By Dory LeBlanc
With a new general manager, new head coach, new look, and certainly new players, the positive buzz surrounding the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers made it easy for fans to pack the bleachers at One Buc Place.
Unfortunately, the fans wouldn't get to see much.
Nine minutes into the first official practice of the season, lightning and thunder shut down the activities for close to two hours.
Shorty before practice resumed, word was handed down that the Bucs and guard Carl Nicks, who suffered throughout his two-season tenure in Tampa Bay with injuries and illness, had decided to amicably part ways.
In a statement released through the team, the two-time Pro Bowler said:
“I’d like to thank the Buccaneers organization for working with me as I have attempted to get myself back on the football field. However, after careful consideration, I have made the decision to step away from the game. This was by no means an easy decision, but I believe that it is what is best for me and my family as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
GM Jason Licht spoke with the media minutes before the players made their way back to the fields and although he was careful to not divulge sensitive information, Licht did speak about the situation at length.
“It’s between Carl and the Buccaneers, the details, but the Glazer family, Lovie, myself, our staff, we truly wanted what was best for Carl," Licht said, "And Carl in return was – he wanted what was best for the Buccaneers and he didn’t want to lead us down the wrong path and we were very happy with his honesty throughout the process and we thought we came to an agreement which was best for both parties.”
After suffering a major foot injury in 2012, followed by contracting MRSA last season, it was questionable if Nicks would ever play again. Licht said the team remained hopeful that he would.
“The whole time we’ve been hopeful that Carl could play, Carl was honest with us, we were honest with him, there were open lines of communication," Licht said. "If he was able to play, it would have been a bonus for us.
“Carl was an elite player and sometimes these prideful elite players, if they don’t feel they’re 100 percent, they don’t want to expose themselves. It’s like Michael Jordan retiring, I’m not saying he’s the Michael Jordan of football, but he wants to give us his best and he felt that he couldn’t be honest with us unless he was us his 100 percent.”
Reports circulated after the Buccaneers released the statement that the team and Nicks had parted ways that Tampa Bay came to a settlement with the guard. Licht declined to confirm or deny the report.
“It’s our policy we’re just not going to talk about the settlements and things like that and negotiations for that matter," said Licht.
Questions certainly surround the left guard spot, but Smith said in his post-practice press conference that had the team been able to continue practicing Friday, Jamon Meredith would have taken the first-team reps at the position.
Licht said they do have a plan in place, but nothing is set in stone.
“Competition, the players that we have in here, maybe some players elsewhere, we’ll go down every avenue we can," said Licht. "We feel confident that we have players here that are going to compete and put us in a position to win the championship, but if we feel that there is a better player elsewhere, then we’ll explore that avenue.”
Both Smith and Licht made it clear: Nicks did everything in his power to return to the playing field, and although the Bucs are disappointed at the outcome, they respect both Nicks, the man, and his decision.
“Carl gave us 100 percent," Licht said. "I have the upmost respect for Carl, the Glazer family does, Lovie certainly does, he did everything that he could.”
- Quote of the day: “I couldn’t tell you; I was watching the weather most of the time.’’ - Lovie Smith on which players caught his eye during the first day of camp.
- Smith wants his players lighter, saying "The lighter we are, the quicker and faster we’ll be.’’ Second round draft pick Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and LB Mason Foster are noticeably slimmer. LB Lavonte David didn't need to trim anything of his 233-pound frame and added, “I’m lucky to be blessed where I didn’t have to drop any pounds.’’
- WR Vincent Jackson and first round selection WR Mike Evans caught every pass thrown at them during a short drill session. All eyes will be on the "Twin Towers" when the offense is on the field.
- Despite the delay, many fans opted to stick it out, and there was still a decent amount of people in the bleachers when practice resumed.
- Practice will be open to the public all weekend: Saturday from 4:30-7pm and Sunday from 2-4:30pm. Please visit Buccaneers.com for training camp info.