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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Caleb Benenoch sued over unpaid L.A. nightclub bill

Bucs lineman Caleb Benenoch, shown last season, is accused of not repaying his share of $5,322 from an unpaid nightclub bill in March in a small-claims suit filed in Los Angeles.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs lineman Caleb Benenoch, shown last season, is accused of not repaying his share of $5,322 from an unpaid nightclub bill in March in a small-claims suit filed in Los Angeles.

Bucs offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch is one of two NFL players facing a small-claims lawsuit in Los Angeles, accused of not repaying $5,322 from an expensive night at a Sunset Boulevard nightclub.

Benenoch and Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson invited a man named Richard Harrington to Hyde Sunset Kitchen & Cocktails on March 25, according to the lawsuit, racked up a $9,332 bill, only to have both of the players' credit cards declined. Harrington paid the bill himself with the understanding that he would be repaid, but said the players only paid him $2,000 each, leaving $5,322, according to the lawsuit.

Harrington declined to comment when reached by phone Monday night. Benenoch, who turns 23 on Wednesday, could not be reached for comment. He told ESPN on Monday that "we did our part" and that "the legal system is going to play itself out."

Benenoch, a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2016, is expected to be a top backup at guard and tackle this season. He's due to earn $540,000 this season as part of a four-year, $2.6-million rookie contract.

The lawsuit, which was first reported by TMZ, has a Sept. 13 hearing set for small-claims court in Los Angeles.

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Bucs hold 'NFL Boot Camp' on military appreciation day

Bucs receiver Mike Evans speaks after practice Monday to a group of about 30 military personnel as part of the Bucs' military appreciation day. Offensive lineman Evan Smith, left of Evans, paid for 25 of the military guests to each get two tickets to the Bucs' home game against the Jets this season.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs receiver Mike Evans speaks after practice Monday to a group of about 30 military personnel as part of the Bucs' military appreciation day. Offensive lineman Evan Smith, left of Evans, paid for 25 of the military guests to each get two tickets to the Bucs' home game against the Jets this season.

Monday was the Bucs' annual military appreciation day at training camp, with a morning practice open exclusively to active and retired military members and their families.

The team had a formal presentation of colors before practice, complete with a bugle-solo national anthem, with red-white-and-blue banners hanging above the stands. Steady rains canceled a scheduled flyover and paratrooper landing, but the stands were packed for the Bucs' fourth practice of training camp.

And after, there was a new extension of the appreciation day -- the Bucs are one of five teams this year to offer an "NFL Boot Camp," with about 30 active military personnel from all branches getting to talk with players and go through a challenging battery of football drills.

Five Bucs players addressed the guests -- Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans thanked them for their service, as did others with immediate family members either active or retired from military service -- safety Keith Tandy, offensive linemen Joe Hawley and Evan Smith and tight end Alan Cross. …

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Eight months after ACL surgery, Beckwith is playing fast again

If you didn't know before watching linebacker Kendell Beckwith that he tore his ACL only eight months ago - well, you wouldn't know.

Beckwith, the Bucs third-round pick from Louisiana State, suffered the injury in a game Nov. 19 against the Florida Gators.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Beckwith looked like he was feeling his way a bit during two days of rookie workouts last week. But since training camp practices began, he has improved dramatically.

"You know, Kendell is really amazing because it’s only been eight months since his ACL and very few guys come back that fast,'' Koetter said. "The first couple days we were out here at rookie practice, before the throng of fans and media were out here, Kendell, I was a little nervous. Not about his knee. He looked rusty. He’s probably our most improved player as far as where he started and where he is after four practices.''

Beckwith, who is reunited with former LSU teammate Kwon Alexander, is working mostly at strong side linebacker with Devante Bond. …

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Gerald McCoy, Ronde Barber show mutual respect at practice

If Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was stung by comments made by Ronde Barber last week, he proved on Sunday there is no bad blood.

Barber, the former Pro Bowl cornerback who played 16 years in Tampa Bay, attended the Bucs training camp practice as part of his role as an NFL analyst for FOX sports and had a brief embrace and conversation with McCoy following the workout.

Last Monday, McCoy indicated in a series of tweets that he felt underappreciated and that someone had crossed the line. Speculation was that McCoy was reacting to comments made by Barber in a story in which he said McCoy would have a difficult time leading a defense from the tackle position because he didn't have the same personality of Warren Sapp or John Randle.

McCoy refused to confirm or deny he was upset with Barber on Friday.

When asked if he was responding to Barber's comments, McCoy said, "If you think it was directed to Ronde … but I never said that.''

Barber has said he views McCoy as one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league.

"He's a good dude and a great teammate,'' Barber said Sunday.

 

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Bucs sign two in safety Huff, receiver Seales

Three days into training camp, the Bucs made two roster moves, signing former Titans safety Marqueston Huff and former Oklahoma State receiver Jhajuan Seales.

To make room for the moves, the Bucs waived a pair of undrafted rookies in safety Alex Gray and receiver Thomas Sperbeck. Sperbeck had been held out of Sunday's practice with an unspecified injury.

Huff, 25, played two full season with the Titans in 2014-15, totaling 36 tackles and returning an Eli Manning pass 23 yards for a touchdown in 2014. He tied for the Titans' team lead in 2015 with seven special-teams tackles.

The Bucs are Huff's fifth NFL team in less than a year -- he was cut by the Titans in September, spent nine days with the Jaguars, played 11 games with the Ravens, and was signed and cut by the Chiefs this offseason. He was suspended for one game in 2016 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. …

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Nothing guaranteed, but Martin is preparing as if he will play

Running back Doug Martin is taking reps with the starting offense and working as if he is preparing to play in the regular-season opener at Miami Sept. 10.

But the reality is that Martin will miss the first three games serving the remainder of his suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

The Bucs will go with the committee approach at running back until Oct., with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and rookie Jeremy McNichols. But since his suspension, the team has always taken a ‘wait and see,’’ approach with Martin and his return to the team is not guaranteed when he is eligible to come back to work Sept. 25. It's unlikly the team would carry five running backs on the 53-man roster.

“I’m going to approach this like any other season. I will be out for three games, that’s the reality of the situation and during those few weeks I’m going to prepare myself to get my legs back under me and prepare to play,’’ Martin said Sunday. “We’ve still got to get through camp and my people and I will come up with a regimen to stay in shape…It’s my first time doing it. And my last time.’’ …

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Score the place-kicker job between Aguayo and Folk tied

The Bucs place-kicking battle between Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk will play out until September.

It took three days, but they finally went head-to-head during a special teams period Sunday.

Folk, the Jets free agent, got the first bite of the apple, although he was quick to say there was no significance in the order and that he will alternate with Aguayo throughout training camp.

In a steady rain, both kickers made their first four field goals Sunday before each missed their last attempt.

“I had them both 4 out of 5,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “But I’ll be honest I was watching the alignment up front. We’ll get the tape. I thought they both missed their last one.’’

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New wrinkle: Bucs safety J.J. Wilcox moonlighting at nickel

New Bucs safety J.J. Wilcox is getting a look as a nickel defensive back in the first week of training camp.

BUCCANEERS

New Bucs safety J.J. Wilcox is getting a look as a nickel defensive back in the first week of training camp.

With solid depth at safety, the Bucs are giving newcomer J.J. Wilcox at look as a nickel defensive back, a challenge the free agent likes as an added role.

"It's new," Wilcox said Sunday after lining up in the same defense with current starting safeties Keith Tandy and Chris Conte. "Dallas had me like second- or third-string nickel, but Tampa wanted to try something new, expand my horizons, my attributes and it's kind of paying off."

A nickel or slot cornerback must be fast enough to cover a team's third receiver, but Wilcox said the position can also be tasked with covering a second tight end, something that allows the team's two linebackers to stay in the box and not go out in pass coverage.

"You have to be able to match up with the big tight ends -- 12 personnel (two-TE), a lot of NFL teams are going to that," he said. "You've got the Patriots, here, Green Bay. We're just trying to match and get ready for the season. If you can put a safety on a tight end and keep your linebackers in the box, it makes a difference." …

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DaQuan Bowers, now in CFL, trashes Bucs' Jason Licht

Former Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, shown in 2014, is now in the CFL and hasn't played in the NFL since 2015.

WILL VRAGOVIC | TIMES

Former Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, shown in 2014, is now in the CFL and hasn't played in the NFL since 2015.

Former Bucs defensive end Da'Quan Bowers hasn't played in the NFL since 2015 and has been relegated to playing in the CFL, and days like Saturday won't help his chances of getting back into the NFL.

Bowers, a second-round pick out of Clemson in 2011 who managed just seven sacks in five seasons with the Bucs, took a shot Saturday at Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who had him on roster in 2014 and brought him back for three games in 2015.

"Jason Licht is a piece of (expletive)," Bowers wrote. "He don't even respect the players on his roster now ... ask them if he will even look them in the eyes."

Bowers has two sacks and six tackles in four games with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos. His outburst came in response to a stranger one, from Weslye Saunders, a former NFL tight end who hasn't played since 2014 and took offense to being blocked on Twitter by Licht after he wouldn't let him try out for the Bucs' roster.

"My passion for football somehow made @danmorganjr & @jasonrlicht BLOCK me on twitter," Saunders wrote. "I PRAY I get to play vs. the Bucs & Seahawks." …

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Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves confident, lighter for 2nd season

Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves signs autographs for fans Friday after the opening practice of training camp.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves signs autographs for fans Friday after the opening practice of training camp.

Two days into his second NFL training camp, Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves has the confidence of someone who learned from playing in 98 percent of his team's defensive snaps as a rookie.

"I have a whole 16 games under my belt, and that speaks for itself," Hargreaves said Saturday after the second practice of Bucs training camp. "I'm just playing faster now, trusting myself and playing fast."

Hargreaves, who played in Tampa at Wharton High and was the No. 11 overall pick last year out of Florida, was candid in assessing his overall play as a rookie, with opposing quarterbacks throwing his way often with veteran Brent Grimes on the other side of the field.

"I had to work on everything," Hargreaves said of his offseason focus. "I had a tough year last year. You're either going to cry about it or you're going to get better. I got into my office, got to work and it's showing this year."

Another change to help Hargreaves is physical -- he's lost 12 pounds since last season and is now a lean 188, thanks to a concerted effort to eat better, even if it means less of his mom's cooking at their north Tampa home. …

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Not injured Bucs QB Jameis Winston tries out a knee brace

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) participates in drills while wearing a brace on his left knee during the second day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, July 29, 2017.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) participates in drills while wearing a brace on his left knee during the second day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, July 29, 2017.

Bucs fans weren't braced for what they saw in training camp Saturday.

Quarterback Jameis Winston, the franchise savior, practiced with a small brace on his left knee.

No, coach Dirk Koetter was quick to say, Winston does not have an injury to his knee. He's merely trying out the latest technology as a preventative measure but isn't committed to wearing it during the season yet.

"Jameis was going to start wearing that brace yesterday,'' Koever said. "The brace they sent didn’t fit right. They had to get a new one sent in. We’re demo-ing it out. A lot of quarterbacks in the league wear knee braces on one leg. That’s the latest and greatest technology. He’s demo-ing it out to see how it goes. He doesn’t have any injury. There’s nothing there. It’s all preventative and precautionary. We’ll see how it goes.''

 

Winston is wearing the brace on his left knee because it is the most vulnerable to being hit when he strides into a throw.

“On a lot of those guys, especially those big guys, when they stride into it and they lock out one leg, that can be a problem,'' Koetter said. "Don’t go crazy on it. This isn’t your story of the day that Jameis had a knee brace on. We’ll see how it goes.''

  …

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Jameis Winston on brush with McCoy: No need to apologize

"He doesn't have to apologize," Jameis Winston said of Gerald McCoy, amused at the question. "You can't apologize for being great."

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

"He doesn't have to apologize," Jameis Winston said of Gerald McCoy, amused at the question. "You can't apologize for being great."

The first three days of Bucs training camp have no contact, as required, and beyond that there's an understood rule that quarterbacks are certainly not to be touched.

Of all people, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy got a little too close and made contact with Jameis Winston, who was insisted after practice there was no harm or foul.

"He doesn't have to apologize," Winston said, amused at the question. "You can't apologize for being great."

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter called it a "snafu," and McCoy said he did apologize, and understands the importance of keeping Winston healthy going into his third NFL season. He rattled off the most important jersey numbers to protect, starting with Winston's No. 3, and poked fun at new receiver DeSean Jackson, who will wear No. 11 in games but likes to wear No. 1 in practice.

"Oh my gosh, man. I almost teared up going to the next rep," he said of his Winston contact. "Three is the franchise. Forget 93, forget 13, 11 and 1 - I don't know what number he is going to be on any given day - 91, 98, 54, 58. 3, 3 is the one. If 3 ain't out there, eh. But when I did that, I was ugh, eh, yeah." …

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Versatile cornerback Robert McClain off to strong start with Bucs

Robert McClain, right, has versatility to play inside as a slot or nickel corner, or outside.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Robert McClain, right, has versatility to play inside as a slot or nickel corner, or outside.

Veteran cornerback Robert McClain, a late signing by the Bucs after the draft in May, got a strong start on his training camp Friday, intercepting a pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for what would have been an easy pick-six.

"Best thing you can do on defense is attack the ball and get the ball," McClain said. "Coach preaches all the time that turnovers win games. I still have a long way to go and a lot of things to get better with."

McClain, 29, was cut by the Panthers at mid-season last year, landing with the Chargers, who opted not to re-sign him. He played three years in Atlanta when current Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was head coach there, though he said much has changed in those three years.

"It's a lot different from when we were in Atlanta," he said. "Coach Smith has done a lot of great things with this defense through the years. I'm happy to be on this team and help this team win."

McClain, a shorter corner at 5-9, much like starters Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, has versatility to play inside as a slot or nickel corner, or outside, so he's competing for two different spots in the secondary, and arguably the most experienced option for either. …

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Rookie LB Kendell Beckwith pleased with first Bucs practice

Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) covers tight end Cameron Brate on a pass in Friday's first practice of training camp.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) covers tight end Cameron Brate on a pass in Friday's first practice of training camp.

Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith is eight months and a week removed from November surgery to repair a torn ACL, so there was a proud sense of accomplishment in getting himself healthy enough to be on the field for the opening practice of training camp Friday.

"It feels good to be back," said Beckwith, a third-round pick from LSU who will compete for the team's strongside linebacker job. "I'm just trying to do a good job of getting everything down and running the defense."

Beckwith will cross-train at strongside and middle linebacker ("I'm everywhere," he said) -- he will challenge second-year pro Devante Bond for the SLB job, and be ready to step in should anything happen to starting MLB Kwon Alexander. He said his focus had already shifted from his recovery to learning the defense and being ready to play as a rookie.

"I felt like I was going to be cleared before camp," Beckwith said. "I'm not looking back. My knee's the last thing on my mind. I feel good, so I'm just trying to get comfortable with the defense."

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Criticism part of the game for McCoy, who is chasing 'ghosts.'

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