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Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist

Tom Jones

Tom Jones writes columns and television/radio commentary for the Tampa Bay Times' Sports section. He has covered everything from high schools to colleges to professional sports since starting with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1986. After the Independent, Tom worked at the Times (1987-91), the Tampa Tribune (1991-96), the Times again (1996-2000), the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2000-03) and returned for his third stint at the Times in 2003. Though he has covered all sports, Tom is a hockey writer at heart. He covered the Tampa Bay Lightning from its first game in 1992 until moving to Minnesota to cover the Wild for three years. He returned to the Times again to cover the Lightning until taking over as writer and editor for Page Two in 2006. He lists Herb Brooks, Lou Piniella and Wayne Gretzky as the most interesting personalities he has covered and the 2002 Winter Olympics as the best event he has covered. Tom co-hosts a sports talk show weekday mornings from 6-9 on WDAE 620-AM, 95.3-FM. He previously hosted a weekly sports roundtable show on Bright House Sports Network.

Phone: (727) 893-8544


Radio talk show (620-AM, 95.3-FM): Listen live

  1. Jones: Rather than criticizing anthem protests, we should be asking about the reasons for them


    MINNEAPOLIS — They are football players. They are teammates. They are Tampa Bay Bucs.

    But before that, they are something else.

    They are Americans. And they are human beings.

    And that gives Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson the right to do what they did Sunday.

    As the national anthem played before their game against the Vikings, they knelt and placed their hands over their hearts....

    Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where's this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?


    MINNEAPOLIS — Times columnist Tom Jones gives his report card from the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday:


    Is this 2016 all over again? The Bucs won their opener last year and were the talk of the NFL. Then they went out to Arizona, got pounded 40-7 and that started a three-game losing streak. The Bucs now better "fix things,'' as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy put it, to avoid another 1-3 start. Last week's blowout of the Bears is long forgotten now. The NFL is a funny thing. Win and everyone thinks you're a Super Bowl contender. Lose and you're the worst team in football. Which team are they? The one that was so good against the Bears or the one that was so bad against the Vikings. GRADE: U for Unsatisfactory....

    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) intercepts a Jameis Winston pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Vikings: Instant analysis from Tampa Bay's 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — Here's the Tampa Bay Times' Bucs coverage team's instant analysis from the Bucs' 34-17 loss at Minnesota Sunday.


    The Bucs can't beat Case Keenum. He is 3-0 against them in the last three years as a starter and 7-16 vs everyone else. Injuries hurt the D but where was the offense?

    — Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud


    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright (17) dives over the pylon for a touchdown as  Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where’s this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?


    O NO
    True, the Bucs defense looked pretty leaky in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings. But you know what needs to happen when the defense is getting torched? The offense needs to step up. In games such as these, with defensive players seemingly getting hurt every play, the offense needs to outscore the other team. Where's this offense we heard about all offseason? Where are all these weapons? Where's the explosiveness? Where are the points? While Minnesota was busy putting up 21 first-half points, know how many the Bucs were putting up? A measly three. Once the score was 28-3 early in the third quarter, it was too late. It was mop-up time and all ensuing stats were pretty much meaningless. The Bucs offense needed to make noise in the first half, not the second. GRADE: D-minus....

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is sacked by Minnesota's Everson Griffen.
  5. Bucs-Vikings: What if O.J. Howard and Dalvin Cook had both been taken?


    So what if the Bucs had taken neither O.J. Howard nor Dalvin Cook with the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?

    It could easily have happened. No one expected Howard to be available at No. 19. Let's say someone else took him first. And let's say someone else took Cook, such as Jacksonville, which took LSU back Leonard Fournette at No. 3, or Carolina, which took Stanford back Christian McCaffrey at No. 8....

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  6. Wish the Bucs had taken Dalvin Cook? Read this


    It will happen sometime Sunday afternoon.

    Maybe he will take a handoff and juke his way around a defender. Maybe he will burst into a hole, put his head down and barrel over a linebacker. Maybe he'll take a swing pass and race 80 yards down the sidelines for touchdown.

    And when he does, that's when it will happen.

    Someone will say, "Man, that guy would look in a Tampa Bay Bucs uniform.''...

    Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo (56) tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
  7. Chris Archer, 25,000 Cubs fans and Tampa Bay's painful truth

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.

    It was when Chicago's Kyle Schwarber blasted a home run in the second inning. Most of the 25,046 in attendance went bonkers.

    Sounded like Wrigley Field.

    We've seen this kind of thing before. Like when the Yankees or Red Sox come to the Trop. Or when the Red Wings or Maple Leafs come to Amalie Arena. Or the Packers or Eagles come to Raymond James Stadium....

    "W" flags fly in the stands after the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Rays Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  8. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    But all eyes are on the manager in the opposing dugout. Cubs and former Rays manager Joe Maddon is back in town.

    Maddon: Baseball's Most Interesting Man. Maddon: hip, smart, funny, cultured. He's unlike anyone baseball has ever seen. He meditates. Listens to Springsteen. Drives antique cars. And he drinks wine. When they're not calling him a genius, they are calling him Merlot Joe....

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494
  9. Jones: Never mind the opponent; Bucs kicked the snot out of another NFL team


    TAMPA — Who cares how lousy the other team was? So what if their quarterback is a bum? So what if the other guys looked like they spent the week watching Football Follies instead of game film?

    Don't let any of that distract you from the real story: The Bucs finally took the field and kicked the snot out of another team. While all those Screamin' A. Heads on ESPN will shout about how crummy the Bears are, around here, we have something else to talk about:...

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Jameis Winston (3) celebrate after connecting for a touchdown during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  10. Jones: A play for the ages can't mask Gators' stench


    GAINESVILLE — The ending will never be forgotten. It will live in Gators lore. Forever.

    A Hail Mary. On the game's final play. To beat rival Tennessee.

    Oh my.

    "You can't put into words what just happened," said Florida's Feleipe Franks, the quarterback who heaved the ball more than 65 yards in the air.

    "Crazy, man," said Gators receiver Tyrie Cleveland, who caught the ball in the end zone to give Florida a stunning 26-20 victory over Tennessee on Saturday....

    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) looks for a receiver against Tennessee during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) GVP110
  11. Jones: Does the Lightning have another Cup run in it? (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Well, Lightning, which is it? Which way are you going to go?

    As training camp opened Thursday, that was the question, the only question.

    Are you once again a playoff team capable of making another serious run at the Stanley Cup?

    Or was last season's playoff miss the start of a downward spiral to the obscure land of Coyotes and Devils?

    It's a scary topic if the you're the Lightning, because there's no getting around it. Time is ticking. You don't get many chances to compete for Stanley Cups, and you wonder how much time is left before the Lightning's window closes....

    Hitting the exercise bikes are, clockwise from bottom left, Ondrej Palat, Andrej Sustr, Braydon Coburn and Alex Killorn.
  12. Jones: Thank goodness for the distraction of sports after an awful week


    The past week has been awful.

    For us Floridians, can you ever remember such a sense of dread and anxiousness as we had in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Irma?

    We all wanted to stay. We all wanted to leave. We didn't know when to go, where to go, if to go.

    No answer felt right.

    We watched the storm wobble east and west, then back east again, wondering exactly where she was going to go and how strong she was going to be when she got there....

    Raise your hand if you're ready for a return to sports as a welcome distraction from recent weather woes. (Loren Elliott, Times)
  13. Jones: 10 takeaways from the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    The great Hard Knocks experience is over. And the Bucs not only survived, they thrived.

    HBO's behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team during training camp is often greeted with a stiff arm by teams. In the ever-secret world of the NFL, no team wants the rest of the country — and the other 31 NFL teams — peeking under their rugs to see what dirt there is....

    Crew members from HBO's "Hard Knocks" film Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) during training camp Saturday at One Buccaneer Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  14. Jones: A look at the final episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    A look back at Tuesday's series finale of Hard Knocks on HBO.


    Watching defensive tackle Gerald McCoy dancing to his college fight song — Boomer Sooner — was both disturbing and hilarious. You don't want to see it, but you can't look away either.


    Offensive coordinator Todd Monken telling wide receiver Bobo Wilson, "You're killing me." Former FSU teammate Jameis Winston calls him a young Antonio Brown. Hmm, don't know about that. Then again, how fun was it watching Winston go crazy when Wilson almost scored a touchdown in the preseason finale against Washington? Almost as fun as watching Monken telling Wilson how lame his end zone celebration was....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) celebrates with wide receiver DeSean Jackson after connecting for a touchdown during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017.
  15. Jones: Deondre Francois injury makes bad weekend worse for state football


    ATLANTA — What an awful Saturday for college football in the state of Florida.

    And it got worse Sunday with the crushing news out of Tallahassee.

    The college football season is barely under way and it already feels like it's going to be a long season. In some ways, it feels over already.

    What a bummer.

    In Dallas, the Gators were once again showing that nothing is new. Same ol', same ol'. An offense that was crummy under Will Muschamp is even crummier under Jim McElwain. Wasn't McElwain brought in specifically to fix the offense? The Gators were routed by Michigan, and there's likely a booster or two lighting a flame under McElwain's seat as you're reading this....

    ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02:  Deondre Francois #12 of the Florida State Seminoles hold his left leg after being injured in the fourth quarter of their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) 775013012