TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians benched former first-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves in the third quarter of the Bucs’ 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday because he didn’t believe Hargreaves showed enough effort at the beginning of the third quarter, when the defense surrendered a 55-yard catch on a slant route by Andy Isabella.
“He didn’t look like he was hustling to go in for a tackle,” said Arians, who had called out the secondary earlier this week for giving up a fourth-quarter lead to the Seattle Seahawks.
“If that’s what Coach saw, that’s what he saw,” said Hargreaves, the Bucs’ most experienced corner with 34 career starts under his belt. “There’s no arguing it. I need to hustle, point-blank, end of discussion. And I’ll get better. I’m sure I’ll talk with him this week and we’ll get things straightened out, and we’ll see where to go from here.”
Hargreaves did return late in the game when second-year nickelback M.J. Stewart suffered a right knee injury and did not return.
“I knew it was gonna happen,” Hargreaves said of stepping back in. “I knew it was gonna happen, because it always does. I’ve been through this before, honestly. Guys get hurt. I knew it. I knew I was gonna go back in the game. I knew I had to finish the game. Something was just telling me. I stayed ready. It’s not my first time going through something like this. We’ll see. We’ll see if we can get it figured out.”
Hargreaves was also on the wrong end of a defensive pass interference call on fourth-and-5 of the Cardinals’ final drive with :30 remaining.
The Bucs picked up the fifth-year option on Hargreaves’ contract for 2020, meaning he’ll make $9 million for the year, but it’s guaranteed for injury only. They took Hargreaves with the No. 11 pick in 2016. Arians did not say what Hargreaves’ status would be going forward.
Arians also sat Hargreaves during the first practice of OTAs because, he said, “He’s got to get his mind ready to practice” and “he was not mentally ready to practice.”
There were no further incidents, though, with Hargreaves turning in a strong camp.