Jan 2, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) on the field before the game against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians: Antonio Brown’s departure not an ‘if’ but a ‘how’

In the wake of wide receiver Antonio Brown’s public outburst during his team’s game last Sunday against the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said that the mercurial player was “no longer a Buc.”

Three days later, Brown is still on the official roster, so Arians addressed the discrepancy Wednesday.

“It’s a management decision, what’s happening right now,” Arians said. When asked if Brown’s departure was imminent and if it was more a question of “how” rather than “if,” Arians responded, “Right.”

Brown, 33, who threw his equipment into the stands in the middle of the Jets game and left the field shirtless, did not practice with the team Wednesday. He was listed on the injury report as “not injury related — personal.”

The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All Pro has 42 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns this season in seven games. He’s second among active players with 928 career receptions.

The Buccaneers (12-4) end their regular season when they host the Carolina Panthers (5-11) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians to coach Sunday; more Buccaneers might return, too

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their head coach back when they play the Jets in New York on Sunday, as the Bucs announced Saturday that Bruce Arians had cleared COVID-19 protocol.

Arians, as well as wide receivers coach Kevin Garver, had spent most of the week in isolation before being cleared to return Saturday.

The Buccaneers (11-4) also might see the return of cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, as both players were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and are listed as questionable for the game.

Fellow cornerback Richard Sherman is listed as doubtful with an Achilles tendon injury.

Four players were elevated from the practice squad: punter Sterling Hofrichter and outside linebacker Elijah Ponder (standard elevation), as well as running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver Cyril Grayson (COVID-19 replacements).

For the Jets, cornerback Bryce Hall has been activated from the COVID list and will be eligible to return for a secondary that has struggled with youth this season.

The Jets (4-11) also elevated defensive end Ronnie Blair, tight end Dan Brown, wide receiver D.J. Montgomery and cornerback Lamar Jackson.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets cornerback Javelin Guidry (40) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jets’ young secondary faces tough test vs. Tom Brady, Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a wild-card team last postseason, never enjoying home-field advantage until they won Super Bowl LV at their home digs. This year, they already know their path to a repeat will be a bit easier.

The Buccaneers locked up the NFC South with their most recent win, and with two weeks to go, all that’s left is for them to jockey for the conference’s No. 1 overall playoff seed. That begins Sunday when they visit the rebuilding New York Jets.

“Having been through the playoffs last year, playing three road games leading up to the Super Bowl, kind of gives all of us confidence that we’re going to get things figured out,” tight end Cameron Brate said.

Tampa Bay (11-4) put its division away Sunday with its handy 32-6 win at the Carolina Panthers, a nice rebound from its 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints the week before. Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown hauled in 10 catches for 101 yards and second-year running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn had a breakout game with 70 yards and a score on seven carries.

Now Brady gets to face a struggling team he’s historically picked on during his New England Patriots days. Brady is 29-7 all-time against the Jets (4-11), marking the second-most wins he has earned against a single opponent.

How New York’s inexperienced secondary handles the future Hall of Famer will go a long way in determining Sunday’s outcome. The Jets’ pass defense ranks 28th in the NFL at 250 yards per game. Every cornerback who has started at least one game for the Jets this season — including 2021 draft picks Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols — is 22 to 24 years old.

“I think I was in the womb when (Brady) was in college or something like that,” Pinnock said. “But this is Tom Brady. It’s a tremendous opportunity. I’m a young guy, (going) against a wise old GOAT. Looking forward to it.”

Coaching figures to be an X-factor, too. The Jets did not have Robert Saleh on the sidelines for Sunday’s 26-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars while the first-year coach battled COVID-19. But Saleh and six players, most notably starting defensive linemen John Franklin-Myers and Folorunso Fatukasi, returned Wednesday from stints in COVID protocol.

On the flip side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced this week that coach Bruce Arians tested positive for COVID-19. They also placed starting cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the reserve/COVID list.

Harold Goodwin, Tampa Bay’s assistant head coach and run game coordinator, is running the team in Arians’ absence, including if Arians is unable to return in time for Sunday.

“We’ve always said ‘next man up,’ so when one man goes down, another guy’s got to rise to the occasion,” Goodwin said. “And for a player, as a competitor, you want to do well. And so far so good — knock on wood — we’ve had those guys step in and do a nice job.”

The Bucs’ absences extend past the coronavirus. Linebacker Shaq Barrett landed on the injury report with a knee injury suffered in Sunday’s game. Barrett, fellow linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder), safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot) and defensive back Richard Sherman (Achilles) did not practice Wednesday. Brown (ankle) was limited.

For the Jets, receiver Jamison Crowder (calf) did not participate in practice. Defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee) also sat out, but Saleh said it was a scheduled day off to rest his knee.

–Field Level Media

Bucs, Panthers looking to jump start sluggish offenses

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty to figure out for their next game, including how to break through on the scoreboard.

Their opponent is in worse shape.

Tampa Bay visits the Carolina Panthers for Sunday afternoon’s game in Charlotte, N.C. The teams will meet twice over the final three weeks of the regular season.

The Buccaneers (10-4) are leading the NFC South, so they’re in good position in that regard and can clinch the divisional crown by winning in Charlotte. Their three remaining games also include a matchup with the lowly New York Jets.

The Panthers (5-9) have a four-game losing streak and all sorts of questions on the offensive side.

While Carolina can’t seem to find good rhythm with quarterback Cam Newton, the Buccaneers will be sticking with Tom Brady.

Tampa Bay had a four-game winning streak snapped with last weekend’s 9-0 loss to New Orleans.

There’s lots for the Buccaneers to sort out, particularly with losing receiver Chris Godwin for the rest of the season because of a torn knee ligament. Godwin is third in the NFL in receptions this year and fifth in receiving yards.

With receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette nursing hamstring injuries, it’s bound to complicate Tampa Bay’s game plan. That could mean a larger role for running back Ronald Jones.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world (in Jones),” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. “He ran great, caught the ball good (in the last game) and I think going forward it’s his job now.”

Still, the Buccaneers signed former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell this week.

Arians said Evans could be back in action soon.

The Buccaneers have receiver Antonio Brown back following a three-game suspension related to falsifying a COVID vaccine status. The number of snaps he can handle against the Panthers could be a bit tricky.

“We’ll wait and see,” Arians said. “Hopefully, we can get 30, 35 plays out of him.”

In five games since rejoining the Panthers, Newton has thrown for four touchdowns and tossed four interceptions.

There just hasn’t been consistency or game-turning positive plays.

“I think it really just comes down to our ability to throw the ball and create some explosive plays,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said.

With quarterback Sam Darnold available after time out with a shoulder injury, the Panthers should have more options. Practices leading to the weekend could determine how Carolina approaches the game, although Newton will be the starter and Darnold is expected to play at some point.

“It is a good opportunity to shake some of the rust off and see where he’s at,” Rhule said of Darnold.

Meanwhile, Panthers receiver DJ Moore’s status might not be determined until Sunday because of a hamstring injury.

Even coming off a blanking, the Buccaneers have a good foundation. Brady has an NFL-leading 4,348 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes this season. Yet he had gone 255 consecutive starts without a shutout loss.

The problems run so deep for the Panthers that they’ll turn to Lirim Hajrullahu, who has appeared in one previous NFL regular-season game, as the kicker. He was signed off Washington’s practice squad.

Zane Gonzalez had been the Carolina kicker, but a pregame quadriceps injury in Buffalo left the Panthers without a kicker for the game, so they passed up opportunities to attempt field goals and chose two-point conversion plays following their two touchdowns.

Panthers second-year safety Jeremy Chinn needs two tackles to reach 100 for the second season in a row.

Tampa Bay defeated the Panthers twice last season. That’s worth noting for another reason this week as well.

Last year, the Buccaneers followed a 38-3 loss to New Orleans by thumping the Panthers 46-23, so a quick turnaround on offense is possible.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs the ball while Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (95) defends  in the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Fournette’s fourth TD completes Bucs’ comeback over Colts

Leonard Fournette’s fourth touchdown of the game, a 28-yard run with 20 seconds left, lifted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 38-31 win over the host Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Fournette, who rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries, plowed off the left tackle with Tampa Bay (8-3) trying to set up Ryan Succop for a potential game-winning field goal. He ran through a couple of arm tackles and tumbled into the end zone to complete his huge game.

The Colts (6-6) had a final chance after Isaiah Rodgers returned the kickoff 72 yards to the Buccaneers’ 32-yard line. But Carson Wentz’s pass on the final play was intercepted by Pierre Desir at the 2 to end it.

Wentz completed 27 of 44 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble early in the third quarter as Indianapolis was driving for a potential three-score lead.

Tom Brady hit on 25 of 34 passes for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Tampa Bay. Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 123 yards.

NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor gained 83 yards on 16 carries, tying the game at 31 with a 4-yard run at the 3:29 mark. But the Colts stayed two games behind Tennessee in the AFC South.

The first half was controlled by Indianapolis, but not in the way it normally gets business done. Instead, the Colts went to the air in order to counter a Tampa Bay defense keying on Taylor.

After the Bucs took a 7-3 second-quarter lead when Fournette scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard run, Wentz answered with a 62-yard bomb to Ashton Dulin at the 11:44 mark. On Indianapolis’ next possession, Wentz finished a 90-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle.

Fournette brought Tampa Bay within 17-14 on a 4-yard scoring reception from Brady, but Wentz led a 14-play drive in the final 1:56 that he concluded with a 4-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. That gave the Colts a 24-14 halftime lead.

A 4-yard run by Fournette and 1-yarder by Ronald Jones in the third quarter put Tampa Bay ahead, 28-24.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA;  Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (69) pressures Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) as he looks to throw a pass in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Stafford’s four TD passes fuel Rams’ win vs. Bucs

Matthew Stafford threw for four scores as the Los Angeles Rams improved to 3-0 with a 34-24 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFI Stadium on Sunday.

Stafford continued to play well for the Rams since joining Los Angeles in an offseason trade, completing 27 of 38 passes for 343 yards. Stafford’s favorite target was Cooper Kupp, who finished with nine receptions for 96 yards and two scores on 12 targets.

DeSean Jackson added three receptions for 120 yards, including his first touchdown as a Ram – a 75-yard score.

Darrell Henderson Jr. did not play because of a rib issue. However, recent addition Sony Michel served as the primary running back in his place, posting 67 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Tom Brady finished 41 of 55 for 432 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. Sunday’s contest marked the first time Brady played in Los Angeles since the 1998 Rose Bowl as a backup quarterback for the University of Michigan.

But in this one, the Bucs (2-1) had trouble running the football, totaling just 35 yards on the ground, as the defending Super Bowl champs suffered their first loss of the season.

Aaron Donald secured his first career sack against Brady and added three tackles and a forced fumble.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Rams got on the scoreboard first with tight end Tyler Higbee scoring on a 6-yard screen pass, giving Los Angeles a 7-0 lead at the 12:22 mark of the second quarter. Matthew Stafford went 8-for-8 on the 14-play, 95-yard scoring drive that took over eight minutes.

The Bucs responded with a 15-play, 76-yard drive capped by a Chris Godwin 2-yard run with 4:03 left in the first half, tying the score at 7-all.

On the ensuing drive, the Rams retook the lead on a 2-yard pass from Stafford to Kupp, putting L.A. up 14-7 at halftime. Rams coach Sean McVay improved to 40-0 when holding a lead at halftime.

The Rams pushed their lead to 21-7 on a 75-yard Stafford deep ball to Jackson on the opening drive of the second half.

The Bucs answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a Brady 1-yard plunge for a score, cutting L.A.’s advantage to 21-14.

However, L.A. took control of the game again with a Kupp 10-yard scoring reception and a Matt Gay 48-yard field goal, putting the hosts ahead 31-14.

Tampa Bay answered with a Ryan Succup 26-yard field goal to trim L.A.’s edge to 31-17 and completed the scoring on a Brady-to-Giovani Bernard touchdown pass with 1:10 left in the game.

The Bucs were without Antonio Brown because he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tight Rob Gronkowski appeared to suffer a rib injury early in the third quarter after a hit from linebacker Terrell Lewis.

Gronkowski went to the medical tent and then the locker room for further evaluation. He later returned to the game, finishing with four receptions for 55 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) runs the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bucs WR Antonio Brown out vs. Rams

Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, will miss the Tampa Bay Buccaneers road game with the Los Angeles Rams, ESPN reported on Saturday.

Per the report, Brown is not traveling with the team to Los Angeles.

Brown needed to be asymptomatic and return two negative tests 24 hours apart to be eligible to play Sunday against the Rams (2-0).

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said the team has options should Brown be unable to play due to COVID-19.

“With A.B. we’ve got plenty of good guys that have proven track records at that position,” Arians said.

Brown, 33, has six receptions for 138 yards and one touchdown on 10 targets in two games this season for the Bucs (2-0). Hehad five catches for 121 yards and a score in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

–Field Level Media

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) fights with Tennessee Titans defensive back Chris Jackson (35) during a joint training camp practice at AdventHealth Training Center Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021 in Tampa, Fla.

Nas Titans Bucs 009

Antonio Brown ejected from Buccaneers practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown made headlines Thursday for getting tossed from practice after an altercation with Tennessee Titans defensive back Chris Jackson, according to multiple outlets.

During the joint practice, Brown ripped off Jackson’s helmet, engaged in a shouting match, and as photographs that emerged later in the day revealed, even connected a closed fist with Jackson’s jaw.

All told, the two teams got into four different skirmishes, per reporting from the Nashville Tennessean.

Brown has earned a reputation for troubling off-field incidents and prestigious on-field accomplishments. Brown alienated Oakland Raiders leadership in the summer of 2019 by freezing his feet in a cryotherapy machine, complaining about his helmet, and airing dirty laundry between himself and GM Mike Mayock.

The 10-year veteran starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010-18, earning seven Pro Bowl nods and scoring 74 touchdowns through the air.

The 33-year-old joined the New England Patriots briefly in 2019 after his Raiders stint before landing in Tampa Bay to rejoin Tom Brady in 2020. He totaled 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns last fall.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) works out prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs will have WR Mike Evans vs. Washington

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told ESPN that wide receiver Mike Evans will play in Saturday night’s road playoff game against the Washington Football Team.

Evans was able to run without restriction Thursday and was determined to be a game-time decision.

Evans, 27, was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons. An MRI exam afterward determined it to be a hyperextended left knee. No ligament damage was detected.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has a record seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his NFL career but has never participated in a playoff game.

In his first season with Tom Brady at quarterback, Evans caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns. A potential 14th touchdown catch went by the wayside on the play on which Evans was hurt last week. He lost his footing in the end zone and didn’t return to the game.

Cornerback Carlton Davis, also a game-time decision after missing two games with a groin injury, also reportedly is set to play.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Tom Brady (12) against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter of a NFL game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs WR Mike Evans runs, game-time decision at WFT

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was able to run without restriction Thursday and is a game-time decision for Saturday night’s road playoff game against the Washington Football Team.

Head coach Bruce Arians said the Buccaneers will monitor how Evans responds physically Thursday and Friday. He is likely to work out on the field Saturday in pregame before any final call is made on keeping him active.

Evans, 27, underwent an MRI exam following his Week 17 injury, which was determined to be a hyperextended left knee. No ligament damage was detected.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has a record seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his NFL career but has never participated in a playoff game.

In his first season with Tom Brady at quarterback, Evans caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns. A potential 14th touchdown catch went by the wayside on the play on which Evans was hurt last week. He lost his footing in the end zone and didn’t return to the game.

–Field Level Media