NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
4:40
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The most intriguing player in Tampa Bay's camp is running back Jeff Demps. The Bucs clearly are enchanted by the speed possessed by the former Olympic sprinter. There have been a few moments when Demps has looked like he could turn out to be a very special player. But there also have been some moments where his hands haven't looked as good as his feet. I saw Demps drop two passes and a kickoff return in Monday's practice. If Demps is going to make the roster, he has to show he can catch the ball consistently.
  • Speaking of kickoff returns, it looked like the Bucs were auditioning half their roster Monday. When the Bucs worked on that area, eight different players took turns lining up as return men. In addition to Demps, Eric Page, Chris Owusu, Charles Sims, Solomon Patton, Skye Dawson, Robert Herron and Lavelle Hawkins took turns returning kicks. Page held the job last year, but the Bucs clearly are looking at all alternatives.
  • The play of the day came from unexpected territory. On a fake field goal, punter Michael Koenen threw a touchdown pass to offensive tackle Demar Dotson. "If a lineman gets to cross the goal line, it's a big thing," coach Lovie Smith said.” Demar will tell you he's an athlete."
  • The runner-up for play of the day was a leaping interception of a Mike Glennon pass by linebacker Danny Lansanah. He's a guy that shouldn't be overlooked. He has a chance to make the roster as a fifth or sixth linebacker.
  • After opening camp with Jamon Meredith at left guard and Oniel Cousins at right guard, the Bucs switched things up Monday. Those two ran with the second team while rookie Kadeem Edwards worked at left guard and Patrick Omameh at right guard. Look for the Bucs to continue to rotate their guards. There is an open competition for both starting jobs.
  • A lot of people seem to think free-agent pickup Clinton McDonald is a shoe-in to start at defensive tackle. But Smith keeps talking up Akeem Spence, who started last year as a rookie. I think you could see a rotation where both players get to play to their strengths. Spence is strong against the run and McDonald has some talent as a pass-rusher.
  • Cornerback Alterraun Verner sat out with a hamstring injury. Verner said he was "nicked" up, but that the injury was nothing serious.
  • The Bucs made a few roster moves Monday. They signed cornerback Anthony Gator and defensive tackle Jibreel Black. Running back Brendan Bigelow and wide receiver Quintin Payton were released to make room for the new players.
  • The Bucs get their first day off of training camp on Tuesday. But Smith and his assistants still will work a full day.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
McCown is getting all the first-team work and has looked sharp. The Bucs aren't likely to keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS (6)

The Bucs are infatuated with Demps' speed, but it remains to be seen if he can do enough to earn a roster spot.

RECEIVERS (5)

The slot receiver position is wide open and can be claimed by whoever has the best camp.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Veteran Luke Stocker is very much on the bubble.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

The departure of Carl Nicks leaves the team short at guard. The Bucs may look for help from the outside.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Bowers, who never has lived up to his potential, is on the hot seat. He needs a strong camp to secure a roster spot.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Bucs still could use a little stronger depth at this position.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Leonard Johnson looks like the early favorite to claim the nickelback job.

SAFETIES (4)

Goldson's looking to bounce back after a rough first year with the Bucs. Wright and Tandy provide solid depth.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This won’t change unless there’s an injury.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
6:01
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Buccaneers had their first pads practice of camp Sunday afternoon and it wasn’t very pretty for the offense. There were balls on the ground and the rush broke through on several occasions. But coach Lovie Smith said it’s not time to worry. “I would say it’s normal that the defense does have that advantage just as you start for some reason,’’ Smith said. “Offense is a lot on timing and things like that. We’ve had a couple balls on the ground the last couple days. Of course, we can’t do that. We’re a work in progress still.’’
  • There was one highlight for the offense. It came on a deep pass from backup quarterback Mike Glennon to running back Jeff Demps. “That’s a pretty good situation to get in,’’ Smith said. “Most times, third and short, as a defense, you have to play some form of man. To get a Mike linebacker on the fastest guy in the NFL, I’d throw it to him too.’’ Smith continued to praise Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie but has been replaced by Josh McCown. “He’s had a good offseason in general,’’ Smith said. “He can make all of the throws. I’ve asked him to move into a different role. He’s embraced that. If Mike ends up having to play for us this year we would win a lot of football games. He’s a good football player. Again, this is his second year and there’s still a ways to go but we’re getting there.’’
  • Defensive end Da'Quan Bowers hasn’t been able to carve much of a role for himself in his first three NFL seasons. But the Bucs might be letting him try something new. Bowers has been getting some work at defensive tackle. “He can play inside,’’ Smith said. “On game day, we’re going to dress seven defensive linemen so we need at least one player that can play both inside and outside. Body type-wise, he’s right in that area. I think he could possibly rush third down situations inside and also be able to play more of a six technique on running downs outside.’’
  • Jamon Meredith and Oneil Cousins lined up as the starting guards, but that’s a very fluid situation. Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards also could be under consideration for starting roles. Smith brought up a good point when he said all four guards will get a good test against Tampa Bay’s defensive tackles. “They’re all getting reps right now,’’ Smith said. “We get great evaluations based on what’s on the other side of our guards. You have a player like Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence, we get a good reading on how good those players really are.’’
  • Strong safety Mark Barron revealed he had offseason surgery on his right knee. Although he’s practicing, Barron said he’s not 100 percent healthy yet, but is headed in that direction.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
8:30
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs, who had their practice abbreviated by lightning Friday, got their first full workout of camp in Saturday evening and the results were predictable. There was good and bad. No series summarized that more than a couple of plays near the middle of practice. On one play, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception to strong safety Mark Barron. On the next play, McCown bounced back and hit Vincent Jackson with a perfectly thrown ball. Coach Lovie Smith said he expects the team to be more precise when it puts on pads for the first time on Sunday.
  • Speaking of first practices, Saturday marked the true debut of rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He missed the offseason program due to NCAA regulations and was very limited in the rookie minicamp by a foot injury. But Seferian-Jenkins said his foot is fine now and he practiced with no limitations. After missing so much time, though, Seferian-Jenkins might be a little behind the other tight ends – Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker. “He’s playing catch-up,’’ Smith said. “But he’s catching up.’’
  • It’s usually tough to get players to talk about specific goals, but defensive end Michael Johnson broke that rule of thumb. Johnson set one goal for himself and one for the entire defense. He wants to get back to double-digit sacks like he had in 2012 with Cincinnati. He also said the Bucs want to have the best defense in the league. Those two goals kind of go hand in hand. There’s been a lot of talk about how defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David compare to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who were the cornerstones during Tampa Bay’s glory years. But a lot of people forget the Bucs didn’t fully get over the top until they got Simeon Rice as an outside rusher. If Johnson can make an impact anywhere close to what Rice did, the Bucs could end up being a very good defense.
  • I came into camp very skeptical about Tampa Bay’s depth at wide receiver after Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. But I’m starting to warm up to this position group. No one stood out, but guys like Tommy Streeter, Solomon Patton, Russell Shepard, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Lavelle Hawkins, Eric Page, Skye Dawson and David Gettis each had some bright moments. I think one of those guys will step up and claim the No. 3 job. That may be all the Bucs need because I’m not anticipating a lot of four-receiver sets from this offense.
  • Read into this whatever you want, but Jamon Meredith worked as the first-team left guard and Oniel Cousins worked at right guard. After the departure of Carl Nicks, I think the Bucs still are trying to figure out what they’re going to do at guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards get some looks with the first team.
TAMPA, Fla. – You might be seeing less of Mason Foster right now. But that only means you’ll see more of him during the regular season.

Foster
The fourth-year middle linebacker has a different look after losing seven pounds in the offseason.

“I went on a diet, eating a lot of vegetables, a lot of turkey burgers,’’ Foster said. “It was tough at first, but I got used to and it’s paid off.’’

Foster said he now weighs 235 pounds, and that’s no accident. The coaching staff told Foster to slim down.

“We acknowledged that as a football team we needed to lose some weight,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “Guys did that. We want strong linebackers who can run. I just think weight is one of the most overrated things there is. Strength isn’t, weight is. The lighter we are, the quicker and faster we’ll be.’’

The Bucs need Foster to be quicker. Although he still is playing middle linebacker, the duties of that position are different in Smith’s defense. Foster will be asked to drop into pass coverage more often and that’s why the coaching staff wanted him to slim down.

“I feel a lot quicker, a lot lighter on my feet,’’ Foster said. “I feel better all around. Now that I’m eating right I just feel a lot better.’’

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
8:30
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:


  • You could see them both coming from miles away. First, the Buccaneers had to leave the field nine minutes into their first practice of training camp. Then, just a few minutes later, the team announced it had “mutually agreed’’ to part ways with guard Carl Nicks. Neither event was a surprise. Let’s start with the weather. It’s Florida, it’s July and it's 4:30 p.m. ET. Thunderstorms are the norm. Maybe coach Lovie Smith’s practice schedule isn’t such a good idea. And maybe it’s time for the Bucs to get an indoor practice facility. The team resumed practice at 6:30 p.m., but had to stop again at 7:11. The Bucs got in 50 minutes of practice time, but they did have a 90-minute walkthrough earlier in the day.
  • I speculated this morning that Nicks might be contemplating retirement. I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb. Anyone who followed what was going on with Nicks during the offseason could have predicted an ending like this. Nicks appeared in only two games last season due to a toe injury and a MRSA infection. While sitting out the entire offseason program, Nicks said there was permanent damage to his toe. He tried to get back on the field, but never came close.
  • Let’s be brutally honest here. Without Nicks, the Bucs are in rough shape at guard. They have Patrick Omameh, Oneil Cousins, Jamon Meredith and rookie Kadeem Edwards to compete for the starting job on the left side. I think it’s safe to say the Bucs will be watching the waiver wire closely for guards.
  • More than ever, this is Gerald McCoy’s team. The defensive tackle was the first player on the field, coming out 30 minutes before practice. McCoy already was a leader. But, with cornerback Darrelle Revis gone, McCoy is the highest-profile player on the defense.
  • It was tough to pick out standouts in the abbreviated practice because the Bucs didn’t even get to team drills. But two players stood out. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas had a nice pass breakup in seven-on-seven drills. Casillas did some good things last year, but dealt with some injuries. I’d like to see what Casillas can do over the course of a full season on the strong side. The other player who caught my eye was wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who made a nice catch on a deep pass. There’s a logjam at wide receiver after starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Hawkins has six years of NFL experience and could contend for a roster spot.

Lovie Smith aiming high

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
2:01
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. – It’s the start of training camp around the NFL, and no team has lost a game yet. Hopes are high everywhere, even from teams that struggled last season.

That’s true in Tampa Bay, where coach Lovie Smith said Thursday the goal for the Buccaneers is to go to the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, and win it.

Smith
“Goal wise, it’s the same goal we’re always going to have," Smith said after his players reported to camp. “From 4-12, the goal is to go to Phoenix. It’s destination Phoenix. We want to win the Super Bowl. That’s our plan. Goal-wise, we’re going to talk about winning all of our games at Raymond James (Stadium). We want to win the NFC South division and then see where we can go from there. What record it takes to do that, I don’t know."

It’s natural for any coach to aim high. But Smith knows there’s a lot of work to be done to come anywhere near his goals.

“We are a 4-12 team now," Smith said. “The first thing we have to acknowledge is this is where we’re starting, which we have. That should give us a little more motivation. The ceiling for the team, I don’t know. All I’m going to talk to them about is just daily improvement and let’s see how good we can become, how soon we can become a really good football team. It’s just about the daily effort to me."

Reaching any or all of those goals is not unfathomable despite Tampa Bay’s record last season. The Bucs were extremely aggressive in free agency and Smith and general manager Jason Licht both have said they believed it was unfair to ask their fans to be patient. They want to win now and they think they have the roster to accomplish that.

“You have to come in with high expectations," Smith said. “As I talk about what our ultimate goal is, winning the Super Bowl, it’s all a process. For our players, we have to set that ceiling high right away. We’re starting off as a 4-12 team. Judge us from there and see the improvement and let’s just kind of see where we go."
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reported to training camp Thursday, but guard Carl Nicks didn’t show.

Nicks was excused for personal reasons, according to coach Lovie Smith. Nicks was excused only for the day, Smith said. Apparently, the personal reasons have nothing to do with the toe injury Nicks is attempting to come back from.

“It doesn’t concern me,’’ Smith said. “It’s part of training camp. It’s part of life.’’

Whenever Nicks does report, his health still will be a question mark. Nicks has been cleared for football activities, but the Bucs have indicated they might bring him along slowly. Nicks missed all but two games last season due to the toe injury and a MRSA infection. Nicks also missed the entire offseason program.

Nicks was the only player not to report as the Bucs get ready for their first practice Friday. Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, who both missed the offseason program with injuries, have been cleared and are expected to take part in Friday’s practice.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster:

McCown
QUARTERBACKS (2)

McCown is the present and Glennon the future. The third quarterback can be on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (6)

Arguably the deepest position on the roster. James, Rainey and Sims will compete to be the top backup to Martin. Demps is a project, but he has value as a return man.

Jackson
RECEIVERS (5)

Owusu and Murphy likely will compete for the third receiver spot. But the team is hoping Herron can develop quickly and be the slot receiver.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

A position with lots of depth. Seferian-Jenkins is the future at this position, but Myers and Wright might be the present.

Collins
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There is concern about Nicks’ health. If he’s unable to return, this becomes a real problem area. The depth isn’t great, and the team may have to look to the outside for help.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

The starting four of McCoy, McDonald, Johnson and Clayborn is solid. But spots in the rotation after them are very much up for grabs. Bowers needs a good training camp to secure a roster spot.

David
LINEBACKERS (6)

The last two spots are up for grabs and could end up being filled from the outside.

CORNERBACKS (5)

Banks and Jenkins will compete for the No. 2 job. The loser likely will end up as the nickelback.

Goldson
SAFETIES (4)

There’s good depth here because Wright was a former starter for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago.

SPECIALISTS (3)

This won’t change unless there’s an injury.
Let’s conclude our fact-or-fiction series with coaching and special teams.

1. The arrival of coach Lovie Smith makes the Buccaneers an instant playoff team.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: There's little doubt Smith will be better than predecessor Greg Schiano. Smith is a proven winner in the NFL. Players like working for him and he commands respect. All that being said, Smith still faces a tough job. This team was 4-12 last season. The Bucs were very aggressive in free agency and that will help. But turning this team completely around might be more than a one-year project.

Frazier
2. Leslie Frazier is the luckiest defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Frazier inherits defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. They're among the best in the league at their respective positions and they give Frazier a couple of solid building blocks. David and McCoy have been compared to Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were the central figures of the defense in Tampa Bay's glory days. If Frazier can get solid production from some other role players, the Bucs could have an elite defense.

3. Jeff Tedford's offense is going to bring excitement to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: For the most part, the Bucs have been very quiet about what Tedford's offense will look like. Several players have used the phrase "up tempo" to describe it. That would be a nice twist for an offense that's been boring in recent years. This offense has enough tools to be potent if Tedford can put things together the right way. Doug Martin gives the team a solid runner and Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will be one of the league's biggest receiving tandems. But the real key will be quarterback Josh McCown. If he can thrive in Tedford's offense, this team suddenly can be good.

4. Smith had strong return games in Chicago, so he should bring the same thing to Tampa Bay.

Our take: Fiction.

Justify it: Smith had a strong return game in Chicago mostly because he had Devin Hester. At the moment, the Bucs don't have anyone to compare with Hester. Eric Page handled returns last season and he was ordinary. The Bucs will look at several other possible returners, including Jeff Demps and Charles Sims. Someone could emerge as a strong returner, but the Bucs don't have anyone that's proven yet.

Barth
5. Connor Barth is back, so the kicking game will be fine.

Our take: Fact.

Justify it: Barth missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. He's healthy now and that's great news for the kicking game. Barth is one of the better young kickers in the NFL.
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's Pat Yasinskas examines the three biggest issues facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into training camp.

Josh McCown needs to play like he did last season: McCown’s been a backup most of his career. But he played the best football of his life last season for Chicago after starter Jay Cutler went down with an injury. That was enough to convince the Bucs that McCown can be a productive starter. McCown has history with Lovie Smith, and he already has established himself as one of Tampa Bay’s leaders. The Bucs have made it clear that they view Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future. But the best-case scenario is that Glennon never even gets on the field this season. If he doesn’t, that means McCown is playing well. At 35, McCown has a chance to firmly establish himself as a starter for the first time in his career. His chances of succeeding are good because he's surrounded by good skill-position players such as Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.

Carl Nicks’ health is a key: The left guard played only two games last season while dealing with a toe injury and a MRSA infection. Nicks repeatedly has said he expects to be ready for training camp. But, as of the team’s June minicamp, Nicks hadn’t even started running or cutting. He’s admitted that there is permanent damage to his foot and said he’ll have to play through pain the rest of his career. It all sounds shaky, and you have to wonder if Nicks really can make it back and if he’ll be the same player. The Bucs need Nicks to be what he was earlier in his career. When he’s healthy, Nicks is one of the best guards in the league. He could be the anchor of what has the potential to be a very good offensive line. If Nicks isn’t fully recovered, there’s a sharp drop-off to rookie Kadeem Edwards and veterans Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins.

The pass rush needs to flourish: Smith prides himself on having teams that play strong defense. The Bucs seem to have some talent on defense. But to hit their full potential, they need the pass rush to be strong. The pass rush was a weakness last season, and that’s why the Bucs signed free agents Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald. The Bucs believe Johnson and Adrian Clayborn can bring a strong pass rush from the outside, and McDonald and Gerald McCoy can do the same from the inside. One of the requirements for the Tampa 2 defense is for there to be a strong pass rush from the front four. If the Bucs get that, they’ll be in good shape defensively. The Bucs are in good shape at linebacker and in the secondary. If the pass rush shows up, this defense has a chance to be special.
Over on Buccaneers.com, Scott Smith has an outstanding piece on coach Lovie Smith’s first 100 days on the job. The author was given unprecedented access and that led to a very in-depth piece.

It’s 22 chapters and could pass as a book. It’s a showcase of the behind-the-scenes logic that went into Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht aggressively overhauling the roster. There is all sorts of good stuff and I strongly recommend you read it all when you have time. We don’t have the space to touch on everything here, but there was one particular highlight that jumped out at me.

Smith
It was the coach saying the Buccaneers need to win now.

"We just decided that we couldn't ask our fans to be patient anymore," Lovie Smith said. "We needed to do whatever we could to win now, and we felt like we had a plan that would work. We weren't going to sit back and wait. We were going to attack this, and the fans were going to see that we were serious about making this team better right away.’’

Licht made a similar statement at the NFL owners meeting in March. The two statements should be music to the ears of a fan base that has been starving for a winner. And it’s not just lip service.

Tampa Bay was one of the league’s most active teams in free agency. The end result is that about half of the current 90-man roster was elsewhere last year. That’s a good thing because Tampa Bay needed change after a 4-12 season.

"We evaluated our roster and said, 'These are the positions we need to change,'’’ Lovie Smith said. ‘It's as simple as that, really. We felt we really needed more of an overhaul of the roster. The plan isn't for us to be in this situation ever again, but this is something that was definitely needed.’’

There’s no arguing the last part of that statement. Major changes were needed. The new regime definitely did its part, and the Bucs appear to be in line for a big turnaround this season.
Derrick BrooksUSA TODAY Sports 
Score: 48-21
Date: Jan. 26, 2003. Site: Qualcomm Stadium

We have a winner. The voters picked Derrick Brooks' 44-yard interception return in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl XXXVII victory against the Raiders as the most memorable play in Bucs history, and I respectfully question their selection.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Buccaneers' history?

  •  
    27%
  •  
    60%
  •  
    13%

Discuss (Total votes: 28,863)

Brooks' pick-six was huge. There's no doubt about that. An icon made a memorable play at a big moment. As a symbol, it was as big as it gets, and I don't want to sell it short. But there's another moment that I think had a greater impact -- and Brooks' interception might never have happened without this play. That's why I'm giving my nod for the most memorable play in franchise history to Ronde Barber's interception return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.

Barber's play against the Philadelphia Eagles came late in the fourth quarter with the Eagles driving. He returned the ball 92 yards for a score, sealing a 27-10 victory that sent the Bucs to their only Super Bowl.

His play came in the last game ever at Veterans Stadium. That place was known for raucous crowds. But Barber silenced the stadium in the final minutes.

The Bucs endured more than their share of losing in their first two decades. But Barber's interception and return seemed to make all that go away. If you're a true Tampa Bay fan, you remember exactly where you were the moment Barber's play took place.

That's the mark of the most memorable play in franchise history.
Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears were a consistent contender because they played strong defense. The coach will try to get the same result with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the ingredients are there for that to happen.

David
McCoy
McCoy
Smith inherited some special talent in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. Both are just reaching their prime. Smith has compared McCoy to Warren Sapp and David to Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were the keys to the defense during Tampa Bay’s glory days. The Bucs believe McCoy and David can fill the same roles in the new generation and that a strong defense will help make the franchise relevant again.

McCoy and David are going to be good for years to come and they form a strong foundation. But the Bucs will need some complementary players to come through for this defense to be really good. Defensive end Michael Johnson was brought in as a free agent because the Bucs believe he can bring pressure from the outside. If he does, that’s only going to help McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle.

A strong pass rush will only help a secondary that has good potential, but hasn’t hit it yet. Alterraun Verner was brought in to be the No. 1 cornerback, but the Bucs need Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to step up as the other cornerback and nickelback. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have talent and can form a nice tandem.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster is going to get a chance to play a more significant role than he has in the past. Foster will call the defensive plays and be asked to drop into coverage more than he did in his first three seasons.

This defense will be the key factor in determining if Smith’s regime will succeed. The offense can be average, but the defense has to be special.
Joe JureviciusREUTERS/Jason Cohn 
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: Derrick Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII, and Ronde Barber’s interception return for a touchdown in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.

Score: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10
Date: Jan. 19, 2003 Site: Veteran’s Stadium

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Buccaneers' history?

  •  
    27%
  •  
    60%
  •  
    13%

Discuss (Total votes: 28,863)

In the days leading up to the NFC Championship Game it looked like Tampa Bay receiver Joe Jurevicius might not play. His son had been born prematurely and was critically ill (he died two months later). Jurevicius did not practice that week. But at the last minute, he decided to make the trip.

This was the last game ever played by the Eagles at Veteran’s Stadium, and Philadelphia held a four-game winning streak, including a pair of playoff victories, against the Buccaneers. Jurevicius would make only one catch that day, but it ended up being one of the most emotional and memorable in franchise history.

Late in the first quarter, Jurevicius ran a crossing route and got ahead of linebacker Barry Gardner. He caught Brad Johnson’s pass in stride. Jurevicius was never known for his speed and he seemed to be running forever. He was finally stopped just short of the goal line, but he set up a short touchdown run by Mike Alstott.

“When you put ... a 96-yard touchdown drive together against this defense in Veterans Stadium," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said at the time, "you're kind of like the Lone Ranger, like you're the only person that's done it."

The catch by Jurevicius gave the Bucs an emotional lift and helped them get on a path that led to their first Super Bowl.

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