-On Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET NFL Network's Emmy Award Winning series "NFL 360" will air a feature in partnership with the Buccaneers on Robert DuBoise. The Tampa native was wrongfully imprisoned for 37 years, spending three on death row for murder. Even after he was exonerated and the real killer identified, DuBoise made headlines when it was declared that due to Florida law, despite his wrongful imprisonment, DuBoise was not entitled to compensation from the state.
That's when Bucs left guard Ali Marpet first heard DuBoise's story. He sent a group text to both Alex Cappa and Donovan Smith, the latter of which sits on the Bucs Social Justice Board with him. They decided they needed to do something and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Fund would help. They even had DuBoise in the stands for the Bucs' Monday Night Football matchup against the Rams this season, marking DuBoise's first-ever football game.
Check out the full feature done by NFL 360 with the help of the Buccaneers on NFL Network at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday night with host Melissa Stark and Jeffri Chadiha as the story's correspondent.
-General Manager Jason Licht reflected on the season so far on Wednesday morning, thinking about how far the Buccaneers have come this season. It was a challenging season in many ways, especially with the Coronavirus pandemic, and had its share of lows. One of those dips was indeed a loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football in Week Five. It was a game filled with penalties and a loss that stung maybe more than any other for Licht. But what he came to realize, with the help of Head Coach Bruce Arians, is that there is a silver lining to everything.
"That game was a game that, probably in my career here – and we've had a lot of bad losses – that one was one that really stung the most, I think," said Licht. "Not only did we lose the way we lost with the penalties and things like that, we also lost Vita [Vea]. I was talking about this the other day with Bruce [Arians], actually. I said, 'Gosh, that game still stings.' He said, 'That's the best thing that happened to us. That game is the best thing that happened to us, looking back in retrospect.' I think he's right. We cleaned up our penalties, we were more disciplined and it just brought everybody together. It showed that we're all human – everybody – and everybody needs to be held accountable. Everybody on the roster, everybody in the front office and everybody in the organization. It brought us closer together."
Widen the lens and looking at how far the franchise has come over the past few years isn't something that's lost on the players – especially some of those that have been here for a while. Take the aforementioned left guard Ali Marpet, who was part of Licht's second draft class in Tampa in 2015.
"It's kind of crazy," said Marpet about now earning the chance to play in the Super Bowl. "I think coming in 2015 with Donovan [Smith] and some of those other guys, we really did have playoffs and Super Bowl in our head. We were 2-14 the year before we got here. We were like, 'We're going to turn this thing around, we're going to dominate, we're going to get to the playoffs,' and gosh it is hard to get here. I think because it's been so hard, it makes this moment that more precious, if you will. I feel very grateful for being here and it's been a grind to get here. Back to the Hobart days I would have never thought I would have been in this position, so I feel really grateful for that."
-The main headlines this season have been about quarterback Tom Brady's decision to come to Tampa Bay and what he's been able to accomplish in less than a year as a Buccaneer. That's all well-deserved and incredible in its own right, but where Brady has lacked continuity in getting acclimated to a brand-new system for the first time in his pro career, he's had the benefit of at least some continuity on the other side of the ball. Though the defense is young, they are now in year two of Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system and have become visibly more comfortable in it as a result. That has been apparent especially with the young secondary corps, who has had a major impact this postseason. Guys like cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting have had an interception in every playoff game the Bucs have played this season. Murphy-Bunting joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams (four-consecutive games) and Ed Reed as well as Jason Sehorn as the only four players in the Super Bowl era with an interception in each of their first three career postseason games. His three postseason interceptions are tied for the most in team history.
"Yeah, we have had some success recently," said Licht about the young defensive backs he drafted, three of which were in 2019. "We didn't have a lot of success before that. I think trial and error helped with that. Todd [Bowles] and his staff – the defensive coaches – are excellent teachers. We had a clear vision of what they were looking for in Todd's scheme and we liked bigger, longer guys that are physical and smart – guys that, if they're maybe short on size and length, they have to be extremely tough. Todd finds a way to work these different talents and skillsets into his defense and change his defense to better utilize what they are. It's a really, really good group that we have right now. There was a lot of trial and error that went into that and I'm just happy that it's working out. Todd and his staff – they deserve a lot of credit, if not all the credit, for the way these guys have been playing during the playoff run."
The effort put forth by the younger players hasn't gone unnoticed by the veteran guys, either. Not only have guys like Marpet been impressed with the young secondary, but young players like rookies Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr., who have made huge impacts on the team in only their first year as well.
"I think in order to have this much success you need the young guys to step up, and those guys really have," Marpet said about the young players. "There's a lot of good leaders and you just mentioned all those guys. They've really done a nice job and they've taken it very seriously. They've led from the front as young guys, which is really important."
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