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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

The Tampa Bay connection to the shot that sent UNC to the Final Four

North Carolina forward Luke Maye (32) shoots the winning basket in the second half of the South Regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The basket gave North Carolina a 75-73 win.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

North Carolina forward Luke Maye (32) shoots the winning basket in the second half of the South Regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The basket gave North Carolina a 75-73 win.

Sudden basketball celebrity Luke Maye, the former walk-on whose jumper with 0.3 seconds left sent North Carolina past Kentucky and into the Final Four, has a Tampa tie you may not remember: his father Mark, who played football at UNC, was a backup quarterback with the Bucs in 1988, though he never played in a game.

"I loved it down there, but it was unfortunately very brief," said Mark, 52, who was watching from the stands in Memphis with his wife Aimee when Luke hit perhaps the biggest shot of the NCAA Tournament. "What a great city. I really enjoyed it down there. I had a good experience. I just wish it could have lasted longer."

Maye signed with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie in spring 1988 and was in line to be a backup behind Vinny Testaverde and veteran Joe Ferguson, but a lingering shoulder problem put him on injured reserve in August. He stayed with the team all season and was released the following spring, later playing briefly in the World League of American Football with the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks. …

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Joel Glazer says the Bucs were spoiled by winning a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. Now they have one. "The season can't start soon enough.'

It’s been 15 years since the Bucs won their only Lombardi Trophy, which also was their last playoff victory. Co-chairman Joel Glazer said maybe the team and fans were fooled into the belief that they could do it without an elite quarterback.

“We were one of the rare exceptions,’’ Glazer said Tuesday. “Us and the Ravens, who really did it with phenomenal defense and not necessarily elite quarterback play. And I think that experience may have clouded what it really takes to get to the Super Bowl and it doesn’t take long to realize it’s the great quarterbacks who are generally there in the end.

“That’s why we’re so excited with Jamies (Winston).’’

Two years ago, in the very same terrace of the Biltmore Resort, Glazer said the franchise was ‘comfortable,’ with drafting Winston.

But on Monday, comfort had clearly grown to confidence that Winston and coach Dirk Koetter will soon not only end a nine-year playoff drought, but bring championships back to Tampa Bay. …

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Stand pat? FSU's Dalvin Cook explains why he ran 40 again

Dalvin Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds.

AP photo

Dalvin Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds.

Entering FSU's pro day on Tuesday, the expectation was that running back Dalvin Cook would let his 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine stand, rather than run again at the Seminoles' practice facility and risk hurting himself with a slower time.

But Cook did run, and didn't hurt himself, reportedly running unofficial times of 4.40 and 4.47 seconds, taking his shirt off for the second run as NFL scouts looked on.

"I left everything on the field. That's the most important part, to give it everything you've got in your body," Cook said after running through position drills as well. "No matter what I ran at the combine, I was going to run again. I never said I wasn't going to run."

Cook said the rigorous pre-draft process, with numerous interviews, workouts and visits lined up with teams, is something he's looked forward to and has tried to enjoy with less than a month now before the draft begins April 27.

"It's a one in a lifetime thing," he said. "If you look at it as putting in too much time, flying everywhere to this place and that place, you're going to overlook the experience. I'm embracing the whole experience. This is what I looked forward to as a kid." …

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Jimbo Fisher on Dalvin Cook's character: 'Never had any issues at all'

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Jimbo Fisher said of Dalvin Cook.

AP photo

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Jimbo Fisher said of Dalvin Cook.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was asked after Tuesday's pro day in Tallahassee what he would tell NFL teams that have any off-field concerns about running back Dalvin Cook, who is projected as a first-round pick in next month's draft.

Cook was accused of a misdemeanor count of battery in 2015 but found not guilty in court after a woman accused him of punching her in the face in an argument with other FSU players outside a bar. Fisher reiterated not only his innocence in that case, but Cook's conduct throughout his three years with the Seminoles.

"He was a tremendous teammate. He was a tremendous leader. We never had any issues at all," Fisher said. "Look at the situation. He did nothing wrong. He actually was defusing the situation, and that's him. You're never going to have those issues. He's a great guy, a tremendous character guy, and I never had ... if I got on him, if I challenged him, 'Yes, sir.' That guy was tremendous for us."

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NFL votes to improve replay system and ends leaping

The NFL will have a centralized replay system beginning next season. Instead of referee going under the hood on the sideline to watch a replay monitor, he will watch on a  tablet and communicate with the league’s head of officials Dean Blandino and his staff, who will make the final call.

It’s one of several measures adopted by owners Tuesday that the NFL believes will speed up the game and improve player safety.

The league passed a rule Tuesday that calls for an automatic ejection of any player who commits an egregious hit to the head. It’s not dissimilar to the rule in college football where players can be called for targeting, leading to ejection.
  
A year ago, NFL owners passed a rule that triggers an ejection for any player committing two personal fouls in a game.

The league also agreed to prohibit players from leaping over offensive linemen during field goals and extra points. The change was backed by the NFL Players Association as a player safety measure.

"I would say it's going to go as far as it needs to from a player safety standpoint," said McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We're not going to put players in a position in which we think there is an unreasonable risk of injury.''

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What really is the Bucs' backup plan for Jameis Winston?

The Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Jameis Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Jameis Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston started all 32 of his games since coming to the NFL. He's durable, and that's a good thing, since he's only the most important player on the team.

But what if something were to go wrong, if he got hurt? Would that make the backup quarterback the second most important?

You don't think about the airbags in your car until you have an accident. That's pretty much the plight of the No. 2 signal caller.

They stand there on the sidelines, in the case of Mike Glennon for two years, always preparing without the benefit of live practice, as if they're going to play. But the only decision-making they have to make comes after the game on whether to shower.

But the Bucs thought so much of Glennon — and the importance of winning this season — that they offered him $8-million a year to carry a clipboard and wear a ball cap.

Glennon cashed in as a free agent for the one game he mopped up in a lopsided loss to Atlanta by signing a three-year, $45-million contract as the presumptive starter for the Chicago Bears.

Now the Bucs' best candidate to caddie for Winston in 2017 is Ryan Griffin. His next NFL pass will be his first in a regular season game. …

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FSU's Dalvin Cook would love Winston reunion with Bucs

Dalvin Cook may not still be on the draft board when the Bucs pick at 19.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Dalvin Cook may not still be on the draft board when the Bucs pick at 19.

TALLAHASSEE — Running back Dalvin Cook played only one season at Florida State with current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, but the idea of a reunion if Tampa Bay were to draft him with the No. 19 pick in next month's draft is, much like Cook, an exciting prospect.

"Longtime brother. Great bond. Jameis is a player I look up to as a role model," Cook said Tuesday after finishing his pro day in front of NFL scouts and coaches at Florida State. "To be in the backfield again would be something special. I feel like we started to build a bond when he was at Florida State, so it would be something special."

Winston simply called Cook "the best running back in college football" last season, and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said that as excited as Winston was to add free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson earlier this month, he'd like one more weapon for his offense in the draft. …

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Chiefs coach Andy Reid: DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston will be a good combination

DeSean Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during his first five seasons in the NFL with the Eagles.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

DeSean Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during his first five seasons in the NFL with the Eagles.

DeSean Jackson played his first five NFL seasons with the Eagles under Andy Reid, who drafted him in the second-round out of California.

Jackson had 23 receiving touchdowns during that stretch and averaged 17.6 yards per catch during that stretch as one of the league’s best deep threats.

Jackson is 30 and Reid now coaches for the Kansas City Chiefs. He says Jackson shows no signs of slowing down and should be very successful with the Bucs under Dirk Koetter.

“I think he can still play,’’ Reid said at the AFC coaches’ breakfast in Phoenix. “His game obviously is speed, great hands and he’s very intelligent. He’s a smart, smart kid. I think Dirk will be great for him and with him. They’ll find ways to get him the ball and his quarterback can sling it and DeSean can go get it. That’s a pretty good combination.''

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Bucs plan to lock up Evans but new deal may come after 2017

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) warms up before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) warms up before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.

The Bucs plan to lock up receiver Mike Evans for the long-term and he is eligible for a new contract after completing his third NFL season with a combined 3,578 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns.

But that doesn’t mean a new deal is likely before 2017. In May, the Bucs will pick up Evans’ fifth-year option.

It’s rare for players, even first round picks such as Evans, to be given long-term deals after only three seasons in the league.

Evans signed a four-year, $14.631-million contract as a rookie out of Texas A&M in 2014, including an $8.961-million signing bonus. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $690,000 this season and a roster bonus of $1.725-milion.

That’s pretty good compensation and word is Evans is not pressing the Bucs to tear up his current deal.

“We have plenty of time here,’’ general manager Jason Licht said. “He’s a very good player and he knows it’s no secret, we want to keep him for a very long time.’’

Anything is possible, but it seems more likely now that Evans big payday will come after his fourth season. The fifth-year option will prevent him from testing free agency and the Bucs will still have the option of applying a franchise tag after that. …

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NFL owners approve Raiders move to Las Vegas

Labor union member Geraldine Lacy celebrates Monday in Las Vegas. NFL team owners approved the move of the Raiders to Las Vegas in a vote at an NFL football annual meeting in Phoenix.

AP photo

Labor union member Geraldine Lacy celebrates Monday in Las Vegas. NFL team owners approved the move of the Raiders to Las Vegas in a vote at an NFL football annual meeting in Phoenix.

The NFL always has been wary of the temptations facing any team in Las Vegas, but soon they may have to put a patch over both eyes of the pirate on the Raiders' helmet.

Unable to find a suitable stadium deal after a second stint in Oakland for 22 years, the Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas after receiving the approval from all but one NFL owner at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix Monday.

The Raiders will remain in Oakland for 2017 and possibly longer. Raiders’ owner Mark Davis said the team has a pair of one-year options at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Miami Dolphins were the only team to not approve of the move, according to ESPN.

In the past, the league's owners have steered clear of Las Vegas as a possibility for franchise relocation because of the obvious dangers associated with legalized gambling. But as the market has grown and attracted other industry, the entertainment capital of the world became more appealing.

It will take at least two years for the completion of a new 65,000-seat, $1.9-billion domed stadium to be shared with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that is supposed to open for the 2020 season. …

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Viva Las Vegas for Raiders, but Bucs happy at home in Tampa

It's been more than 20 years since Malcolm Glazer went to an NFL owners meeting desperate for a stadium deal to stay in Tampa. The ensuing drama in 1996 cleared the way for the construction of Raymond James Stadium. Things may not turn out as well for Oakland this week with NFL owners poised to vote on the Raiders' proposed move to Las Vegas.

Times archive

It's been more than 20 years since Malcolm Glazer went to an NFL owners meeting desperate for a stadium deal to stay in Tampa. The ensuing drama in 1996 cleared the way for the construction of Raymond James Stadium. Things may not turn out as well for Oakland this week with NFL owners poised to vote on the Raiders' proposed move to Las Vegas.

At the NFL annual meeting at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach in 1996, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer was desperate for a stadium deal to keep his franchise from moving from Tampa Bay and time was running out. Roger Goodell, who held various positions in the league before becoming the league’s commissioner, was in charge of things like stadium financing and assisting in franchise relocation.

Glazer was known to tap his watch and turn the heat up on negotiations, which was the case at this meeting and again weeks later when he sat with city and county leaders facing a midnight deadline during a contentious battle for a stadium lease.

“You have 59 minutes left,’ Glazer said to Tampa mayor Dick Greco at 11:01 p.m. as they considered putting a half cent sales tax referendum on the ballot to help pay for Raymond James Stadium.

There’s no more sand in the hourglass today for the Oakland Raiders.  At the league’s annual meeting here at the Biltmore resort in Phoenix, owners voted in favor of the Raiders proposed move to Las Vegas. …

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49ers eyeing Bucs defensive end Jacquies Smith

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) celebrates his touchdown as George Johnson forced a fumble from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Smith recovered to take it three yards for a touchdown during second half action at Raymond James Stadium Sunday afternoon in Tampa (10/11/15).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) celebrates his touchdown as George Johnson forced a fumble from the Jacksonville Jaguars and Smith recovered to take it three yards for a touchdown during second half action at Raymond James Stadium Sunday afternoon in Tampa (10/11/15).

Movement has slowed down in the third week of NFL free agency, but the Bucs are at risk of losing a player as the 49ers brought in restricted free agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, who missed nearly all of last season with a torn ACL, for a visit over the weekend.

No offer has been made by the 49ers yet, and the Bucs have the right to match any offer to keep Smith, but San Francisco has about $68-million in remaining salary-cap room, the most in the NFL, so they're in position to overpay and make a tough decision for the Bucs.

Smith, 27, had 13.5 sacks in two seasons with the Bucs in 2014-15 before tearing his ACL on his first snap of the 2016 season while running downfield in kick coverage. Smith is expected to be in position to return healthy for the 2017 season, and that injury perhaps played a role in the Bucs deciding to give him the lowest tender of $1.7-million. Had they offered a second-round tender of about $2.8-million, another team would have to send the Bucs a second-round pick to sign Smith away.

The Bucs still have ample cap room -- $30.2-million, the seventh-most in the NFL -- should the 49ers offer and Tampa Bay want to match. …

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Lavonte David: Bucs motivated as 'team on the cusp'

One lane after another, Bucs linebacker Lavonte David worked his way down 44 bowling lanes at Pin Chasers in Tampa on Sunday afternoon, stopping at each to take pictures and sign autographs with volunteers, donors and children at an event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

David, a national spokesperson for BBBS, took time to attend the Bowl for Kids' Sake event for those who helped with the organization's spring fundraising campaign. With only a few weeks before the Bucs return to the practice fields, he also took a few minutes to talk about his work with BBBS, the Bucs' offseason and his optimism about the 2017 season for Tampa Bay.

Q: I know this event means a lot to you, and it's a chance for you to spend time not only with the local volunteers and the kids they work with, but also those whose donations make that interaction possible. …

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Three Bucs make NFL under-25 team, but not Kwon Alexander

Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season, was left off the NFL's all-under 25 team.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season, was left off the NFL's all-under 25 team.

The league's official site put out an under-25 All-NFL team, showcasing the best young talent from its 32 teams, and the Bucs made a strong showing, with QB Jameis Winston, WR Mike Evans and G Ali Marpet making the list.

No team in the NFL can boast as many players as the Bucs' three -- San Diego, Houston, Kansas City and the New York Giants have two each -- but another Tampa Bay player felt he deserved to make the cut: Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season.

Houston's Benardrick McKinney and Atlanta's Deion Jones were the only traditional linebackers on the 26-person team, and when Bucs fans pointed out the potential snub to writer Elliot Harrison, Alexander chimed in himself on Twitter.

"Yea! Why no Kwon you tell me what I'm doing wrong sir!?" he wrote Wednesday.

On Thursday, Harrison responded: "You had a great year man! Super close calls on Under 25 team. Especially LB!" …

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Bucs may have benefitted from a new OT rule proposal

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) checks on Jude Adjei-Barimah as Oakland's Austin Howard (77) and others celebrate their overtime win over the Bucs in October.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) checks on Jude Adjei-Barimah as Oakland's Austin Howard (77) and others celebrate their overtime win over the Bucs in October.

You don’t see too many ties in the NFL anymore, except for the ones worn by the suits in the league office.

But the truth is, ties can come in many stripes. For instance, had the Bucs tied the Oakland Raiders instead of losing 30-24 in overtime last season, they would’ve made the playoffs at 9-6-1. Instead, they played nearly five complete quarters, then four days later, played a Thursday night game and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 43-28.

Sudden death has been replaced by an overtime system where both teams get an offensive possession unless the team that has the football first scores a touchdown.

Well, now the NFL may mess with the OT system again this week at the annual meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.

The league is proposing shortening the overtime period in the preseason and regular season from 15 to 10 minutes.

The stated purpose is for player safety, and one could also infer, competitive balance. If a team is involved in an overtime game on Sunday and has to play on Thursday night football four days later, well, you’ve got some tired hombres.

Just ask the Bucs.

If this rule was adopted last year, Tampa Bay may have broken what’s now a nine-year playoff drought. …

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