So apparently it's crime time in Tampa Bay. First, there's S Tanard Jackson's four-game suspension for violating the league' substance abuse policy. Then CB Aqib Talib is arrested. All I know is that if Raheem Morris was still the secondary coach this wouldn't be happening.
It's obvious there is more to Jackson's problems that a simple suspension. He even alluded to that himself, saying there were problems that had been dogging him since before he came to the NFL. He's managed to mask them pretty well up until this point. Surely the Bucs knew about this when they spent the pick on him in 2007. This is unfortunately timed, as Jackson is now a leader in the secondary and was supposed to make it easier for Jermaine Phillips to make the transition to weak side linebacker. Now that plan takes a major hit. You may say, "Well, why doesn't Jackson have his act together?" It's obviously more complicated than that.
I'm off the Talib bandwagon for now. You're a first-round pick and a starter in the NFL. You simply can't be this boneheaded, especially with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell coming down hard on every wrongdoer this side of Brandon Marshall. The Bucs now face the real possibility of not having Talib or Jackson for the season opener. I think GM Mark Dominik should offer some sort of punishment for Talib, but he won't because he's well aware that Goodell probably will.
In fact, it might be time for Goodell to take a step back and tell teams they're now responsible for disciplining their own players, now that they see how downright harsh the commish can be. Goodell is taking his team owners and GMs off the hook too readily by being the NFL's policeman. It would look much better from a community standpoint if the teams took the lead in the early stages of a player's wrongdoings. Goodell's iron fist was necessary three years ago. It's less necessary now. And if the teams aren't inclined to discipline their own players, perhaps Goodell should start disciplining the teams too. Perhaps league GMs would be more inclined to do so if draft picks were on the line for teams that failed to do so. Hmmmm…. I kinda like that.
Speaking of Marshall, he wants out of Denver. I'm going to suggest something I suggested two months ago – trade for this guy, Mark! The Bucs will have to give up at least one player and a pick for Marshall, and he won't put up the numbers he put up in Denver. But with Antonio Bryant hurt and the hodge-podge of receivers the Bucs currently employ, trading for Marshall makes complete sense. Don't you like the idea of whatever QB the Bucs start throwing to Bryant, Marshall and TE Kellen Winslow? I like it a heck of a lot better than Bryant, Winslow and Michael Clayton or Maurice Stovall. Bet Dominik does too. Just give up the pick and pay the guy. I know it goes against Tampa Bay's nature, but do it and you might have a shot at actually contenting for a playoff spot this year as opposed to 2010 or 2011.
In this exact space last week I touted RB Earnest Graham as a great late-round pick in your fantasy draft. You'll be happy to know that I corralled Graham in the 14th round of my draft last week. Don't buy the hype on Derrick Ward just yet. Graham will get his carries and be the guy at the goal line, especially early this season.
It looks like it's going to be Byron Leftwich as starter. As most of you know, I've always been in Luke McCown's corner. But it's obvious that Leftwich is more comfortable in the new offensive system than McCown. Leftwich doesn't have to be great against his old team this weekend. He just has to be consistent and move the chains.
Speaking of McCown, I'm in the school of thought that Jason LaC anfora is full of it. Earlier this week La Canfora, who writes for NFL.com, reported that McCown may be released if he doesn't win the starting job.
Let's see – does he really think the Bucs are dumb enough to release the only other experienced starter they have behind Leftwich? Even I can't see them as being that ignorant. La Canfora referenced McCown's signing bonus, which was more than $2 million, as a driving factor. That's nonsense. Signing bonuses are guaranteed and count against the cap. That money's already spent. And since the Bucs were so cheap during free agency, it's not like they need any cap room releasing McCown might afford. LaCanfora is obviously intrigued by second-year QB Josh Johnson. So are the Bucs, and they should be. He's had a solid training camp.
This was the usual "team sources" story that sometimes holds water and sometimes doesn't. So we'll see.
Here's the thing: There's no reason to release McCown, unless you just think his time has passed. If Leftwich is your starter, McCown is good insurance. Don't forget that Leftwich is injury-prone and hasn't taken a full-season pounding in three years. Keeping both keeps first-round pick Josh Freeman away from the field in 2009, and you still have the option of putting Johnson back on the practice squad. There's actually no real reason to get rid of any of these guys just yet.
So what's La Canfora's hurry? Heck if I know. The Bucs should be in no rush. Considering their complete inability to find a consistent quarterback since Brad Johnson's Super Bowl run, the Bucs should keep their options open. That's five years of substandard QB play, people. Five years. Five long years.
Let's go back to the events of this week for one more minute. Wasn't getting rid of Jon Gruden supposed to eliminate the daily drama that surrounds this team? These two arrests point me in the direction that there are just as many questionable folks on this team this year as there were last year. Should any of these issues with Jackson, Talib or even Winslow (who was sorta called out by Morris last week) intensify, it could be the first real test of Morris' tenure.
Most boneheaded suspension of the week? It's the suspension of PK Garrett Hartley for violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He tested positive for Adderall, which is used to treat ADD or narcolepsy. Perhaps Hartley was having difficulty staying awake during those long, boring kicker meetings?
No, actually he was very upfront. He told the Associated Press' Brett Martel that he borrowed the prescription stimulant from a friend when he had to drive through the night from Dallas to New Orleans to make it to an offseason workout. He just had the misfortune of having to pee in a cup shortly thereafter. The drug is on the banned list because it's a stimulant. Hartley said he was unaware of that fact. So, see you in October.
You know Garrett, there are these wonderful things called planes that allow you to travel between cities much faster than cars. You might consider using one next time. The Saints brought in vet John Carney. Good luck getting your job back, hoss. Carney scored in bushels for the Giants last year and he's a Saints favorite from way back. There's been a revolving door since Carney's departure after the 2006 season and Hartley was supposed to finally be the answer. Maybe not so much now.
In my view, the Bucs will play better against Jacksonville, though they really didn't play too bad against Tennessee. I'm most interested to see Leftwich's play with the first-team offense – minus the injured Bryant. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Clayton probably won't play either. That won't hurt Leftwich that much, I suppose. The defense should make some strides too. But I think the Bucs come back 0-2 after that contest. Jags 23, Bucs 20.
Have I mentioned how much I wish this team would trade for Brandon Marshall? Sorry, just wanted to be sure.