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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman gets another shot in CFL

Roy Cummings

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The odyssey of Former Buccaneers first round pick QB Josh Freeman has resumed, and this time, it’s north of the border. Freeman agreed on Friday night to a two year deal with the CFL’s Montreal Alouttes.

A TSN (Canadian version of ESPN) reporter broke the story of his signing:

It has been quite a fall for Freeman, who turns 30 years old on Saturday, was the former potential franchise QB of the Buccaneers, but who has been completely out of the NFL the past two seasons.

Freeman’s success came in his second season in Tampa Bay, after having been drafted with the 17th overall pick out of Kansas State, he took over as the starter in 2010. He led the Bucs to a 10-6 record throwing 25 TD’s and only six interceptions that season, as the Bucs missed out on the playoffs in a three way tiebreaker.

The following season, Freeman and the Bucs crashed back to the bottom of the NFL, as he threw 16 TDs but his INTs skyrocketed to 22 that season. Tampa Bay fell apart mid-season, lost their final 10 games to finish 4-12 and coach Raheem Morris was fired after that losing streak to end his third season.

Then, when the Bucs hired former college coach Greg Schiano, Freeman enjoyed some more short lived success in 2012 as he threw for 4,065 yards for the only time in his career, 27 more TDs, but still 17 INTs. The Bucs went on a win streak midseason of four games to get to 6-4, but then promptly fell apart, again losing five straight and missing the playoffs.

Rumors of too much partying and possible drug use dogged Freeman in the Tampa Bay market.

It was at that point that Schiano made it apparent privately and, even publicly, that he and the Buccaneers were not going to invest franchise money in Freeman long term. The team drafted Mike Glennon out of N.C. State in the third round of the 2013 Draft and from the beginning of training camp that year, Schiano looked to rid the Bucs of Freeman.

After poor play and an 0-3 start that year, Schiano benched Freeman for Glennon in week four, as the Bucs played the Cardinals at home. They lost that game, too, but more importantly, and amazingly, Schiano convinced the Glazer family to outright release the quarterback, who had started 56 out of 57 games over the previous five years.

The Bucs did so, two days after the Cardinals loss still owing Freeman $6 million guaranteed and the Minnesota Vikings quickly picked him up after he cleared waivers.

The Bucs lost the next four games to drop to 0-8 and eventually fired Schiano the day after the season ended.

Meanwhile, Freeman never caught up from joining the Vikings in October, but their ownership wanted him to get a chance to play, and he did start in one game on Monday Night Football at the N.Y. Giants. Freeman was terrible throwing just 20-53 for 190 yards and a pick. He also suffered a concussion at some point in the second half of the game, and never played again in 2013 sitting the bench behind former #1 pick Christian Ponder.

The Vikings let his contract expire. The Giants themselves, picked up Freeman in April of 2014 as a potential backup to Eli Manning. However, another indication of not putting the work in or not being focused on football was him lasting just one month of the off season before being released by New York.

Freeman didn’t catch on anywhere else and sat out the 2014 season.

In 2015, the Dolphins gave Freeman his fourth different NFL shot and had him in training camp, where he was shaky at best. He played sparingly in the preseason and was released on their final cuts and sat almost the entire 2015 season.

That’s until, the Colts gave him his fifth NFL chance, signing him for the final game of the 2015 regular season, while they rested Andrew Luck. Freeman played in that final game coming on in the first half in relief and threw 15 of 28 for 149 yards one TD and one INT, as the Colts won the finale’ over the Titans at home 30-24.  However, he didn’t stick in Indy either and was released that off season.

And that ended his NFL career, to the moment.

In summation, Freeman has played in one regular season NFL game in the last four years and it was believed that he was basically finished.

That was until Montreal, who had worked him out in the summer of 2017 at a tryout camp, decided to work him out again recently this month, and signed him to a two year deal.

The Alouttes new coach is former Packers boss, Mike Sherman, who was just hired in December after the season ended.

As for Freeman, with the poor track record above, you have to wonder if he even makes it out of the Alouttes’ training camp and to their regular season later this summer.

If he cannot, you would have to think that the career that looked slated for stardom for Freeman with the Bucs in 2010 is completely over.

Once, and for all.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Bucs coach Dungy- “You can’t make that move”

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It remains a huge topic for now in Tampa Bay, what happens when former number 1 pick and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston comes off of suspension after Monday night’s game with the Steelers?

For now, the answer appears to be simple, Ryan Fitzpatrick has played tremendous football for two weeks. This includes being named the NFC offensive player of the week for both weeks to start the season as the Bucs are 2 – 0.

Former Buccaneers coach and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Dungy weighed in on the Winston debate Friday morning on “ProFootballTalk Live” and NBC Sports Network:

“If Ryan plays like he played these last two games, if he does it again Monday night, how can you say ‘we have a better chance to win with a quarterback who hasn’t been in the building for three and half weeks….You can’t make that move.” Dungy continued, “Right now, you have to say ‘Ryan Fitzpatrick gives us the best chance to win.'”

Dungy, who’s the commentator now in the studio for NBC on Sunday nights, will actually be at the Monday night showdown between the Bucs and the Steelers. This is because he’s being placed in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor, acknowledging Dungy having turned around the buccaneer franchise in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Dungy went on to reference the example in the early 70s of the Dolphins and Don Shula facing this dilemma when Bob Griese had broken his ankle at the beginning of a season. And veteran journeyman backup Earl Morrall replaced him, and ended up being the MVP of the NFL regular season that year. Morrall played all the way until he was ineffective in the AFC Championship Game. Griese replaced him and the Fins won it all with a perfect season.

Dungy’s point was the Shula chose to “ride the hot hand,” even with a great player and established quarterback waiting in the wings, and Miami ended up making history.

Dungy, the former Super Bowl coach of Colts, then even told Florio how he would handle the situation in his locker room and with the media after Monday night, if Fitzpatrick leads the Bucs to a win:

“I don’t think you can say with Ryan, ‘you’re our guy no matter what.’ … You’ve gotta say, ‘I’ll make the decision, when I feel like Ryan doesn’t give us the best chance to win, we’ve got a great player (Winston) ready to play. But, for now? Don’t ask me any questions, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s playing. I’ll let you know when he’s not gonna play.'”

It’s obvious that if it’s Patrick just plays decently and the Bucs win, he’s going to remain their quarterback. Also, if FitzPatrick plays well and the Bucs narrowly lose, he more than likely is going to remain the quarterback, for now.

However, few believe that this situation is going to remain the same throughout the 16-game schedule and more than likely, the Bucs will turn back to Winston at some point and maybe soon.

However, as Dungy put it out there Friday, that time just isn’t right now.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs got good injury news Thursday starting with rookie DT Vea

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite their 2 – 0 start, the Buccaneers have been battling early-season injuries, but they got good news on Thursday. In particular, mammoth rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to the practice field for the first time, since injuring his calf in the first week of training camp in late July.

The former number 1 pick out of Washington was on the practice field with a helmet and shoulder pads during the time period that the media was allowed to view and film practice. There is eager anticipation on Vea being able to get in the lineup and be paired next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs defensive why.

Tampa Bay officially listed Vea as “limited” in Thursday’s workout, as they prepare for Monday night’s match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The good news on the defensive side of the ball, has lockdown defensive back Brent Grimes also returned to practice for the Bucs Thursday. Grimes has missed the last two weeks after injuring his groin just before the opening game at New Orleans. He was also officially listed as limited by the team on their injury report.

Grimes will be counted on even more heavily now that the Bucs have lost another starting Corner in Vernon Hargreaves, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury. Last week, Tampa Bay played a mix of rookies and a veteran, whom they had just picked up during the week.

Second round picks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis played significantly in last Sunday’s 27 – 21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay was also forced to use veteran free agent Marcus Williams for a couple of series, who they had picked up off of waivers during the game onSunday. Third-year veteran Ryan Smith played significantly, as well in the game and will also be counted on moving forward.

The Bucs also listed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week back to back to start the season, is also on the injury report with a knee, but he was able to practice.

Also, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is battling a knee injury and was not able to work out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul hurt the knee in New Orleans, but played that entire game and all of the Philadelphia game.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s cool to be a Bucs fan, again

Jeff Pantridge

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

(Please welcome a new contributor to F.F.I. Jeff Pantridge is a long time resident of the Tampa Bay area who has formerly hosted on the Tampa Bay sports radio scene, and also most recently in Virginia Beach, VA. He will be giving us his unique humor and insight into everything involving Florida’s college and NFL teams. Welcome “Pants!”)

In a country that’s as divided as ever; we don’t have many things that we agree on in 2018. Despite all of our differences though, there is one thing that we share. We all want to be cool.

This is how life works. You’re born. You learn how to walk. You learn how to talk. You run around the playground for a few years and once you hit 8 years old or so; you figure things out. You want to be cool. You realize that the cute sweater with the sailboat on it that mom got you when you were 7 sucks and you want to start picking your own clothes. From that point on, pretty much until we die, while we may have a few more meaningful purposes; we’ll always on some level, just want to be cool.

I’ve been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, since I was 7 years old. I started watching and listening to their games with my dad in 1984. I loved my Bucs and I would go to school every morning and let all of the other kids know it. They weren’t impressed. The Buccos finished 6-10 that year and 7 year old kids don’t like losers. Then 1985 hit. I ditched that stupid sweater and got me a brand new orange Tampa Bay Bucs shirt. I traded in my sailboat for a menacing pirate ship. I had to be cool at this point, right?

Nope. The Bucs went 2-14 that year. Unfortunately, 8-year old me had no idea that my football team hired a former used RV salesman (Leeman Bennett) to be their head coach. Meanwhile, the coolest team ever assembled shuffled their way to a Super Bowl by dismantling everyone in their path. They also danced, they rapped, they appeared on TV shows and redefined what cool was. Just about every 8-year old kid in my class and in every other class, was a Chicago Bears fan. After that 2-14 season, the Bucs had another 2-14 season. And then 10 more losing seasons after that. The Bears would go on to wear out their welcome at the cool kids table too.

The thing is; coolness is fleeting. Trends fade over time. For the rest of my youth, many teams sat at that cool kids table. The Giants were cool. Then the Redskins were cool. Then the 49ers were cool. Then the Cowboys were cool… It seemed like every team was getting to eat lunch at that table except my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then it happened…

In 1997; everything changed. The Bucs had just hired a new Head Coach (Tony Dungy) in the previous year. (This guy didn’t sell RV’s.) They were led by Hardy Nickerson and 2 first round draft picks in their 3rd year who were destined to become first ballot Hall of Famers. They ditched those comically uncool creamsicle uniforms and they were off and running.

While most people will tell you that 2002 was their favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers season for obvious reasons; I will always lean towards 1997, because that’s when my football team became cool. They started 5-0 that year, and to this day; I’ve never seen The Bay Area buzzing like that.

Not when the Lightning won The Cup. Not when The Rays got to the World Series. Not even when the Buccaneers themselves brought the Lomabardi trophy home 5 years later. EVERYBODY was talking about the Bucs!

21 years later; everybody is talking about these Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again. It might be a new cast of characters, but your Pewter Pirates are the coolest team in America, led by the coolest athlete in America; Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who would’ve thought that a guy like him would ever fit that title? He’s a 35-year old backup quarterback that went to Harvard. This is 2018 though. Nerds are cool now. Marc Zuckerberg (another Harvard nerd) is worth more than the entire NFL. LeBron James wears glasses, when he doesn’t need to wear glasses.

Heck, I just watched SportsCenter do 10 minutes on some dude that plays video games for a living. By the way, this nerd also hangs with Drake, Paul George and a bunch of other really cool people that don’t hang out with any of us.

Do we know how long this ride is going to last? No. Will it be a long ride? Probably not. Like I said… coolness is fleeting. I’m just happy to be sitting at that cool kids table once again.

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