The sudden passing of Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake Sunday has hit home all over the NFL, including with his former boss, and now Bucs coach, Bruce Arians.
Drake died early Sunday morning unexpectedly at age 62 after having coached the Friday night preseason opener for the Steelers with the Buccaneers.
Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II on the passing of Darryl Drake.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019
“We are at a loss for words following Darryl Drake’s passing this morning. Darryl had such an impact on the players he coached and everyone he worked with throughout his entire career. He was a passionate coach and had a tremendous spirit toward life, his family, his faith and the game of football.
Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife, Sheila, his three daughters, his grandchildren and entire family during this difficult time.”
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin also expressed his remorse in a statement and the Steelers announced they would not practice on Sunday as scheduled. And, they might also be postponing their Monday workout due to the sudden tragic loss of one of their coaches.
The sudden death of Drake also hit hard for Arians, who was with Drake, but on the opposing sideline, on Friday night in his new role in Tampa Bay. Arians had hired Drake, as his wide receivers coach, when he got the head coaching job in 2013 with the Cardinals.
Drake (shown in Arizona above in 2016) worked with Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer-to-be, Larry Fitzgerald for five seasons and left Arizona for Pittsburgh, when Arians retired due to health reasons after the 2017 season.
Arians tweeted his condolences Sunday afternoon:
We lost a great man, husband father, coach and a dear friend Darryl Drake. Our prayers go out to his family. RIP brother pic.twitter.com/V0U3fvLleP
— Bruce Arians (@BruceArians) August 11, 2019
Drake had previously been the receivers coach in Chicago for former Bears, Buccaneers and now University of Illinois head coach, Lovie Smith. Drake was on the staff when the Bears went to the Superbowl in 2006.
The reactions continue to pour in Sunday afternoon to the news of his sudden passing.
I am at a loss for words during the sorrowful time. Darryl Drake was a great man who loved the game of football but more importantly he was a great father and husband. My heart hurts knowing he is no longer with us. I will always cherish the good times and the many laughs we had. pic.twitter.com/QFabqQ5JIH
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) August 11, 2019
Darryl Drake was in our coaches bible study. He was a tremendous coach and an even better man. This is hard to believe and we’re all going to miss him. But it’s proof of what the Bible says—tomorrow is not promised to us. 🙏🏽🙏🏽for his family and his players. https://t.co/KAcu1t4ULr
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 11, 2019
Drake’s passing during training camp is reminiscent of former Dolphins and Raiders head coach and Vikings assistant Tony Sparano dying during their training camp unexpectedly last year.
The Vikings and coach Mike Zimmer have not been using it as an excuse but did repeatedly mention after the year of how Sparano’s death greatly affected the staff and the team for the remainder of the season.
Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.
After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:
"Obviously, when you’re put in game-winning situations and your young players perform, you’re proud of them, and they did exactly that."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 18, 2019
“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.
The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.
Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.
This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.
When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.
Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.
Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game. And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.
Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.
Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract
Hoping to practice some form of continuity, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly extended the contract of GM Jason Licht.
This after a report Saturday morning from Bucs beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Stroud, that Licht has been given a five-year contract extension to remain with the team:
Bucs signed general manager Jason Licht to a new five year deal https://t.co/g8fswc0gyJ
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 17, 2019
A big part of the reason why the Glazer family, which owns the team, wanted to keep Licht is: his ability to lure former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and join them this past January.
Further, Stroud reports that Arians made it a condition of his coming out of retirement that Licht remain with the team long-term and that the Bucs keep embattled starting QB Jameis Winston.
Licht had been given a one-year extension for 2019 before this offseason, and the Buccaneers had already committed to keep quarterback Jameis Winston for the fifth year option of his rookie contract. Then, once former coach Dirk Koetter was fired in January, Licht’s previous relationship with Arians helped the Bucs get their new coach.
Licht was the assistant general manager with the Cardinals, when Arians was hired in 2013 and led them eventually to the NFC Championship Game in 2014.
Licht became the Buccaneers general manager at that the start of that same season, but has had a rocky tenure of results. This includes only one winning season out of five and several free agent moves and draft picks that have backfired.
None bigger than when Licht traded up in the 2016 draft for FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round, only to have Aguayo falter and be released the following year in training camp.
Licht has also had free agent busts like former Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and last year, Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. Both of whom we’re paid heavily but did nothing in their one season before being released.
Licht and his staff do deserve some credit for finding unheralded players like tight end Cameron Brate, running back Peyton Barber and former wide receiver Adam Humphries. All of whom were undrafted and have been quality contributors over the last couple of seasons.
The team had no official comment on Stroud’s report of the extension.