TAMPA, Fla. – The few times he’s spoken publicly since taking over as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Greg Schiano has emphasized that he’s giving all of his players a clean slate.
That’s all true, but it appears he also is sending a message to his players, they’re gone as soon as that slate gets messy.
General manager Mark Dominik was vague when announcing Tuesday morning that safety Tanard Jackson was being released. Dominik said that Jackson, who was coming back from a shoulder injury, was released after failing a physical.
Dominik also emphasized that there were no indications that Jackson, who previously was suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, had failed any new drug test or that any disciplinary action was coming from the NFL.
“What’s important to us as an organization is the growth of our football players,’’ Dominik said. “And how they handle on and off the field to become the best Buccaneer possible. That’s what we’re looking for.’’
I think it’s pretty easy to read between the lines on this one. Although the Bucs started their offseason program and Jackson had been attending, he hadn’t made a good early impression on Schiano. Injured players were allowed into One Buccaneer Place for rehabilitation throughout the offseason. I’m guessing Jackson wasn’t showing up regularly for that or wasn’t putting a great deal of effort into his rehabilitation.
This move seems to be a big departure from the philosophy of former coach Raheem Morris. The Bucs had numerous off-field issues, including problems with Jackson and cornerback Aqib Talib, but Morris always seemed willing to bring troubled players back.
Schiano seems to be following a one-strike policy and I don’t think the Jackson move will be the last. Talib has a trial on an assault charge in Texas in June. Talib could face prison time or a suspension by the NFL. Even if Talib is cleared, I think the message already has been sent by Schiano that there can’t be any more off-field problems.
Talent and athletic ability no longer are going to be enough to keep a payer on Tampa Bay’s roster. Jackson is proof of that. He easily was Tampa Bay’s best safety.
The Bucs have starter Cody Grimm returning from injury. They also have young safeties Larry Asante, Ahmad Black and Devin Holland. There also has been speculation that veteran cornerback Ronde Barber could move to safety.
But the Bucs almost certainly will look for more safety help in the draft or free agency.
Jackson had been scheduled to count $2.95 million against this year’s salary cap. By releasing Jackson, the Bucs will free up $2.75 million in salary cap space, but they do have to absorb a $200,000 roster bonus that was paid to Jackson on the first day of the league year in March.