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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Unless Jameis Winston can practice more, Bucs may consider sitting him against Saints

The Bucs are considering sitting quarterback Jameis Winston for Sunday’s game at New Orleans unless he is able to practice more this week, although no determination has been reached.

Winston has missed two practices in each of the past two weeks recovering from soreness in his shoulder. He suffered an AC joint sprain in his right throwing shoulder in a 38-33 loss at Arizona Oct. 15.

While Winston had one of his best performances in the second half at Buffalo last week, finishing with 384 yards and three touchdowns, he struggled on a windy day in a 17-3 loss to Carolina Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Winston has made 39 consecutive starts and no decision would be made before Wednesday. He said he felt fine after Sunday’s game.

Winston completed 21-of-38 passes for 210 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble. The Bucs believe Winston’s timing and precision has suffered a bit with his lack of practice reps, especially against the Panthers.

In preparing for Buffalo and Carolina, he did not throw a football prior to Friday’s practice. …

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Bucs' attendance down sharply for Panthers game

The Bucs' four-game losing streak is making an impact on the team's attendance, as Sunday's home game against the Panthers was the third-lowest in the 20 home games since Jameis Winston took over as starting quarterback in 2015.

The announced attendance was 58,545, but the actual attendance, per the Tampa Sports Authority, was 48,744, the team's lowest since last year's home opener against the Rams, which drew an actual crowd of 44,711. The percentage of actual attendance vs. announced was 83.3 percent, down sharply from 94.6 percent from the last home game, a Thursday night game against the Patriots three weeks earlier. The dropoff in actual attendance between the two games was more than 20 percent.

The Bucs have lost four straight games to fall to 2-5, the team's longest losing streak since the end of 2015, when head coach Lovie Smith was fired. Coming off the Patriots' first game in Tampa in 20 years, a home game against a division opponent that plays in Tampa every year would understandably have a dropoff in attendance -- two years ago, the Panthers drew an actual 48,068 in Tampa against the Bucs, slightly less than Sunday's total. …

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Bucs drop fourth straight, 17-3, to Carolina

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston loses a fumble Sunday, one of three turnovers as the Tampa Bay offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 39 games with Winston.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston loses a fumble Sunday, one of three turnovers as the Tampa Bay offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 39 games with Winston.

Tampa Bay's offense disappeared Sunday, and the Bucs lost their fourth straight game, dropping to 2-5 with a 17-3 loss to Carolina at Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs went without an offensive touchdown for the first time in 39 games with Jameis Winston as quarterback. It was only the second time Winston has played a full game and didn't account for a touchdown himself. The last time the Bucs dropped four in a row was the end of 2015, when Lovie Smith was fired.

Tampa Bay was within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but Winston was hit as he threw and his pass was intercepted by Carolina's Mike Adams. On the ensuing drive, Cam Newton rushed for 20 yards, then threw a 25-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin on third-and-16.

Winston had three turnovers -- two interceptions and a lost fumble. After topping 400 yards in three straight games, the Bucs offense struggled to move the ball consistently. They had only 196 yards when Carolina (5-3) went up 17-3 midway through the fourth.

Tampa Bay got a spark in the third quarter on a diving interception by Chris Conte. After the teams traded punts, the Bucs got their only points, on a 41-yard Patrick Murray field goal to cut the lead to 10-3.

The Bucs trailed 10-0 at halftime, shut out in the first half for the second time in three games. Tampa Bay has zero touchdowns and only two field goals in the first half of their last three.

The Bucs defense, missing both starting cornerbacks due to injuries, held up well against Carolina. The Panthers went 5-for-5 on one touchdown drive, ended with a 1-yard Jonathan Stewart run, but otherwise held Carolina to 2-for-11 on third downs.

The Bucs got the ball at their 8-yard line with 2:56 to go and took only 16 seconds off the clock, punting the ball back to Carolina. Newton connected with rookie Christian McCaffrey on three straight completions, but the Bucs defense held in the red zone. Graham Gano's 28-yard field goal made it 10-0 at the half.

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DeSean Jackson's cousin honored in Bucs' 'Salute to Service'

Retired Army Sgt. James "Jimmy" Jackson, a cousin of Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson, will be recognized by the Bucs as part of their "Salute to Service" campaign during today's game against Carolina.

GREG AUMAN | TIMES

Retired Army Sgt. James "Jimmy" Jackson, a cousin of Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson, will be recognized by the Bucs as part of their "Salute to Service" campaign during today's game against Carolina.

The Bucs' "Salute to Service" moments are always special, but even more so when there's a direct tie to the current team, and among the veterans honored during Sunday's Bucs-Panthers game is retired Army Sgt. James Jackson, a cousin of Tampa Bay receiver DeSean Jackson.

"Everywhere he goes, I'm his favorite vet," said Jackson, 69, who is a first cousin of DeSean's father and lives in Philadelphia. "I love him to death. I've followed him through college. I have film of him when he played Pop Warner. When I watch football, I watch DeSean."

Jackson, called "Uncle Jimmy" by DeSean, served in Vietnam from 1967-70 and was wounded twice in action, earning two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars.

"They do a great job for the veterans, and I know they will continue to do that," he said of the NFL's work to recognize the military before and during games.

Jackson still lives in Philadelphia and said he cried when his cousin was drafted by the Eagles, knowing he'd get to see more of him, both in games and in general. He said that as a military veteran he had no problem with DeSean choosing to kneel in protest during the national anthem in a game earlier this season. …

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Kuechly playing vs. Bucs, who are without Grimes, McClain

Carolina LB Luke Kuechly, shown tackling Bucs RB Bobby Rainey in a 2014 game, is active for the Panthers against the Bucs today after being sidelined with a concussion.

DIRK SHADD | TIMES

Carolina LB Luke Kuechly, shown tackling Bucs RB Bobby Rainey in a 2014 game, is active for the Panthers against the Bucs today after being sidelined with a concussion.

The Bucs' inactives are as expected for today's home game against Carolina, with starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes (shoulder) and Robert McClain (concussion) both sidelined against Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Ryan Smith will start at outside corner in place of Grimes, and Javien Elliott is expected to step in as nickel -- they've played a combined five defensive snaps in the last four games, but will be counted on in key roles today as the Bucs try to end a three-game losing streak.

For Carolina, linebacker Luke Kuechly is active after being sidelined with his third concussion in as many seasons. The Panthers are without starting center Ryan Kalil, creating an opening up for the Bucs defensive tackles.

The Bucs are also without special-teams captain Josh Robinson, who misses a third straight game with a concussion; also inactive as healthy scratches are C Joe Hawley, OT Leonard Wester, TE Antony Auclair and DT Sealver Siliga. That means DE Ryan Russell returns after missing two games with a shoulder injury, and DE Darryl Tapp is active to make his Bucs debut, as is newly signed CB Deji Olatoye.

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Koetter: Jameis Winston 're-injured' shoulder vs. Bills

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston didn't throw on Wednesday or Thursday this week because he re-injured his shoulder on a sack in Sunday's loss to the Bills, coach Dirk Koetter said to SiriusXM NFL Radio.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston didn't throw on Wednesday or Thursday this week because he re-injured his shoulder on a sack in Sunday's loss to the Bills, coach Dirk Koetter said to SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has changed his story a bit.

On Thursday, when Jameis Winston again hadn't thrown in the first two practices of the week, he was asked if that had been the plan all along or if his quarterback had suffered a setback in his throwing shoulder, which he sustained an AC joint sprain in during the Bucs' loss at Arizona two weeks ago.

"No setback," Koetter said. "No setback."

But on SiriusXM NFL on Friday night, Koetter was asked about Winston not throwing in practice on Wednesday or Thursday and had a different answer.

"He kind of re-injured it," Koetter said, noting that the injury took place when Winston was sacked and lost a fumble in the second quarter of Sunday's loss at Buffalo. "That's what led to him not throwing again Wednesday and Thursday this week."

Koetter said Winston has a bruised deltoid muscle in addition to the sprained AC joint, but that he looked fine in practice Friday and that him not throwing during the week isn't the plan longterm.

"It's just got to calm down," Koetter told SiriusXM. "Once it does, I think we'll return to normal." …

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Bucs' Ryan Smith, Javien Elliott ready to step up

Cornerback Ryan Smith, shown in training camp, is likely back in the starting lineup Sunday with injuries to Brent Grimes and Robert McClain sidelining them from the game against Carolina.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Cornerback Ryan Smith, shown in training camp, is likely back in the starting lineup Sunday with injuries to Brent Grimes and Robert McClain sidelining them from the game against Carolina.

The Bucs have the difficult task of playing Sunday without either of their starting cornerbacks, but backups Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott are ready to step up into significant roles Sunday against Carolina.

The two defensive backs have barely played on defense in the past four games, with Elliott playing three defensive snaps and Smith two, but Smith is likely now a starter at outside cornerback, with Elliott expected to step in as the team's nickel defensive back.

"I'm ready, whenever my name is called. It's going to be much better than last time," said Smith, who filled in for Grimes against Minnesota in a game that saw Case Keenum throw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-17 Vikings win. "Every day is a learning process, every day gets better."

Elliott doesn't have a tackle this season and has played primarily on special teams, but was in a similar situation last year, pressed into duty for the final four games at nickel when Jude Adjei-Barimah was suspended.

"I prepare every week, whether I play or not. Preparation is key," Elliott said. "I know it's in God's hands and part of God's plan whether I play or not. As long as I keep Him first, he'll give me everything I need." …

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Costly hit: Bucs' Robert McClain fined $24,309

It's been a rough week for Bucs cornerback Robert McClain.

The Bucs' late-game collapse last week at Buffalo, losing a seven-point lead with three minutes to play, started with a 44-yard pass play to Deonte Thompson. McClain had a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play, one that drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and gave him a concussion, an injury that will sideline him from this week's game against Carolina.

Now, on top of everything else to come from that play, McClain has been fined $24,309 by the league. That represents about half of a game check -- McClain earns $45,588 per week with a $775,000 salary this season.

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Bucs cornerbacks Grimes, McClain both out vs. Carolina

Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes, shown against Arizona, will miss Sunday's game against Carolina with a shoulder injury. He intercepted passes in both wins against the Panthers last season, including one returned for a touchdown.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes, shown against Arizona, will miss Sunday's game against Carolina with a shoulder injury. He intercepted passes in both wins against the Panthers last season, including one returned for a touchdown.

The Bucs are trying to end a three-game losing streak as they return home Sunday against Carolina, but they'll have to do so without their two starting cornerbacks from last week's loss at Buffalo. Brent Grimes (shoulder) and Robert McClain (concussion) have both been ruled out for Sunday, making things that much harder for the NFL's No. 31 pass defense.

That likely means Vernon Hargreaves is back at outside corner, Ryan Smith is making his second NFL start on the other side and Javien Elliott steps in as the nickel cornerback. Dejo Olatoye, signed to the roster this week, is the only other cornerback on roster as it stands.

Hargreaves had struggled outside and played better playing nickel against the Bills, but is now likely back outside. Smith has barely played on defense since he struggled in filling for Grimes in a loss to Minnesota. Elliott doesn't have a tackle this season, but stepped in at nickel for the final four games last season and played well. …

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Bucs Jameis Winston has a new normal of missing practice

Jameis Winston is sticking to his new normal of not throwing the football the first two days of practice to rest his sprained right throwing shoulder. It didn’t seem to bother Winston a week ago when he passed for 384 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 30-27 at Buffalo.

“It’s feeling better. I know how it’s going to feel no matter what,’’ said Winston, who is expected to throw for the first time this week on Friday. “So I’m just kind of used to it. You never know, when I dealt with it before, I wasn’t doing half the treatment I’m doing now. (Trainer) Bobby (Slater) has been taking care of me. Everybody in that training room, they’ve been taking care of me. So we got a good training staff, so who knows?’’

Winston said his shoulder did not bother him last Sunday, in part because of the adrenaline of game day.

“It’s just because it’s competition,’’ Winston said. “I’m not really worried about how my body feels, I’m worried about how my team is doing.’’

In fact, Winston played catch with someone on the Bucs sideline during TV timeouts to stay loose last week. …

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Ayers on Simeon Rice playing at 43: 'He can't do it no more'

Bucs players said Wednesday that they didn't think former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice could still play in the NFL, but after all, he is 43 and hasn't played in nearly a decade.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs players said Wednesday that they didn't think former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice could still play in the NFL, but after all, he is 43 and hasn't played in nearly a decade.

The Bucs already had problems with their pass rush -- a league-low seven sacks -- but having 43-year-old Simeon Rice volunteer to help out his old team hasn't been well-received by those trying to get to the quarterback themselves.

"Come get his ass beasted. Trying to come out here, some young killas out here," Ayers said of whether Rice could still play, nearly 10 years removed from his last NFL game. "All due respect to him, but he can't do it no more. He better leave it to the young guns."

Those young guns, of course, are struggling to find answers on getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Rice has 122 career sacks, and looked to be in great shape when he spent two days at Bucs practice in preseason, working with ends Noah Spence and Ryan Russell. But could he still get it done on the field? …

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McClain still out with concussion, could test Bucs' corner depth

Bucs cornerback Robert McClain, shown returning an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening win against Chicago, remains in concussion protocol and could miss this week's game against Carolina.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs cornerback Robert McClain, shown returning an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening win against Chicago, remains in concussion protocol and could miss this week's game against Carolina.

Bucs cornerback Robert McClain, who took all but three defensive snaps at outside corner in Sunday's loss at Buffalo, remains in concussion protocol and did not practice Wednesday, potentially challenging Tampa Bay's depth at cornerback this weekend.

If McClain is still sidelined when the Bucs play host to Carolina, they would have two likely scenarios to choose from, both involving much less experienced options.

If they want to keep Vernon Hargreaves inside as the nickel or slot corner, that would mean turning to Ryan Smith at outside corner -- he's played only two defensive snaps since struggling as a fill-in starter in the Bucs' loss at Minnesota. Or the Bucs could put Hargreaves back at outside corner, where he had struggled, and doing that would mean playing Javien Elliott at nickel -- he's played only three defensive snaps in the last four games, but started at the position at the end of last season.

The Bucs added a cornerback to the 53-man roster on Wednesday in former Cowboys and Falcons cornerback Deji Olatoye, but that's likely for depth to guard against additional injuries during Sunday's game.

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Gerald McCoy says Bucs game plan vs. Bills hurt pass rush

Add Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to the list of players who didn’t think they were utilized correctly by defensive coordinator Mike Smith in Sunday’s 30-27 loss at Buffalo.

Unlike safety T.J. Ward and defensive tackle Chris Baker, who complained about their lack of playing time, McCoy simply responded to a question Wednesday about how Smith’s decision to rush three down linemen and a stand up linebacker on some third downs affected his ability to get to the quarterback.

McCoy also made it clear that is a ‘team guy,’ and will always do what he’s asked. But the five-time Pro Bowl player said Smith’s scheme against the Bills limited his effectiveness as a pass rusher.

The Bucs have an NFL-worst seven sacks this season. McCoy is tied for the team-lead with two.

“I just play what they call. I don’t have a say so in what we run, I just kind of go with it,’’ McCoy said. “I’m a team guy, so I do what they ask me to do. Do I feel like I could’ve been more effective in a different way? Yes. But I’m a team guy. It’s not about Gerald. Whatever coach calls is what I’m going to run. …

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Bucs DE Noah Spence is done for the season

Noah Spence was the best hope of developing into the kind of edge rusher the Bucs needed and now he will miss the remainder of the season with a recurring shoulder injury.

Spence, a second-round pick from Eastern Kentucky last season, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. He had only one sack and one forced fumble in six games this season. Spence was plagued as a rookie by a shoulder injury that forced him to wear a harness and had off-season surgery. He finished with 5.5 sacks in 2016.

But the shoulder popped out again early in the year and he has been largely ineffective as a pass rusher.

The Bucs signed veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp following a workout on Tuesday. The team also announced the signing of cornerback Deji Olatoye, who opened this season on the Falcons roster and played seven games in Atlanta over the last two years.

 

 

 

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As Bucs seek sacks, Simeon Rice, 43, offers to help out

Former Bucs great Simeon Rice, who last played in 2007 and is 43 years old, offered his services Tuesday as the Bucs seek a spark for their pass rush. Rice is shown in the preseason, working with current ends Noah Spence, left, and Ryan Russell after a practice.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Former Bucs great Simeon Rice, who last played in 2007 and is 43 years old, offered his services Tuesday as the Bucs seek a spark for their pass rush. Rice is shown in the preseason, working with current ends Noah Spence, left, and Ryan Russell after a practice.

For years, we've been writing about how the Bucs haven't had a player get 10 sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 2005.

And since the Bucs are still trying to get 10 sacks as a team in a season -- they have seven in six games, three fewer than the next NFL team -- they had a tryout Tuesday, opting to sign former Seahawks pass-rusher Darryl Tapp, who is 33.

With fans curious about a roster opening on Tuesday afternoon and lots of wild possibilities -- Dwight Freeney, 37, worked out for Seattle and ended up signing with the Seahawks, and NFL Network's Rich Eisen teased that DeMarcus Ware, 35, had been offered a job from an unnamed NFL team on Tuesday as well.

And after news that the Bucs had signed Tapp, Rice himself offered his assistance with the Bucs' struggling pass rush.

"If they call me I will comeback this year and show them how to get it done," Rice tweeted, adding the hashtag #stopplayingandcalltheunstoppableSimeonRice. …

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