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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs-Giants: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday's 4:05 game

Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson look to get the Bucs back on the winning side at 4:05 p.m. against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson look to get the Bucs back on the winning side at 4:05 p.m. against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.

BOUNCING BACK

Tom Jones, @tomwjones: So which Bucs team shows up? The one that clobbered the Bears or the one clobbered by the Vikings? There’s no rational reason to believe the beat-up Bucs are going to win, yet maybe being back home will spark the offense and lead Tampa Bay to victory. Prediction: Tampa Bay 24-20.

ELI’S COMING

Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly: Upset special. Giants are flawed, Eli Manning finds his inner Case Keenum. The Bucs don’t have depth (who does?) to win games while missing what looks like multiple top-line starters on one side of the ball. Then again, who does? Prediction: New York 27-23.

GIANT SETBACK

Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud: The Giants are better than their 0-3 record. Last week, their offense came alive with an uptempo attack. The Bucs D is reeling and without LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. That means rookie Kendell Beckwith could make the calls against Eli Manning. Uh oh. Prediction: New York 24-20.

OFFENSE STEPS UP …

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No penalty, but Vikings' Sendejo fined for hit on Bucs' Brate

Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo was fined $24,309 for this hit on Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, which didn't draw a flag during the game.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo was fined $24,309 for this hit on Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, which didn't draw a flag during the game.

The play somehow didn't result in a penalty Sunday, but Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo has been fined $24,309 for his hit on Bucs tight end Cameron Brate on a touchdown catch in Sunday's game.

Brate took a hit to the back of his head, and was fortunate not to be placed into the league's concussion protocol. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said this week the play should havev been a penalty, and even shared that the official walked over to him and said that he missed the call after seeing the hit on replay.

The $24,309 matches the NFL fine schedule for a first violation on a hit on a defenseless player, as Bucs safety Chris Conte was fined for in the opener against Chicago.

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Ronde, Tiki Barber reunited in Fox broadcast for Bucs-Giants

Twin brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber, shown when the Super Bowl was played in Tampa in 2009, will work together in the broadcast booth for Fox's coverage of the Bucs-Giants game on Sunday.

LUIS SANTANA | TIMES

Twin brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber, shown when the Super Bowl was played in Tampa in 2009, will work together in the broadcast booth for Fox's coverage of the Bucs-Giants game on Sunday.

Ronde Barber isn't keen on a three-man NFL broadcast as he will be in Sunday's Bucs-Giants game, but also admits that he and twin brother Tiki have co-existed in smaller quarters.

"I think we'll play off each other fine, having never done it before, TV-wise," the former Bucs cornerback said. "The familiarity of having shared a womb at one point in our existence, I think if we could get along in there, we can get along in however big our booth is."

Ronde played his entire 16-year career with Tampa Bay and Tiki all 10 of his NFL seasons with the Giants, and they still know their old teams well. Ronde's in his fifth year working on FOX's broadcasts, and Tiki has come to respect the time he puts into preparing for Sunday afternoons. …

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Cannon Fodder podcast: Familiar faces in Bucs-Giants showdown

Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson has a long history against the Giants.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson has a long history against the Giants.

Greg Auman has the final preview on Sunday's Bucs-Giants showdown, with familiar faces on both sides of this game, in his latest Cannon Fodder preview.

Injuries again are playing a major part for both teams, and DeSean Jackson has a long history with the Giants. Listen below:

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Bucs' Robert Ayers facing former teammates in Giants game

Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers, shown in preseason, faces his old team Sunday with the Giants in town. Tampa Bay has only one sack in two games this season.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers, shown in preseason, faces his old team Sunday with the Giants in town. Tampa Bay has only one sack in two games this season.

As the Bucs defense tries to get back on track Sunday, defensive end Robert Ayers will do so against a Giants team he played for in 2014-15, including a 9.5-sack season in his last year in New York.

"I don't care who it is -- I'm no more motivated to play the Giants than I am to play the next team," said Ayers, hoping to spark a pass rush that has generated only one sack in two games this season.

The Giants went 6-10 in each of Ayers' two seasons with the team, and are off to an 0-3 start in 2017, but Ayers said he knows veteran quarterback Eli Manning presents a challenge for the Bucs defense.

"He's a great player. Two Super Bowls, and you can't really rattle him. He's very smart and has been through a lot of big games," Ayers said. "He's very intelligent and very competitiive."

Manning is undefeated in his career against the Bucs, and in his last three games against Tampa Bay has escaped without a single sack. That will be harder Sunday, as the Giants have allowed eight sacks in their first three games. …

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Bucs fans: Meet McCoy, Alstott, Brooks at tailgate event

Former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott, right, talks with Derrick Brooks at a 2008 game. Both will be at a fan tailgate event at International Plaza on Saturday, along with current Bucs DT Gerald McCoy.

TIMES ARCHIVES (2008)

Former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott, right, talks with Derrick Brooks at a 2008 game. Both will be at a fan tailgate event at International Plaza on Saturday, along with current Bucs DT Gerald McCoy.

Three of the biggest names in Bucs football over the past 20 years will be making appearances Saturday at the "Built Ford Tough Toughest Tailgate" event at International Plaza and Bay Street.

Current Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is scheduled to appear at the free event from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., with former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott appearing from noon to 1 p.m. and Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks appearing from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The event, part of a national seven-city tour, starts at 10 a.m. Saturday -- fans can participate in tailgate games of cornhole and an NFL quarterback target toss, both built into the beds of new 2018 Ford F-150 trucks. There are prize giveaways, including tickets for Sunday's sold-out Bucs-Giants game at Raymond James Stadium.

Fans can also take part in Ford's "Raising the Bar Challenge" at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday starting at noon (kickoff is 4:05 p.m.) with a chance to win NFLshop.com gift cards.

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Lavonte David confident Bucs linebackers can step up

Bucs rookie Kendell Beckwith, shown making a tackle in Sunday's loss to the Vikings, will play a larger, every-down role if starting linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexanders can't play this week against the Giants.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs rookie Kendell Beckwith, shown making a tackle in Sunday's loss to the Vikings, will play a larger, every-down role if starting linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexanders can't play this week against the Giants.

The Bucs may be without their top two linebackers Sunday if Lavonte David (ankle) and Kwon Alexander (hamstring) are sidelined against the Giants, but David said he trusts in the team's depth at linebacker to step up in larger roles if needed.

"As a group, as a unit, we always thrive on trying to be the best we can be, and being the best unit on the field," David said Thursday. "You can tell by the way we prepare for gamedays, in the film room. I'm very comfortable, and we all feel like we're starters, and I feel like there will be no dropoff, whoever's out there."

David and Alexander haven't practiced this week -- Alexander missed Sunday's game at Minnesota and David was carted off in the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle. If they're both out, that means rookie Kendell Beckwith -- who played every defensive snap Sunday in just his second NFL game -- adds the responsibility of communicating the defensive call, and Adarius Glanton is elevated into a primary every-down role next to him, with Cameron Lynch and Devante Bond as the backups. …

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Shoulder won't stop Bucs' Noah Spence from playing

Bucs defensive end Noah Spence, shown this summer during offseason workouts, said he'll continue to play despite dislocating his shoulder during last week's game against the Vikings.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs defensive end Noah Spence, shown this summer during offseason workouts, said he'll continue to play despite dislocating his shoulder during last week's game against the Vikings.

For the second time in as many seasons, Bucs defensive end Noah Spence is dealing with shoulder issues that will force him to wear a protective harness to lessen the potential for additional dislocations.

And as was the case his rookie year, that's not going to keep him from playing at all.

"It's not a big deal -- just staying in my strap, staying on top of it," said Spence, who was back at full participation for Wednesday's practice after dislocating his shoulder during Sunday's loss at the Vikings and returning to the game after the shoulder was popped back in.

Spence, who had a sack and forced fumble in the season opener, had been worried during the Vikings game about additional damage to the shoulder -- he had surgery in the offseason to repair a torn labrum -- but he's back at practice and won't miss any time, grateful the injury wasn't much more severe.

"This is a blessing that's it's nothing worse -- everything's manageable," said Spence, who will focus on different pass-rush moves with the harness back on. "It's going to be different, but it's still playing football, nothing crazy." …

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Bucs Jameis Winston expects to be grounded if he throws INT

Jameis Winston says he has to do a better job of protecting the football or the Bucs will take it out of his hands.

Winston was intercepted three more times in a 34-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday. Winston has 25 turnovers in 17 career games on the road. The Bucs host the New York Giants Sunday and Winston knows he has only one main job to do.

“Protect the football,’’ Wintson said. “That’s the main thing. I talk about it all the time. If you look at last week’s game, that’s what it came down to. It came down to turnovers.

Winston underthrew wide open receiver DeSean Jackson in the second quarter and a touchdown would’ve cut the Vikings lead to 14-10. Instead they used the turnover to drive 92 yards for a touchdown.

He was intercepted twice in the second half while trying to mount a comeback. Winston passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns to go with the three picks. …

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Bucs' Ryan Smith on mistakes: 'It won't happen again'

Vikings receiver Jarius Wright extends the ball over the pylon for a touchdown Sunday with Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith in pass coverage.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Vikings receiver Jarius Wright extends the ball over the pylon for a touchdown Sunday with Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith in pass coverage.

With Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes sidelined against the Vikings with a shoulder injury, second-year Bucs corner Ryan Smith was thrust into a starting role Sunday and admitted that he struggled in his first extensive NFL playing time on defense.

"I know I did wrong," Smith said Wednesday as the Bucs prepare for a home game Sunday against the Giants and another dangerous passing attack. "I'm definitely going to play better. That won't happen again. Just learn from my mistakes. It's better to go through it so you know where you messed up, so it won't happen again."

Smith was targeted often by Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who had a strong day overall, throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Smith missed a tackle on a 59-yard touchdown catch by Stefon Diggs in the third quarter, allowing Minnesota to take a 28-3 lead. Pro Football Focus had Smith giving up five catches for 118 yards.

"He played a lot in the preseason, (but) that was his first time out there in real football," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Let's face it, they went at him a few times, and for him to play in this league and to play consistently, he is going to have to play better than that." …

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Koetter on potential NFL boycott: 'We still love our fans'

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter congratulates Vikings coach Mike Zimmer after Sunday's 34-17 Minnesota victory over Tampa Bay.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter congratulates Vikings coach Mike Zimmer after Sunday's 34-17 Minnesota victory over Tampa Bay.

Some NFL fans are upset enough about players protesting during the national anthem that they're pledging to boycott the NFL -- not going to games, not watching games, not even giving their business to NFL sponsors.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, trying to navigate a difficult issue far outside the playing field, hopes the Bucs can keep their fans, on Sunday for a sold-out home games against the Giants, and beyond.

"I hope you don't do that," Koetter said when asked of potential fan boycotting. "I hope you can find it to support your local team, and I hope your local team is the Bucs. I still hope we have all Bucs jerseys in the lower bowl. Nothing has changed."

Koetter has expressed his personal feelings about the national anthem being one of his favorite moments in any football game, but also given his players the freedom to express themselves as they want. That meant receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson kneeling with their hands on their hearts during Sunday's national anthem. …

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Bucs' Mike Evans: No, 'Rhodes were open' for him vs. Vikings

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes breaks up a pass intended for Bucs receiver Mike Evans during Sunday's game. Evans took exception to a tweet from the NFL's official account suggesting that for opposing receivers, "RHODES CLOSED."

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes breaks up a pass intended for Bucs receiver Mike Evans during Sunday's game. Evans took exception to a tweet from the NFL's official account suggesting that for opposing receivers, "RHODES CLOSED."

The Bucs took a rough 34-17 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, but receiver Mike Evans took exception when the NFL's official Twitter account posted for its 24-million followers a graphic that showed Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes with Evans' statistics and the headline "RHODES CLOSED."

Evans was held to five catches for 53 yards and no touchdowns on Sunday -- four for 36 with Rhodes covering -- but he felt compelled to reply on Twitter, writing "Rhodes were open for me. Film don't lie."

The Pro Bowl receiver was asked about the exchange Wednesday in the Bucs' locker room, and he said he wanted to make it clear that even limited production doesn't mean that Rhodes, a Pro Bowl selection last year, had shut him down during the game.

"I was just defending myself," Evans said. "They put me up there like 'All Rhodes are closed' and I was just telling them 'Rhodes were open for me.' That's all I was saying. There's film to prove that if y'all have the film. I'm not going to post the film of the times I beat him, but the times I beat him, other guys were open, so we just threw it to the other guy that was open. That's all it was."

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Bucs preparing to be without David, Alexander against Giants

The Bucs are preparing to face the New York Giants Sunday without linebackers Lavonte David, pictured, and Kwon Alexander.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs are preparing to face the New York Giants Sunday without linebackers Lavonte David, pictured, and Kwon Alexander.

The Bucs are preparing to face the New York Giants Sunday without linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.

Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said rookie Kendell Beckwith, a third-round pick from LSU, would be given the helmet transmitter and responsible for calling the defense.

David began the Bucs’ 34-17 loss to the Vikings Sunday with the helmet transmitter until he suffered an ankle injury. From that point on, Beckwith called the defense.

Alexander started the season opener against the Chicago Bears but did not finish the game after aggravating a hamstring injury and did not play against the Vikings.

Smith said Wednesday they will have to expand the role played by Beckwith at middle linebacker. …

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McCoy apologizes for calling Trump 'retarded,' asks fans to pray for him

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, shown in preseason, apologized Wednesday for using the word "retarded" in reference to President Donald Trump two days earlier.

LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, shown in preseason, apologized Wednesday for using the word "retarded" in reference to President Donald Trump two days earlier.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who made critical comments of President Donald Trump on Monday, apologized on Wednesday for using the word "retarded" as part of that, saying people should first be praying for the president.

"As a man, when you make a mistake, you've got to admit your faults and correct it," McCoy said. "With me being a man of God, I made a mistake. ... When I was talking the other day, I called the president 'retarded.' Even though he doesn't make the best decisions, it wasn't my right to say that. Being being a man of God, the first thing I should have said is 'We need to pray for him.'

"The Bible calls for us to pray for all our leaders, and the Bible also says any leader in a leadership position, God has placed him there, so for me to disrespect him in that manner, I was in the wrong and I can admit that. Instead of me saying that, I retract that statement and say 'Let's just pray for our country and pray for our president. That's what I should have said. I made a mistake in saying that." …

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QBs Keenum, Eli, Brady combined 11-0 vs. Bucs

Giants QB Eli Manning, who comes to Tampa to face the Bucs on Sunday, is shown in 2012 after he threw for 510 yards in a wild 41-34 win against Tampa Bay.

TIMES ARCHIVES (2012)

Giants QB Eli Manning, who comes to Tampa to face the Bucs on Sunday, is shown in 2012 after he threw for 510 yards in a wild 41-34 win against Tampa Bay.

The Bucs are in the middle of a stretch of three games in 12 days, a daunting challenge all by itself.

But consider this: There are 45 active quarterbacks who have thrown a pass against the Bucs, and of those, only three have played Tampa Bay at least three times and remain undefeated against them. Those three? The Vikings' Case Keenum, who just threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs on Sunday, and the Giants' Eli Manning and Patriots' Tom Brady, who both come to Raymond James Stadium in the next nine days.

So to avoid a 1-3 start, the Bucs need to beat one of the two quarterbacks they've had the hardest times beating in their history.

Keenum improved to 3-0 against the Bucs with Sunday's win, matching Brady's record in his career against Tampa Bay. But Manning's 5-0 mark, including a postseason win against the Bucs the last time they made the playoffs in January 2008, can move to No. 1 all-time against the Bucs with a win Sunday. As it stands, the only other player 5-0 against Tampa Bay as a starting quarterback is former Cowboys star Danny White, who went 5-0 from 1978-83, including two playoff wins. …

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