Wednesday, Sept. 12
The contingency plan
Kelly's injury is especially concerning because when the veteran corner is playing opposite the durable Ronde Barber, the Bucs seem to win. They have an over .500 record since 2002 with Kelly in the lineup.
Losing Kelly affects the entire secondary. Phillip Buchanon will move into Kelly's spot on the left side. The dropoff won't be dramatic because Buchanon is a solid corner and, with a year in the Tampa 2 system, has a much better understanding of the scheme.
The real issue will come when the Bucs use their nickel package. S Tanard Jackson, who started at free safety on Sunday, played some nickel corner in preseason. The Bucs could also use Davis there, and since he went through training camp and the preseason with the Buccaneers, he understands the Cover 2.
However you look at it, the only injury that would have been worse for this unit would have been losing Barber. But losing Kelly for any length of time saps the depth dry at this position.
I hope to talk to secondary coach Raheem Morris about this today, but I would lean toward using Jackson as the nickel corner — which means he'll see as much work there as he would at safety — and then have Will Allen and Sabby Piscitelli duke it out for the free safety start. Jackson's coverage skills are too good not to be used as the nickel corner. I could even see them using Jackson at safety in base formations and moving him to nickel in those packages, with Allen coming in off the bench to play free safety.
Let's get real
I won't dispute that David Boston has a legitimate injury. Bruce Allen alluded that Boston's injury was similar to another pre-game injury suffered by Chas Gessner before the final preseason game, and that led to Gessner's move to injured reserve.
But let's get real. This organization must feel betrayed by Boston right now.
For three weeks this guy has professed his innocence to the organization. The organization even came out and supported Boston publicly. To have Boston's positive test for GHB come to light now after all that support isn't just embarrassing to Boston but to the organization.
So Boston's release is, well, perfectly timed to get the Buccaneers out from underneath this mess. I was really hoping Allen would take Boston to task publicly but he didn't. There's a reason for that, though. There could be ramifications to the Buccaneers simply outright releasing Boston because of this positive test. But, by giving Boston an injury settlement and releasing him, that washes the franchise's hands of Boston.
I do have a problem, however, with Allen hiding behind the fact that tight end Jerramy Stevens' DUI conviction last week stemmed from an incident that occurred before he joined the team.
Allen said that every player on the team is accountable to the Buccaneers' strict conduct policies. But he said that since Stevens' incident occurred more than a month before he signed with the Bucs, the Collective Bargaining Agreement was clear about what might happen to Stevens.
This is the same GM that suspended defensive end Simeon Rice in San Francisco for missing a team meeting before the game. So he was asked whether the team would take any action.
"The actions of Jerramy occurred before he signed," Allen said. "The case you brought up (Rice) came before one of our games and under our jurisdiction."
I guess you can't really punish Stevens for something that occurred before he joined the team. But Allen knew the trial was coming when he signed Stevens, and knew there was a chance he could lose him to a suspension if the NFL deemed it fit.
This all just tarnishes the reputation of this franchise and its figureheads, Allen and Jon Gruden. This year alone Torrie Cox has been suspended for violating the league substance abuse policy, Boston has tested positive for GHB and Stevens has been convicted of DUI.
These are all their guys. Gruden was part of the staff that drafted Cox in 2003. Allen helped sign Boston and Stevens.
Allen said he was all for giving people second chances. I am, too. But at some point don't you say to yourself, "Geez, this guy has 10 off-the-field incidents in his NFL career. Can I really sign this guy?"
That's Stevens. And he's never been suspended by the NFL. Ludicrous. Just insane.
If the new NFL is all about player conduct, the Bucs get a losing grade at the moment.
Thursday, Sept. 13
More Simms rumors
Now he's the most sought after fourth-string quarterback on the planet.
Eli Manning's bruised shoulder has prompted rumors that the New York Giants are interested in trading for Chris Simms of the Bucs, who has done little more than throw passes after practice the past two weeks as he continues to work his way into shape.
Fox's Adam Schein first reported that the Giants made overtures to the Buccaneers.
Naturally, there's some synergy here. Simms is the son of Phil Simms, who led the Giants to their first Super Bowl championship. So a trade to New York would be a homecoming of sorts for the younger Simms. Plus, he's likely a better option than Manning's current backup, Jared Lorenzen, who is built like a Mack truck.
Manning, according to reports, is actually working out with the Giants right now, so the reports that he could be out 3-4 weeks are probably erroneous. But if you're the Giants, don't you want some extra insurance in case Manning's health issues drag out?
If the Giants are scared enough, this could be the Bucs' chance to cash in on Simms' value, because I think the organization — and when I say organization I mean Jon Gruden — wants no more to do with Simms. I think Gruden tired of the drama surrounding Simms this summer and has no more use for him as a quarterback.
But I think this may all come down to the Glazer family, whom it is believed thinks Simms is the quarterback of the future in Tampa Bay. They may overrule any possible trade of Simms for that reason.
For now, all we can do is wait and see. But I think when the trade deadline comes and goes next month, Simms will still be a Buc.
Friday, Sept. 14
Getting his feet wet
"Well, it was about eight plays," McCown said with a grin. "That's about all it was."
But it marked another milestone in the Jacksonville product's recovery from the knee injury that sidelined him last year.
McCown went into last Sunday's opener against Seattle as Jeff Garcia's backup quarterback. And when Garcia came up woozy after a hit by Seattle's Julian Peterson, McCown had about two minutes to get warmed up.
"I knew he was going to have to take at least a play out," McCown said. "So I ran over, grabbed my helmet and jumped in."
This was the first time McCown had jumped in since Dec. 26, 2004, when he started as a rookie for the Cleveland Browns against Miami.
In between, the Bucs traded a draft pick for McCown in 2005, used him as Chris Simms' backup later that year and then saw him blow out his knee during a workout last summer. He rehabbed the injury feverishly and actually returned to the active roster last season.
In reality, McCown played two possessions and nine plays, finishing 1-of-4 for 9 yards. During this stint he felt the full brunt of the Seattle pass rush, which eventually finished the day with five sacks. Two of those were McCown's.
"The two sacks, guys were covered," McCown said. "In those situations, I have to do my best to make a play with my feet. I need to make something positive."
Making matters worse was that those sacks ended drives. The first, by Peterson, ended Tampa Bay's best possession of the second half until the final drive. Three plays earlier McCown had found Ike Hilliard for a 9-yard gain and a first down.
One drive later, after the Seahawks took a 13-6 lead, Rocky Bernard and Chartic Darby crushed McCown.
"We had some open guys and we didn't have time, and then when we had time guys were covered," McCown said. "That's how things happen and we have to do the best we can to adjust according to what they're doing."
Garcia returned on the following drive.
McCown couldn't say if he needed the game experience, even after his long break. He said it's good to play, whether it's eight plays or a full game.
But considering that Garcia is 37, McCown knows he'll need to stay ready.
"You have to be ready to spell somebody whenever the opportunity presents itself and that's my job right now," McCown said. "That's all it was — eight or nine plays."
But that's nine plays more than McCown's had the past two seasons, and that's a good start.
Monday, Sept. 17
Trouble brewing with Brooks?
Derrick Brooks usually speaks to the media on Wednesdays and after every game. But he was conspicuously absent after Sunday's victory over New Orleans.
That led to speculation that Brooks, 34, was upset that he was sharing time with Cato June, a free agent signed in the offseason to play strong side linebacker (and, most believe, to replace Brooks one day).
Brooks told the Tampa Tribune on Monday that he was just picking up his daughter at the airport after the game. He also told the Tribune that he had no problem with sharing time with June.
The timing is certainly curious. This comes on the heels of a week's worth of talk about whether Brooks has lost a step at weak side linebacker (the Tribune wrote an article exploring the issue in Sunday's paper).
June will one day be the starter at that position. It's no coincidence that his contract ends the same year Brooks does — 2009 — and that June is likely to get an extension at some point while Brooks plays out his deal.
But look at the numbers from Sunday's game. Brooks had nine tackles, June had five. June's interception, I believe, came on the weak side. Brooks also forced a fumble.
If, indeed, Brooks is cool with this arrangement, this can do nothing but help the 13-year vet. Brooks told the Tribune that he knew the rotation was coming on Sunday and that it helped keep himself, along with other players, fresher late in the game.
That's great news if you're a Bucs fan. A fresher Brooks later in games means he'll make more plays later in games — and have fewer of the breakdowns he had in the opener against Seattle.
No one in Tampa Bay wants to see Brooks retire — or fail. The fact that the vet appears to be open to new ideas is an indication that he knows he needs help to stay fresh on the field — and that he wants to win more than anything else.
It's a beautiful morning
Jon Gruden woke up at 3:17 a.m. — what an ungodly hour — and found his team in first place.
Seriously. First place.
Yes, it's way early to talk about such things, but the Bucs — who went 4-12 a year ago — actually have the lead in the NFC South after two games.
The Bucs are 1-1, but have a 1-0 division record. The Panthers, who lost to Houston on Sunday, are 1-1, but have not played a divisional game yet. The Panthers get their first taste of that on Sunday at Atlanta.
This must feel almost foreign to this team, being in first place at any time after such a horrible 2006.
This underscores the meaning of games such as Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Gruden likened a win such as Sunday's as a double win. Teams that make the playoffs win division games and they win at home. Only one playoff team failed to win the majority of their division games, or a majority of their home games, last year.
So the next two games are pretty critical this early in the season. St. Louis is a home game, and they're 0-2 right now. The next week is Carolina, and the Panthers, naturally, are a division foe.
There is now a scenario in which the Bucs could finish the first quarter of the season 3-1 and in control of the NFC South.
Could anyone have predicted that a month ago? Nope.
Tuesday, Sept. 18
Time to update you on my fantasy teams, since it appears that, for once, there won't be any Bucs news.
The team I really care about, in the Lone Star Football League, is 1-1. I benefited greatly from Eli Manning's explosion in Week 1, and his implosion in Week 2. I've got a great team built around him — Willie Parker, Deuce McAllister, Antonio Gates, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson — but I guess I'll be living by Manning all season. I hope the one that played against the Cowboys shows up this week.
The team I share in my big money league with my friend, Chuck, is 2-0. We benefited greatly from the Cincinnati-Cleveland game. We had both Rudi Johnson and Braylon Edwards, and both had huge days. We also had Eli in that game. He's just gonna follow me around all season.
I have a third team this year in the Scout.com NFC South League (I think that's what we're calling it). That team is 0-2. When your QB is Drew Brees and your RBs are McAllister and Maurice Jones-Drew, there's little you can do.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.