By: Dory LeBlanc
One year ago, controversy was starting to pick up momentum for the Buccaneers; what a difference a year makes.
"Man, it seems like such a long time ago," wide receiver Vincent Jackson said, "Just last year seems like it was years ago. We've got so many positive things going on this year that it's hard to look back and think about those anymore. everything's been smooth and great since we started up back in April as an organization.
"We're just excited. Where we are right now, we couldn't put ourselves in a better position to get started."
Jackson, who's entering his tenth season in the league, understands that with the excitement also comes a process; a learning curve.
"We know how this season goes each and every year - it's a journey," Jackson said. "We're going to continue to learn - we're not going to be perfect, but we're going to learn from our mistakes and keep getting better every week and do what we do to reach our goals."
One of the ways Tampa Bay hopes to reach those goals is by the addition of veteran players who embrace a leadership role such as center Evan Dietrich-Smith and QB Josh McCown.
McCown, who filled in for the injured Jay Cutler in Chicago last year amassing 1,829 yards and 13 touchdowns to only one interception in eight games, and Jackson have a seemingly easy chemistry - almost as if they've been teammates before.
"Josh has been great," Jackson said. "I’ve been singing Josh’s praises since he arrived here. He’s just the ultimate pro. He’s everything you want in a quarterback as far as being a leader, being a smart guy, really making great decisions. So I’m having a blast working with him.
"I think he’s the guy to really take us to that next level. So I look forward to Josh having a great year.”
Jackson remains not just positive about this season, but confident. Many in the media - both local and national - have deemed the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a rebuilding team in the transition between one regime and another.
Jackson says that is definitely not where the team's head is at.
“Absolutely not – it’s never rebuilding. I think all 32 teams are believing that they’re going to get to that ultimate goal, and we’re one of them. So this season is big. We only get 16 of these regular season games. Each one is very valuable. We expect to perform well and win.”
Let the journey begin.
News & notes:
- Bucs defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers was participating in a limited capacity Thursday - interestingly, with the DT group, not DE. However, HC Lovie Smith said after practice that expecting Bowers to play Sunday is not realistic: “It is. Too much. He’s making progress. It will take an awful lot for us to move him up right now. It’s going to take a little bit longer than that. First step was to get back out on the football field and he’s done that. So we’ll just move him right along from here.”
- Panthers signal caller Cam Newton also return to the Carolina practice field after suffering fractured ribs two weeks ago against New England.
- Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier addressed the media before practice began and said the Bucs are preparing as if Newton is completely healthy: "Well, we’re going to prepare as if he’s 100 percent, that’s how we’re approaching it. He’s a tough guy, he’s proven that over the course of his career in the league and that’s how we’re approaching it. He’s going to be 100 percent and he’s going to be out there playing as reckless as he always has. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday.”
- Smith remains coy when it comes to the status of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and it appears he is asking his coached to be the same. Thursday, tight ends coach Jon Embree spoke in place of the OC, saying: "It all depends, he might be there. We don’t know what’s going to happen as far as Sunday. We’re preparing for him to be there and for him not to be there. Ask me on Sunday and I’ll let you know what the answer ends up being.”
- Smith followed up after practice regarding Tedford, but didn't elaborate much from Coach Embree - aside from bringing a quote his former defensive coordinator - now Panther head coach said: "He’s getting better. There’s not a whole lot more we’ll be able to tell you. Of course I’d like Jeff to be here every day, but we’re holding back on that. He is feeling a lot better. Game-time decision, right? Isn’t that what [Carolina head coach] Ron [Rivera] said? 'Cam [Newton] will be a game-time decision.' Tedford - game-time decision."
- Thursday injuries: Bucs - DE William Gholston, S Bradley McDougald, CB Rashaan Melvin and WR Louis Murphy did not participate, while Bowers, RB Mike James, and FB Jovorskie Lane were limited. CB Mike Jenkins continued to participate fully and is expected to play in the opener Sunday after injuring his groin. Panthers - Newton participated in a limited capacity Thursday.
- On Sunday, the Bucs open their season at home against the Carolina Panthers. Our coverage begins at 12pm with the Floor & Decor Countdown to Kickoff show with Tom Krasniqi on 620wdae and 95.3FM. For more details on Bucs stories and practice sound, check out 620wdae.com and buccaneers.com.
- Keep it locked on 620am WDAE and 95.3FM as well as the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the best Bucs coverage.