The next phase for the intriguing hire new Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians’ offensive coordinator took place on Friday, as Byron Leftwich met with the Tampa Bay media.
And Leftwich knows he’s being given a tremendous opportunity to not only the call plays, but mentor the Bucs star quarterback Jameis Winston
LIVE: Tune in for Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich’s press conference. https://t.co/5M6GDnh6vB
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 18, 2019
Leftwich knows the challenge ahead, but also knows he has weapons:
This is great. This is what this is about, man. The key is to have enough players to give yourself an opportunity to win football games and obviously, especially on the offensive side of the ball – I haven’t had a chance to see the defense – we have that. So now it’s putting guys in position to make plays so we can win football games. It’s never really about numbers or stats here. We’ve got to find a way to do what we can to win football games and I just love the coaches that we have here, as a whole.”
That starts with the boss, Arians, who labeled Leftwich, as a “rising star,” when Arians met the media last week.
One other part the press conference that was interesting is when the questions turned to estranged veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson. As we wrote earlier on Friday morning, Jackson says he has not heard from anyone with the Buccaneers, including Arians, so far this month.
Not surprisingly, Leftwich said he’s not spoken with Jackson but intends to shortly and he also says and he’s focused on the future in the players at the Buccaneers will have.
It’s still unclear how much longer they’ll have Jackson, whose $10 million salary in the final year of his deal was Tampa Bay is not guaranteed.
Leftwich also knows if he has success, then in short order, he will be in demand for a possible head coaching opportunity as well.
But that’s still a large step away. The first step is to get Winston rolling and playing consistent football. And, he and the staff have to get the Buccaneers back to winning, which is something they haven’t done much of with nine losing seasons in the last eleven.
Leftwhich was part of one of those seasons in 2009 under first-year coach Raheem Morris, where he started the first three games, the team finished just 3 – 13 and eventually turned to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
Leftwich had been serving, as a playing mentor to Freeman that year, and now he’s officially a “coaching mentor” of the entire Buccaneers offense.
Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans
The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.
Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?
The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.
When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”
First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.
As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.
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.