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Bucs-Panthers ready to write more history on Christmas Eve

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

(The Buccaneers are traveling to Carolina to play the Panthers yet, again, this time on Christmas Eve. Our resident Bucs professor of history, Paul Stewart of Bucpower.com, is back with three different famous games in the series. Click the scores for pictures and videos from his site, as well.)

THE BUCS IN CAROLINA
This will be Tampa Bay’s 18th trip to Carolina to play the Panthers dating back to their expansion season of 1995, a game that was played at Clemson Stadium. We looked at three of the best home games with the Bucs’ division rivals earlier in the year, so we now feature a trio of games played on the road.

Sunday 1 October 1995 at Memorial Stadium, University of Clemson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Carolina Panthers 13

The arrival of the Panthers and Jaguars into the NFL brought a far more generous method in stocking the expansion franchises than the Buccaneers saw back in 1976 together with the ability to sign free agents from a zero salary cap standpoint. The result were two teams who were competitive from Day One and this Week 5 clash saw Carolina give Sam Wyche’s team all the trouble they could handle during their infamous “Five-dash-two” start to the 1995 season.

QB Trent Dilfer went out with a concussion so it was back-up Casey Weldon who came in during the first half and he scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak on the first play of the 4th quarter. The game also featured punter Reggie Roby’s first NFL completion as he hit Tony Booty with a 48-yard pass on a fake punt. “(Roby) wasn’t proud of it,” joked Booty. “He needs to go to quarterback school.”

“You’ve got to drop that word `expansion,’ ” said Bucs LB Hardy Nickerson, asked about Tampa Bay’s 0-4 opponent. “Let’s just call it a team in its first year. Don’t say expansion. Expansion leads everyone to believe this team should just get wiped out by the No. 1 high school team in the nation. This was a very good team we played today.”

The Bucs and Panthers would wind up with identical 7-9 records by season end but Wyche would pay the price for a fourth straight losing season, one in which he seemingly fought the press and some players on his team on a weekly basis.

Sunday 18 November 2012 at Bank of America Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Carolina Panthers 21

Greg Schiano’s first season as Tampa Bay head coach had begun with a 16-10 home win over the Panthers on opening day and two months later, he made it a season sweep in far more dramatic circumstances.

The Bucs’ trailed by 11 with just over four minutes left in the game but a Connor Barth fieldgoal and a defensive stop gave the offense one last chance to tie the game. Josh Freeman led his team downfield, hit Vincent Jackson with a 24-yard scoring pass with 12 seconds remaining and then hit the same player again for a successful two-point conversion to take the game to overtime.

Just over four minutes into the extra period, Freeman found his veteran TE Dallas Clark from 15 yards out, a play that was eventually confirmed after replay, the first time the former Colt had ever scored a game winner in that fashion. “No, I’ve never done that before — anywhere,” said Clark, who signed as a free agent after nine seasons in Indianapolis. “And it was kind of weird, because looking at the sideline afterward, everyone was rushing onto the field, which was really fun. It was like at the end of a basketball game.”

This was the Bucs’ fourth straight win under Schiano taking them to 6-4 on the season but that would be their highpoint and they would ultimately lose their next five games before finishing the year at 7-9.

Monday 10 October 2016 at Bank of America Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 Carolina Panthers 14

It was Monday Night Football in Carolina and the Bucs were 1-3 after having won Dirk Koetter’s opening game as head coach. Without Doug Martin, Koetter turned to one of his former Atlanta players, Jacquizz Rodgers, to lead the ground game but wound up having to put his faith in his much-maligned rookie kicker, Roberto Aguayo.

The 2nd round pick had connected with a pair of first-half fieldgoals and had missed two others. The defense kept giving him chances by forcing four turnovers from a Panther team missing QB Cam Newton including a pick in the endzone by Brent Grimes to end one apparent game-winning Carolina drive.

Jameis Winston led his team 66 yards in 11 plays inside the final two minutes to set up Aguayo who potentially saved his career and the Bucs’ season by nailing the game-winner from 38 yards as time expired. “I looked up and it was going down the middle and everybody was coming at me,” Aguayo said. “For some reason, I was telling everyone, ‘We are going to get a penalty.’ But the game was over.”

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Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)

It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.

Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.

So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.

If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.

The reasons are apparent.

McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.

Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.

And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.

This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.

Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.

However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.

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Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.

As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.

Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.

Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:

“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station.  “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”

Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.

He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.

Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.

As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.

“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of  job.”

At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.

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New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.

One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.

It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.

But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his  hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.

The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing  as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.

This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.

After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.

Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.

Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.

That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.

The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.

He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:

The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.

Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.

Alas, the Giants had a nightmare of a 2017 season that finished at 3-13. Pierre-Paul had a solid season with 8.5 sacks and 68 total tackles despite the dismal team finish.
Then, Bucs GM Jason Licht swung the deal for Pierre-Paul and Tampa Bay agreed to assume his $12.1 million dollar salary for 2018.

So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.

It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.

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