Stevens' Signing Results In Uproar
TBO.comTAMPA - The Buccaneers' re-signing of Jerramy Stevens has triggered a firestorm on local sports talk radio.
Published: June 4, 2008
Published: June 4, 2008
The 28-year-old tight end had been available on the free-agent market for three months after finishing second to Joey Galloway with four touchdown receptions for Tampa Bay, including a game-winning catch in a critical victory at New Orleans.
Since the Bucs announced Friday evening that Stevens was re-signed, his well-documented character issues have been debated heatedly on the airwaves.
"I've said I will not let this die," WDAE, 620 AM afternoon drive host Steve Duemig said Tuesday. "I think it's disgusting that he's a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We talked about Stevens for four hours Monday, and there wasn't one dissenting opinion."
Shortly after Tampa Bay's 2007 season ended with an opening-round playoff loss to the Giants, a lengthy investigative story in the Seattle Times chronicled a disturbing portrait of Stevens' legal woes at the University of Washington, including a sexual assault charge in 2000.
Citing insufficient evidence, prosecutors declined to file a rape charge against Stevens, who was suspended one game by the league last season because of a March 2007 DUI conviction in Arizona.
Stevens could face further disciplinary action by the NFL in 2008 as Commissioner Roger Goodell continues his quest to make players - and their employers - accountable for off-field misconduct.
"Steve let his feelings fly, and the talent on this station is very concerned," WDAE program director Mike Killabrew said. "Our phones haven't stopped ringing since the Bucs announced Stevens is back. I know we are the flagship station for the Bucs, but this community is in an uproar."
The Tampa Tribune sports department also has received several telephone calls and e-mails complaining about Stevens' return.
Stevens originally signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent on April 29, 2007, after playing his first five NFL seasons in Seattle. He made it through last season with no further off-field incidents, and Stevens joins Alex Smith and newcomers John Gilmore and Ben Troupe at a crowded position.
Stevens and Bucs general manager Bruce Allen both declined comment Tuesday. The Bucs plan to make Stevens available to the media today.
"I understand how some of our fans feel," Bucs linebacker and player rep Ryan Nece said. "We're representatives of how we want our kids to be raised, and if you make mistakes that cast a shadow on that or diminish that, using poor judgment, people are going to be upset about that, and they have that right.
"I give Jerramy the benefit of the doubt. You don't try to give him a long leash in that sense, but you do give him the benefit of the doubt. If he severs that leash, he has to live with that."
Stevens caught 18 passes for 189 yards as a Buccaneer, and his 4-yard scoring reception with 14 seconds left at New Orleans on Dec. 2 provided the winning points in a 27-23 triumph that effectively clinched the NFC South title.
"I thought Jerramy fit in with our offense, and as a person, guys are happy to have him in our locker room," Nece said. "What he did outside of that, we can't speak for. He didn't embarrass the organization, and hopefully that will carry some weight."
Duemig said he is not about to abandon a hot-button topic.
"I'm protesting this move, and I'd like to see Jerramy Stevens dismissed from this football team," he said. "This might be the most passionate issue I've ever attacked in 17 years on the radio in this town. This even overtakes former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer."
Reporter Ira Kaufman can be reached at (813) 259-7833 or email@example.com.