Cameron Brate

Latest On Buccaneers Injuries

The Buccaneers are still dealing with their fair share of injuries, but the team could soon be welcoming back some key players. According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, cornerback Carlton Davis II, and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting all practiced this week, a strong indication that they’re ready to return from their respective injuries.

Hicks has been sidelined since Week 2 while nursing a foot injury. The veteran defensive lineman started 77 games during his six seasons in Chicago before joining the Buccaneers this past offseason. He started each of Tampa’s first two games, collecting five total tackles. His return to the lineup will surely help a defensive line that has struggled against the run.

“It helps because it puts everybody back in their roles,” coach Todd Bowles said. “It puts everybody back in their roles and they can get the amount of time and play how they’re used to playing, and it helps us up front because it gives us a dimension we haven’t had over there.”

Davis had missed the past two games after aggravating a hip injury in Week 6. The 25-year-old started each of the Buccaneers’ first six games, collecting 31 tackles and four passes defended. Murphy-Bunting suffered a squad injury in Week 5 that forced him to miss a handful of games.

Of course, as mentioned, Tampa Bay still has a crowded injury list. Pro Bowl defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. will be out tomorrow against the Rams, as will tight end Cameron Brate, left guard Luke Goedeke, and wide receiver Russell Gage.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Saints, Brate

Even after the Panthers traded Robbie Anderson, they are still being linked to moving key pieces. The team still wants to keep its defensive core together, according to Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter). That said, Robinson adds that while the Panthers are not going to conduct a fire sale, they will likely aim to unload more players viewed as “Matt Rhule guys.”

This is interesting considering the two players who have been most closely linked to trades — Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson — were brought in before Rhule arrived. Rhule did greenlight McCaffrey’s extension; Thompson’s deal came under Marty Hurney‘s leadership. Carolina’s Temple contingent remains strong, even post-Anderson. Matthew Ioannidis, Cory Littleton and P.J. Walker remain in key roles, though Rhule-backed players cannot only be limited to the ones he coached in college. Littleton and Ioannidis are on one-year deals, making them interesting trade candidates.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • David Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018. The two football-related storylines most closely associated with the owner are Rhule’s seven-year, $62MM contract and the team’s Deshaun Watson pursuit. With the Panthers not having a winning season during Tepper’s time, is safe to say the owner’s stock has dipped. In the wake of Rhule’s firing, multiple NFL personnel men did not speak highly of Tepper, whom they classify as emotional and “difficult” to work for, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. Descriptions like these, along with Carolina’s quarterback situation, stand to make it harder for Tepper to hire his next coach. Then again, he could simply throw out another monster contract. Rhule was believed to prefer the Giants to the Panthers in 2020, but money certainly talked.
  • Although the Panthers designated Sam Darnold for return from IR, Steve Wilks said Walker will be his starter in Week 7. Jacob Eason will back up the former XFLer. Walker started in Week 6 and struggled, but the Panthers’ top three options (Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Matt Corral) are injured. Mayfield did return to practice Thursday, suggesting a possible Week 8 return is in play. But Mayfield and Darnold are set to wage another competition — several weeks after Mayfield prevailed in the training camp battle — following the former’s woeful start. The Panthers have three weeks to activate Darnold from IR.
  • The Saints will go with Andy Dalton again tonight. The 12th-year vet will make his fourth start this season, while Ed Werder of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) Jameis Winston will be the emergency No. 3 QB. Dalton supplanting Winston as the Saints’ full-time starter entered the equation recently, though Dennis Allen said Winston is not yet fully healthy. Winston, whom Dalton initially replaced due to spine fractures, re-signed on a two-year, $28MM deal this offseason. The Saints guaranteed Winston $15.2MM; Dalton is making $3MM this year.
  • Cameron Brate left the Buccaneers‘ Week 6 game on a stretcher, but Todd Bowles provided relatively good news on the veteran tight end. Brate sustained a sprained neck and did not suffer any loss of feeling or nerve damage. It is not clear when the ninth-year Buccaneer will be able to play again. The Bucs drafted two tight ends — Cade Otton and Ko Kieft — this year before signing Kyle Rudolph. Otton, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, worked as Brate’s primary replacement against the Steelers.

Reflections In The Wake Of New Concussion Protocol

The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement yesterday, the day after the Players Association urged the league to accept the new language for the NFL-NFLPA Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol that they wanted in place for this weekend’s slate of games. The statement showed the two parties reaching a mutual conclusion concerning both the nature of the changes to the protocol and the findings of the investigation into the injuries of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Just because the two parties came to an agreement doesn’t necessarily mean everyone involved is now on the same page. The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, was quoted as he spoke passionately on a Zoom call, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Sills flew to the defense of the medical professionals involved in clearing Tagovailoa, saying that they operated with “absolute integrity.” He claimed that they all see “a patient and not a player” in that kind of situation and that “no one involved cares about the position of the player or the score of a game.” He then moved to defend the protocol, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, saying that it “is not broken” but “can always improve.”

In response to the firing of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant in Tagovailoa’s case, Sills claimed that “it was extremely unfortunate to make an action prior to review being completed.” According to Rapoport, Sills’ sentiments were echoed by the NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, Jeff Miller, who was quoted saying, “It’s not something we would have done and didn’t. We never supported terminating him.” Miller deferred an explanation to the union, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, claiming it was the NFLPA’s decision to terminate the UNC despite protocols being followed.

Retired NFL center and president of the Players Association JC Tretter defended the union’s decision to terminate the UNC saying that, while the UNC technically followed the protocols, the NFLPA does “not believe this was a meaningful application of the protocols.” Tretter pointed out that “nobody, including the NFL, believes (Tagovailoa) should have been put back in the game,” seemingly insinuating that utilizing the loophole of Tagovailoa’s back injury as an alternative cause of gross motor instability, despite not taking time to examine him for a back injury, was a fireable offense.

Sills also spoke to the effects of the new protocol. He confirmed that, with the wording of the new protocol disqualifying any players showing symptoms of ataxia, Tagovailoa would’ve been effectively ruled out, according to Rapoport. He also warned of some potential negative consequences to the new wording, according to Pelissero, pointing out that “players diagnosed with ataxia will be treated the same as others with concussions, including needing independent neurologist clearance to play again.” He also pointed out that it would be “extremely unlikely” that a diagnosed player could clear all the steps required in order to return in just four days, hinting that the new protocol would also have held Tagovailoa out of the Thursday night game that saw him succumb to further head trauma.

Sills also acknowledged that, with the new wording, there will likely be some players who end up getting pulled even if they don’t have a concussion, according to Pelissero. This is one of the first major steps we’ve seen towards an actually conservative handling of head injuries, and it’s a tradeoff that the NFL and NFLPA will readily accept. Sills told the media, “We’d rather hold someone out that doesn’t have a brain injury than put someone out there that does have a concussion and we weren’t able to diagnose it,” a sentiment many who preach “player safety” have been pounding the table with for years.

The new protocol is now in place and will hopefully lead to more examples of protecting the league’s players. The protocol is only the first step, though, as now the league has to ensure that everybody involved in the process is retrained to follow the new checklist, released first yesterday by Pelissero. Even the two steps together will not guarantee that the protocol will be followed entirely to a T without fail. Just last week, Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate returned to a game after suffering a blow to the head and exhibiting “injury behavior” without so much as an examination, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. Florio wrote that Sills disagreed with the spotters’ conclusion that Brate was struck in the shoulder and not the head, and that Brate should have been examined for a concussion before re-entering the game. So even with the perfect protocols in place, human-error still persists, and the league will need to take steps in monitoring cases like this and taking action, when necessary.

Finally, we can turn our attention to the larger picture, in terms of an entity to which even the NFL must answer. The recent controversy reportedly drew the attention of the US Congress as Bill Pascrell, Jr., a member of the House of Representatives and head of the Brain Injury Task Force sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross inquiring about what was to be done to address player safety. The letter showed fundamental misunderstandings of the league’s policy and procedures, according to Florio, but still rightly demanded that action be taken. Pascrell’s response to the action taken last night has yet to be seen, but the entire situation may not be fully put to bed until the fat lady (Congress) sings.

For now, though, the NFL is in action-mode, putting into effect their new protocol. The rest of us will have to wait and see; see if the league acts more conservatively, if the danger of brain reinjury wanes, if player safety will take precedence over profit and product. The league is under the microscope and will hopefully become more proactive than reactive as a result.

Bruce Arians Discusses Coaches, New Role, TE Options

Bruce Arians has made it clear that his decision to step down as Buccaneers head coach wasn’t because of tension with his franchise quarterback. Rather, Arians has continually mentioned his desire for a clear succession plan when it came to the coaching staff, and he saw a golden opportunity to pass on the reigns to Todd Bowles.

“No it really wasn’t hard,” Arians said during a recent appearance on the “Eye Test For Two” podcast (h/t to JoeBucsFan.com). “[Winning a championship is] great, but succession was really, really big for me. It didn’t happen in Arizona. It meant the world to me to make sure 34 families had jobs beyond February. The Super Bowl wasn’t guaranteed, there’s nothing guaranteed, but now our guys have 5-year contracts. Todd’s got a 5-year deal and all the assistant coaches are set for the future.

“I was probably done anyway, so why not do it now? I know a lot of people think the Hall of Fame is the end-all, be-all and if it happens, that would be the most unbelievable thing to be able to wear a gold jacket. But this meant more to me personally.”

When Arians stepped away from his gig, it was assumed that the move was influenced by Tom Brady‘s decision to renege on his retirement and return for the 2022 campaign. Both sides have said that wasn’t the case, and Arians even said he would have reconsidered had he known Brady’s intentions before making his own decision. Passing on the job to Bowles seemed like a natural move, especially with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich still around to direct the offense.

With Arians no longer roaming the sideline, the long-time coach has transitioned into more of an advisory role. When Arians stepped down, his new role was described as “Senior Football Consultant.” The former coach indicated that he’ll still be interacting with both the coaches and the players, and he’ll naturally be able to take on a lesser role when it comes to game day:

“It’s a ‘What do you think?’ job,” Arians said. “Everybody asks me what do I think and they know they’re getting a brutally honest answer, whether it be [owner] Joel Glazer, [general manaher] Jason Licht, Todd Bowles or Byron Leftwich. It’s been fun going to practice, watching and learning some more, watching us change, looking at the new guys. Man, that draft class is going to be a home run. Looking forward to getting to camp.

“That’s the beauty of my job. I get to be in the locker room, get to be around the coaches every day and still have a big hand in the draft. The relationships were always the biggest thing for me. Building a new team, watching the new guys come in. Now, Sundays might be different sitting upstairs. I might be able to still holler loud enough to cuss out the refs from up there.”

Since he’ll no longer be responsible for devising a game plan, Arians will have more of an opportunity to contribute to team building. One of his more pressing issues will be figuring out how to proceed following tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s decision to retire. Fortunately, Arians doesn’t sound too worried about the team’s depth at the position.

“It’s a step back, that’s for sure,” Arians said. “[H]e’s a Hall of Fame player. But I really like the room right now. I love the young kids we’ve got in there and Cam Brate’s a good veteran player that Tom really trusts. Now, he’s not Gronk. That size and what he brings as a blocker and receiver I think is unmatched. You don’t replace that guy, but we also have Codey McElroy … I think it’s time for him to break out as a receiver.”

TE Cameron Brate Expected To Stick With Buccaneers

Cameron Brate is expected to be back in Tampa Bay next season, but that will likely come with another pay cut. According to Greg Auman of The Athletic (via Twitter), Brate is expected to return to the Buccaneers next year but will likely have to rework his contract.

The tight end has taken “literal” pay cuts in each of the past two offseasons, per Auman. Brate inked a six-year, $40.8MM extension with the organization in 2018, and he’s set to earn $6.8MM in 2022.

The former undrafted free agent out of Harvard took a bit to find his footing in the NFL. He had a breakout season in 2016, finishing with 660 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He’s been a consistent member of the offense ever since, appearing in every game for the Buccaneers since 2017. He finished this past season with 30 receptions and four scores.

He was buried behind Rob Gronkowski during Tom Brady‘s two years in Tampa Bay, but with the two Hall of Famers out of the picture, Brate should return to the top of the tight end depth chart next season. Fellow tight end O.J. Howard is set to hit free agency this offseason.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/9/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

  • Waived: LS Rex Sunahara

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Waived: QB Jake Dolegala
  • Signed: LS Brian Khoury

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

  • Signed: C Jon Toth

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/24/21

Here are Saturday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: LB Ray Wilborn
  • Placed on active/PUP list: RB Patrick Taylor

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Buccaneers Rework Cameron Brate’s Contract

The Buccaneers have Antonio Brown back in the fold, thanks to a little bit of help from Cameron Brate. On Wednesday, the tight end agreed to revise his existing contract with a portion of his salary being converted to a signing bonus (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates).

[RELATED: Buccaneers Re-Sign Antonio Brown]

The Buccaneers wiped $4.69MM from the books by converting $2.425MM of Brate’s pay to a bonus. Meanwhile, his listed salary has been reduced down to a modest $1.075MM. The remainder of Brate’s contract remains untouched — he still has base salaries of $6.8MM and $7.5MM for 2022 and 2023, respectively. However, those seasons are completely non-guaranteed, so the Buccaneers can release him with zero dead money left over.

Brate, an eighth-year pro, inked a six-year, $41MM deal with the Bucs in March 2018. At the time, he was hot off of two solid seasons with an average of 52 catches for 625 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, the 2018-19 campaigns were not as kind to him — his average dipped to 33/300/5 in those two years as he struggled through a hip injury.

Now, Brate finds himself playing second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski. In 2020, he put up some of the lowest numbers of his career — 28 receptions for 282 yards and two TDs. However, the 29-year-old (30 in July) saw a more significant role in the playoffs, culminating in Brate’s first ever ring.

Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate Dealing With Back Discomfort

It sounds like Cameron Brate may be a bit banged up heading into the Super Bowl. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Buccaneers tight end was a limited participant at practice Thursday due to a back injury. Rapoport adds that the ailment was described as “back discomfort,” and Brate “was pulled out of an abundance of caution.”

Brate felt better on Friday and, despite being listed as questionable, is expected to play Sunday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Thanks in part to the addition of Rob Gronkowski, Brate put up some of the lowest numbers of his career in 2020, compiling 28 receptions for 282 yards and two scores. However, the 29-year-old has seen a more significant role in the playoffs. After collecting five or more targets in only two of his 16 regular season games, Brate has seen at least five targets in each of his three postseason contests, hauling in 11 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown.

If Brate were to be sidelined for the Super Bowl, Gronk would likely soak up most of Brate’s snaps. With O.J. Howard sitting on IR, the Bucs could also hypothetically turn to Antony Auclair or Tanner Hudson.

There is some good news on the injury front for Tampa Bay. Rapoport adds that wideout Antonio Brown was a full participant at practice. The 32-year-old sat out the NFC Championship as he nursed a knee injury. Brown appeared in eight games for the Buccaneers this season, compiling 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns.

Bucs Notes: Brady, TEs, OL, Free Agency

Tom Brady‘s transition to a new team in advance of his 21st NFL season has obviously been less than ideal, with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the future Hall of Famer from working with teammates and coaches at the Buccaneers‘ facility. The first time the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback is expected to be permitted to enter his new team’s facilities will be training camp. But the Bucs do not plan to compensate for this by giving Brady more preseason work. Bruce Arians said Thursday he doubts Brady will need more preseason time to make up for the virtual offseason, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Still, Brady’s preseason snaps figure to be more important than usual this year.

Here is the latest out of Tampa:

  • Arians has not gotten much out of the tight end position during his stay as head coach in Arizona and Tampa. That should soon change. The Bucs currently house an all-time tight end stable, with Rob Gronkowski joining the team’s O.J. HowardCameron Brate duo already regarded as one of the NFL’s best. Arians said the Bucs will use a two-tight end offense as their base this season (via Auman, on Twitter). Going with more “12 personnel” looks would give Howard and Brate more time on the field and potentially represent an effort to conserve Gronkowski, who retired partially because of injury issues last year. This also points to the Bucs giving stronger consideration to keeping all three tight ends rather than trading Howard or Brate. Arians even said he’s interested in three-tight end looks.
  • Tampa Bay is not expected to make a move to add interior offensive linemen to back up starters Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen, Arians added (via Auman, on Twitter). The Bucs did not draft any guards or centers, but Arians likes what he has seen from backups Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Fabiano and Zack Bailey. A fifth-year blocker, Fabiano is now on his eighth team. Stinnie was a 2018 Titans UDFA; Bailey was a Bucs 2019 UDFA who spent much of last year on IR.
  • However, the Bucs are keeping multiple roster spots open for possible veteran additions. Arians said (via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, on Twitter) he and GM Jason Licht discussed saving room for veterans who would be more prepared to play than rookie UDFAs. With Brady on a two-year deal, Tampa Bay stockpiling vets would make sense.