There is no sport more popular in the United States than NFL Football, and for many sports fans in Central Florida, there is no passion greater than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of media sources for information on these fans' favorite topic, from the inside access provided here on Buccaneers.com to the information disseminated by local and national newspapers, television networks, radio stations and internet sites.
The question is no longer, is there adequate coverage out there for my favorite team? Now the question is, with everything out there being said about the Buccaneers, did I miss anything?
That's why we're going to be bringing you the "Word on the Street" about the Buccaneers every week during the 2011 season, beginning this week as the team prepares for its regular-season opener against Detroit on Sunday. Every Friday, we'll recap some of the national coverage about your Bucs that you may have missed, and provide you with the links so you can check it out yourself.
This week, our five Word on the Streets links include two USA Today pieces on the Bucs' young, rising stars; some analysis of what many consider to be a premium opening-weekend matchup; coverage from enemy territory on Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy; and, of course, a look at the life and legacy of Lee Roy Selmon. You may, of course, have already read about some of these topics, but this is a chance to get another perspective and find out how the Buccaneers are viewed in communities other than our own.
So, without further ado, the Word on the Streets:
1. Josh Freeman, Too Good to Be True?
USA Today's Jarrett Bell calls 23-year-old quarterback Josh Freeman "the perfect fit" to lead the young Buccaneers to new heights. Bell talks to Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson, left tackle Donald Penn and Freeman himself and finds no reason to believe that the young passer's career arc won't continue upward. Bell focuses much of his story on Freeman's quest to become a more complete leader for all of his very young teammates.
Excerpt: "The Bucs are in good hands. Freeman, who sparkled in 2010 in passing for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns, vs. six interceptions, is seemingly mature beyond his age and growing up by the minute. At 6-6, 248, he sure looks the part of an elite quarterback-in-the-making poised to put his team on his back and take it to a higher plane."
2. Detroit Press Plumbs Suh-McCoy Connection
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes about a connection that, while obvious, is undeniably relevant as the Bucs and Lions prepare to open their seasons against each other on Sunday afternoon. Sixteen months ago, the Lions selected Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the draft and the Buccaneers followed with Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy one spot later. When the Bucs and Lions met last December at Raymond James Stadium, McCoy was already on injured reserve, so the inevitable comparisons between the two were mostly put on hold. Now, both young players, and both of their teams, have very high expectations for 2011, and Birkett explores how the Bucs' McCoy feels about being connected with his Lions counterpart.
Excerpt: "McCoy finished last season with three sacks and a forced fumble in his final five games, and he blossomed more during this exhibition season under the tutelage of new defensive line coach Keith Millard. 'Last year, we were so robotic," McCoy said. 'This year, it's like kill anything in front of you within the scheme of the defense.'"
3. Bucs-Lions Matchup Quite Attractive on Season-Opening Slate
The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints got opening weekend started in incredible fashion on Thursday night, with the home-team Packers holding on to a 42-34 win despite a late Saints rally. That one seemed like an instant classic, but there are some other very notable matchups still to come on Sunday and Monday. Pittsburgh at Baltimore. Atlanta at Chicago. Dallas at the New York Jets. And some NFL analysts think Detroit's trip to Tampa is among the weekend's top highlights. In fact, two writers for NFL.com chose to highlight what could be a budding rivalry between two of the league's youngest and most promising squads. Albert Breer called Detroit-Tampa Bay the toughest call of the weekend while Jason LaCanfora said he was "ridiculously intrigued" by the game.
Excerpt: "The Bucs were the most improved team a year ago, and the Lions might earn that honor this season. These are young teams with ramped-up expectations. Two top QBS from the class of 2009 get together. Josh Freeman is out to show last year was no fluke; Matthew Stafford is out to show that he can stay healthy."
4. Bucs Young Lineman Want to Repeat Team History
USA Today's Bell takes another look at the Bucs' young hopefuls, this time concentrating on a defensive line that has been totally revamped over the last three years. In particular, Bell focuses on the two rookies added to that line in the first two rounds of this year's draft, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. Bell refers to Bowers as one of the NFL's "most intriguing rookies" and talks to both rookie linemen as well as Head Coach Raheem Morris.
Excerpt: "Clayborn, 23, picked 20th overall, is one of the key pieces in an evolving unit the Bucs hope will emulate the standard set by a defense that led the franchise to five playoff berths in six seasons beginning in 1997. Recent draft-day investments leave no doubt about the approach."
5. Selmon's Legacy Can't Be Overstated
The untimely death of Buccaneers Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon on Sunday shocked the entire Bay area and led to many heartfelt columns about the community icon's life and legacy. Local writers found that it was impossible to overstate Selmon's impact on the Bay area or his caring, compassionate and gentle nature. The community grieved as one, and then celebrated Selmon's life at a funeral service on Friday. But Selmon's passing was national news, as well, as his impact through his years in his homestate of Oklahoma, his incredible NFL career and his extremely important work at the University of South Florida generated admirers all over the nation. David Whitley of AOL Fanhouse used his column on Monday to try to describe how much Selmon meant to those who knew him.
Excerpt: "It's natural to get carried away when somebody dies. Then once every million or so obituaries, along comes a Lee Roy Selmon. You could torture every person he ever met and demand they come up with something bad to say about Selmon. It would be futile."