TAMPA — Maybe it’s not the Manhattan Project, but the Buccaneers continue to keep classified the identity of their starting quarterback. Sources close to the top-secret situation tell the Tampa Bay Times, however, that it will be either some guy whose name rhymes with Lion Blitzpatrick or some guy whose name rhymes with Sheamus Grinston.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken referred questions Thursday about the highly sensitive situation to coach Dirk Koetter. Koetter responded to questions with blank stares and by shooting lasers from his eyes.
The guy whose name rhymes with Blitzpatrick won’t say a peep, either. He won’t even tell his children whether he’s playing Sunday against the Bears.
“I can’t trust them with anything,” he said. “They’ll know later in the week.”
This “Blitzpatrick” fellow, he leads the NFL in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes and quarterback rating. Surely, they won’t sit him, right? Right? All he would say Thursday is that he believes Koetter will do what he believes is best for the team and blah, blah, blah.
“He’s open,” the guy whose name rhymes with Blitzpatrick said. “He’s honest. I respect him. I think he respects me. He respects the guys on the team, and he has all of our respect. So as long as you have those qualities, and we know he has the team first in his mind, it’s not hard to be a team player.”
Meanwhile, at Bears headquarters, the unsolved mystery is causing widespread panic. Blitzpatrick or Grinston? Grinston or Blitzpatrick? Someone tell defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He’s distraught.
“I don’t think their offense changes a whole lot with either guy,” he told the Chicago media.
Here’s an out-of-the-box idea: Don’t start either. You wouldn’t want to give any useful information to the Falcons, the Bucs’ next opponent.
Hurts so good
In Monday’s game against the Steelers, the guy whose name rhymes with Blitzpatrick absorbed 13 hits, several more than he took in the first two games of the season combined.
“I didn’t get hit a ton in the first two games,” he said, “so it’s kind of nice to get one of those games in where you get hit around a little bit and feel like you’re part of the team.”
“Sometimes it’s a nice feeling to wake up sore on a Monday or Tuesday.”
Unfortunately for him — or fortunately since he likes feeling sore — here comes Khalil Mack and arguably the NFL’s best defense. The Bears’ 14 sacks lead the league and their rate of pressure is among the highest. They’re also second in takeaways.
“Whenever you’ve got a game-wrecker type player, you’ve got to know where he’s at at all times and do everything in your power that he doesn’t change the game because so far he has,” Monken said of Mack. “So far, he’s been a weapon, so it’s our job to figure out a way he isn’t that type player against us.”
Hurts not as much
First-round draft pick Vita Vea practiced again Thursday and looks to be making progress in his recovery from a calf strain that kept him out of the Bucs’ first three games. The rookie defensive tackle’s readiness for game day, however, remains questionable.
“It’s still physical in practice, especially for those guys up front on both sides,” Koetter said. “There is no better way to get into football shape than to play football. There’s a fine line, though, between training camp, preseason, practice football and real NFL football. Some of that is medical decisions made by the guys who make those calls. After (players) are cleared to play, then it becomes our call a little bit.”
In other injury news, defensive tackle Beau Allen did not practice and has not practiced since he suffered a foot injury during the Week 2 game against the Eagles.
Hurts so bad
Have you been feeling despondent, more irritable than usual? Have you had trouble concentrating? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?
ESPN has quantified your suffering. Thanks to its Sports Misery Index, published Thursday, you have ammunition the next time someone tells you to cheer up. According to the index, the Bucs are 15th-most miserable franchise in U.S. professional sports and the sixth-most miserable franchise in the NFL.
The explanation: “The franchise started out by losing 26 consecutive games and hasn’t gotten much better since.”
Ouch. ESPN even somehow managed to spin the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII victory into a negative.
“That one glorious moment is also the last time the Buccaneers won a playoff game, and they combined for as many playoff victories that season (three) as they’ve had in the other 41 years of the franchise.”
The NBA’s Sacramento Kings topped the index. The Browns, Bills, Bears, Jets and Lions are the only NFL teams that ranked ahead of the Bucs.
The Bucs released receiver Freddie Martino, who played in all three games this season. Since 2015, he has played in 24 games for Tampa Bay, catching 13 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. The move allows the Bucs to move Jameis Winston off the suspended list.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.