Bucs rookie Jeremy McNichols takes a handoff from rookie quarterback Sefo Liufau during Thursday's preseason finale against the Redskins.
On Saturday, Bucs rookie Jeremy McNichols had lasted only two plays in a preseason loss to the Browns, pulled by Dirk Koetter after he neglected to pick up a blitzing safety who went untouched to the quarterback.
Thursday was much better for the fifth-round pick, who rushed 10 times for a team-best 36 yards, mostly in the second half. Asked if McNichols had improved after the game, Koetter offered a telling non-endorsement, two days before the team must make its final cuts.
"I don't know," he said. "I probably better take a look at the tape."
McNichols, who left Boise State after his junior year, has been called out by coaches in preseason for not knowing his playbook well enough, and Koetter had said this week that Thursday was his "final chance" to show what he could do, putting his future on the team's 53-man roster in question.
"I feel I grew a lot this game," McNichols said. "I'm happy about that. I think I still have a lot to learn, a lot to grow as a running back. It was good to just cut loose out there today."
McNichols said the adjustment from college to the NFL is "more mental than anything," but that he's working his way through that transition. …
Defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad, signed by the Bucs on Monday, picked things up quick enough to have two tackles, one for a loss, and a fumble recovery in Thursday's preseason finale.
A wild week for Mehdi Abdesmad started Sunday at noon, when he was visiting friends in Denver and got a call from the Bucs. They offered him a spot on their roster for the final week before cuts, and he grabbed a 6 p.m. flight, landing in Tampa at midnight.
Monday's practice was rained out, so he worked on learning his playbook, getting a single practice Tuesday to polish up, and took the field for Thursday's preseason finale against the Redskins.
The 25-year-old defensive end -- 6-foot-6 and 284 pounds -- was a surprise star Thursday, jumping on a loose ball for a fumble recovery and getting one of the team's four tackles for loss, making an impressively quick case for a spot on the team's practice squad after final cuts are made.
"I did my best," said Abdesmad, who was born in Montreal, his parents both from Tunisia. "I just want to go see the game tape, try to learn from what I did wrong and improve from that."
Mehdi -- pronounced "meddy" -- played at Boston College and spent last season with the Titans, with three months on their practice squad and two games (with a single tackle), only to be waived by Tennessee last week. …
Bucs rookie receiver Chris Godwin, shown in Saturday's game against the Browns, is among the most prominent players who are dressed for Thursday's preseason finale against the Redskins.
With a priority on preserving core players as healthy as possible for next week's season opener, the Bucs held 37 players out of Thursday's preseason finale against the Redskins, taking advantage of a new, larger final-week roster.
In past years, NFL teams made an initial cut from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason game, but with rosters now remaining at 90, teams can rest more key players and allow backups -- most of them unlikely to make Saturday's final cut to 53 -- a chance to showcase themselves. …
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, shown watching quarterback Jameis Winston, has drawn criticism from Fox Sports One's Skip Bayless, who says he's too hard on Winston in practice, based on what he's seen in HBO's "Hard Knocks."
A month on HBO's "Hard Knocks" is bringing more national interest and scrutiny to the Bucs, and Fox Sports One's "Undisputed" show, with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe, spent 10 minutes Wednesday talking about Tampa Bay and the high expectations placed on quarterback Jameis Winston and coach Dirk Koetter.
"Huge personality, contagious charisma, natural-born leader, so much fun to watch, obviously a star on the verge. He hasn't quite backed it up yet," Bayless said of Winston. "I think people are starting to think this team is positioned to maybe win this division this year. I love everything about Jameis. I thought he would be better than (Marcus) Mariota before the draft."
Bayless, however, said he hasn't liked what he's seen of Koetter's coaching staff on "Hard Knocks" -- Koetter has been blunt and direct with his players, especially Winston, letting expletives fly and not changing his approach just because HBO's cameras are all around the team during training camp and preseason. …
Wide receiver Donteea Dye nearly makes a touchdown reception against the Browns.
Greg Auman looks ahead to the Bucs' home preseason finale against the Washington Redskins -- which players on the bubble are you most interested in seeing step up and grab roster spots, and who has the most to gain and lose in this final preseason game before cuts come this weekend? Listen below:
Joe Haden is among the top defensive backs in the NFL and is free to sign with any team after being released by the Cleveland Browns.
Wouldn’t it make sense for the Bucs to pursue him?
Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves is entering his second season and Brent Grimes is 34. There isn’t any real depth behind those players. Haden is a two-time Pro Bowl player and you would think the former Florida Gators star would be receptive to returning to the state where he played collegiately. So in many ways, it might be a good fit.
A couple things to consider. Haden is going to want to sign with a team where he won’t have to compete. The job has to be waiting for him. ESPN already has reported that the Saints and Chiefs are leading contenders to sign Haden, which can be done as soon as after 4 p.m. today. …
The Bucs loved the way quarterback Ryan Griffin was throwing the football before he suffered a sprained right throwing shoulder in the preseason opener at Cincinnati. But after the injury, they hated their options.
Do they reach a settlement with Griffin and waive him injured, at which point he would be free to sign with any team when healthy? Do they put him on injured reserve before the final roster cut down Saturday, when he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2017? Do they keep him on the 53-man roster for at least one day, then move him to injured reserve and possibly designate him for return this season?
Even though Griffin has never thrown a pass in the regular season, the Bucs wanted to find a solution.
Later today, the Bucs will announce they have signed Griffin to a one-year contract extension that will keep him in Tampa Bay through 2018.
Terms of the deal were not released, but Griffin is expected to adjust his $1.798-million salary he was to earn in 2017 in exchange for returning for another season.
Credit Bucs general manager Jason Licht and Mike Greenberg, the team’s director of football administration, for finding a way to solve the puzzle. …
Running back Jeremy McNichols caught an earful after missing a blitz pickup.
TAMPA — It’s not supposed to be easy to earn a job in the NFL. In time, players begin to see their dream within their grasp and others feel it slipping away.
That’s the takeaway from Tuesday night’s fourth episode of Hard Knocks: Training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whether you are a third-round pick and No. 4 receiver like Penn State’s Chris Godwin struggling with the heat, or a fifth-round running back from Boise State like Jeremy McNichols who keeps making mental mistakes, or long shot linebacker Riley Bullough, you have a long, hard road.
With only two games left to prove they belong in the NFL, Hard Knocks focused on those three rookies. In practice, coach Dirk Koetter discovers Godwin wears down in the heat. But playing for Mike Evans, who was held out Saturday night against the Browns, Godwin stepped up, catching four passes. …
There still is a little time left on the clock, but the opportunity for some Bucs rookies to secure a spot on the football team is fleeting.
Some players keep their poise under pressure. Others may find the game and the competition too much for them.
Always, the coaches are watching. They are evaluating. They are trying to determine which players are the right pieces to the puzzle.
The fourth episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, focused more on the struggle than the success of notable first-year players.
Three really stood out: receiver Chris Godwin, running back Jeremy McNichols and linebacker Riley Bullough. One thrived, the others just tried to survive another week of training camp and a chance to turn heads in a preseason game:
CHRIS GODWIN, WR
Turns out Godwin, the third-round pick, has a secret weapon. His girlfriend of five years, Mariah DelPercio, doubles as his workout partner in the weight room. She is the daughter of Godwin’s high school football coach and met when he was a freshman. …
''The guy who’s quietly having a tremendous camp is Lavonte David,’’ Dirk Koetter said Tuesday.
Lavonte David finally made the Pro Bowl in 2015. Then came a new system under defensive coordinator Mike Smith last season, and for whatever reason, his game and his numbers fell off.
He went from leading the Bucs in tackles four years in a row to finishing a distant second to middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, going from 147 tackles to 87.
But coach Dirk Koetter says all that has changed during the off-season and training camp.
''The guy who’s quietly having a tremendous camp is Lavonte David,’’ Koetter said Tuesday. “You know Lavonte didn’t have his best year he’s ever had last year. He is really having a good camp right now. I think the fans will really see it when we start playing.’’
There was speculation that David may have been playing through a leg or ankle injury. He made more splash plays the second half of the season, including recording four of his five sacks in the final five games.
“He does do a good job. He’s a lot better blitzer than he gets credit for,’’ Koetter said.
Koetter can’t explain why David had any fallout in ’16, but he’s glad the old No. 54 is back. …
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau has taken nine snaps this preseason. They all came in the first game, when Ryan Griffin suffered a shoulder injury and the club didn’t want to expose backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
All that will change in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Redskins as Liufau is expected to see extensive playing time.
“It’s very valuable,’’ Liufau said. “I think anytime you get an opportunity to go out there and play an extensive amount of plays, it gives you the opportunity to go out there and show the talent you have and maybe 10 plays or 40 plays or however many plays it is, you just want to go out there and make the most of it.
“When you have a dream, you always want to go out there and make the most of it. Just really looking forward to Thursday and being able to have fun and do your job.’’
Liufau, the 22 year old undrafted free agent, is unlikely to make the Bucs’ 53-man roster but would be eligible for the practice squad. With Griffin expected to be placed on injured reserve – and possibly recalled after six weeks – it’s possible the Bucs will go with just Winston and Fitpatrick. …
Bucs co-chair Bryan Glazer, center, talks with the Lightning's Jeff Vinik and the Rays' Stuart Sternberg before participating in Poynter's Speaker Series to a group of sports editors last year.
Part of the allure of HBO's "Hard Knocks" is the chance to get an inside look at the NFL that few people can see. As it turns out, that includes NFL owners.
Bucs co-chair Bryan Glazer, speaking at the team's "Back to Football Forum" luncheon at the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center in Tampa, said the cameras have taken him places that he hasn't been in two decades with his family owning the team.
"It's interesting for me, being in this for 20 years, how much of this are things that I don't get a chance to see," Glazer said. "As an owner, I'm not in the small team meetings. I get to watch practice and I get to be at the games. To see the players in their personal lives, with their wives having a quiet dinner or a player in his hometown, those are the things that are really special to me, to get to know the players better, and for the community to get to know these players better. It's as much fun for me to watch the show as it is for you."
Glazer said he's glad to have the added national interest in the Bucs as a result of being on "Hard Knocks," but said the excitement would be there regardless for the upcoming season. …
Bucs linebacker Cameron Lynch, left, celebrates with teammates Doug Martin and Chris Conte during a win against the Chiefs last season.
Cameron Lynch has been here before, with final NFL cuts days away and "Hard Knocks" cameras all around his locker room.
A year ago, Lynch was with the Rams when the HBO series chronicled their preseason, and he was among their final cuts, though his wasn't shown on the show. A week later, Lynch signed to the Bucs' practice squad, and after three weeks there, he played in the final 12 games as a special-teams regular.
Now he's back battling for a job, and trying to keep his focus on the field, knowing Thursday's preseason finale can help his chances at the last linebacker spot.
"I just want make as many plays as possible, just keep stacking them up," said Lynch, still only 24 in his third year out of Syracuse. "I think my staple in this league is special teams -- my thing is to go out there and keep putting it on film."
Lynch played only nine snaps on defense last season, but was among the busiest players on special teams -- his biggest play was the second-to-last of the Bucs' season, as he recovered a Panthers onside kick in the final minute of the Bucs' season-ending victory, setting up a victory-formation kneel to end the year. …
Riley Bullough is sixth on the team with eight tackles this preseason.
Time to come clean, Joe Dirt.
It’s time for linebacker Riley Bullough, who was given that nickname by teammate Blake Sims, to tell everyone what he really thinks of all the attention he getting as the trash-talking, blonde hair flowing star of "Hard Knocks."
"The one thing that’s happened is more people notice me if I’m out in public maybe if I’m out getting a sandwich or something," Bullough said Monday. "More people say good luck and things like that. It’s been great so far."
Bullough, who is sixth on the team with eight tackles this preseason, is expected to see some extended playing in the fourth preseason game when veterans and starters typically take a knee. The former Michigan State star made an instant impact, as captured by "Hard Knocks" cameras, on coaches and teammates. He was singled out in a team meeting by head coach Dirk Koetter for his heart and hustle.
"It was definitely unexpected especially with it being in a team meeting setting, me being an undrafted rookie," Bullough said. "But that’s something I pride myself on, being the guy others can look to and being the vocal guy out there. That’s something I’ve always done." …
People push a stalled pickup to through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains on Sunday. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground.
The Bucs are safely on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, but five Tampa Bay players are from the greater Houston area have watched the extensive flooding from Hurricane Harvey, hoping rain will stop before there's further damage.
"Everybody's doing fine," said receiver Josh Huff, who still has a home and family in Houston. "Hopefully it can stop raining soon, so my house won't get flooded and my dad's house won't get flooded. If it keeps raining, it's not good. It's devastating. I've never seen it like that before."
Bucs receiver Mike Evans, from Galveston, said the threat of major storms and flooding was part of life back home -- he was evacuated and briefly relocated in 2008 when Hurricane Ike caused flooding on the Gulf coast of Texas. Jacquizz Rodgers, who is expected to open the season as the Bucs' starting running back during Doug Martin's suspension, is from Richmond, southwest of Houston, with family members back home impacted by the storm and flooding.
Running back Charles Sims, who is from Houston played three years at the University of Houston, said his family members are all accounted for, but it's hard to watch his hometown nearly underwater. …
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