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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs rookies Beckwith, McNichols cleared for training camp

LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwiith (51) fell to the third round after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against Florida Nov. 19.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwiith (51) fell to the third round after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against Florida Nov. 19.

The Bucs took a calculated risk on two injured players that were discounted in the NFL draft and it may pay off.

Louisiana State linebacker Kendell Beckwiith fell to the third round after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against Florida Nov. 19. Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols had surgery on a torn labrum in March and lasted until the fifth round.

Highly productive players in college, both Beckwith and McNichols passed physicals and have been clear for full participation in training camp which begins with the first workout Friday.

Rookies reported to training camp One Buc Place on Tuesday. The full squad will report on Thursday.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Beckwith had 91 tackles for the Tigers last season with one sack and four passes defensed. He will compete with second-year pro Devante Bond at the strong side linebacker position but also could be used as a pass rusher. …

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'Ready to win, and win big:' Dick Vitale sees Bucs going 10-6

ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.

GREG AUMAN | TIMES

ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.

ESPN's Dick Vitale, whose love and optimism for Tampa Bay sports teams goes far beyond basketball, has high hopes for the Bucs in 2017.

"Let me tell you this: Watch out for the Tampa Bay Bucs," said Vitale, wearing a creamsicle orange polo in a video posted on Instagram. "I anticipate a big year. Yes, I'm biased. I'm a season-ticket holder. They were 9-7 last year. 10-6! Jameis Winston's going to have a big year. He's got quality receivers, and I'm telling you, this team is ready to win, and win big."

Vitale, a regular at Rays home games as well, got to announce a Bucs draft pick last year, getting the honors in the fourth round in 2016 when Tampa Bay drafted cornerback Ryan Smith from N.C. Central. He had spent time with the Bucs' Jameis Winston and Donovan Smith before that appearance and came away impressed by two of the Bucs' key young players.

Back in April, Vitale lobbied for the Bucs to move up and get Florida State running back Dalvin Cook -- Tampa Bay ultimately passed on Cook in the first round before he went to the Vikings in the second round at No. 41 overall.

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Red state: Yes, Bill O'Reilly is a Bucs fan

Former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was sporting a red Bucs polo during his "No Spin News" video podcast Monday. An assistant said the shirt was given to him by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.

Former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was sporting a red Bucs polo during his "No Spin News" video podcast Monday. An assistant said the shirt was given to him by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.

TAMPA -- The question was simple enough for Bucs fans: Why is former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly wearing a red Bucs polo?

O'Reilly was wearing the polo during a few video clips from his "No Spin News" podcast posted on his website Monday, which was exciting news for some Bucs fans and not-so-exciting news for others.

The source of his previously unknown Bucs support is right here in the Tampa area: Former Bucs tight end Dave Moore, now part of the Bucs' radio broadcast team, gave the shirt to the popular pundit, according to O'Reilly's assistant.

"Dave is a pal of his. He's a fan of the Bucs," said Makeda Wubneh, who has also worked with O'Reilly as a producer with Fox News, adding that O'Reilly had explained that the shirt was given to him by Moore.

Moore, entering his 11th season as part of the Bucs' radio broadcast team, wasn't in the office Tuesday at Moore Resources, the insurance company he opened in 2008, and couldn't be reached for details. He played 13 of his 15 seasons in the NFL from 1992-2006 with the Bucs, catching 207 passes with 28 touchdowns.

O'Reilly, 67, was fired in April amid an investigation into harassment allegations, ending his run hosting one of the most popular shows in cable television. O'Reilly will appear at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 23 as part of his "The Spin Stops Here!" tour.

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Rank the top 10 Bucs players? Here's what fans said

Bucs receiver Mike Evans celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston during last year's Bucs win against the Seahawks. Evans and Winston finished 1-2 in an informal Twitter poll of fans ranking their top Bucs players.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs receiver Mike Evans celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston during last year's Bucs win against the Seahawks. Evans and Winston finished 1-2 in an informal Twitter poll of fans ranking their top Bucs players.

We mentioned this morning that is was a fun challenge, in response to Sports Illustrated's ranking of the NFL's top 400 players, to ask fans to rank their top 10 Bucs players.

Enough of you turned in the assignment that we decided to add up the votes and see what the collective balloting said. To be clear, this isn't anything scientific -- we asked on Twitter, and we took the first 25 responses and added them up. It's a small sample size, but it's a fun conversation piece, just days before training camp starts.

Twenty different Bucs players received votes -- we're using the old AP top 25 poll style vote-point system, so a first-place vote counts 10 points, second-place 9 and so on. There's some poll oddities, as always -- Gerald McCoy was left entirely off one ballot, for instance, and many people expressed a hesitation to acknowledge a newcomer like DeSean Jackson, who was left off 10 ballots despite establishing himself in the NFL longer than most of the returning Bucs players. Again, it's a Twitter poll.

 

Get a daily report of what's happening inside the locker room and on the field plus a post-game report. …

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How do Bucs players rank? SI puts 16 in their NFL top 400

Bucs receiver Mike Evans, shown at mandatory minicamp last month, was ranked as the No. 70 player in the NFL by Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback. That's much lower than he was ranked in NFL Network's top 100 this summer.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs receiver Mike Evans, shown at mandatory minicamp last month, was ranked as the No. 70 player in the NFL by Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback. That's much lower than he was ranked in NFL Network's top 100 this summer.

It's a fun exercise for Bucs fans: If you had to rank Tampa Bay's best players, how would your top 10 look?

There's no wrong answer, of course, but Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback, fresh off their draft of the top 300 NFL players of all time, took the time to rank the top 400 players in today's NFL. That works out to about 12 per team, so it's promising, then, that the Bucs have 16 on the list, even if they barely have one in the top 50.

We're including one more paragraph just to give you more time to think about your own top 10 -- this is literally just words the may or may not be buffering you from getting to the actual SI results, which would unfairly frame your personal opinion. Without further ado ...

Gerald McCoy is the first Bucs player in at No. 49 (insert Ronde joke here), with Mike Evans the only other in the top 100 at No. 70. This is in fair contrast to the NFL Network's summer top 100, which had Evans at 29, McCoy at 52 and Jameis Winston at 57. Again, no wrong answers. …

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Five undrafted rookies to watch in Bucs training camp

Bucs linebacker Richie Brown, an undrafted rookie trying to make Tampa Bay's roster this preseason, is shown during last year's St. Petersburg Bowl after he recovered a fumble for Mississippi State.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

Bucs linebacker Richie Brown, an undrafted rookie trying to make Tampa Bay's roster this preseason, is shown during last year's St. Petersburg Bowl after he recovered a fumble for Mississippi State.

Rookies report today for Bucs training camp, with veterans joining in Thursday and the first practice Friday morning, and with HBO's "Hard Knocks" chronicling this year's camp, there's always an interest in the underdog storyline of undrafted rookies trying to make the 53-man roster.

A year ago, they were a big part of the Bucs when final cuts came down, with five undrafted rookies making the cut for Week 1: TE Alan Cross, OT Leonard Wester, RB Peyton Barber and DLs DaVonte Lambert and Channing Ward. A year later, all are still on the bubble to varying extents, but Cross and Barber scored touchdowns last year, Lambert had 14 tackles and Ward five.

The Bucs are unlikely to pull off that undrafted rookie phenomenon again, but it's reasonable that a few could make the cut. The Bucs have 18 rookies on roster, including 12 who were undrafted -- here are five with the best chances to stick around and make the 53-man cut. We've already written about many of them this spring: …

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Ronde Barber says comments about McCoy 'sensationalized'

"That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.

Times files (2012)

"That anyone would assume I would say the best player on the defense isn’t a bad dude is irresponsible and sensationalizing a quote to serve their own means,'' Ronde Barber said.

If anyone thinks Ronde Barber was throwing shade at Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, think again.

McCoy may have taken exception to Barber's comments in a story in the Tampa Bay Times Sunday about Dirk Koetter wanting the identity of the Bucs to be that of a 'badass football team.''

On Monday, McCoy had a series of tweets that indicated he felt underappreciated. "You try and try with people but they don't get it. They push you and push you until you cross that line,'' McCoy tweeted. "Well line crossed.'' 

Barber said this about McCoy: "But you see an attitude emerging, especially at linebacker,'' Barber said. "Those two guys, Lavonte (David) and Kwon (Alexander) have to be able to drive the bus, especially Kwon, because he has so much energy,'' Barber said. "If he can consistently be that guy, it will raise the defense. I love Gerald (McCoy), but for a defensive tackle to drive a team, he has to have a huge personality. I mean the personality of (Warren) Sapp or a John Randle.''

A portion of the story was picked up by a fan website with the headline “Gerald McCoy is no badass, says Ronde Barber.' …

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USA Today sees Bucs as 10-6 wild card team in 2017

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy tries to bring down Giants QB Eli Manning in a 2015 game. Tampa Bay and New York are both picked to finish 10-6 in USA Today's preseason predictions, both making the playoffs as wild cards.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy tries to bring down Giants QB Eli Manning in a 2015 game. Tampa Bay and New York are both picked to finish 10-6 in USA Today's preseason predictions, both making the playoffs as wild cards.

Another day, another national outlet making NFL predictions, and this one is promising for Tampa Bay fans, as USA Today's Nate Davis has the Bucs going 10-6 and making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, as a wild card.

"They seem poised to make their first playoff appearance in a decade after diversifying a lopsided offense with WR DeSean Jackson and rookie TE O.J. Howard," writes Davis, who still picks the Falcons to repeat as NFC South champs with a 12-4 record. "RB Doug Martin is apparently recharged, too, though he remains suspended for three games. They'll see Falcons twice and Packers once during Weeks 12-15." …

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Rays' Chris Archer voices support for Bucs' Gerald McCoy, who feels underappreciated

Ever since the Bucs made Gerald McCoy the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, he has struggled to overcome the shadow cast by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Ever since the Bucs made Gerald McCoy the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, he has struggled to overcome the shadow cast by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is mad as hell and he's not taking it any more.

At least that's what he said during a brief rant on Twitter this morning.

McCoy, a five-time Pro Bowl player, took to social media to make his case that he's underappreciated in Tampa Bay and even suggested he might be gone 'soon enough.'

"They won't appreciate you until you're gone,'' McCoy tweeted. "Soon enough though. Then we'll see.

 

"No more being quiet. I'm done holding my tongue. Believe that!

 

"You try and try with people but they don't get it. They push you and push you until you cross that line. Well line crossed.''

 

It's unclear what or whom McCoy is referring to, but a likely candidate is former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber, who also serves as the team's TV analyst during the preseason.

In a story in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times, Barber was asked about which players on the Bucs' were 'Badass,' a phrase used by coach Dirk Koetter to describe what he wants the identity of his team to be. …

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New Bucs player murals go up at Raymond James Stadium

Bucs receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans share a mural on the southeast corner of Raymond James Stadium.

GREG AUMAN | TIMES

Bucs receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans share a mural on the southeast corner of Raymond James Stadium.

Each summer, it's a sign that training camp is soon to arrive at One Buc Place: the changing of the huge player murals on each corner of Raymond James Stadium.

Fans driving on Dale Mabry Highway or Himes Avenue got a first look at the 2017 versions on Sunday, with a few new wrinkles. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has his own mural for the third year in a row -- on the northwest corner of the stadium -- and Jameis Winston has his own for the second straight year on the southwest corner.

What's new for 2017 is the murals on the east side have two players each -- linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are on the northeast corner, and receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans have the southeast corner.

It's always interesting to see which players the Bucs choose to display so prominently around their stadium. The only player gone from last year's murals is running back Doug Martin, which was to expected. This time last year, he was coming off a Pro Bowl season where he finished second in the NFL in rushing; this year, he's facing a three-game suspension and averaged just 2.9 yards per carry last season. …

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As training camp looms, Jameis Winston starts throwing

Bucs QB Jameis Winston throws the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field. The Bucs report to training camp this coming week, with the first practice set for Friday morning.

WILL VRAGOVIC | TIMES

Bucs QB Jameis Winston throws the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field. The Bucs report to training camp this coming week, with the first practice set for Friday morning.

The start of Bucs training camp is mere days away -- rookies report Tuesday, veterans on Thursday, with the first practice Friday morning -- and quarterback Jameis Winston wrapped up his offseason by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch (video here) before Sunday's Rays-Rangers game at Tropicana Field.

"What better way to kick off training camp than by throwing out the first pitch at a Rays game?" wondered Winston, a two-sport standout at Florida State, playing two seasons of baseball in addition to his football. "I'm ready to get on the bump and bring some heat."

Winston was part of the FSU-themed "Chop at the Trop" festivities on Sunday, spending time in the Rays clubhouse before the game and getting a quick hug from Evan Longoria before warming up and throwing a slightly outside pitch to Steven Souza. He also spent two days in Miami as a fan enjoying baseball's All-Star Game earlier this month, but said he's ready for football season to arrive.

"It's going to be great seeing the Buccaneers fans at training camp," he said. "I love this family atmosphere, and that's what we're trying to create in Tampa, seeing all of us come together and put on a show for them." …

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Bucs add top executive from MLS to business side

Atul Khosla, 38, spent the last six years as chief operating officer of MLS' Chicago Fire. He joins the Bucs as their new chief corporate development and brand officer.

CHICAGO FIRE

Atul Khosla, 38, spent the last six years as chief operating officer of MLS' Chicago Fire. He joins the Bucs as their new chief corporate development and brand officer.

The Bucs have hired a top executive from Major League Soccer to their business operations in Atul "AK" Khosla, who has spent the last six years as chief operating officer of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire.

Khosla, 38, will carry the title of chief corporate development and brand officer with the Bucs. He was born in Oman, has an engineering degree from Wisconsin and an MBA from Northwestern, and worked 12 years with General Electric and NBC Sports before joining the Fire. He was recognized as one of Chicago's "40 Under 40" in 2013 by ChicagoBusiness.com.

In six years with the Fire, he set up the team's first local TV contracts, developed youth and rec soccer leagues around Chicago, built a $20-million practice facility and set up a program to subsidize bus travel from downtown to boost attendance.

"AK is a proven club executive that brings an extensive amount of knowledge in the areas of corporate development and brand management," said Brian Ford, the Bucs' chief operating officer. "He will be a great addition to our business side leadership team!"

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Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games

Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.

The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

As an added incentive to buy season tickets or five-game miniplans, the Bucs will have higher individual ticket prices -- $70 for the least expensive upper-level seats instead of the $50 rate by season passes -- for their three most coveted home games this season, against the Patriots, Giants and Bears. The remaining games will be at a higher cost -- $60 each as a starting point -- than what is available through season passes.

As reported earlier this week, the demand on the secondary market, especially for the Patriots game, has been impressively high, with the cheapest seats for Bucs-Patriots drawing $163 on Stubhub. The Giants game has seats starting at $94 and the Bears game at $78, so the highest prices on the resale market match the Bucs' highest tier. The higher prices include the Bucs' two preseason home games, where attendance is generally down -- last year's preseason opener against the Browns drew an announced 46,848, with an actual attendance of 35,298. …

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Jaguars DE Dante Fowler arrested in St. Petersburg

Former Lakewood and Gators star Dante Fowler, now with the Jaguars, was arrested Tuesday night in St. Petersburg on misdemeanor charges of simple battery and mischief.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

Former Lakewood and Gators star Dante Fowler, now with the Jaguars, was arrested Tuesday night in St. Petersburg on misdemeanor charges of simple battery and mischief.

Former Lakewood and Gators star Dante Fowler, entering his third season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was arrested Tuesday night in his hometown of St. Petersburg on misdemeanor charges of simple battery and mischief.

Fowler, 22, was arrested by St. Petersburg Police at 9:02 p.m. Tuesday, and was released at 1:43 a.m. Wednesday on $650 bond.

The arrest report said that Fowler was driving in the Trellis at the Lakes apartment complex Tuesday night around 6:30 p.m. when a man walking in the complex made a comment about his driving. Fowler got out of his car, exchanged words with the man, then "hit the man, knocked his glasses off and stepped on them," according to the report. He then "took the victim's grocery bag, with recently purchased liquor, and threw it in a lake," according to the report, which said the victim was not injured.

The Jaguars issued the following statement Wednesday morning: "The Jaguars are aware of the situation involving defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and are currently gathering more information. The team has been in communication with Dante. No further comment will be made at this time." …

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Tickets for Bucs-Patriots game in high demand

Patriots coach Bill Belichick talks with then-Bucs coach Greg Schiano during a joint practice in Tampa in 2012. New England hasn't played a regular-season game in Tampa since 1997, so there's high demand for tickets to this year's Oct. 5 game against the Bucs.

DANIEL WALLACE | TIMES

Patriots coach Bill Belichick talks with then-Bucs coach Greg Schiano during a joint practice in Tampa in 2012. New England hasn't played a regular-season game in Tampa since 1997, so there's high demand for tickets to this year's Oct. 5 game against the Bucs.

It's still likely another week or so until the Bucs put individual game tickets on sale for the upcoming season, but there's significant demand for the New England Patriots' first game in Tampa in 20 years.

Tickets for the Bucs' Week 5 home game against the Patriots -- that's on Thursday, Oct. 5 -- are selling for a minimum of $163 on Stubhub and $165 on Seatgeek, nearly double the asking price for any of the other seven home games. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has never faced the Bucs in Tampa -- the only other time they would have, in 2009, the Bucs played a "home" game in London.

The Bucs, who already had season tickets available, put five-game mini-plans on sale Tuesday, giving fans another chance to get tickets without paying for all 10 home games. Judging by the interest on the secondary market, those Patriots tickets won't last long at all if they're offered up on an individual basis. …

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