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Bucs have prime-time games against Patriots, Falcons in 2017

They are coming up on their 10th year without a playoff game.

Still, the Tampa Bay Bucs have to feel as if they’ll be playing with the big boys in 2017.

The Bucs play a prime-time Thursday night game this year against the world-champion New England Patriots (Oct. 5), then later play a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons (Dec. 18). The Bucs also play two games against the Carolina Panthers, the Super Bowl runners-up of two seasons ago.

Tampa Bay closes its season with three divisional games, the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs will play seven games against quarterbacks who were in the top 10 of the NFL in passing last year. They play two games against Drew Brees (first), two against Matt Ryan (second), one against Aaron Rodgers (fourth), one against Matt Stafford (sixth) and one against Carson Palmer (ninth). That doesn’t even count Tom Brady, who finished 20th after being suspended for four games. Still, most people acknowledge Brady as the best. Cam Newton, the league MVP in 2015, finished 21st with a bad shoulder last year.

2017 Bucs:

Sept. 10       at Miami

Sept. 17        Chicago

Sept. 24        at Minnesota

Sept. 31         New York Giants

Oct. 5             New England

Oct. 15           at Arizona

Oct, 22          at Buffalo

Oct. 29         Carolina

Nov. 5           at New Orleans

Nov. 12         New York Jets

Nov. 26         at Atlanta

Dec. 3            at Green Bay

Dec. 10          Detroit

Dec. 18         Atlanta

Dec. 24         at Carolina

Dec. 31          New Orleans Saints

Bucs prepared to absorb ‘Hard Knocks’ during training camp

The Tampa Bay Bucs have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, and the reports are growing that the team has been selected to participate in HBO’s Hard Knocks show.

The show, which has often been described as a distraction, will present a new challenge for Tampa Bay.

“I’ve said it before, I feel good about our team and the maturity, especially for being a young group,” general manager Jason Licht said Monday. “I know we have some great personalities on our team starting with Jameis (Winston), Gerald (McCoy), the list goes on and on, (linebacker) Kwon (Alexander). I think it would be, the fans would get an inside look at how our team really is. I know that you guys get a better feel than most, but I think the fans would get a real inside look at how we operate, how the players are. In terms of being a distraction, I think we’re wired to where we would be able to minimize that. Dirk (Koetter) has been through it. Mike Smith has been through it and I’ve heard positive things from them.”

Can it be a positive experience?

“Sure, it can,” Licht said. “We will see how it goes. We will see if that’s the case. I don’t know. May be a moot point, but we will see how it goes.”

 Defensive tackle McCoy didn’t sound bothered.

“I’ve watched it,” McCoy said. “Some years it’s entertaining, some years it’s like ‘whatever.’ We don’t pick them, they pick us. If they pick us, let’s be professionals about it and move forward. We’ve still got a season to prepare for, whether there’s a camera watching or not. We play the games on Sunday’s with cameras watching, so if you think you can’t go out to practice and practice with a camera on you, then you’re probably in the wrong profession. If we get picked, it is what it is, let’s be professionals and go to work.”

Said quarterback Jameis Winston: ““I know I’d embrace it. You’ve got to cherish the opportunity that you’ve got. The whole world gets to see how great of an organization this is and see the great people that we have within the organization. But our job is the play football. They add the glitz and the glamour and all that comes with it. It’s an amazing show, but we’ve got to play football. We’re out there doing it for the fans, we’re out there doing it for the city, and Hard Knocks – they’ll just show the whole world.”

Bucs’ G.M. Jason Licht certain his team can get help at No. 19

If the Tampa Bay Bucs have taken controversial running back Joe Mixon off of their draft board, general manager Jason Licht isn’t saying.

While a few teams have already stated they weren’t interested in Mixon, the running back from Oklahoma who committed assault on a woman three years ago, Licht prefers not to say.

The Bucs did have Mixon in for a visit, which Licht says was “valuable.”

Licht, addressing the media Monday in his pre-draft press conference, said he was sure the team would be able to get a player with their 19th selection.

“You can get a good player at 50,” Licht said. “You can get a good player throughout the draft. A lot of times when you’re picking high, if you go back and study it, there are a lot of high-ceiling but also low-floor players up there. A little boom or bust. That’s the way throughout the draft. A lot of times when you’re when picking later in the first round, you’re getting a safe player who may not have the flash, but ends up being a very solid player.

“It’s a little trickier picking at 19 with all the scenarios that happen in front of you. We can’t pinpoint who is going to be there yet. But we’re excited where we’re picking.”

In other Bucs news:

The team exercised its fifth-year option on wide receiver Mike Evans. Licht said he would like to see Evans be “a Buc for life.

Also, the team welcomed the return of running back Doug Martin, who will be suspended for the season’s first three games because of PEDs. Licht would not say when the team would make a final decision on Martin’s future.

Bucs’ Louis Murphy apologizes for loaded gun in his luggage

The reason that Louis Murphy had a loaded gun in his luggage?

He wasn’t going to be forced off of his United flight.

The reason that Murphy had a loaded gun?

When a man asks for extra peanuts, he wants them.

The reason that Murphy had a loaded pistol?

In case he signed with a team that used the shotgun, he was working up to it.

The world is yucking it up this week over Murphy, the former receiver of the Tampa Bay Bucs who was arrested for having a loaded Glock in his backpack as he went to the airport. Murphy, 29, says he forgot it was there. According to Murphy, he was hiding the gun from his daughter (hint: a better hiding place might be advisable.) and it slipped his mind that it was there.

It happens. Former Buc Hugh Greene was once arrested for having a gun in his luggage.

“I want to apologize to all my family, friends and fans,” Murphy said in a post on Instagram. “I hid my gun from my daughter in my book bag. A week later, I left to the airport rushing, I forgot I put it in my book bag. It was an honest mistake. Again, I sincerely apologize.”

Murphy played 17 games with the Bucs and caught 41 passes before being injured. He is currently a free agent.

Bucs announce latest phase of Raymond James improvements

The Tampa Bay Bucs are building off of the field, too.

The Bucs announced another phase of improvements to Raymond James Stadium, including a redesigned West Stadium Club, a new team retail store, expansion of the Hall of Fame Club, and a new home team locker room.

“These are exciting times for our organization, both on and off the field,” said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. “The redesigned West Stadium Club will be a game-changer for our fans that are looking for the best views of the action along with the comfort of an air-conditioned lounge. The new team store will also be a great destination for our fans looking for exclusive merchandise that they won’t find anywhere else.”

Other stadium enhancements include a new 18,700-square foot Buccaneers locker room, which will triple the size of the previous one, and a refresh to the press box.

The Buccaneers won their final four home games, and six of their last eight overall, to cap a 9-7 season in 2016. They will look to carry that momentum and excitement against a 2017 home slate that includes the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and NFC South rivals Carolina and New Orleans.

Former Bucs’ running back Warrick Dunn gives away another home

Once again, Warrick Dunn has scored.

Dunn, the former Bucs’ running back who has devoted much of his life to charity, presented his 155th home Thursday morning to Keyona Thompson, the mother of six children – three of them with medical or mental disabilities. The home, in St. Petersburg, is a six-bedroom, two bath with wheelchair accommodations is the latest from a non-profit charity from Dunn. The home is furnished by Aaron’s.

“I can’t find the words to describe how I feel today,” said Thompson. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to be a first-time homeowner and to have the support of this community. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!”

With 20 years of experience helping single-parent families achieve affordable homeownership,  Dunn understands the challenges many families face. Dunn remembers similar obstacles from his childhood as his mother worked to achieve homeownership. Her dream of homeownership was never achieved, however, after her murder while working as an off-duty police officer in Baton Rouge, Dunn parlayed the funds received upon her death into the first home for him and his five siblings.

Dunn made news in the fall when it was reported that Clemson running back Deshaun Watson had lived in a home donated by Dunn.

In her previous home, Thompson not only lacked space for her large family but like many who live on the edge of poverty, the apartment was in substandard condition due to a leaky roof. Despite her long record of successful employment, homeownership was out of reach without help.

“According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, one full-time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.,” said Dunn. “With the help of partners like Habitat, Publix and Aaron’s, Warrick Dunn Charities works to help single-parents avoid the pitfalls of not only securing homeownership but also understanding the systems around the process. Assistance with the down payment means a smaller mortgage, furnishing the home means less credit card debt, stocking the pantry means healthier food choices and having a safe and stable home base improves the lives of not just the family but the community as well. And because they are required to learn about personal finance and mortgages, they are educated about how it all works. All of us doing our part helps chip away at the significant problem of affordable housing.”

“We’re proud to continue our partnership with Warrick Dunn Charities’ Homes for the Holidays program, which is dedicated to providing single parents like Keyona with homes so they can have a safe and stable space to raise their families,” said John Robinson, CEO of Aaron’s, Inc. “Aaron’s has a longstanding tradition of giving back to communities across the country and we’re so pleased that these furnishings will be able to help make a difference in the Thompsons’ lives for years to come.”

In a 12-year NFL career, Dunn gained 10,967 yards.

Could the Bucs still be a destination for runner Adrian Peterson?

Are the Tampa Bay Bucs done with reeling in big names to help their offense?

Maybe not.

Speculation has returned to the Bucs after quarterback Jameis Winston worked out in Houston recently with former Minnesota Vikings’ great Adrian Peterson. The Bucs were linked with Peterson early in free agency, but due to his age (32), his injured knee and probably his price tag, things never materialized. Peterson remains a free agent.

I’ve seen Adrian Peterson many times — one of the best running backs to ever play,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN. “I’m anxious to talk to Jameis and ask him about how his workouts went.”

The Bucs need a running back because of the suspension of starter Doug Martin for the season’s first three games this season. There is a possibililty that Tampa Bay could draft a back.

Bucs place three players on under-25 offensive football team

Does tomorrow belong to the Tampa Bay Bucs?

Tampa Bay placed three players on the recent 25-and-under team as picked by NFL.com, all on offense.

Leading the way was quarterback Jameis Winston, who was selected over Dallas’ Dak Prescott and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

Also picked was Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans, who led the NFL in being targeted last year.

The third member of the Bucs to be picked was guard Ali Marpet, who has started every game since coming out of tiny Hobart College.

No Bucs’ defensive players were picked, despite the presence of linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Tampa Bay Bucs might have interest in Miami tight end David Njoku

Could the Tampa Bay Bucs‘ Plan B for their upcoming draft be a tight end?

The Bucs have recently been linked to Miami tight end David Njoku, the second-best tight end in the upcoming draft. Njoku has special burst that could add something to the Bucs’ receiving corps, something more than incumbent Cameron Brate offers.

I know, I know. It’s hard to see the Bucs drafting Njoku over FSU’s Dalvin Cook, no matter what the mocks say. As a tight end, Njoku figures to touch the ball 5-6 times a game. As a running back, Cook figures to touch it about 20 times.

Ah, but if the Bucs are committed to Cook, and he goes off the board, say, 17th in the first round, Tampa Bay has to have an alternate plan.

Taking a player from Miami, a year after taking one from Florida and two years after one from FSU, sounds plausible.

Bucs sign veteran Nick Folk to compete with disappointing Roberto Aguayo

Are the Tampa Bay Bucs prepared to boot their costly place-kicker?

The Bucs at least will entertain that idea after signing former New York Jets’ place-kicker Nick Folk to a contract Friday night.

Folk will try to beat out Roberto Aguayo, who the Bucs traded up to draft late in the second round a year ago. Aguayo, one of the most accurate kickers in the nation while at Florida State, struggled mightily in his first season, hitting only 71 percent (22 of 31) of his kicks.

Folk hit 87.1 percent of his kicks (27 of 31).

Three of Folks’ four misses were blocked last year. In ten seasons with the Cowboys and Jets, Folk has made 81.3 percent of his field goal attempts.

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