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.