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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Fans at NFL draft party optimistic about Bucs

TAMPA - Last season, Jerome Deans walked out of two Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games early, sickened by watching a team play without heart. "I didn't see the intensity in the football team," he said. Like many other fans, he lost hope. But when Deans saw the spending spree for free agents this offseason, his interest in the team returned and he attended Thursday night's National Football League draft party at Raymond James Stadium. "They did something that surprised me: They spent money," said Deans, 54, of Tampa. After last season "I was thinking they don't want to win. I thought they (the Glazers) cared more about the soccer team (Manchester United) than the football team.
"I believe they listened to the fans, and they are trying to turn things around," Deans said. Thousands of fans attended the draft party, and most seemed hopeful that the team is headed in the right direction. Last season was painful. The team finished with a 4-12 record, most home games were blacked out, and Coach Raheem Morris was fired. The fans' new-found optimism is rooted in the hiring of Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers University coach known for instilling discipline, and the signing of veterans Vincent Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Carl Nicks, a two-time Pro Bowl left guard, and Eric Wright, a cornerback. However, Bucs fans booed and groaned when the Cleveland Browns picked coveted running back Trent Richardson and the Dallas Cowboys chose talented cornerback Morris Claiborne ahead of the Bucs. Both players were highly sought by the Bucs, who in the first round chose Mark Barron, a safety from the University of Alabama. Some fans said the selection wasn't bad. "I'm glad we got a safety," said Camilo Colina, of St. Petersburg. "I really wanted to see us get a playmaker like Caliborne or Richardson. Barron is a nice consolation prize." Lavonche Galloway attended the party with his wife, Angela Walling. Both think the Bucs made great moves this off-season and the team will improve. "Last year they weren't ready," said Galloway, 36, of Tampa. "A high school team could have beat them." Brenda Berrian also thinks things are looking up. "With these guys coming in and their experience, they can help the young guys with their attitude," said Berrian, of Tampa. "Get them more focused on what they need to be doing. Don't be out there like The Three Stooges."

jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659

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