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Tony Dungy “gratified” to go into Bucs “Ring of Honor” this fall

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

He will forever be known as the Bucs head coach who brought a winning culture back to Tampa Bay, and earlier this week the franchise decided that Tony Dungy will be their latest inductee into their “Ring of Honor.”

And fittingly, the team will take advantage of their Monday Night Football home game in September with the Steelers (Dungy’s former team as a player and an assistant coach) to honor him at halftime.

On Friday morning’s “Pro Football Talk Live” on NBC Sports Network, Dungy joined his NBC colleague Mike Florio to talk about the honor.

Florio asked Dungy about what “gratified” him the most about his time in Tampa Bay, and Dungy replied, “Just making Tampa relevant, again. The ’96 season, coming there. Talking to our players about winning, but also about being part of the community.”

Dungy continued, “And then, the ’97 season when we started winning (when the Bucs started 5-0 and eventually made the playoffs for the first time in 16 years) and people got onboard, the stadium started to fill up, people started buying jerseys, and identifying with the team again, it was really a special time.

“Probably, the most fun year I had in football. Period.”

The feeling is obviously mutual from the Glazers who hired Dungy, and still own the team and wanted to finally, honor him this year. And there are still legions of Bucs fans who adore Dungy, who still lives in Tampa, while retired and doing broadcasting, for that turnaround in the late 90’s.

That turnaround included turning Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks into Hall of Famers already, plus his former Bucs John Lynch and Ronde Barber are under consideration for Canton, too.

You throw in the likes of Mike Alstott, Hardy Nickerson, Paul Gruber, Warrick Dunn, etc., the Bucs playoff team in four of Dungy’s six seasons, including the 1999 narrow NFC Championship Game loss to the eventual Superbowl Champion St. Louis Rams.

It’s a legacy that is still going strong for the Buccaneers on and off the field in Tampa Bay.

And Tony Dungy is a big reason for that.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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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What are Buccaneers options with QB Jameis Winston?

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a tumultuous past few days for the Buccaneers organization, as they now know that they will be without QB Jameis Winston for the first three games of the year for his NFL suspension.

There has been a lot of speculation as to what the franchise will do in the short and long term.

Here are their options:

Cut Winston now

If the Glazers, who own the team, choose to make a statement to their organization, the fans and the NFL in general, one would think it will come quickly.

First, the financial hit is not that significant, as Winston is scheduled to make $3.8 million in actual salary and the “dead cap” hit from the remainder of his signing bonus being applied is $4.9 million.

So, it’s not as if there are large ramifications ($10-15 million) for his release.

If you are wondering if the Glazers have done something like this before? The answer is yes.

In 2013, they allowed coach Greg Schiano to not only bench but outright release QB Josh Freeman during the season, while they still owed him $6 million guaranteed for remainder of the season.

Allow Winston to come back to play after the suspension

This is most likely the short term plan. Yes, Winston will be a distraction during training camp and the preseason, but ultimately the Bucs best chance to win 7, 8 or more games is with Winston at the controls.

And if the Glazers have to pay Winston the actual $3.8 million in salary, the strong argument is have him “play for it” or earn the money.

The risk is that the Bucs could be on the hook for the fifth year guarantee of his rookie contract. If Winston were to be injured, and unable to pass a physical in March, the Bucs would have no choice, because his $20.9 million option year would then be guaranteed.

Release Winston after the season before the March deadline to guarantee his 2019 salary

This scenario also makes sense for the owners, especially if Winston plays poorly after the suspension. At that point, no one would fault them for not wanting to guarantee the almost $21 million for  2019.

Further, if they have decided now, that they won’t be paying Winston a mega deal in the future, then he’s living on “borrowed time” for 2018. To that end, if the Bucs season is bad and Winston is not playing well, there very easily could bench him to avoid the injury guaranteeing his deal (the Redskins did this with RGIII a couple of years ago).

Play Winston-he succeeds, puts the past behind him and gets long term deal later

This is obviously the biggest “long shot” of all the scenarios, but it’s still possible that Winston could play well, or even exceptionally well. And if he’s not injured, then the Bucs could take the almost $21 million risk for 2019 and work towards a long term deal.

Again, the Glazers with GM Jason Licht have short and long term options.

And, if they are deleting Winston, you have to think that happens, shortly.

Otherwise, it’s one of the other options above.

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