Players typically welcome the bye week and the brief escape it brings from the full grind of the NFL season. Fans on the other hand, not so much. I hate not being able to watch my team on Sunday. Even Monday night games don’t come quickly enough to stave off the football-withdrawal-syndrome that kicks in by late Sunday. Fortunately fantasy football eases the blow of a bye week somewhat, but bye weeks are not fun for fans. Fortunately, after wretching through a week of Buc-lessness, football returns for all of us for at least the next 13 weeks straight.
First out the gate for the Buccaneers is a trip up to Cincinnati to face a Bengals team desperate for a win. We’ll have a full preview of the game and a look at the Bengals coming up in the next day and a half. But first, here’s what’s going on with your Buccaneers.
Coaches Return Shots
I’m not certain what would inspire any degree of animosity (beyond what’s required of opponents on a week to week basis in the NFL) between Marvin Lewis and the Bucs. It’s been suggested he’s still miffed the Bucs chose not to hire him back in 2002. More recently, he didn’t like that the Bucs signed WR Dez Briscoe to their active roster, which prevented him from stashing Briscoe on the Bengals practice squad. The Bucs had to pay Briscoe the rookie minimum, he is now on the Bucs practice squad. Lewis angrily opined on Wednesday:
“When you overpay a guy on the practice squad, you create a problem for teams. I don’t know that teams want to set that precedent and they did with Dez.
“That’s not a great precedent for teams to set as we try to keep the NFL and doing the things we’re trying to do as a league. It’s still a league of 32 teams and things are put together a certain way.”
Whether Lewis is petty or just naive eludes me. But he can’t really be serious. The NFL is a league of 32 teams all of whom are trying to beat the other 31. This is why it’s organizational policy to lie through your teeth around the draft, on injury reports and any time a coach or GM is asked a direct question beyond what food they would like to order. This is the league that first thought to put the so-called poison pill clause in contracts. Coaches try to wait until the last possible second before the ball is snapped to call timeouts and ice kickers. There was that debacle up in New England a couple years back. There is a code of honor in the NFL, let’s but not pretend that’s the same thing as conventional sportsmanship. And Lewis being so irked about a player transaction has less to do with the Bucs making some grievous violation of the unspoken NFL laws and more to do with him having wanted to hang on to Briscoe. The Bucs saw a chance to grab a guy they could use, and they took it. It’s not illegal, as far as I know nobody has ever even articulated against the practice. Fortunately for Bucs fans, Raheem Morris is concerned with winning, not making friends.
“That’s a first,” Morris said in his post-practice press conference. “I’m really not concerned about Marvin Lewis’ comments about how we run our organization.
“It’s a credit to our management and our ownership and what we want to do and how we want to go get them,” he said. “That’s really all that has to be said. I heard that comment, and that’s Marvin’s opinion. Good for Marvin.
“Marvin is entitled to run his program any way he wants to run it. That’s between him and his management corps. Myself, my management corps and Mark Dominik, we’ll choose how we want to run our management corps.”
That was classier than I would have been. I’d have just asked how Antonio Bryant was doing. Maybe if you hadn’t grossly overpaid a guy who never even played a preseason snap for you, you wouldn’t have such a chapped ass about a ‘practice player.’
Maurice Stovall Returns to Practice
Maurice Stovall returned to practice this past week, but his return to health is far from the only obstacle in the way of him being able to contribute regularly on offense. The infusion of youth in the receiving corps and his injuries have sunk Stovall on the depth chart. Now he has to try and climb back up it.
“He’s just got to be a fighter,” Morris said. “People have emerged. People have come on strong. If I know Mo, he’ll work his way back into the rotation because he’s a hard worker. The thing we know about Mo, he’s going to go out there and do everything he can to be a factor; to be factored in. He had that early injury bug that hit him a little bit.
“People start to emerge. Arrelious(Benn) is getting better. Sammie (Stroughter) is getting better. Mike (Williams) is getting better. He had to play the catch-up game a little bit and re-aggravated it. Mo will be Mo and try to fight his way back into the rotation.”
Bucs Move Lorig to the Other Side of the Ball
Erik Lorig has been working as a defensive end for the Buccaneers since they drafted him out of Stanford five months ago. Two weeks ago, after “mulling over” the idea, the Buccaneers flipped him to the other side of the ball. He’s basically going to be playing H-Back, the Bucs are working him at both Tight End and Fullback.
On paper, and probably in its application, the idea makes sense. At 6’4 275, the 23 year-old is an absolute monster. And coming from a school like Stanford one would assume he’s mentally capable of grasping the concepts and turning it around quickly. He’s also played as a tight end in college before being flipped to defense. Coming out of high school he was a two-way player. I’m sure he’s capable, but please answer me, why would you do this mid-season? You really put the poor kid in a hole when you introduce him mid-season to the offensive playbook and ask him to essentially learn two positions both of which require nuanced understanding of blocking schemes, protections, routes and loads of other information.
If Lorig can put that Stanford mind to good use and hit the ground running, he could pay big dividends for the Bucs. He was already given a major crash course by tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts last week, this week running backs coach Steve Logan has been working with him extensively. The hope is that he could bring a solid blocking presence to the line-up, one which has been missing from the tight ends, and help open up the Buccaneers rushing attack. He could also spell Ernest Graham at fullback and let Graham take carries as a tailback, or function as a short yardage back as he did at Stanford. Not to mention he brings increased roster flexibility as a special teams guy. The move makes a lot of sense. The timing does not.
Barber to Enter Record Book
When Ronde Barber starts Sunday’s game in Cincinnati he will tie Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau for the most consecutive starts by a cornerback at 171. Should he stay healthy (knock on wood) he will break the record the following week, at home, against the division-rival New Orleans Saints. This is quite a feat, and more than a little remarkable on Barber’s part.
Who would have ever thought back in ’97 when the Bucs took Ronde in the third round that he would one day tie (and potentially break) a decades-old record for most consecutive starts by a corner. Barber didn’t start a single game as a rookie, and had a rough debut in his second season (giving up three touchdowns). However, in Tony Dungy‘s Tampa 2 Barber found a defense in which he could flourish.
Over the past decade, Barber has been a five-time Pro-Bowler and has been named first team All-Pro three times (and second team twice), he has led the NFL in interceptions twice (2001, 2006) on the way to becoming the Buccaneers all-time franchise leader in interceptions. He was also named to the 2000′s all decade team last year. He’s a Hall of Famer, this isn’t what cements it but it’s a very nice feather in the proverbial hat of the greatest corner to ever play in Tampa. And one of the classiest men in the NFL. Very impressive, congratulations to Ronde.