and the Texans appear poised to do damage while sneaking under the national radar. – Srinivasan

15. Tennessee Titans

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
16th 15th 15th 15th

Fifteen months ago, the Titans seemed dead in the water. Now, they appear poised to contend for the AFC South title with Corey Davis and Adoree' Jackson aboard. – Srinivasan

16. Detroit Lions

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
15th 18th 20th 17th

Detroit made massive upgrades to the offensive line in free agency, and Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor take care of significant needs at linebacker and in the secondary, respectively. There are pieces in place. – Wilkins

17. Indianapolis Colts

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
17th 16th 18th 20th

What a difference a year makes. Chris Ballard's imprint was all over Indianapolis' draft this year, gaining excellent value in every round. The Colts finally appear ready to maximize their potential during the Andrew Luck era. – Srinivasan

18. Carolina Panthers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
22nd 17th 16th 18th

Carolina's disappointing 2016 campaign appears to be a one-off, and with Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel adding new dimensions to the offense, few would be surprised if the Panthers regain their 2015 form. – Srinivasan

19. New Orleans Saints

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
20th 14th 21st 19th

Drew Brees is indefatigable, but the Saints need to either commit to being a genuine Super Bowl contender, or blow the roster to smithereens. In the meantime, they're in no man's land. – Srinivasan

20. Miami Dolphins

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
19th 20th 17th 21st

Miami had one of the more boring 2017 drafts, adding some good talents but nothing too exciting. After a similarly dull free-agent period, Adam Gase has to keep up the good work to convince Dolphins fans last season wasn't a fluke. – Sanderson

21. Philadelphia Eagles

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
18th 19th 22nd 22nd

Philadelphia deserves a round of applause for a very well-hosted draft – but the Eagles' draft class is still very debatable, led by Derek Barnett, who reinforces a strength rather than fills a need, and Sidney Jones, who may not play until his second season. – Sanderson

22. Los Angeles Chargers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
21st 22nd 26th 14th

The Chargers quietly executed one of the best drafts in the league. Mike Williams may have been a slight reach, but Philip Rivers needs more help. Adding two starting offensive linemen in rounds two and three is the icing on the cake. Rivers and the Chargers could steal the L.A. limelight in 2017. – Browne

23. Buffalo Bills

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
24th 24th 19th 26th

While the 2017 draft was better than most in the team's recent history, moving on from Doug Whaley was Buffalo's best move of the offseason. These are Sean McDermott's Bills now. – Sanderson

24. Washington Redskins

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
20th 26th 23rd 25th

Washington got very good value on several of its picks – including all of the first four – but without a general manager in place, it's hard to avoid asking whether the franchise has a real team-building strategy. – Sanderson

25. Cincinnati Bengals

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
23rd 25th 25th 23rd

Cincinnati appears to be hoping that an infusion of skill-position talent can mask the now-pressing issues on the offensive line. It doesn't always work that way. – Wilkins

26. Minnesota Vikings

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
25th 23rd 24th 24th

Dalvin Cook could be a big-time playmaker, but have the Vikings done enough to upgrade the offensive line in front of him? – Wilkins

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
26th 27th 27th 27th

Jacksonville chose its running back of the future in Leonard Fournette, but until the club can actualize its immense talent, it remains near the bottom of the power rankings. – Srinivasan

28. Chicago Bears

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
27th 30th 29th 30th

The Bears gave up a bunch of draft picks to move up one slot and select a quarterback who will be sitting behind the career backup they paid to land in free agency. This could be a long rebuild. – Wilkins

29. San Francisco 49ers

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
28th 28th 31st 29th

Let's not crown John Lynch just yet, but the rookie GM did knock his first draft out of the park. The 49ers got their top two players, Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, at No. 3 and 31, respectively, after a masterful trade with the Bears. The only questionable decision was taking C.J. Beathard in the third round. – Browne

30. Cleveland Browns

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
29th 29th 30th 28th

The Browns are slowly heading in the right direction. Coming away with a trio of first-rounders, and then a potential franchise quarterback in DeShone Kizer with a second-round pick, is an incredible haul that could finally lead to some results in the win column. – Wilkins

31. Los Angeles Rams

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
31st 31st 28th 31st

The Rams had the most Rams draft of all time: low on star power with few steals, and thoroughly underwhelming. Tight end Gerald Everett is likely the only player from the class who'll have an impact in 2017. – Browne

32. New York Jets

Browne Sanderson Srinivasan Wilkins
32nd 32nd 32nd 32nd

Congratulations to the New York Jets on becoming the new Cleveland Browns. Good luck getting that one win next season. – Sanderson

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Bucs use draft to load Winston up with dazzling array of weapons

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fail to make the playoffs for the third straight season under Jameis Winston, the former No. 1 overall pick will have nobody but himself to blame.

As the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft showed, the team has made a conscious decision to surround their franchise quarterback with a full arsenal of offensive weapons.

After a solid rookie season, Bucs fans and the team's front office certainly expected another jump in his sophomore campaign. While Winston posted decent numbers, they were almost identical to his first season at the helm.

Stat 2015 2016
Passing yards 4042 4090
Completion percentage 58.3 60.8
Yards per attempt 7.56 7.21
Touchdowns 22 28
Interceptions 15 18
Rating 84.5 86.1

It's clear the team's brass had one goal as they headed into the offseason: Surround Winston with a rich buffet of talent that is arguably the best in the league.

It began with the signing of the league's premier deep threat, DeSean Jackson, to partner with the athletic specimen that is Mike Evans. Jackson's signing instantly gave the Bucs one of the top receiving duos in the league, and one that should dominate the questionable secondaries throughout the NFC South.

With Jackson signed, many figured the Bucs would address a different area of need at the draft, but the team kept stocking the cupboard, adding Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the first round, and standout Penn State receiver Chris Godwin in the third round.

Howard is one of those freakish tight ends who runs like a receiver, but blocks like a linebacker, after his career in Nick Saban’s system at Alabama. Here he is blowing by the Clemson defense in last season’s national championship game:

Godwin is arguably the best jump-ball receiver in this year's draft, as shown in last season's game against Ohio State. The defensive back he victimized? That's the Oakland Raiders' first-round pick from Thursday, Gareon Conley.

Evans, Jackson, Howard, and Godwin join running back Doug Martin to form a quintet of trouble for opposing defenses heading into the 2017 season. It all comes down to Winston to take advantage of the talent around him to make the jump from solid quarterback to elite.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore

Report: Bucs bracing for potential ‘Hard Knocks’ selection

Among the many teams eligible to be picked to be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to be anticipating a selection.

The Buccaneers are “bracing” for the possibility and plan to embrace it if they get the call, but have asked the league for a decision by next week, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

“I think our players are at a point in their maturity that they would be able to handle it,” co-chairman Joel Glazer said. “They recognize what goes along with it. We’ll always be supportive of the league. Nobody is rushing to the podium for that necessarily. But I do feel I have great confidence in this team.”

Asked about the training-camp series at the league meetings in March, head coach Dirk Koetter expressed confidence that it could actually be beneficial for the continued growth of his team.

“I think it could be good,” Koetter said at the NFC coaches’ breakfast in Arizona on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “I think when a team has not been one of the main faces of the league for a while, I think it can contribute to that.”

With a roster full of young talent, Tampa Bay is quite easily one of the most intriguing options for the upcoming season.

Because they don’t have a new head coach and haven’t made the playoffs in either of the past two seasons, the Buccaneers are one of eight teams that can be selected if another doesn’t volunteer.

Others who fall into that category are the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and Tennessee Titans.

Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NFL | theScore