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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Lavonte David: Bucs motivated as 'team on the cusp'

One lane after another, Bucs linebacker Lavonte David worked his way down 44 bowling lanes at Pin Chasers in Tampa on Sunday afternoon, stopping at each to take pictures and sign autographs with volunteers, donors and children at an event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

David, a national spokesperson for BBBS, took time to attend the Bowl for Kids' Sake event for those who helped with the organization's spring fundraising campaign. With only a few weeks before the Bucs return to the practice fields, he also took a few minutes to talk about his work with BBBS, the Bucs' offseason and his optimism about the 2017 season for Tampa Bay.

Q: I know this event means a lot to you, and it's a chance for you to spend time not only with the local volunteers and the kids they work with, but also those whose donations make that interaction possible. …

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Three Bucs make NFL under-25 team, but not Kwon Alexander

Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season, was left off the NFL's all-under 25 team.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season, was left off the NFL's all-under 25 team.

The league's official site put out an under-25 All-NFL team, showcasing the best young talent from its 32 teams, and the Bucs made a strong showing, with QB Jameis Winston, WR Mike Evans and G Ali Marpet making the list.

No team in the NFL can boast as many players as the Bucs' three -- San Diego, Houston, Kansas City and the New York Giants have two each -- but another Tampa Bay player felt he deserved to make the cut: Kwon Alexander, who led the league in solo tackles with 108 in his second NFL season.

Houston's Benardrick McKinney and Atlanta's Deion Jones were the only traditional linebackers on the 26-person team, and when Bucs fans pointed out the potential snub to writer Elliot Harrison, Alexander chimed in himself on Twitter.

"Yea! Why no Kwon you tell me what I'm doing wrong sir!?" he wrote Wednesday.

On Thursday, Harrison responded: "You had a great year man! Super close calls on Under 25 team. Especially LB!" …

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Bucs may have benefitted from a new OT rule proposal

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) checks on Jude Adjei-Barimah as Oakland's Austin Howard (77) and others celebrate their overtime win over the Bucs in October.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) checks on Jude Adjei-Barimah as Oakland's Austin Howard (77) and others celebrate their overtime win over the Bucs in October.

You don’t see too many ties in the NFL anymore, except for the ones worn by the suits in the league office.

But the truth is, ties can come in many stripes. For instance, had the Bucs tied the Oakland Raiders instead of losing 30-24 in overtime last season, they would’ve made the playoffs at 9-6-1. Instead, they played nearly five complete quarters, then four days later, played a Thursday night game and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 43-28.

Sudden death has been replaced by an overtime system where both teams get an offensive possession unless the team that has the football first scores a touchdown.

Well, now the NFL may mess with the OT system again this week at the annual meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.

The league is proposing shortening the overtime period in the preseason and regular season from 15 to 10 minutes.

The stated purpose is for player safety, and one could also infer, competitive balance. If a team is involved in an overtime game on Sunday and has to play on Thursday night football four days later, well, you’ve got some tired hombres.

Just ask the Bucs.

If this rule was adopted last year, Tampa Bay may have broken what’s now a nine-year playoff drought. …

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McDougald finds 'motivation' in Bucs not re-signing him

Bradley McDougald settled for a one-year deal with the Seahawks reportedly worth $2-million.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Bradley McDougald settled for a one-year deal with the Seahawks reportedly worth $2-million.

NFL players wait years for the right to hit the open market of free agency, but former Bucs safety Bradley McDougald found less interest than he'd hoped for, settling for a one-year deal with the Seahawks reportedly worth $2-million.

That's less than he earned with the Bucs last season, and as Seattle announced his signing on Thursday, he told their official site that he'll be motivated by Tampa Bay's lack of interest in bringing him back after he started 31 games over the last two seasons.

"For sure, I have that chip on my shoulder," McDougald told the site. "And even this free agency process felt the same way. You play your heart out for a team, and they don't bring you back, so you have to find a new home. It definitely gives you that much more motivation to play even harder. It's just a little chip on your shoulder, a little extra motivation." …

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Is the fun coming back to the No Fun League?

Gerald McCoy celebrates after forcing the Falcons' Matt Ryan to fumble.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Gerald McCoy celebrates after forcing the Falcons' Matt Ryan to fumble.

In the season opener last year, the Falcons had the football near midfield trailing 24-13. On first down, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy sacked quarterback Matt Ryan for a six-yard loss.

Excited by making such a big play, McCoy swayed his hands above his head and was joined in the motion by linebacker Kwon Alexander. The whole demonstration took only a couple seconds. But McCoy was flagged and the Bucs penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct in what was considered a choreographed celebration.

McCoy was even fined $12, 154 for the penalty.

"Right when that happened, I said 'We're going to get flagged,'’ coach Dirk Koetter said. “Not preconceived at all, but by what they're calling, the rule. Look, I don't make the rules. Whether I agree with it or not doesn't matter. They called it. They're going to call it.‘’

Starting in 2017, they may not.

The fun may be back in the No Fun League.

The NFL plans to discuss player celebrations at the league’s annual meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday. Executive vice president Troy Vincent has said the league is preparing a training video to show players examples of appropriate and inappropriate celebrations. …

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NFL draft podcast: Greg and Riley Auman on linebackers

Riley, left, and Greg Auman discuss the linebackers in the upcoming NFL draft.

Photo from video

Riley, left, and Greg Auman discuss the linebackers in the upcoming NFL draft.

Times beat reporter Greg Auman and his son, Riley, break down the linebackers in the NFL Draft in this episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast. They also talk about the Bucs adding kicker Nick Folk and how their offensive line might look.

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Bucs safety Bradley McDougald signs with Seahawks

Nearly two weeks into the NFL's free agency season, Bucs safety Bradley McDougald has found a home, signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks, reportedly for $2-million.

It's a surprisingly modest payday for McDougald, 26, who started 31 of 32 games for the Bucs over the past two years. He's actually making less than the $2.55-million he earned last season with the Bucs, which suggests their interest in bringing him back was minimal at best.

The Bucs moved in another direction, signing former Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox to a two-year deal reportedly worth $8.5-million, or more than double per year what McDougald got from Seattle. Chris Conte and Keith Tandy are also back at safety for Tampa Bay, which could also draft a safety next month.

McDougald is the fourth Bucs free agent to sign with another team, following QB Mike Glennon (Bears), DT Akeem Spence (Lions) and WR Russell Shepard (Panthers). The Bucs have also re-signed seven of their own free agents to new deals: P Bryan Anger, DE Will Gholston, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Conte, DT Sealver Siliga, DB Josh Robinson and C Joe Hawley. …

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Jameis Winston suffers loss of grandmother

Jameis Winston's grandmother, Myrtle, called him the "love of her life.''

GREG AUMAN | Times

Jameis Winston's grandmother, Myrtle, called him the "love of her life.''

She called him the ’love of her life.’ Jameis Winston’s grandmother, Myrtle, was his biggest fan. And the feeling was mutual.

Although she suffered from Type 2 diabetes and was in a wheelchair, she made the 4½ hour drive from Bessemer, Ala., to New Orleans two years ago to watch him get his first NFL win against the Saints.

She was the reason Winston stayed home from the NFL draft in 2015 even though he was the No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs. His grandmother couldn’t travel and he wanted to share the experience with her.

But earlier this week, Myrtle Winston died. She was 70.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Bessemer, Ala.

Shortly after noon on Monday, news of Mrs. Winston’s death began circulating on social media. Wes Saxton, Jr., a Redskins tight end and former high school teammate of Jameis, texted “RIH Grandma Winston.’

The Facebook page of Jameis’ father, Antonor, also had condolence messages on the passing of Winston’s paternal grandmother.

Following the Bucs’ win over the Saints in Week 2 of his rookie season, Jameis said he was inspired by his grandmother. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Pittsburgh tight end Scott Orndoff

Pittsburgh tight end Scott Orndoff runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 4, 2017.

Associated Press

Pittsburgh tight end Scott Orndoff runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 4, 2017.

Our NFL Draft Q&A series continues with Pittsburgh tight end Scott Orndoff, who broke out this past season with 35 catches for 579 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 256-pound prospect had totaled only 23 catches in his first three years of college -- though eight were for touchdowns -- and took a few minutes to talk about his preparations for the draft:

Q: Where are you training to get ready for pro day (it's today, March 22)?

A: "Leading up to the combine, I spent two months in Tampa, working out at ASPI with Yo Murphy. Now, since the combine, I'm back in Pittsburgh, training at my school. (Training in Tampa) went really well. A big part of the combine is all the speed and agility drills, and I definitely know I got well prepared there. Yo Murpny and his staff are really good with the speed work. I got a lot healthier and my body composition improved. There were probably 25 of us training there."

Q: Was there one measurable in particular you wanted to improve on this spring? …

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Could Roberto Aguayo be back on the street in September?

Roberto Aguayo led the NFL with nine missed field goals and was only four-of-11 from 40 yards or longer.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Roberto Aguayo led the NFL with nine missed field goals and was only four-of-11 from 40 yards or longer.

There’s been some discussion about how serious the Bucs are about potentially replacing struggling place-kicker Roberto Aguayo after dealing third- and fourth-round picks to move up 15 spots and take the Florida State star in the second round last year.

Last weekend, the Bucs signed Jets free agent Nick Folk, an 81.3 percent career field goal kicker. …

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Ready to move on? Jets Nick Folk will compete with Roberto Aguayo for Bucs kicking job

The Bucs over-drafted Florida State place-kicker Roberto Aguayo last year, selecting him in the second round. He felt the pressure. One of the most accurate kickers in college history made only 71 percent of his field goal attempts (22-of-31), the worst in the league.

“Read the stats, he wasn’t very good last year,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “He wants to improve and he’s going to work at it. And we still have confidence in him but you’re always trying to get better.’’

Keeping their promise to make Aguayo compete for his job in 2017, the Bucs are signing Jets free agent Nick Folk. The signing was first reported by FoxSports.com.

Folk, 32, connected on 27 of 31 field goal attempts (87.1 percent) last season for the Jets. Three of his four misses were the result of blocks. In 10 seasons with the Cowboys and Jets, Folk has made 81.3 percent of his field goal attempts.

Both Licht and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter have vowed to replace Aguayo in 2017 unless he is the best kicker in training camp and the preseason. Speaking not specifically about Aguayo, Licht is on record having said he isn’t afraid to cut his losses if a player doesn’t perform. …

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NFL draft podcast: Greg and Riley Auman on receivers, tight ends

Riley, left, and Greg Auman, right, discuss receivers and tight ends in our latest NFL Draft podcast.

Photo from video

Riley, left, and Greg Auman, right, discuss receivers and tight ends in our latest NFL Draft podcast.

Times beat reporter Greg Auman and his son, Riley, break down the top wide receivers and tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft class and assess the Bucs' moves in free agency in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast. Listen here:

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NFL Draft Q&A: Missouri tight end Sean Culkin

Our NFL Draft Q&A series continues as we catch up with a rare local in the draft -- Indian Rocks Christian grad Sean Culkin, a tight end who went to Missouri just as the Tigers joined the SEC and went to two conference championship games in his time in Columbia. He set career highs last fall with 24 catches for 282 yards as a senior, finishing with 61 catches for 601 yards and two touchdowns in his career. He took a few minutes to talk about his preparation for the draft ...

Q: First, where have you been training to get ready for pro day and the draft?

A: "I just got back to Missouri, but I was at ASPI -- the Compound -- in Tampa. I was there from Jan. 2 until a few days ago, just got back up here. I worked with (USC tight end) Taylor McNamara, (OL) Brian Gaia from Penn State, (DE) Evan Schwan from Penn State, (DB) Ryan Janvion from Wake Forest, (safety) Obi (Melifonwu) from UConn was with us. (WR) Zach Pascal from Old Dominion, those were the guys I was around the most."

Q: What were your biggest priorities in the offseason to improve on in terms of measurables? …

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Center Joe Hawley agrees to terms on 2-year deal with Bucs but will have a tough battle to keep his starting job

The Bucs re-signed center Joe Hawley, right, to a two-year contract.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

The Bucs re-signed center Joe Hawley, right, to a two-year contract.

Center Joe Hawley agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Bucs, but he will have plenty of competition for his starting job next season.

Terms of the new deal were not released, but it’s expected to be south of the $3.5-million he earned in salary and playing incentives last season. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has said the Bucs have plenty of options at center. In addition to Evan Smith, guard Ali Marpet and guard/tackle Ken Pamphile also could play center. Koetter has said because of the versatility, the Bucs will try to put their best five offensive linemen on the field.

Re-signing Hawley also makes sense because it is not a deep draft for offensive linemen and as a result, many of them will be taken higher than their actual value.

Hawley, 28, has started 29 of the 30 games he has played with Tampa Bay since joining the team two years ago. But he has had to battle through an array of injuries. Hawley left a Week 5 game at Carolina in the third quarter with a left knee injury but returned to the game. Evan Smith started the next game against the Bears but was forced to leave with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and Ben Gottschalk finished the game at center. …

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Bucs OL Evan Smith gets bonus, will be back for 2017

Bucs offensive lineman Evan Smith received a $1-million bonus for being on the Bucs' roster Wednesday and will be back with the team this season.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Bucs offensive lineman Evan Smith received a $1-million bonus for being on the Bucs' roster Wednesday and will be back with the team this season.

Bucs offensive lineman Evan Smith, reported by some as a potential salary-cap cut this year, received a $1-million bonus for being on Tampa Bay's roster Wednesday and will be back with the team this season.

Smith, 30, has flexibility to play both center and guard and started at both positions last season. He made $2.5-million in 2016 but his compensation will increase to $4.5-million in the final year of the four-year contract he signed in 2014. If he were not in the Bucs' plans this fall, they wouldn't have kept him on roster long enough to trigger the bonus.

Smith will at least be a valuable backup along the interior line, and he could be back as the team's starting center, a role he held in 2014. The Bucs have not re-signed their 2016 starter, Joe Hawley, who remains an unrestricted free agent, nearly a week into free agency. Smith started one game (against the Bears) last season when Hawley was injured and another at left guard (against the Saints) when injuries forced Kevin Pamphile to step in at right tackle. …

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