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Tampa Bay Bucs release highly paid cornerback Alteraunn Verner

Alteraunn Verner was still getting paid like star.

His performance, however, was that of a backup.

The two could not be reconsiled, and so Verner was released by the Tampa Bay Bucs on Thursday.

Verner, 28, signed a four-year, $25.5 million contract in 2014, but his play didn’t measure up. The last two seasons, Verner started only nine games, including three in 2016. However, he was due to make $6.5 million in the coming year, even thought he had been essentially replaced by free agent Brent Grimes and No. 1 draft pick Vernon Hargreaves. Verner was scheduled to be the fifth-highest paid Buc on the team’s salary cap list.

Verner’s most memorable moment of the last year came in the Seattle game, two days after his father died. Verner had a key interception in the Bucs’ victory.

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Should Jameis Winston be hammered for clumsy statement?

Now that he has fumbled, are we to hammer Jamies Winston?

Now that he has said the wrong thing, does it matter if he was doing the right one?

Winston, the quarterback with the troubled past for the Tampa Bay Bucs, had good intentions. Really he did. On an off-day, he chose to speak to the children at Melrose Elementary School. He said later that he noticed one small boy who wasn’t paying attention, and he tried to get him involved.

At that point, Winston said something inappropriate. And, from the reports, there are those who will not forgive him.

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times and others. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

It should go without saying that no one should tell girls to be silent, or to suggest that they are not strong. For that clumsy wording, Winston was wrong.

On the other hand, he was at Melrose to deliver a positive message. Should he be roasted for it?

Yes, Winston had his problems while at FSU, being accused of domestic violence, singing a rap song that was crude. But this was merely saying something the wrong way, wasn’t it? No one should defend what Winston said. Still, you get the feeling that Winston was trying to fire up the boys rather than put down the girls. Don’t you?

ESPN — which defended Winston in a video — did bring up his sexual assault reports in its report.

“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” Winston said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”

On the other hand, Winston just turned 23. He will get smoother in his messages. He will be all-inclusive.

And, yes, he’ll learn that girls are strong, too.

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Triplets reunited as Tampa Bay Lightning continues playing well

Once again, they were magic.

Once again, they were so electric you could almost see sparks on the ice. Nikita Kucherov. Ondrej Palat. Tyler Johnson.

The Triplets.

Stop them if you can.

You remember the Lightning’s Triplets, don’t you? In 2014-15, they were the most amazing line in the National Hockey League. They led the NHL in scoring that year, and given their tender ages, it seemed they would be a success for years to come.

Ah, but injuries happened, and the line was split up, and they appeared as a trio only every now and then.

Have you looked lately? The Tampa Bay Lightning line is clicking again, a one-two-three punch that can still take over games. They were solid in Colorado, getting off 13 shots. Then, in a keeper of a win against Edmonton, they were good again in a 4-1 victory.

Palat scored two goals. Kucherov scored one and had three assists. Johnson had two assists. And the Lightning pointed for the seventh straight game. At what may be their last chance, the Bolts are finally playing well again.

“It’s not that you put them together and all of the sudden the magic starts,” said coach Jon Cooper. “It’s playing the right way before that happens. Everyone had been defending really well. All of the sudden, you have the puck more, you have the puck in the right places more.”

Tuesday night’s game was an answer as to why the team had been spinning its wheels. The Bolts need more Triplets.

“It’s fun,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. “I’ve got the best seat in the house to watch it. They have that something extra and tonight they really brought it.”

Said Johnson: “It’s been great. We haven’t had much opportunity to play together the last couple of years. Maybe a period or two here or there. There haven’t been too many times (we played together) the entire game. Last game, we played well. We had a lot of chances to score, but it just didn’t go in for us. Now they’ve started to go in and we even had more opportunities.”

So will the Triplets stay together?

“It’s getting results, so I hope so,” Johnson said. “I like playing with those guys. They’re fun to play with. They make the game a lot better.”

Palat scored the first two goals for Tampa Bay. But Edmonton came back on goal by Iiro Pakarinen, then had another goal disallowed on an off-sides. It was a rare challenge won by Tampa Bay.

Kucherov added a third goal, and Vlad Namestikov was awarded a goal when he was hooked on an empty netter with one second to play.

Tampa Bay is home Thursday night against Calgary.

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Lightning’s Ben Bishop remains hot as Bolts get points again

Well, look who might be getting warm.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which has spent most of the season as just another team, beat Winnipeg 4-1 Saturday night to earn at least a point in four consecutive games. The Lightning has three wins and a shootout loss in the games.

The Bolts are now in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 57 points, five points out of third.

It is the kind of effort that Lightning fans have waited most of the season for. Goalie Ben Bishop was solid with 32 saves in 33 shots, and came within one shot of having his second straight shutout. Bishop is now 14-12-3 on the season, and he’s allowed only three goals in his last three games.

The Lightning had goals from Brayden Point, Brian Boyle, Ondrej Palat and an empty-netter from Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay held a 3-0 lead until Jacob Trouba scored in the third period.

The Bolts are now off until next Saturday night when they play at Dallas.

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Lightning wins its second in a row to show it still has life

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, there might be life to the Tampa Bay Lightning, after all.

And if so, nights such as Tuesday night give fans a reason to believe.

The Lightning won a 5-0 game that should serve as the team’s blueprint for the rest of their playoff run. They got good goaltending, they got goals from their speediest skaters, and their penalty kill was strong in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

It was the first regular season shutout by goalie Ben Bishop since last March 28, when he stopped 34 shots against Toronto. This time, Bishop stopped 19 shots in the first period, but had to face only nine the last two periods.

“Bish played extremely well in the first period when we needed him,” said coach Jon Cooper. “I looked up and they had 19 shots. We felt extremely fortunate to go to intermission with the lead. Clearly Bishop had a lot to do with that. But once that happened, we gave up nine shots the rest of the game. That’s the team helping each other out. Ben bailed us out in the first, and the team said ‘Ben, we’re not going to try to need you in the last two periods. That’s how it went.”

The Bolts also got two goals from Nikita Kucherov and one from Jonathan Drouin. Gabriel Dumont had his first goal for the Lightning, and Braydon Coburn added a goal.

For the Lightning, it was the first time the team has won back-to-back games since December 20th and 22nd.

“We need to get consecutive wins,” Drouin said. “When you win one , lose one, win one, lose one, you don’t get points out of it. We want to make it three and four. That’s what we need. We need points on the road.”

For Bishop, it was his second straight win. He’s struggled much of the year to remain above .500, and so it is encouraging to think he might get on a roll.”

Tampa Bay visits Minnesota on Friday night.

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Who’s on first? Rays re-sign Logan Morrison to roster

If a Tampa Bay Rays fan was looking for something new, Tuesday was a disappointing day.

The Rays, whose interest in slugger Chris Carter had been well reported, missed out on the former Milwaukee slugger, who signed with the New York Yankees for $3.5 million. Carter would have been an intriguing addition after a 41-home run season.

Later in the day, the Rays reached a new agreement with Logan Morrison, who hit .238 for the team a year ago.

He hit .275 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and a .350 on-base percentage over his final 79 games (72 starts), from May 16 through the end of his season. He appeared in 107 games, but his season was cut short by two injuries: a right forearm strain put him on the disabled list for 16 games at the end of July, and a left wrist strain sidelined him for the final 20 games of the season.

The Rays training camp begins on Feb. 12 when pitchers and catchers report.

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Lightning struggles again in disappointing loss to Boston

This is the way it’s going for the Tampa Bay Lightning: Badly.

This is the way it’s going: The Bolts finally get a game with three goals … and goaltender Ben Bishop gives up four.

This is the way it’s going: The Lightning finally gets a breakaway in the third period of Thursday night’s game…and Tyler Johnson passes the puck backward instead of taking a shot.

This is the way it’s going: Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman is hit from behind by Boston’s Brad Marchand, and no penalty is called. The Bruins promptly score twice in the last two minutes of the second period.

In other words, it was business as usual in the Bolts’ 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, another in a series of games the team has designated as important. Yet, as usual, the Lightning stubbed their toes and failed to make up any ground.

It would be mystifying if only it had not happened so often.

“Fifty games in?” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I guess it’s not too mystifying anymore. It’s happened too often. How many times do you have to say ‘consistency.’ It’s tough.

“Why do they change the way they play? You pat them on the back and say ‘good first period’ and they go out there and play not so good.”

The Bolts are now 22-23-6 on the season. They are six points out of the final wild-card spot.

Goaltender Ben Bishop fell to 11-12-3 with the loss. He faced 35 shots, but four of them got past him.

After taking a 1-0 lead and playing a solid first period, the Bolts gave up two goals in two minutes – the second with .09 seconds to play – to fall behind.

Alex Killorn’s second goal tied it, but Boston scored two to close out the game. The Bolts had only 13 shots in the second and third period and only 21 for the game.

“We have to have more consistency,” said Killorn. “It’s kind of disappointing. We show a little fight at the end of the third period, but it wasn’t enough.”

The Lightning plays Ottawa on Thursday night in an effort to keep up with a league that is moving farther away from the team.

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Rowdies’ first USL schedule is set with 16 home matches

If the Tampa Bay Rowdies are to contend this year in the USL, they will have the opportunity to get hot.

The Rowdies of coach Stuart Cambell play three games in a row three times during the year, including the first three of the season against Orlando B, Toronto FC II and the Ottawa Fury.

Later in the season, the Rowdies have a three-game set against Charleston, Pittsburgh and Harrison City. The Rowdies close out their home schedule against Charlotte, Bethlehem and the New York Red Bulls II.

In all, the Rowdies will play 32 games, playing each team home and away for 28 of the games. The other four will be games against the Charleston Battery and Ottawa Fury FC, plus an extra visit to Orlando City B and a trip to Texas to play San Antonio FC.

All 16 home matches will start at 7:30. Season tickets can be purchased by calling (727)-222-2000. Single game tickets will go on sale later.

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49ers pick former Tampa Bay star John Lynch as general manager

It’s been quite the year for former Tampa Bay Buc great John Lynch.

He entered the team’s Ring of Honor, his second such designation. (He had already joined the Broncos’ Ring of Honor). He is a finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Sunday, he was named as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

Lynch, 45, agreed to go through the interview process only if it was kept private. Lynch, who last played in 2008, has never had any front office position in the NFL. He has, however, worked a broadcaster, meeting with coaches and executives around the league as part of his job.

As a player, Lynch made nine Pro Bowls for Tampa Bay and Denver. As a safety, much of his job was evaluating the play. Now, he’ll do the same thing for a living.

Former player Matt Millen tried to leave broadcasting to become a general manager with Detroit and failed miserably, including a 0-16 season.

Lynch never played for the 49ers, although he is a graduate of Stanford.

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Uber ‘pirates up’ for Gasparilla with new rules for no-hassle, safe experience

On Saturday, thousands of pirates (and pirate wannabes) will descend on the shores of Tampa Bay for the annual Gasparilla spectacle.

And as Uber knows, as does anyone who has ever attended the city’s premiere pirate-themed event, neighborhood roads will be just short of impassable.

To help make traveling to and from the event as smooth as possible, Uber is setting some simple ground rules to take some hassle out of the ridesharing experience.

“Due to the extensive road closures and pedestrian traffic in Bayshore and downtown Tampa,” says the Uber blog, “there may be some cases where your driver cannot drop you off at your destination.”

Uber has set a “green zone” of the area most impacted by Gasparilla. Between noon and 9 p.m. Saturday, riders within that area will need to walk a few blocks away from the parade route to request a ride. While in the green zone, they will not be able to ask for a ride.

For Downtown Tampa, riders should walk east toward North Florida Avenue, before requesting a ride. Those going to Harbor Island need to walk east of Harbor Island Boulevard and south of Knights Run Avenue. Only then can they tap “Request.”

In the Hyde Park North neighborhood, head north toward the University of Tampa. After reaching Cleveland Avenue, users can then get an Uber driver. And for Hyde Park Center, head north of Swann Avenue and east of South Boulevard; from there, they can ask for a ride.

And, of course, those celebrating in true pirate fashion – from the middle of the high seas of Hillsborough Bay – must head back to land before requesting a ride. The Uber app will not connect with a driver until the phone’s GPS shows the user is back on land.

Uber suggests that if a Gasparilla crew is more than 4 pirates, the best way to go is to request an uberXL, which use vehicles that accommodate up to 6 people, thereby minimizing the number of rides requested. Also handy is Uber’s fare split tool, so multiple riders can share the cost.

In the confusion of a massive party, it’s possible there will be several Uber drivers in the area. The company reminds riders to make sure they’re getting in the right car by confirming the license plate and car model matches what appears on the Uber app.

With Uber, and a few simple ground rules, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy Gasparilla.

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