At least Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White did not try to say he didn’t do anything to deserve three personal foul penalties in the Bucs’ 36-27 loss to the Saints in the Superdome Sunday.
That’s what he did as an LSU linebacker in 2018 after clearly targeting Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald with his head in Fitzgerald’s shoulder and neck area – as explained in the NCAA targeting rule. White was suspended from the game late in a 19-3 LSU win and had to sit out the first half of the next game as LSU fans exploded in anger for two weeks, including an open date.
That ended up all being moot as Alabama beat LSU, 29-0. White called the call “bogus.” But replays clearly showed targeting, according to Rule 9-1-4, which stated, “No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.”
On Sunday, White was called for a horse collar tackle of Saints’ quarterback Jameis Winston, a former teammate of White’s with the Bucs. The horse collar made Winston plant awkwardly on his left leg, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee and also damaging the medial collateral ligament in his knee. He will miss the rest of the season.
White, the fifth player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft out of LSU, checked on Winston after the play and looked visibly concerned as Winston left the field. Tampa Bay was penalized 15 yards, but the Saints punted four plays later as the score remained 7-7.
“I’ll go back and look at it, but I thought I had him in his pads,” White said of the Winston horse collar. “They said my hands were too high, so I’ll take that one. I told him, ‘Man, I hate that it happened to you. You’re playing good ball right now, and I’m praying for you.’ Jameis is a good guy. He’s a great guy. I want to put an emphasis on that. He’s a great guy, and you hate to see that happen. I hope it’s not serious. I’m praying for him, and it’s a long season. So I hope he can come back and fight with his team.”
The Saints (5-2) have 10 games remaining. They host Atlanta (3-4) at noon Sunday on FOX. New Orleans will play at Tampa Bay (6-2) on Sunday, Dec. 19, in a 7:20 p.m. game on NBC.
White said Winston, who signed with New Orleans after his fifth season in 2019 at Tampa Bay, congratulated him after the Bucs won the Super Bowl in the 2020-21 season. That was their first since 2015 without Winston, the first player picked in the ’15 NFL Draft by the Bucs, as Tom Brady replaced him at quarterback.
“He was one of the first to text me and say, ‘Congratulations, y’all deserve it,'” White said of the Super Bowl win. “When I was drafted, he was the guy who showed me around and was telling me how proud he was of me.”
On the Saints’ very next drive, White was called for roughing the passer against quarterback Trevor Siemian, who had replaced Winston. The 15-yard penalty converted a third-and-12 situation into a first down at Tampa Bay’s 14-yard line. Brian Johnson kicked a field goal four plays later to give the Saints a 10-7 lead.
“I was just trying to finish the play,” White said.
White then drew a taunting call in the fourth quarter with the Bucs trailing 23-21 for his actions toward Saints running back Mark Ingram. That put the Saints at the Tampa Bay 35-yard line. Five plays later, Johnson’s 35-yard field goal increased the Saints’ lead to 26-21 with 8:34 to go.
“That was all me,” White said. “I take full responsibility. Me and Mark Ingram were jawing all night, just going back and forth at each other. Nothing personal going on with us. We talked at the end of the game. I’m just going to keep being me. I’m a fiery guy, and I like to talk. But now I’ll look at the ground when I’m talking to someone so I can save the penalty for my team.”
Tampa Bay drew 11 penalties in all for 99 yards, and could have had at least one more as White tackled a Saints player clearly out of bounds in the second half. But no call was made.
Asked if White, a native of Springhill, Louisiana, was overly hyped to play in his home state or just made bad decisions, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said, “It speaks for itself.”
When asked what the difference was for the Bucs after Winston left, Arians shot back, “About 14 penalties. It was all 15-yard penalties for roughing the quarterback. It was stupid.”