Bucs games likely to be blacked out this year

Coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik made their share of mistakes in their first season at the controls in 2009. Despite going 3-13, both could be safe for at least a few more seasons as long as they remain committed and execute a rebuilding plan formulated by the Glazer family. Keep on reading for everything you need to know about the Bucs.

Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer says the team's season ticket base is in the "40,000s" and that it's likely home games will be blacked out on local television for the first time in the 15 years the Glazer family has owned the club.

"Based on where we're at today, for the first time in 15 years, realistically, we are staring at having games blacked out in our local market," Glazer said. "I bring that up because I don't want people to be surprised when they get to September and they go to watch the game and the game is not on TV.

"It's not what we want. We're working hard to avoid it and I think people are starting to see what we're trying to do with younger players and Josh Freeman and building around that, and there is some excitement when we talk to people."

Under NFL rules, if a game is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff, it cannot be shown locally on television.

At one point last season, the Bucs had an actual attendance of less than 50,000 in the 65,890-seat Raymond James Stadium. But Glazer said the team distributed thousands of tickets to local sponsors and charitable groups to avoid local television blackouts.

In an effort to increase ticket sales, the Bucs have lowered prices. Tickets start as low as $35 per seat per game, and youth tickets are $25. But so far, nothing has worked.

"We worked very hard, whether it was with local sponsors or charitable groups or whatever to make sure those tickets were accounted for," Glazer said. "But that challenge is becoming unreachable, so as we look forward, we say, realistically, it's not going to be as easy to get that accomplished this year. As we sit today, the games will be blacked out.

"We have not had a blackout since we've owned the team. We've been hit by two things. On-the-field performance is the No. 1 thing that gets people into the stadium. Three and 13 is not what people expect out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Two, we've had the economy, which has hit people hard. As a result of those factors, there's no question we've lost season ticket holders, there's been a lack of excitement in the community and a lack of excitement about what's going on the field."

Last year, the Detroit Lions -- who have won two games in the past two seasons -- had four home games blacked out. There were 22 games blacked out league-wide last season and more are predicted in Jacksonville and San Diego.

NOTES, QUOTES

The Bucs underwent a youth movement last season and stand to get even younger in 2010 with 11 draft selections and only a few free agent additions.

But Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer indicated at the NFL owners' meetings that Morris and Dominik will be given time to build a winner.

"They know our thinking," Glazer said. "We've had long talks about this. And really, the general message is: You think long-term, we think long-term. It's plain and simple. You start thinking short-term, we start thinking short term."

--General manager Mark Dominik made it clear a month before the start of free agency that the Bucs would be content to remain on the sideline when it came to pursuing high-priced veteran talent.

But the youth movement the team began last year with the purging of veterans -- and a plummeting player payroll among the lowest in the NFL -- has nothing to do with financial constraints placed on the Bucs by the Glazer family, according to Dominik.

"That's not been instructed and that's not the direction," Dominik said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. "Our ownership has shown a history of buying players. I mean, Simeon Rice was the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League.

"It may seem the other way where it's just being cheap and they don't want to be involved and they're just trying to save the money. For me, when I got this opportunity and we sat down and I talked about what I envisioned for this football team, we wanted to build this football team with the youth and the draft as we did in years past. If you want to go make the splash in free agency and feel like it's going to get you over the hump, you do it."

The Bucs have 11 draft picks this year, including four seventh-rounders.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--The Bucs are under no financial restrictions and the Glazer family has vowed to do "whatever we've got to do to win."

That was the message sent by co-chairman Joel Glazer to fans who are concerned that the family's $1-billion debt for Manchester United is affecting the quality of their NFL team.

The Bucs are coming off a 3-13 season under first-year coach Raheem Morris and largely have been bystanders during free agency.

"Everything you do operates independently," Glazer said at the NFL owners' meeting in Orlando, Fla. "We're in a lot of different businesses. We just happen to be in another one that is very high profile. There are a lot of owners that own a lot of other businesses; they're just not the high-profile nature that are easy for people to write about and talk about.

"Tampa has always operated independently and is sustained. It's very healthy. ... Our business interests are all very healthy. It's just that what most people like to talk about is so high profile, it's easy to draw a parallel. But I can assure people the commitment has not lessened, it's not wavered. The depression at 0-7 was something I've never felt before in my entire life. But I also know the feeling of being on top and I want to feel that again."

Glazer added: "We will do whatever we've got to do to win. No one likes losing. No one likes it less than us. We're used to having success. We've had success here and in other places. That's what this is all about. Three and 13 is not what it's all about. But 3-13 is part of a plan I'm willing to endure. I'm willing to endure the criticism, the pain, the hit, the sales of tickets and all that because we know at the end of the day that it's winning, a sustained success and connection to the players, that dictates everything."

--Coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik made their share of mistakes in their first season at the controls in 2009.

Despite going 3-13, both could be safe for at least a few more seasons as long as they remain committed and execute a rebuilding plan formulated by the Glazer family.

The Bucs underwent a youth movement last season and stand to get even younger in 2010 with 11 draft selections and only a few free agent additions.

But Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer indicated at the NFL owners' meetings that Morris and Dominik will be given time to build a winner.

"They know our thinking," Glazer said. "We've had long talks about this. And really, the general message is: You think long-term, we think long-term. It's plain and simple. You start thinking short-term, we start thinking short term."

--General manager Mark Dominik made it clear a month before the start of free agency that the Bucs would be content to remain on the sideline when it came to pursuing high-priced veteran talent.

But the youth movement the team began last year with the purging of veterans -- and a plummeting player payroll among the lowest in the NFL -- has nothing to do with financial constraints placed on the Bucs by the Glazer family, according to Dominik.

"That's not been instructed and that's not the direction," Dominik said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. "Our ownership has shown a history of buying players. I mean, Simeon Rice was the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League.

"It may seem the other way where it's just being cheap and they don't want to be involved and they're just trying to save the money. For me, when I got this opportunity and we sat down and I talked about what I envisioned for this football team, we wanted to build this football team with the youth and the draft as we did in years past. If you want to go make the splash in free agency and feel like it's going to get you over the hump, you do it."

The Bucs have 11 draft picks this year, including four seventh-rounders.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everyone buys into this plan. I always ask, 'Does everyone have the stomach for this because there's a lot you've got to endure early on.'" -- Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer on the rebuilding plan.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The team received a seventh-round compensatory pick (53rd overall) for losing players, such as defensive tackle Jovan Haye and cornerback Phillip Buchanan, to free agency.

"It's nice to have one more guy you can go out and pick that you don't have to try and (sign him) as a free agent," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.

OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Bucs traded a sixth-round pick to Philadelphia for WR Reggie Brown. They also need some safety help, having lost S Will Allen to the Steelers via free agency. They also want to create competition for starter Sabby Piscitelli.

Tampa Bay owns the third overall pick in the draft and hopes that either DTs Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy is available. If not, then the Bucs will entertain offers to trade down as many teams will want to move ahead of the Redskins at No. 4 to take a quarterback. If the Bucs have to pick at No.3, they will consider Tennessee S Eric Berry or a left tackle.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive line: The Bucs allowed nearly 160 yards rushing per game last season and plan to revamp their defensive line, most likely through the draft. Many of their 2009 starters may not return. DE Jimmy Wilkerson, an unrestricted free agent, is coming off a torn ACL. Chris Hovan is likely to be replaced by second-year pro Roy Miller, and the Bucs traded Gaines Adams to the Bears for a second-round pick. Fortunately, the draft is deep at all defensive line positions.

2. Receiver: The Bucs need some targets for second-year QB Josh Freeman. The team decided not to re-sign free agent Antonio Bryant. That leaves Sammie Stroughter, restricted free agent Maurice Stovall and underachieving Michael Clayton. Tampa Bay should come out of the draft with at least two receivers and Dez Bryant is a possibility if they trade down.

3. Offensive tackle: If you're going to have a franchise quarterback, you need a franchise left tackle. Starting tackles Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood are restricted free agents. Penn was miffed because the Bucs did not offer him a contract extension. Don't discount the Bucs using the No. 3 overall pick on a left tackle.

MEDICAL WATCH: WR Sammie Stroughter still is recovering from surgery to repair a broken foot but should be ready for OTA's in May.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--LB Angelo Crowell was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season. Bucs have little interest in bringing him back after the play of Quincy Black at on the strong side.

--S Jermaine Phillips broke his hand and finished the year on injured reserve.

--DE Jimmy Wilkerson has started at left defensive end is recovering from a torn ACL. He proved he's not an every down player.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--FB Byron Storer (not tendered as RFA) spent the year rehabbing his knee. He could be done.

--LB Rod Wilson (not tendered as RFA) is a special-teams player and backup middle linebacker.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

--WR Mark Bradley (tendered at $1.809M with second-round pick as compensation).

--*OT Donald Penn (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) is a very capable left tackle and did his best the first weeks of 2009. But then he seemed to shut it down and gained weight.

--*LB Barrett Ruud (tendered at $3.268M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) is a solid, if not flashy middle linebacker who thrives in the current system. The Bucs would like to see more nasty in his game.

--*WR Maurice Stovall (tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation) came on late in 2009 after injuries were experienced by Michael Clayton. He's a tall, rangy receiver.

--*OT Jeremy Trueblood (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation), as the starting right tackle, led the Bucs in penalties against last season.

--*RB Cadillac Williams (tendered at $2.299M with first-round picks as compensation) was the Bucs' most inspirational player who played in all 16 games despite tearing previously the patellar tendon in both knees.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

-*LB Jon Alston: Not tendered as RFA by Raiders; terms unknown.

--WR Reggie Brown (trade Eagles).

--S Sean Jones: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--S Will Allen: UFA Steelers; $4.4M/3 yrs, $950,000 SB.

--P Josh Bidwell (released).

--WR Antonio Bryant: UFA Bengals; $28M/4 yrs.

--WR Brian Clark: Not tendered as RFA/Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Torrie Cox (released).

--P Dirk Johnson (released).

--LB Matt McCoy: Not tendered as RFA/Seahawks; terms unknown.

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