Foozball Truthiness

I was contemplating throwing out some team previews as I did last year but after these works any effort I attempted would smell like Bigfoot's dick in comparison.

My favorite part about these previews? The focus on coaching changes, and the impact that a new coaching staff can have on fantasy football. Without going to much into the fantasy football side, the NFL is a coach's league which is why all of the Falcons so-called talent means jack shit as long as Mora the Younger is at the helm of that sinking ship.

Anyway, check out Breakaway Beach, it'll do you good.

Training Camp: Around the NFC South

Finneran likely out for season. Second leading receiver for Falcons goes down in practice with knee injury.

Smith is day-to-day after injuring hamstring. Panthers receiver Steve Smith could miss one or two preseason games.

McAllister still not fully recovered from injury. Saints runningback Deuce McAllister is about “85 percent to 90 percent” recovered from knee surgery following a torn ACL he suffered early last season.

White looks shaky in practice. Falcons receiver Roddy White “drops more passes than he should have.”

Two major fights break out during Falcons practice. Linebacker Ed Hartwell “appears” to kick player.

Bush to show up late to practice. Saints wunderkid Reggie Bush should arrive at training camp later than expected because of a delayed flight.

Jenkins returns to practice. Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins missed Sunday’s practice because of back spasms.

Alge still being held out of practice. Recovering from offseason surgery Falcons tightend Alge Crumpler continues to watch from the sidelines of training camp.


Training Camp: Weekend in Review

Caddy tweaks back. Cadillac sits out first day of practice with back spasms, participates in practice next day.

Joseph works with first unit. Last season's starting right guard Sean Mahan is competing with John Wade at center, freeing up the right guard position for either Davin Joseph or Jeb Terry.

Barber wants to remain in Tampa. But Bruce Allen and Ronde Barber's agent remain less optimistic.

Clayton has shed nine pounds. Michael Clayton eager to put last season's injury plagued sophomore slump behind him.

Boston looking good in practice. David Boston has dropped 30 pounds from his playing weight three years ago. Boston is also limited to one practice a day.

Stovall could see time at tightend. The Bucs coaches have contemplated lining up rookie Maurice Stovall at tightend. Injuries have thinned the Bucs depth at the position.

Wade carted off practice field. Severe dehydration and cramps keep center John Wade out of practice.

Colmer to miss season. A rare nerve condition knocks offensive lineman Chris Colmer out for the season.

Winborn to backup Brooks. 49ers import Jamie Winborn, who had hoped to compete for the strongside linebacker position, will instead backup Derrick Brooks on the weakside.


And so it begins

Some recent ink sheet blog headlines...

New wheels for Caddy

Cadillac off the blocks

In fact, I think I might turn this into an unofficial contest of sorts. A competition among the local newspapers for the worst/best Cadillac pun of a headline. Any ideas for the name of the contest? The best I got is the Caddy Pun Race.


Orange you a big fan of puns?

Training camp is one of my favorite times of the year since it marks the beginning of the season AND it is full of useless minutia. For example, did you know Shelton Quarles is known as the Candy Man because he brings $300-400 worth of candy to training camp? Or that Ryan Nece carried all his clothes in Hefty plastic bags?

Even more interesting is that Derrick Brooks would like to see the Bucs bring back the ugly orange for the Thanksgiving game. I've thrown my support behind this but it is highly unlikely it will happen this year. The NFL deadline for new uniforms designs went by a couple of months ago and the ugly orange was not submitted by the Bucs. (Or something like that.)

And a pat on the back to the local ink sheets who have deployed blogs for their beat writers. I've already mentioned the Tribune's so I'll point you in the direction of the Time's blog and it's witty headline writers.

(And just as an aside since I don't know where else to throw this, counting the newspaper blogs the number of Bucs blogs has doubled in the past two weeks. Looks like I'll finally have some competition for my title.)


Five More: Training Camp Preview

I’m following the format Rick Stroud from the St Pete Times used, but asking five additional questions he did not. Also, check out Roy Cummings’ blog for the latest from Orlando.

6. Will Boston make the roster?

If Boston is going to make the team he will have to beat out Ike Hilliard and Edell Shepherd. Boston’s chances largely hinge on whether Gruden considers him a third or fourth receiver. If it’s the former then Boston is competing against Hilliard’s experience with the Bucs offense. If it’s the latter Boston, who is still recovering from injuries, will be expected to play special teams…and his expose himself to more opportunities to get re-injured.

Prediction: As of right now, I’m leaning towards Boston not making it out of training camp.

7. Who will win the punt return job?

Mark Jones is the favorite but there is a chance rookie cornerback Justin Phinisee could take over punt return duties. Jones stepped into the job last season and performed admirably. Phinisee averaged 11.6 yards last year as the primary punt return man for Oregon, and also racked up a return touchdown.

Prediction: I don’t know but if Phinisee wins out and Jones gets cut then that opens up an additional receiver spot…possibly for Boston or Hilliard.

8. Does Alex Smith move ahead of Anthony Becht on the depth chart?

Smith was on fire right out of the gates with two touchdowns in his first game, but then went without a touchdown for the rest of the season. With the Bucs pass blocking woes last season the tight ends were kept on the line during passing downs to help protect the quarterback. Which meant Becht, the more proven blocker, saw more playing time.

Prediction: Smith, who caught more passes (41 to Becht’s 16), will move ahead of Becht.

9. Who will win the nickel cornerback job?

This is essentially a battle between Juran Bolden and Alan Zemaitis. Bolden held the job last season, while rookie Zemaitis is the future.

Prediction: Bolden holds onto the position for at least another season.

10. Will this training camp see a youth movement in the Bucs defense?

I’ll have more on this subject later in training camp but the Bucs more competitive training camp battles on the defensive side of the ball are between young guys and established veterans. Shelton Quarles vs. Barrett Ruud. Greg Spires vs DeWayne White. Bolden vs. Zemaitis. Kiffin’s defense has lost key players and still played exceptionally well but Kiffin has a new challenge on his hands, breaking in young players and two new defensive coaches.

Prediction: The youth movement won’t come until next season, although we are likely to see some of the younger guys get more playing time as the season progresses.

Draft Pick Update

Bucs sign Jeremy Trueblood.

With the deadline to report to camp just minutes away, the Bucs still have three unsigned draft picks. Davin Joseph, Maurice Stovall and sixth round tightend T.J. Williams. Joseph and Stovall have zero leverage so I would not be surprised if their contracts are finalized shortly. Also, it will be interesting to see what the Bucs do with Williams, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

UPDATE: All reports are that Bruce Allen is close to a deal with Joseph's agent. Which leaves the question, how far along are the Stovall contract negotiations?

UPDATE #2: Bucs sign Joseph. Still no word on Stovall.

UPDATE #3: Stovall signs contract. And it appears there are no holdouts going into camp.


More on the new digs

The Glazers have been all Mission Impossible (for your eyes only) about the new training facility, to the point where they have banned the media from taking pictures of it. But that didn't prevent Tampa Bay Magazine Business Journal from getting the inside scoop.

It should come as no surprise that the workaholic Gruden has a shower in his office. What should scare you is that the shower overlooks the practice field. Plenty of other good stuff in the article so check it out.

(big tip of the hat to Bolts Mag)


Today's cheerleader(s) of the week comes courtesy of Michael Clayton's Celebrity Hoop Jam. Could someone explain the appeal of this event to me? I love me some basketball but I don't get why you would shell out 50 bucks to watch NFL guys miss wide open shots and dribble off their own feet?

Anyway, some random facts from the Hoop Jam...

  • Chris Simms was the only player with his shirt tucked in. Chris Simms is also very white.

  • Nickelback Juran Bolden is a cherrypicker. This fact puts any respect I had for Bolden in jeopardy.

  • The game was decided in a soccer style three point shootout with (surprise!) Clayton winning it.

Draft Pick Update

Zemaitis signed.

That leaves four out of the Bucs ten draft picks unsigned including the first three, Joseph, Trueblood and Stovall.


Great, another Bucs blog

Just what the intraweb needs another Bucs blog and this one hosted by the Tribune to boot. Which I’m sure means said blog will be more family friendly than Disney World on prozac.

What’s that you say, said blog brings the big stick?

And it’s run by the same persona who could potentially challenge this site’s title of Best Bucs Blog?

Extra tall shot of yager to Scott for his subversive takeover of the Tribune’s website. Even if he is the bastard love child of Phil Hellmuth and Sammy Farha.

= ?

So long, farewell

...auf Wiedersehen, good night Dwight Smith.

Not to go all Sound of Music on you but Smith just signed a three year deal with the Vikings. Rumor was that Minnesota was offering a better deal than Tampa Bay and Tomlin's presence as the Viking's defensive coordinator (Tomlin was Smith's coach in Tampa Bay) only sweetened the deal.


Draft Pick Update

Bucs sign the next Dan Marino, aka Bruce Gradkowski.

For those not keeping track at home that makes four draft picks the Bucs have signed with six remaining. The Bucs have yet to sign any of their first four picks.

Also, the Tampa Tribune further muddies the Ronde Barber waters by coyly suggesting the two sides are close to a deal while providing no new information (thanks Roy Cummings!).

Anyone else hoping training camp would go ahead and start already?


Extension on the way for Ronde?

Chris Harry of the Orlando Sentinel says so.

Ronde seems to hint that he is looking for Champ Bailer money which would be a big mistake on Bruce Allen's part. Even if he is overrated Bailey is one of the best at what he does. Ronde, on the other hand, has benefitted from Monte Kiffin's defense and would only be valuable to other Tampa Two teams (i.e. Bears, Colts, Lions, etc.).

While it would be nice to see Ronde get his, I hope it does not come at the expense of the Buc's long term financial stability.

UPDATE: (7/24, 10:15) Or maybe not.

Rick Stroud of the St Pete Times spoke to Bruce Allen and Ronde's agent and both confirmed that they are no where close to an extension. And since Allen reconfirmed his deadline is March '07, I'm guessing Barber will not sign a new contract before training camp begins. Keep in mind Chris Simms will be a free agent next season also and will most likely require both top dollar and Bruce Allen's full attention.


What could have been...

The Year: 2008

The Game: NFC Championship

The Scenario: Bucs down 24-30 to the Lions. 7 seconds left in the 4th.

With memories of the Music City Miracle the Bucs, with Andre Hall returning, prepare to receive the kickoff. In an unusual mental lapse Monte Kiffin’s young defense has just let up a last second touchdown. John Madden, Al Michaels and Weird Al Yankovic are already drawing comparisons to the Buc’s collapse against the Rams in ’99.

It’s a long, high kick to the five yard line. Andre Hall cleanly catches the ball.

To the ten, the fifteen.

Hall meets the first wave of attackers. Rick Razzano lays a monster block and Hall jukes past the first wave.

To the twenty, to the twenty-five.

Ernie Simms has an open field shot at Hall, but with a vicious spin move Hall breaks free.

To the thirty, the thirty-five, the forty.

One man between Hall and Glory…Martin Gramatica. Gramatica awkwardly lunges at Hall but falls a foot short.

To the forty five, the fifty.

Nobody stands between Hall and the endzone. No time left on the clock. And…he…goes…all…the…way. TOUCHDOWN!!!

Tampa Bay has just returned their first ever kickoff for a touchdown! Not since Shaun King has a local boy made good for the Bucs. In a matter of seconds Andre Hall has gone from nobody to Tampa Bay legend. Grandfathers will sit grandchildren on their knees decades from now and tell them youngin's how they saw THE Andre Hall win the NFC Championship.

The Bucs are going to the Super Bowl. All because of USF grad Andre Hall!


Unfortunately this scenario will never pan out. Andre Hall has been cut by the Bucs before training camp has even started. Unlimited possibilities involving Andre Hall will never play out.

But at least Hall has a USF degree to fall back on, right?



Saints release Smith

Free safety Dwight Smith has been cut loose by the rebuilding Saints.

A youth movement in the Saint's secondary combined with his expensive salary made Smith expendable to the Saints. Additionally, there are rumors that the volatile Smith was not getting along with the new Saints coaching staff.

Obviously, Tampa Bay will be the most likely landing spot for Smith, who was originally drafted and started for the Bucs. But do we want Smith?

At 27, Smith is in the prime of his career and has the versatility to play multiple positions in the secondary (he was originally drafted to play corner). And he can be had for a cheap one year deal.

On the other hand, Smith has been a lightning rod for trouble. The addition of Smith might further retard Will Allen's development, assuming Smith starts at free safety over Allen. And most importantly, signing Smith will take even more time away from Bruce Allen that could be spent negotiating with Ronde's agent for an extension.


Joseph guarantees he'll be in camp

First round pick Davin Joseph says, "I know I'll be at camp on time."

Reports have been that Joseph has struggled to pick up Gruden's offense so if Joseph is serious about winning the starting left guard job he will need to be in training camp when it begins.

Also in the St Pete Times report, Bruce Allen has taken the first potshot at Me-Shawn. During a question and answer session with fans Allen slipped in film of Keyshawn dropping a pass among Galloway highlights. Allen also remains hopeful he can sign Ronde to an extension, although Allen says his deadline is March of '07.

With less than eight days to go the Bucs have nine more draft picks to sign. Expect some of the lower picks (with the highest being Zemaitis) to be signed in the next couple of days.


Draft Pick Update

Bucs sign seventh round tightend.

Making Tim Massaquio the first draft pick signed. Nine more picks to go.

Where have you gone Mr. Tony?

Even with the World Cup this summer/offseason has felt like it has dragged on unnecessarily long. At first I though that had more to do with the NFL's desire to pander to the Television Networks and push the Super Bowl into February (thus pushing back the start of training camp) until the following realization hit me. I've been missing out on my regular Tony Kornheiser fix.

A year ago I could depend on daily Mr. Tony fixes through either his radio show, the Washington Post, and/or PTI. With clockwork like certainty I could listen to Mr. Tony rants on subjects as far ranging as the 'Skins bandwagon to cyclists on DC roads. And it was great.

This year, though, Mr. Tony has all but dissappeared. He went off the radio in March. He has not written for the Post since April (about the "Keith Hernandez/girls don't belong in the dugout" controversy). And now, I've been subjected to Dan LeBetard for the past couple weeks on PTI.

Consider this an open request to Mr. Tony, come back! I know you've been resting up (mentally and physically) for your Monday Night Football stint but sports fans need you. Hell, I need you. I'm a mess without you. I miss you so damn much. I miss being with you, I miss being near you. I miss your laugh. I miss your scent; I miss your musk. When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together.

Christmas in July

Continuing the Hump Day Cheerleader tradition (two times makes it a tradition, right?) and considering the heat wave which has gripped the U.S. I present you an icy picture to cool your hot heart. Or is it a hot picture to cool your icy heart?

Either way, enjoy.


Draft pick update

Bucs made an offer to Zemaitis last week.

Although certainly not the cornerback I hoped the Bucs would offer a contract to. Bucs have still not signed any of their draft picks.


No more tail-gazing at Buc's games

...if you know what I mean.

Which is a shame really. Strippers at a Tampa Bay game were/are as quintessential as a Phillycheese steak at an Eagles game or crack rock at a Ravens game. As hard as local politicos try to fight it Tampa IS strip clubs and strip malls.

And if you get rid of the strip clubs all you have is strip malls.

(hat tip to Sticks of Fire)


New York Times uncovers the obvious

Cadillac Williams took automatic A classes while at Auburn.

I'll tell you straight out I'm on the fence about this. Obviously this happens at every SEC school (except Vanderbilt) and even your humble and incredibly geniusfied host could be accused of taking college classes which where a guaranteed A. And since none of these guys are going to become brain surgeons or rocket scientests it probably doesn't matter if they took a lighter than average course load.

But, at the same time, the idealist in me is upset that athletes are given an easy ride at the taxpayer's expense. This may just be crazy talk but I believe anybody on a scholarship should be held to a higher standard than students who are paying their own way. In the grand scheme of things, we would all be better served if the scholarships given to athletes were instead given to future teachers and nurses. Of course, in this perfect world the Bucs, Rays and Lightning would win championships every year and broccoli would taste like steak.

Update: Of all the reactions I've seen to this story Grits has prob the best one. Go check it out.


To pat down or not to pat down

That is the question.

Not often that you hear the words "Constitutional protections" mentioned in the same breath as the Bucs but this ongoing case could be decided soon by a federal judge. And while the two main parties in this case are a local Bucs fan opposed to pat downs and the Tampa Sports Authority, the judges decision will likely impact all 32 NFL teams and stadiums since the NFL mandated pat downs began last year.


Run Forrest!

Ravens linebacker Green shows off his 40 time.

A camera outside the bowling alley has caught Roderick Green's flight from the knife wielding bowler. In any other city Stabby McKnife would be identified in a short time but since this is Baltimore, home to the Stop Snitching campaign, the police don't really have a good chance of finding Green's assailant.

(tip of the hat to the Sports Frog)

Hurrah, another list!

In case my thinly veiled disgust for the effortless efforts has not yet become apparent I can not stand lists/rankings. Most lists reek of apathy, both on the part of the writer and the reader, and are typically little more than attempts to drum up viewership/readership without substantively contributing to any kind of sports dialouge.

This ranking of quarterback units by the Football Outsider guys stands in stark contrast to most rankings since it is backed up by the Outsider's unique brand of stats. In what should come as little surprise the Bucs quarterbacks do not rank highly. What does come as a surprise is that Simms is injury prone.

20. Tampa Bay

Chris Simms looked good as the starter last year, and improved as the year went along. Unfortunately, Simms has been injury prone in the past, and so have all his backups. Simms had shoulder issues in 2004. Jay Fiedler hurt his shoulder last year and might not even be ready for training camp. Luke McCown already blew out his knee. Tim Rattay broke himself in three places during the time it took you to read this sentence. It would surprise nobody if the Bucs had four guys on the injured list and undrafted rookie Bruce Gradkowski starting by Week 17.

As much as I appreciate the Outsiders stats, the Outsider's Achilles heel has always been their inattention to detail. This effort, in so many ways is quintessential Football Outsiders material, ahead of the curve yet fundamentally flawed.

Hump Day Cheerleaders

New gimmick I'm introducing here at the Best Bucs Blog, the Hump Day Cheerleader pic. Just consider it a little something to make your work week move a bit quicker.

Today's pic comes courtesy of the NFL Network's Making the Squad: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I finally caught this show the other day and it reminds me of a really bad date. I've got to listen to some clueless airhead prattle on for an hour about her family and runt of a dog in the blind hope I will see her naked. And just like most of my dates, you will not get to see any of the cheerleader's birthday suits.

Anyway, enjoy.


Baltimore: City of Criminals

I just can't quit you. I had told myself, "no more of this blogging in your Superman underoos crap," at least for the next few weeks but like a compulsive gambler who has found his mark when I saw this story I just couldn't keep away. Or to make an even more lame sports analogy (since I am watching the Home Run Derby right now) this story was my slow, hanger over the plate.

Raven's linebacker NOT a criminal.

I have serious difficulty believing this guy is really a Raven though. I know Roderick Green is on Baltimore's roster but a TRUE Raven would not have avoided the fight, and he definitely would not have run away. You think Ray Lewis would have run away? Hell no, the stabbing bowler would be in a bodybag right now. You think Jamal Lewis would have run away? Well....you see where I'm going with this.

But Green's still a young guy, so I'm sure Baltimore will turn him into a hardened criminal. The city has a way of doing that to law-abiding citizens.


The Dead Zone

With roughly three weeks (and counting) to go until the start of training camp we have officially entered the NFL Dead Zone a dark hole from which (almost) no news can escape. From here on out the only news which can escape the Dead Zone will be the embarassing variety, player arrests and suspensions.

So sit tight, try to avoid the football addiction shakes and I'll see you on the other side.