Veteran Contributions

July 27th, 2016


The Custodian of Canton, eye-RAH! Kaufman, is back with another column. Kaufman was at One Buc Palace today soaking in the vibe as a handful of Bucs were made available to the media. 


TAMPA — On the day veterans reported to One Buc Place, veteran leadership seems like the right place to start the discussion.

The last time Tampa Bay fans celebrated a postseason berth, Jon Gruden’s veteran-laden club won the NFC South before losing an opening-round playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants.

Those 2007 Bucs were driven by Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber. Defensive end Kevin Carter played a valuable role, and the offense was led by quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Ike Hilliard, who topped the Bucs with 62 catches.

That’s the thing about veteran leaders — they must contribute on the field, as well as provide winning intangibles.

The 2016 Bucs aren’t blessed with an overabundance of vets. According to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the unquestioned face of the franchise is Jameis Winston, who could have been preparing for his senior season at Florida State instead of his second year in the NFL.

McCoy and Lavonte David own the seniority on Mike Smith’s defense, but a compelling case can be made that 21-year-old Kwon Alexander is the indispensable Buccaneer on that side of the ball. The Bucs were 6-6 last season before Alexander began serving his suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. A dismal December that cost Lovie Smith his head coaching job just happened to coincide with Alexander’s absence.

Today, according to Winston’s top target, Mike Evans, that December collapse offered players, coaches and management a cruel reminder of Alexander’s impact in the middle, even as a rookie.

Don’t Downplay The Seniors

The Bucs made a wise move in free agency adding 12-year pro Daryl Smith to the mix. Well-versed in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme, Daryl Smith is expected to start at strong side linebacker and provide an upgrade from Danny Lansanah.

“Daryl has professional written all over him,” David said today. “He’s a great guy to learn from and watch how to be a professional.”

But just as Smith is barging through the front door, the Bucs will miss the gritty presence of guard Logan Mankins, whose accomplished career may land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mankins played a pivotal role in developing rookie starters Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, as a much-maligned offensive line emerged as strength for a 2015 attack that set several franchise records.

“They (offensive line) did a tremendous job,” said Pro Bowl back Doug Martin, “and Logan was a dog in the trenches. It was good for our young guys to see him and learn how to play the game. We’re going to miss that guy.”

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, 29, one of the few Bucs with a Super Bowl ring, is a another quiet leader who was voted a team captain in 2015.

Don’t downplay the importance of veteran leadership, especially during the tough times that are inevitable during a 16-game season. You usually have to fight through adversity before you can serve as an example to teammates. So while Winston and Alexander continue to grow into their roles, it’s up to pros like Smith and McDonald to show the young guns how it’s done.

“Everyone around here is starving right now,” McDonald said. “That last place gets old. We realize that in order to be first, you have to stop being last. You’ve got to stop beating yourself.”

4 Responses to “Veteran Contributions”

  1. Buccfan37 Says:

    The Bucs have done a fine job of making average teams or worse look better than they are, that’s for sure. Repetitive dumb penalties to kill momentum are a glaring example of a loss of concentration. Getting the team in sync is what I expect this coaching staff to accomplish. This last place run will become a fading memory.

  2. tmaxcon Says:

    Lovie brought in system specific injury prone players none of which were respected league wide like smith and grimes. I feel much more confident in this years attempt at bridge players than previous attempts. Melton, Steerling moore and carter all had issues in dallas and never commanded the same respect a grimes or smith will. Ive also been impressed with ayers so far. Let the games begin. Winning is all that matters.

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    Grimes, Ayers and Daryl Smith were excellent veteran additions. Lets hope they stay healthy.

    There’s a nice balance of experienced and capable vets on this team to help all the talented young players that Licht has drafted learn the ropes and show them what it takes to excel in the NFL.

  4. JAB83 Says:

    Any irony in McDonald’s commit about everyone starving???
    Excellent read!!!

    Now Lets Make Tampa Great Again!!!