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Tampa Bay/NFL media stunned by sudden death of writer Don Banks

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The outpouring of sympathy and stories continues for longtime NFL writer Don Banks, who passed away suddenly early Sunday morning in Canton, Ohio, while covering the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

The 57 year old Banks had recently been hired by the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper to become their NFL writer / cover the Raiders, when they arrive to town in 2020. He was at the induction ceremony Saturday night, but was found non-responsive in his Canton hotel room, apparently dying in his sleep:

However, that’s the end of his  25+ year NFL media career.

He actually began his long NFL writing career in Tampa Bay working for the then- St Petersburg Times, and covering the Buccaneers.

Banks worked for the Times on the Bucs beat in the 1990s in and around coaches Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy.

Several Tampa Bay media members and former co-workers expressed sympathy and remembrances after the news had broken Sunday, ESPN Bucs reporter Jenna Laine tweeted this:

Current Watch Stadium college football insider, Brett McMurphy, talked about Banks’ roots with him, as a high school sports reporter in Tampa Bay:

Meanwhile, Banks’ former colleague at the Times and current Buccaneers beat writer, Rick Stroud talked at length with fond remembrances and stories on his podcast about Banks that was released Monday morning. Those stories dated back to Banks covering the orange “Bucco Bruce” Buccaneers three decades ago:

Banks left Tampa and worked in Minnesota as a Vikings beat writer for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and later jumped to Sports Illustrated, where he worked for nearly 20 years, including helping develop their extensive digital coverage of the NFL.

They remembered him fondly and sadly, as well:

Banks had been working for the past few years for The Athletic out of Boston, covering the Patriots and the National Football League before being hired earlier this summer in Las Vegas.

Ironically, Banks’ first work for the Vegas paper ran Sunday morning, on the day that he died. He wrote about the Cleveland Browns transitioning from having been covered extensively in training camp last year by HBO’s Hard Knocks to a new coaching staff, etc. for this year.

Banks is survived by his second wife and his adult children from a previous marriage. And, it’s obvious that he had tremendous impact, especially with a lot of young and up-and-coming reporters in the business.


XFL allocates former Georgia star QB Aaron Murray to Tampa team

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The reboot of Vince McMahon’s Spring XFL Football League is slated for next February, and the eight teams are making preparation with a draft of players. And, this includes the Tampa Bay franchise, the Vipers being allocated by the league a local high school and SEC star, as their quarterback..

The XFL and Vipers announced Tuesday morning that former Georgia All-SEC quarterback, Aaron Murray was given to them:

Murray has ties to the Tampa Bay area, as a native who led Plant High School to a State Football Championship. He’s also the Southeastern Conference all-time leader in completions passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career.

Murray briefly was with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles from 2014-16.

He was last seen quarterbacking earlier this year in the now-defunct Alliance of American football with the Atlanta Legends (above) franchise. They selected Murray for the same regional interest of him having played college ball down the road in Athens, Georgia.

Murray actually split time with former Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms in Atlanta. The AAF, however, unraveled and folded due to financial problems just eight games into their inaugural season.

Tampa Bay is coached by former Bears and Montreal Allouettes of the CFL coach Marc Trestman.

The other seven teams in the XFL were allocated a quarterback the same way and there are a couple of familiar names.

Former Oklahoma National Championship-winning coach, Bob Stoops, is the coach and GM of the Dallas Renegades, and the league selected his former Oklahoma quarterback, Landry Jones.

Jones left Oklahoma with the all-time record for passing yards and touchdown passes in a career in the Big XII, just like Murray for the SEC. Jones is a former backup in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Raiders and the Jaguars last season.

Former Ohio State Star Cardale Jones is getting another opportunity in his professional career, as the XFL assigned him to the Washington D.C. Defenders.

Jones helped Ohio State win the Big Ten Title in relief in December of 2014 and then quarterbacked the Buckeyes to their two College Football Playoff wins, including their National Championship victory over Oregon.

Jones was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and also was with the L.A. Chargers for three seasons.

The XFL will continue filling out rosters with a Tuesday draft, with numerous players from Florida or Florida schools that have already worked out regionally for all of the clubs.

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Former Gators kicker Pineiro is Chicago hero- for now

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every week in the NFL there are heroes in the clutch for different franchises. However, in a market like Chicago with the rabid, massive following like the Chicago Bears, when you do something dramatic to help them win everything is taken up to a new level.

That’s something that new kicker, and former Florida Gator Eddy Pineiro, is experiencing after his dramatic game-winning 53 yard field goal with no time left in Denver Sunday gave the Bears a 16-14 win.

First, it looked as though the Bears had blown the game when they allowed Denver’s Joe Flacco to lead a last-minute scoring drive that resulted in a dramatic touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with :31 seconds left. And, then, the two hooked up on the go ahead two-point conversion to Sanders for 14 – 13 lead.

But undaunted, the Bears, led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, got into scoring position on a 25-yard completion to the Broncos 25 to Allen Robinson with just :01 remaining.

That’s when Pineiro, who had kicked two lengthy field goals earlier in the game, stepped on the Mile High turf and calmly, with 80,000 Bronco fans going berserk, booted home a line drive game-winner to make the Bears 1 – 1.

As we wrote earlier this month, Pineiro, a second year player, had won the Bears kicking job coming out of preseason. Pineiro won the spot over Elliott Fry by hitting a 58-yard field goal against the Colts, followed by another 3-for-3 against the Titans in August.

And Gators fans will remember the Miami native having a good college career at Florida. He made 17/18 FG’s during the Gators miserable 2017 season. And combined with his 21/25 the year before, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

Pineiro declared for the 2018 NFL Draft after only two seasons with the Gators, but went undrafted. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in May of 2018, however, he was placed on injured reserve last September. Earlier this summer, he was traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Finally, let’s keep in perspective that we are not talking Chicago icon status like: Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks and Patrick Kane have.

Still, it was a large moment early in his tenuous Bears kicking career and Pineiro is celebrating, like he should.

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