Jenna Laine, ESPN Staff WriterJun 14, 2023, 03:21 PM ET
- Jenna Laine covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for ESPN. She started covering the Bucs for ESPN in 2016, but she has covered the team since 2009. Follow Jenna on Twitter: @JennaLaineESPN.
White reported to minicamp to avoid a holdout, but he isn’t practicing with the team and instead has watched from the sideline.
“Emotions got the best of him, but he’s here,” said David, who has mentored White since he was selected fifth overall in the 2019 NFL draft. “He’s ready to work. He’s not ready to go right now but he’s getting himself ready for training camp. I talked to him throughout the whole process.
“Whatever that stuff is that’s going on with him, I know Devin. I know what type of person he is. I know he’s ready to get back out there, play football, and he’ll be able to help us win.”
White did not tell David that he was going to request a trade this spring, which stemmed from dissatisfaction over his contract negotiations with the Bucs. White is under contract for the 2023 season, playing on the fifth-year option, but sources close to the situation said he wants to be paid among the top inside linebackers — if not as the top inside linebacker — in the league.
Since the request, David, who is entering his 10th season, has conveyed his support to his protégé, who played a key role in the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV campaign with 38 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 pass breakups in three playoff games.
“I just told him how I feel about him,” David said. “How we feel about him. And then him and his business side, they take care of what they take care of. Me as a friend, as a teammate, I just try to control, handle that part of it.”
David said he told White to not let emotions get the best of him but instead to show his passion for the game.
“Sometimes [emotions] can backfire against you and people use that against you,” David said he told White. “… Show your passion. Show that you love the game. Show that you want to be here for the city of Tampa, the organization in Tampa and you love playing football with your teammates.”
Last year was particularly difficult for White. His season got off to a hot start with NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for September, but then he missed Najee Harris in the flat on the opening drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was out of position multiple times the following week against the Carolina Panthers.
It culminated in him being publicly criticized by Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp for a perceived lack of effort against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, with Sapp calling for White to remove the captain’s patch from his chest.
Two weeks later, White learned as he was about to board a plane for Munich, Germany, that his father, Carlos Thomas, had died unexpectedly at the age of 45. White played the entire game against the Seattle Seahawks — sacking quarterback Geno Smith twice — and attended his father’s funeral the following week.
Coach Todd Bowles has been a particularly vocal supporter of White, emphasizing Tuesday that this was not a “hold-in” for White. General manager Jason Licht said this spring that the organization “thinks the world” of White.
David, who was at White’s side when they took the field for practice Tuesday, has conveyed his support, too.
“He’s a captain. He’s a leader. A lot of guys look up to him,” David said of White. “… We definitely need him out there. He knows that. Devin, he’s grown into a leader. For me to be here to watch him grow, and watch him improve year to year, is definitely great to see.”
David also offered advice to White on how to navigate the business side of football, which he learned about after watching Peyton Manning get released by the Indianapolis Colts after he was sidelined the entire 2011 season because of neck surgery. Players get released and traded, they’re asked to take pay cuts, and sometimes a contract offer doesn’t meet a player’s expectations.
“That’s definitely part of the process,” said David, who re-signed on a one-year deal this offseason instead of a longer-term deal that would ensure he could finish out his career with the Bucs. “Sometimes you may feel disrespected, but you can’t let that get to you. All you can do is control what you can control and put the best tape out there on the field. Let everything take care of itself.”