• The last episode of Hard Knocks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showcased the brutal reality of cut day in the NFL.
By Bette Marston
September 05, 2017

We’ve spent the last five weeks getting to know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and while the final episode was light on several of the starters that we’ve come to know and love (what the heck was that dinner party at Charley’s?), it tied a bow nicely on the storylines of most of the players on the edge of the 53-man roster throughout the entire season of Hard Knocks.

Well, except for one.

We knew over the weekend that the Bucs decided to cut RB Jeremy McNichols, their fifth-round draft pick, because there are no secrets in the NFL. But Hard Knocks showed us a bit of drama from the inside, from both the personnel and the player side. While coach Dirk Koetter seemed to remain optimistic about McNichols’s development, offering him a spot on the Tampa Bay practice squad, the running back felt otherwise. Quoting the need for a “fresh start,” McNichols decided to take an offer to join the 49ers’ practice squad. Upon learning the news, GM Jason Licht only had one thing to say.

“Alright. F***!”

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Both parties were clearly miffed that this relationship didn’t work out. McNichols didn’t want to face the reality of not making the 53-man roster of the team that drafted him, and in return, Koetter and Licht didn’t want to blow yet another draft pick (lest we forget, they traded up to draft kicker Roberto Aguayo in 2016, who was released in episode two). 

But for the player who struggled to adjust to the NFL, his time came to a tough end in Tampa Bay. And now, with the 49ers, he’ll be back closer to his hometown and his childhood football coach, Snoop Dogg.

A few more notes from the final episode of Hard Knocks.

Mike Evans opens up about his childhood: I was worried that the show might not touch on it, but I appreciate that they went deeper on Mike Evans and his tough upbringing. When Evans—who grew up in Galveston, Texas—was nine, his uncle shot his father to death, because, as he later learned, his mother and father were in an abusive relationship. Playing sports became a crucial outlet for him, helping him develop into the athlete, teammate, husband and father that he is today.

“I was angry, and I used sports to channel the rage that I had,” Evans said.

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Pretty much every featured player on Hard Knocks was cut. I spoiled the news for everyone over the weekend, but all of our favorite players—QB Sefo Liufau, Bobo Wilson, Donteea Dye, LB Riley Bullough (yes, Joe Dirt!)—were cut. Wilson and Bullough were both offered spots on the practice squad, but Wilson nearly blew his. Thinking he had made the 53-man roster, Wilson went back home to Miami on cut day, which left Licht and Koetter visibly angry, and likely second-guessing their decision to keep the big-talking wide receiver around. Shelton Quarles, the Bucs’ director of football operations, called him up and said he better be back in Tampa by 1 p.m. the following day ... or else.

Watching Koetter deliver these cut speeches was insightful on his style of coaching. He usually explained his process of thinking when he made the decision to cut the player, and in several cases, like with QB Sefo Liufau, he explained what he could do better should he sign with another team. 

The one guy who wasn’t cut? Antony Auclair, the tight end from Canada who sang the Canadian National Anthem during the rookie talent show. Koetter delivered one of the best lines of the season when he was talking with Auclair: “When I thought about professionals, I thought about lawyers and doctors. You’re a professional now. ... 53 times 32. You’re one of the best 1,700 football players in the world.”

Final verdict on the Mike Evans-DeSean Jackson friendship: There's no way they are friends, and I say that after seeing two things in this episode. First, Jackson was buttering up Winston while the two were on the sidelines of the fourth preseason game—friends don’t need to do that. Jackson: “You love Mike!” Winston: “Mike gave me a reason to love him, you give me a reason to love you too.” Players who are THAT JEALOUS and competitive cannot like their closest competitor as a friend on principle. And second, Jackson wasn’t invited to that weird dinner at Charley’s in Tampa. That’s OK, Jackson was probably eating that night at Bern’s, the premier steakhouse in Tampa (in my humble opinion).

I know this was all over Twitter, but Cameron Lynch and his girlfriend 

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Quotes of the Week

“Listen to the little Sefo voice in your head, he’s played enough football. Do it, have fun. ... Just don’t have any regrets” — Words of the wise from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Liufau before the final preseason game.

”Bobo, Sefo, fans say let’s go.” — This week, injured QB Ryan Griffin led the offensive pregame poem before the fourth preseason game, including this little bit.

“I would rather drive across the country with Skip Bayless, no radio working, the heat stuck on, the windshield stuck on, with Skip Bayless.” — Jason Licht, not mincing his words when discussing things he’d rather do than release players

”You know if you’re getting a call from me ... the decision was made to let you go.” — Shelton Quarles, Bucs director of player personnel and the guy in charge of informing released players that they need to turn their playbooks in.