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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RB McNichols passed on Bucs offer to join practice squad

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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TAMPA – Coach Dirk Koetter never envisioned himself having to cut rookie running back Jeremy McNichols from the Buccaneers roster this summer. Even when he did he still wasn’t ready to let the Boise State product go.

The Bucs, who cut their 2017 fifth-round draft pick while paring their roster to the 53-man limit last weekend, made it clear to McNichols that they wanted him to remain a part of the team.

Their plan was to make McNichols a part of their 10-man practice squad, but McNichols had other plans, and in a move that appeared to stun the Bucs, he signed on with the 49ers practice squad instead.

“F—,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht said upon hearing the news, which provided a dramatic ending the to the final episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As you might expect, the final episode, which aired Tuesday, centered largely on the players who played themselves on and off the Bucs 53-man roster during the final week of the preseason.

We learned that linebacker Riley Bullough was the last player to be cut and that wide receiver Jesus “Bobo’’ Wilson nearly blew his chance to become part of the Bucs practice squad after he was cut.

The most dramatic moments, though, involved McNichols, who admitted to Koetter upon hearing the news of his release that he struggled to learn the playbook and understand NFL defenses.

“Once I get that down like the back of my hand, like in college, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” McNichols told Koetter, who seemed to agree.

This is the one I’ve been looking forward to the least,’’ Koetter told McNichols. “I didn’t see this coming. All along I had you penciled in as making it.

“You’re good enough. You’re good enough to play in the NFL but something’s just mot clicking right now. But we want to keep working with you. We want you here, playing on the practice squad.’’

McNichols responded, saying he wanted to come back, adding that he thought Tampa was “a good spot for” him,’’ because he liked the coaches. Something changed, though and when it did, Licht’s attitude changed as well.

After learning that McNichols was passing on the Bucs offer of a practice squad spot in an effort to get “a new start’’ in San Francisco, Licht all but said good riddance to the Boise State product.

During a phone call to an unidentified caller, Licht said, “McNichols got his feelings hurt. If he’s going to mope and complain about being taken out of the game when he made just one mistake, I mean we don’t want that kind of shit anyway.’’

The Bucs really don’t seem to want Wilson’s attitude either. Licht and Koetter discussed that prior to the cuts, but both seem to like Wilson’s upside, which is why they brought him back to the practice squad.

But when Wilson was informed of the decision to bring him back he had already left town and returned to Miami, a decision that did not sit well with Licht, who said in frustration, “This might be the last straw.’’

It wasn’t. Wilson was given until 1 p.m. on Sunday to return to Tampa, where he officially signed on with the team as part of its practice squad along with Bullough and eight others.

Wow, talk about drama.

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Report- Bucs aren’t trading tight end OJ Howard

Florida Football Insiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun to struggle with three losses in their last four games while on a bye week. However, a report Thursday says they’re not looking to sell off one of their premium young players before the trade deadline.

Despite inquiries from other teams, former first-round pick tight end O.J. Howard apparently will not be on the move.

That’s according to ESPN Buccaneers reporter, Jenna Laine, who went on Tampa Bay radio Thursday and said as much, and then repeated it on social media:

There have been numerous reports of teams inquiring about the third-year tight end from Alabama whose had a disappointing 2019 so far. Howard, known for his size and agility in the passing game, has only 13 catches for 176 yards and no TDs in the first six Tampa Bay games.

And in the last 2 weeks, Howard had only one catch in New Orleans and just two catches in London in the loss to the Panthers. In both games, he did not catch a pass in the second half.

Now, In fairness, Tampa Bay does have a lot of pass-catching weapons starting with receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Howard’s fellow tight end Cameron Brate. Brate is one of the personal favorite targets of quarterback Jameis Winston, especially on third down and in the redzone, where he caught a TD last week.

Howard, who was taken 19th overall in the 2017 draft, is in the third year of his deal that is paying him $1.5 million this season. He is slated to make $2 million next year and there is a fifth year option on his rookie deal, as well.

And while that makes him attractive to another team from a salary standpoint, it’s the same for the Bucs, their GM Jason Licht (who drafted Howard) and their long-term plans for the roster and the cap.

Howard has also finished his first two seasons on IR with ankle injuries near the end of them, as well.

The Bucs will come off the bye and play the Titans in Nashville, and a loss would drop them to 2-5 and only fuel speculation more that they might look to trade off a player or two before the end of the month.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs repeated blunders lead to London defeat

Florida Football Insiders

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Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite traveling over 4000 miles to London, it was a day to forget for the Bucs in their rematch with the Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay and QB Jameis Winston had enough misuses for a month of football, including 7 turnovers, as they dropped a 37 – 26 defeat at the hands of Carolina.

Winston was the biggest culprit, as he threw five interceptions (a career high) and also lost a number fumble in what was one of his worst performances of his five year career. And, even though his final stat line showed a 400 yards passing, Winston, with shaky from the very beginning. He threw an interception on the first play of the game to Panthers DB James Bradberry. This while trying to hit WR Mike Evans (catchless last week) over the middle.

Carolina only got a field goal though to make the game 3-0. And, after two Bucs punts on the next two possessions, Carolina marched 99 yards and ended up with in a short Christian Mccaffery one yard TD and a 10 – 0 lead.

One of the few breaks the Bucs got at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Sunday came when Carolina punt returner Ray Ray McCloud fumbled early in the second and Tampa Bay recovered. A short time later, Ronald Jones got the Buccaneers on the board with a five yard score to close the Carolina lead to 10-7.

Little did the Bucs, Winston and coach Bruce Arians know that it would be the closest they would get the rest of the day.

Later in the second, Winston had his arm hit by the Panthers Bruce Irvin and his pass was picked, again. And, it set up McCaffery’s second TD, a 25 yard catch and run to make it 17-7 Carolina in the half.

Then, after halftime,  the Bucs punted on their first possession and then, after a Panthers field goal made it 20-7, Winston once again threw a bad pass over the middle for his third interception of the game. This one to Pro Bowl LB Luke Kuechley, who ran it down to the Bucs 8 yard line. Next, WR Curtis Samuel scored on a handoff and at 27-7, the issue was basically decided.

Yes, the Bucs continued to scrap and Winston actually got them in the endzone  twice in the fourth quarter and finished with 400 yards passing, on the number. However, most of that was against softer coverage while Carolina led big in the second half.

Besides the five INTS, Winston also fumbled away another red zone scoring opportunity after he was hit and sacked. Then, a fourth quarter Bobo Wilson muffed punt led to Panthers field goal and the game back to an easy double digit lead. Again, -6 in the turnover margin was as horrific as it gets for Tampa Bay.

The Panthers are now rolling, including second year QB Kyle Allen getting his fourth straight win in relief of the injured Cam Newton. Plus, Carolina got their revenge from a loss a month ago in Charlotte by winning in their first ever trip to the U.K.

However, this day was more about a Bucs offense, and Winston specifically, that both looked so good in a 55-40 win two weeks ago in L.A. doing the exact opposite for most of this Sunday in a bad defeat.

Tampa Bay now stands 2-4 headed to their bye and knows that the turnovers must stop, or the year will get more sour and very quickly.

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