NFC South: Lee Roy Selmon

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In his 24-minute Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, Derrick Brooks thanked dozens of people from every stage of his career.

There were plenty of emotional moments, but one stood out to me: when Brooks thanked the late Lee Roy Selmon, the first draft pick and the first Hall of Famer in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Lee Roy set the standard, and we’re just trying to walk the path he set for us," Brooks said.

Selmon was much more than a football player. He was elegant, classy and heavily involved in the Tampa Bay community long after his playing days were over. Selmon left this world too soon, and he left a void in Tampa Bay.

But now that void is being filled. Brooks is as close to Selmon as you can get. Of course, Brooks was a tremendous football player. But, like Selmon, Brooks is so much more. Brooks now is the biggest icon in the Tampa Bay region, but he wouldn’t like hearing that. That’s because Brooks is especially humble.

That was best demonstrated when Brooks asked all his Buccaneers teammates who made the trip to Canton, Ohio, to stand and be recognized.

“Please stand up and let me bow and salute you guys," Brooks said.

Brooks had plenty of help. But, perhaps more than anyone, Brooks was responsible for turning around a dismal franchise.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers [were] the team that invented losing," said ESPN’s Chris Berman, who served as the master of ceremonies.

Brooks was drafted in 1995 by a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1982. Joining forces with coach Tony Dungy and teammates such as Warren Sapp, Hardy Nickerson, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks ushered in the most successful era in franchise history. The Bucs became regular playoff contenders and, eventually, Super Bowl champions.

Brooks last played in 2008, but he’s more visible than ever. Brooks founded a high school in Tampa, does all sorts of charity work and works as the president of the Tampa Bay Storm.

“As a servant leader, I just want to do the best I can to make something better when I come into touch with it," Brooks said.

Brooks always has made the things he comes into contact with better. Selmon started that path, but now it’s Brooks’ turn to follow in the footsteps.

Who belongs on Bucs' Mount Rushmore?

February, 13, 2014
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Basketball's LeBron James caused a stir when he said he should be on the NBA's Mount Rushmore. With that in mind, let's have a little fun.

Let's talk about a Mount Rushmore for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There are only four slots available and I'm not seeing anyone on the current roster who deserves that status. There are some current players who can get there, but they're not there yet. That's why I think you have to go back into Tampa Bay's past to determine who deserves to be included.

At least in my eyes, the first three spots are easy. Then, there's a tough call for the fourth spot.

Here are my four choices for a Buccaneers' Mount Rushmore. Feel free to add your thoughts in the accompanying comments section.

Lee Roy Selmon: You have to start with Selmon because he was Tampa Bay's first superstar. He brought respectability to the franchise in its early years and had a Hall of Fame career.

Derrick Brooks: For years, Selmon was unquestionably the best player in franchise history. Selmon's greatness hasn't diminished, but I'd give Brooks the nod as the best player in franchise history now.

Warren Sapp: Like him or not -- and many don't -- you have to give Sapp his props as a player. He was the first Tampa Bay player to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Tony Dungy: This one's a tough call and I had a tough time choosing Dungy over Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Doug Williams, Jon Gruden and John McKay for the final spot. But I'm going with Dungy because he was the first coach to make this franchise consistently respectable. By the way, I'm giving retired tight end Tyji Armstrong special honorable mention for his many contributions.

Around the NFC South

June, 7, 2013
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Let's take our morning jog through some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Matt Ryan was in the conversation for Most Valuable Player early last season. The 2013 season still is a long way off, but Ryan already has one MVP vote.

Receiver Roddy White said anything less than a Super Bowl trip for the Falcons will be a failure. I think a lot of people in Atlanta feel that way.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Receivers coach Ricky Proehl had some strong praise for Armanti Edwards and said the receiver has made big strides this offseason. Edwards needs to keep that going in training camp and the preseason, because he’s on the bubble for a roster spot.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Charles Brown, who has had injury problems throughout his career, said he’s completely healthy. Brown worked at left tackle with the first team in this week’s minicamp, and that means he’ll probably open training camp as the starter. Jason Smith and rookie Terron Armstead also are candidates to start at the position. But Brown seems to have the early lead, and can keep it if he stays healthy.

Jeff Duncan writes that Saalim Hakim stood out during this week’s minicamp. There’s no doubt about that. Hakim looked to be the fastest player on the field. He remains a long shot to make the roster, but his speed could end up convincing the Saints to keep him around as a receiver and return man.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber were voted by fans onto Tampa Bay’s edition of Mt. Rushmore.

Demar Dotson said he wants to be the best right tackle in the NFL. That’s a good ambition to have, but Dotson still has a long way to go to get there.
Doug Martin, Darrelle Revis and Josh FreemanGetty Images, AP Photo, USA TODAY SportsThree reasons Bucs fans can get excited: RB Doug Martin, CB Darrelle Revis and QB Josh Freeman.

TAMPA, Fla. – Of all places, the answer to a question I’d been pondering about four years came in a casual conversation over Memorial Day weekend.

Since about 2009, I’ve been wondering why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had trouble drawing big crowds to Raymond James Stadium and why there seems to be so much indifference about a franchise that used to be the darling of the region.

For four years, we have tossed out theories here that pointed at the team’s on-field performance, the economy and the transient nature of Florida. I have no doubt that all of those are contributing factors. But, all the while, I believed there was something more, something deeper, to the equation.

I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then, by chance, I ran into an old friend at a charity event Sunday. With one sentence, he started to put it all into perspective.

"I hope this is the year I can fall back in love with the Bucs," he said.

This is a guy who was as much of a die-hard Bucs fan as you could find when I lived here back in the late 1990s. Heck, he even sang the national anthem before a game and called it the proudest moment of his life.

So how, I asked, did he fall out of love with the Bucs?

His answer set off bells. He said that, in the 1970s and '80s, the Bucs were new and, no matter how bad they often were, he had to love them. Then, coach Tony Dungy came along in the mid-1990s and started winning games and, in the words of my friend, became part of "the fabric of the community."

Dungy left, but many of his players stayed and helped Jon Gruden win a Super Bowl, and things remained rosy for a while. But sometime toward the end of the Gruden era, my friend said, the Bucs stopped being lovable.

He has a point. For the past few years, the Bucs have been bland -- on and off the field. The team has lacked star power and hasn’t won a playoff game since it won the Super Bowl more than a decade ago. Even general manager Mark Dominik said soon after coach Greg Schiano was hired last year that one of the franchise’s goals was to give the fan base a team it could love again.

Maybe my friend and a lot of other disenchanted Bucs fans are about to get their wish. They’re far from a finished product, but I look at the Bucs and I see a lot of ingredients fans can fall in love with.

They can’t bring back Dungy, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Mike Alstott, but maybe the Bucs already have some parts in place that soon will be embraced all around Tampa Bay.

I see six prime candidates who could bring back the magic:

Doug Martin: The running back had a spectacular rookie season and should only be better with guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph at full health. Back in the day, Alstott, Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams were all runners who were loved by Tampa Bay fans. Each of them had some great moments. But, when I look at Martin, I see a guy who could be better than any of them on the field. I also see a guy with a magnetic personality and a great nickname ("The Muscle Hamster"). This region is waiting for a superstar, and I think Martin, partly because he plays an offensive skill position and partly because he has some charisma, is the first in line to fill that role.

Gerald McCoy: Now that I think more about this concept of falling out of love with the Bucs, I think McCoy’s biggest curse might have been that he came along at the worst possible time. Drafted third overall in 2010 and possessing a big personality, the defensive tackle instantly would have been loved under ordinary circumstances. But McCoy arrived at a time when fans were suspicious about everything involving the Bucs. He started his career under a microscope, and it didn’t help when injuries interrupted his first two seasons. There was talk of McCoy being a "bust." But he put a Pro Bowl season on the table last year, and maybe it’s time for fans to stop doubting and start accepting McCoy.

Darrelle Revis: When the Bucs traded for Revis before the draft, I was surprised by the reaction around town because it usually started with something like, "That’s a lot to give up for a guy with a bad knee." Yeah, it’s true that Revis is coming off major knee surgery. But the Bucs wouldn’t have made the trade or handed Revis a huge new contract if their medical people weren’t pretty certain the knee will be fine. If it is, the Bucs will have the best cornerback in football and perhaps the biggest superstar this franchise has ever had. When a cloud has been hanging over your favorite team for a long time, it’s tough to envision a best-case scenario. But maybe that’s what the Bucs got with Revis.

Lavonte David: At least with David, some fans started looking past the clouds last year. As a rookie, David drew some comparisons to Brooks. He stepped right, made plays and quickly was running the defense. Aside from Lee Roy Selmon, Brooks might be the most loved Tampa Bay player ever. If David ends up being even anything close to what Brooks was in the long term, the Bucs have a keeper.

Josh Freeman: Coming off a season in which he set numerous franchise records, Freeman still is a question mark in the eyes of fans and, apparently, his coach. That’s somewhat understandable because there were a few times when Freeman was really bad last year. Still, there were enough good moments last year, and throughout his career, that fans should be able to look at the potential and see the franchise quarterback Tampa Bay never has had. Can he firmly claim that role? That last part is up to Freeman. Schiano has danced around his feelings about Freeman, and he drafted quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round. If your coach isn’t sold on the quarterback, how can you expect your fans to be? If Freeman can put it all together this season, though, he’ll get a big new contract and everything will be fine in Tampa Bay.

Schiano: The sense I get is that fans don’t run hot or cold when it comes to Schiano because the coach remains a mystery. I’m still not sure that Schiano’s collegiate style will succeed in the NFL, but I’ve seen some encouraging signs. Like Dungy, Schiano doesn’t want guys who don’t fit his no-nonsense style (see Kellen Winslow, Aqib Talib and LeGarrette Blount). But Schiano doesn’t need to be exactly like Dungy. He just needs to deliver wins, and fans will warm to him. They’ll also fall back in love with the Bucs.

NFC South afternoon update

May, 2, 2013
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Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs did more than make the official announcement that Warren Sapp will be the next inductee into the team’s Ring of Honor. The Bucs also announced that Sapp’s number (99) will be retired. The late Lee Roy Selmon is the only other Tampa Bay player to have his number retired. Sapp will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and the Ring of Honor ceremony will take place Nov. 11 when the Bucs host Miami.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Charlie Campbell calls linebacker Chase Thomas the best signing of an undrafted free agent in the entire league. Thomas has some pass-rush skills and could have a chance to compete with Martez Wilson and Junior Galette.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

In an interview with Charlotte’s WFNZ, general manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t go much further than to say running back DeAngelo Williams is on the roster "right now." Go ahead and start the speculation (again) that Williams could be traded or released. The Panthers have way too much money invested in their running backs and unloading Williams could free up a lot of cap space now and in the future.

ATLANTA FALCONS

In this radio interview, cornerback Asante Samuel said he would respect Tim Tebow if he walked into Atlanta’s locker room. Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen. The Falcons aren’t looking to put in a gimmick package in their offense because there’s no way they want to take the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands.

Samuel might not be the only Atlanta player with that last name. Former Georgia player Richard Samuel reportedly will get a tryout during this week’s rookie camp. The younger Samuel bounced between running back and linebacker in college and his best bet to earn an NFL roster spot might be as a special-teams player.

Chris Polian, who spent last season in Atlanta's scouting department, has left to become pro personnel director in Jacksonville. Polian is joining Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell, who previously worked for the Falcons.

The team announced it will hold combined practices with the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 5 and 6. The two teams will play an exhibition game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 8.

Warren Sapp headed to Hall of Fame

February, 2, 2013
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NEW ORLEANS -- Warren Sapp is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The former Tampa Bay defensive tackle was selected in his first year of eligibility. He becomes just the second player to spend the bulk of his career with the Bucs to make the Hall of Fame. Defensive end Lee Roy Selmon was the first.

I just got finished with a very lengthy voting process. I’ll be back in a bit with analysis on Sapp’s selection.

Freeman, Bucs breaking new ground

November, 15, 2012
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This really has been true for only five weeks, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the most exciting offense in franchise history and they have a true franchise quarterback for the first time.

Start thinking about the history of this franchise, because that’s a part of why I feel comfortable making those statements. We’ll run through that inglorious history in just a moment, but let’s start with the past five games.

In that stretch, Josh Freeman, who entered the season as a huge question mark, has established himself as a big-time quarterback. Rookie running back Doug Martin has become such a phenomenon that he finally might have shed that nickname he doesn’t like. And wide receiver Vincent Jackson has turned out to be worth every penny of that five-year, $55 million contract he signed back in March.

In each of the past five games, the Bucs have scored at least 28 points. When’s the last time that happened?

Never.

What’s happened in the past five games has vaulted the Bucs into the league lead in average yards per play (6.21). They’re averaging 28.9 points per game, which ranks them behind only New England (see Brady, Tom) and Denver (see Manning, Peyton). Speaking of Manning, he’s second in the league with an average of 8.20 yards per pass attempt. Freeman is No. 1 at 8.27.

Martin had a 251-yard, four-touchdown game at Oakland and has turned out to be the “all-purpose back” that coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik talked about on the night they drafted him.

Jackson’s leading the league among players with at least 30 receptions by averaging 21.4 yards per reception. Heck, teammate Mike Williams is second at 18.3.

Heck, if this keeps up, we might be calling Freeman, Martin and Jackson “The Triplets,” the way Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin used to be referred to in their Dallas glory days. At times, some people got carried away and called the Cowboys’ stars “The Quadruplets” because they actually thought Alvin Harper was good.

That’s a perfect way to jump back into the history of offensive football and the Buccaneers. Harper was the receiver the Bucs signed in the mid-1990s to be their Irvin. Instead, the thing most Tampa Bay fans remember about him is that he got part of his finger sliced off in a training room accident.

For their entire existence, including the good years, the Bucs have been anywhere from dismal to mediocre on offense. They won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson as their quarterback and Monte Kiffin commanding a defense for the ages. They won a lot of games and tasted their first sustained success under coach Tony Dungy ... with Kiffin commanding a defense for the ages.

At one point in the 1990s, Tampa Bay’s bread-and-butter offensive play was having Errict Rhett run into Mike Alstott’s back and fall as far forward as possible. They later upgraded and had Warrick Dunn run into Alstott’s back and actually make a cut or two.

Even back during the first rise to prominence (1979), Tampa Bay was much more defined by Lee Roy Selmon and the defense than it was by the offense and Doug Williams.

Speaking of Williams, he was the best quarterback in franchise history -- until Freeman’s emergence. Between them, the Bucs have trotted out the likes of Steve Young (before he became Steve Young in San Francisco), Vinny Testaverde, Craig Erickson, Trent Dilfer, Shaun King, Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia.

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin, Mike Williams, Vincent Smith
Matt Stamey/US PresswireA supporting cast that features receivers Mike Williams (19) and Vincent Jackson (83) and running back Doug Martin makes the Bucs' offense so fearsome.
Although Young, Testaverde and Dilfer had talent, they never had a chance in Tampa Bay because they didn’t have a supporting cast. Williams was easily the best quarterback in Tampa Bay history, but I’m not sure you can call him a franchise quarterback because his tenure lasted from 1978 until he left for the United States Football League in a contract squabble following the 1982 season.

Freeman’s not going to follow a similar route. He’s under contract through 2013, but, after what he has shown this season, I think it’s safe to say Freeman’s going to be around a lot longer than that. Sometime in the offseason, the Bucs almost certainly will give Freeman a big contract extension.

Freeman has bounced back from the disastrous final season of the Raheem Morris era. He’s turned out to be everything Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said he would be upon their arrival. Schiano and Sullivan said they wanted to build an offense that ran the ball consistently and they wanted to take some shots downfield in the passing game.

That formula’s working. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Freeman leads the league with 19 completions on throws of 20 yards or more. Jackson leads the NFL with 10 receptions on throws of 20 yards or more.

Mike Williams has revived a career that seemed to stall last year. The Bucs plucked receiver Tiquan Underwood off the scrap heap and he’s turning in big plays. Martin is making things happen in the running game and as a receiver, and the offense is clicking, despite the fact the Bucs are without injured Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph.

For the longest time, there was a joke in Tampa that the most exciting offense the region ever saw was the “Fun and Gun” orchestrated by Steve Spurrier and the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, who, briefly, were more popular than the Bucs in the 1980s.

Those Bandits were wildly entertaining, but part of the reason they’re so fondly remembered is because the Bucs always were boring -- and usually bad -- on offense.

Until now.

Around the NFC South

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
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Time for a look at the Thursday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

John Manasso writes that cornerback Dunta Robinson finally is playing up to the expectations for him after he signed a big contract with the Falcons in 2010. I’m not sure that Robinson was a total bust in his first two seasons in Atlanta, but he certainly didn’t make many big plays. Robinson is starting to make big plays now. I think that has a lot to do with the arrival of coordinator Mike Nolan. A lot of guys on this defense that didn’t make big plays in the past are starting to make them.

In a conference call with the Oakland media, tight end Tony Gonzalez fondly recalled his many games against the Raiders while he was playing for Kansas City. Gonzalez will face the Raiders on Sunday for the first time since he left the Chiefs.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Although the team hasn’t asked officially yet for financial assistance with planned renovations of Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte City Council has told city staff to meet with the Panthers. Team owner Jerry Richardson got the stadium built without any taxpayer money, but it sounds like the Panthers wouldn’t be opposed to getting some public funding as they try to upgrade the stadium.

The newborn son of tight end Greg Olsen will have the first of three scheduled open-heart surgeries on Thursday.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Although the NFL claims it interviewed former Minnesota defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy about the alleged bounty program, Kennedy is denying he ever met with NFL officials about the matter.

Gary Estwick writes that linebacker Curtis Lofton has been a bright spot for the defense. That’s true, but Lofton probably has been the only bright spot and he can’t carry a defense all by himself.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Tampa Tribune reports that Oct. 20 will be declared Lee Roy Selmon Day. Selmon was the first draft pick in franchise history and went on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2011.

Tom Jones writes that Sunday’s game against the Chiefs is pretty close to a must-win situation for the Bucs. He’s right. The Bucs have been getting a bit of a pass early on because they have a new coaching staff and they have shown improvement in some areas. But there comes a time when it should become clear that a new coaching staff has a team headed in the right direction. A victory against a struggling team like the Chiefs shouldn’t be that difficult to come by and it would be a small, but positive, step for the Bucs.
I’m just glancing through the NFL’s official Record & Fact Book for 2012 and I stumbled up on an area that I think is worth discussing: retired numbers.

The NFC South has only eight of them. The Chicago Bears have 13 retired numbers. The San Francisco 49ers have 12 and the New York Giants have 11.

I realize the four NFC South teams haven’t been around as long as some of the storied franchises. But only one team has more than two numbers retired and two teams have only one.

Atlanta retired the numbers of Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60).

New Orleans retired Jim Taylor’s No. 31 and Doug Atkins’ No. 81.

Carolina’s only retired number is Sam Mills’ No. 51 and Tampa Bay’s lone retired jersey is Lee Roy Selmon’s No. 63.

I think you could make a case that Atlanta should retire Deion Sanders' jersey, even though he wasn’t with the Falcons that long. He changed the game and put the Falcons on the map in Atlanta. I think New Orleans should have retired Mills’ jersey long ago. Mills spent more time and had a bigger impact in New Orleans than he did in Carolina. For that matter, I’d say the Saints should retire the numbers of Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf. They were, after all, good enough to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

I’m not sure Carolina has another realistic candidate right now. But John Kasay and Steve Smith should have their numbers retired the second they quit the game.

Tampa Bay? The Bucs weren’t exactly a dynasty in their early days. Some would make the case that Doug Williams should have his number retired even though his Tampa Bay career was relatively short. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon because Williams left the team’s personnel department on bad terms. He’s been passed over for the team’s Ring of Honor twice. Tampa Bay has some potential candidates on the horizon. I think you can at least make a case for Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Elbert Mack (I’m only kidding on Mack) to have their numbers retired. But when do you do that? I’m thinking you make those calls when you put those guys in the Ring of Honor.

NFC South evening update

June, 4, 2012
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METAIRIE, LA. -- Looks like it was fairly quiet as I made my way from Tampa over to Louisiana on Monday afternoon to cover New Orleans Saints' minicamp Tuesday.

There weren’t many headlines to choose from, so let’s take a quick run through the ones that were most significant.
  • In what has been a strange offseason in New Orleans, here’s another strange story. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who is suspended for the first eight games of the season, watched players work out for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. Saints owner Tom Benson recently agreed to buy the basketball team and has said Loomis will have a supervisory role. That’s great. Loomis knows how to conduct business, but shouldn’t he have all his attention at the moment focused on getting quarterback Drew Brees signed to a long-term deal?
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hold a news conference Wednesday to announce the next member of their Ring of Honor. This could come with some drama. The Bucs previously have inducted John McKay, Lee Roy Selmon and Jimmie Giles. The next logical inductee would be former quarterback Doug Williams. But he left a position with the team’s front office on bad terms. The Bucs could try to rebuild that bridge by going with Williams or they could go with some other candidates from their early history -- like Kevin House or Ricky Bell. The other option would seem to be skipping ahead to guys like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Mike Alstott. Or the Bucs could skip only slightly ahead and go with someone like offensive tackle Paul Gruber. My guess is the Bucs will stay true to history and induct someone from the 1970s or ‘80s. Once they jump to players from the 1990s, it will be difficult to go back in time.
  • Mike Triplett points out the Saints still have some other appeals pending on their punishments in the bounty program. All of them may be long shots, but the Saints, particularly linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith have nothing to lose at this point.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to say they will build through the NFL draft and I think that largely is true. But the Bucs aren’t going to hesitate when it comes to trying to add some veterans to fill holes. The latest example came Monday as the Bucs signed defensive linemen Wallace Gilberry and Jayme Mitchell. Both have spent the last few seasons bouncing around the NFL. With Da’Quan Bowers recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, the Bucs need to look under every rock for potential help on the defensive line.
As hard as it may be to believe, there actually have been a couple of bright spots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

Those are rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn and rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster. Clayborn was a first-round pick and Foster was a third-round choice.

Let’s start with Clayborn. He leads the team with 7.5 sacks. That’s the second-most ever by a rookie in franchise history. The record (10 sacks) was set by Santana Dotson in 1992. Clayborn already has 2.5 more sacks than Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon had in his rookie season, 1976.

Clayborn is tied for the league lead in sacks by rookie defensive linemen. Cleveland’s Jabaal Sheard also has 7.5. Vonn Miller (11.5) and Aldon Smith (10.5) have more sacks, but they are linebackers.

Clayborn also leads the Bucs with 25 quarterback pressures. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who suffered a season-ending injury, is second on the team with 13 pressures.

Foster has been starting at middle linebacker since opening day. He leads the team with 114 tackles, according to statistics kept by the team. The franchise rookie record for tackles is 151 by Hugh Green in 1981. Tackles aren’t an official statistic. But, if you go by NFL.com’s numbers, Foster leads all rookies with 71 tackles.

Foster also is the only rookie in the league to record at least one tackle, sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception this season. Foster also is one of only two Buccaneers to record at least one tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, pass defensed, forced fumble and fumble recovery this season. The other is veteran cornerback Ronde Barber.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:

[+] EnlargeLee Roy Selmon
Manny Rubio/US PresswireThe Bucs will wear throwback uniforms Sunday, hoping for results like the teams led by Lee Roy Selmon used to get.
Creamsicle time: The Buccaneers will be wearing their throwback uniforms against Carolina. Yeah, the orange and white uniforms are back. Might not be a bad thing, because at least in the days of Lee Roy Selmon and John McKay the Bucs actually were capable of playing very good defense. Tampa Bay has a (slightly) better record than Carolina, and the Bucs are playing at home. But I have a tough time seeing a Tampa Bay win, unless the defense suddenly starts making some tackles. Since Week 5, the Bucs have allowed an average of 30.6 points per game. Only the Colts (31.3) have allowed more. The Bucs also are allowing a league-worst 6.5 yards per play in that span.

Breaking in the rookie: After losing Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to injuries, the Texans are expected to start rookie quarterback T.J. Yates against the Falcons. Good luck with that. Since 2002, the Falcons are 11-1 when facing a rookie quarterback. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the only team with a better record against rookie quarterbacks in that span is the Steelers (14-1).

Happy (almost) anniversary: Atlanta’s defense is coming up on what would be a very big milestone. The Falcons have not allowed an individual running back to rush for 100 yards in 14 straight games. The last time it happened was when Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart went over 100 yards on Dec. 12, 2010.

A tip for the Detroit defense: Hey, any defense going up against the Saints can use all the help it can get. If it’s third down, you might want to put some tight coverage on New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. He’s caught 13 passes on third downs this season. All 13 have been turned into first downs.

Shades of 2009: I’ve said several times that the Saints of this season are starting to remind me of the Saints of 2009, who went on to win the Super Bowl. Here’s the latest example. A victory against the Lions would put the Saints at 6-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for only the second time in franchise history. The only other time that happened was 2009.

Around the NFC South

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
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CHICAGO -- As the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers get ready for Sunday's season openers, let's take a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

The Carolina Panthers continue to take care of their own. Safety Charles Godfrey reportedly has agreed to a contract extension.

Although a lot of wide receivers are individualists, Atlanta rookie Julio Jones is a team player, according to quarterback Matt Ryan.

Atlanta running back Michael Turner grew up in the Chicago area and has been in the league for eight years. But he’ll play at Soldier Field for the first time Sunday.

Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said he would like to see his team go deep into the playoffs. The team’s yet to win a playoff game under coach Mike Smith and, after offseason moves to get Jones and defensive end Ray Edwards, the pressure is on.

Marques Colston’s broken collarbone leaves the Saints without their top receiver for at least four weeks. The Saints were without Lance Moore (groin) for the opener and it’s unknown if Moore will be able to play next week against the Bears. If Moore is out again, the Saints suddenly would be very thin at receiver. They’d have Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. But, after that, they’d have only Courtney Roby and Adrian Arrington. Roby primarily is a return man and Arrington is very inexperienced.

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer referred to Lee Roy Selmon as a “gentle giant’’ and a "Tampa Bay treasure'' during Friday’s memorial service for the Tampa Bay Hall of Famer.

Around the NFC South

September, 9, 2011
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APPLETON, Wis. -- Before we take a look at some statistics to reflect on the Saints' loss to the Packers on Thursday night, let's take a look at some headlines from around the rest of the division.

Mark Bradley writes that Atlanta’s 0-4 record in the preseason doesn’t matter. He’s right. Despite the winless preseason, I thought Atlanta’s starters looked better than anyone else’s in the NFC South during most of the exhibitions. The backups didn’t look great. That’s why they’re backups.

Keep a close eye on this situation. Carolina linebacker Jon Beason sat out Thursday’s practice because of soreness in his foot. Beason had surgery recently. The Panthers say they still expect Beason to play Sunday, but the soreness is not a good sign. If Beason is out, Carolina is without its defensive leader.

Raheem Morris has made a lot of impressive moves since taking over as coach of the Buccaneers. But this one might be the most impressive. Morris is taking the entire team to Friday’s funeral service for Tampa Bay legend Lee Roy Selmon. A lot of football coaches wouldn’t want to disrupt their schedule. Give Morris credit for realizing the significance of Selmon.

Jags Journal has something unique. It’s an All-Florida team, made up of members of the Bucs, Jaguars and Dolphins. The team is heavy with Buccaneers.

Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb has a pretty good idea of what he’ll see from Carolina’s defense Sunday. Kolb played in Philadelphia when Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was there. Kolb said he expects to see plenty of blitzes.

Details on Lee Roy Selmon services

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
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Many of you have been asking for details about services for Pro Football Hall of Fame member Lee Roy Selmon.

Friend and former colleague Joey Johnston of The Tampa Tribune just passed along the word and I wanted to share it with you as soon as possible. Selmon died Sunday night at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He was 56.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 10 a.m. ET at Idlewild Baptist Church, 18371 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz. A visitation will be held Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church 2923 N. Tampa Street in Tampa.

Final services and interment will be held in Oklahoma City at a later date.

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