It should have been a week where all we could talk about was how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers effectively turned their season around with a win last Sunday. After being pegged as a team expected to tank for a high draft pick, the Bucs are now in control of their destiny as NFC south leaders and just a few wins away from clinching a home playoff game.
Nothing ever comes easy with this Bucs team, though.
Rather than only talking about how well things are going, much of the conversation this week was dominated by Devin White and the handling of his injury in Week 15. White was a surprise inactive ahead of kickoff in Green Bay, but it was how the Bucs clumsily explained things after that has gotten them into hot water with the NFL.
Tampa Bay is officially under investigation by the league over their handling of White’s injury status. Rather than simply say he couldn’t go on Sunday, Todd Bowles said after the win that he knew White would be out as early as Friday.
If that’s true, and the Bucs didn’t report it, that’s not good.
Aside from the drama revolving around whether the Bucs violated league rules, there’s also drama revolving around White. One of the reasons this whole thing has blown up is because of initial reports that his inactive status was not related to an injury, which implied that something else was going wrong.
Rick Stroud reported after the game that White was going to be replaced in the starting lineup by K.J. Britt and that his attitude recently had started to rub coaches and teammates the wrong way. All of this happening against the backdrop of his surprise inactive status — and the team being extremely unclear about why — led to wild speculation.
This week White spoke to the media and tried to clear the air.
Everything Devin White said about recent controversy
Just about everything that was a source for drama was discussed by White, who took on all questions and gave thourough answers to everything.
On rumors he was upset about being removed as starter in favor of K.J. Britt
“It didn’t sit [any type of] way with me. K.J. has been playing well all year since I’ve been out. I’m proud of him. That’s what we do.,” White said. “There’s never going to be [any] bumping heads about [anything] like that. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning.”
On the criticism that he used his injury as a cover for being upset about his role change
“I’ve just been seeing a lot of stuff saying that I quit on my team. I don’t understand how I could do that when it was me and Coach [Todd] Bowles’ decision to sit down and rest to be able to help my team,” White said. “That’s the biggest thing that didn’t sit well with me because I’d never quit on my team. I love this game so much, I love competing so much. Out of everything, that just didn’t sit well with me.”
On potentially being replaced in the starting lineup
“That would be perfectly fine. They’re on a three-game winning streak, so that’s really good, because we’re trying to fight to get in the playoffs. I know there will be something for me to do to help contribute to that, whether it’s cheering them on even more,” White said. “If something like that were to come up, I’m embracing everything. I’ll be better and just go out there and do my thing when my number is called.”
If we’re going to criticize White like we did this weekend, it’s only fair to give him credit for stepping up and answering the tough questions that got tossed his way. If there was some sort of split, he could have stoked those coals but instead chose to take the high road.
There could still be some behind-the-scenes issues, but every indication seems to be that the Bucs are going to keep that all in-house.
For what it’s worth, White is expected to be active and a “full-go” on Sunday against the Jaguars, which is where his loudest message will be received.