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16 years ago Saturday the Bucs became Super Bowl Champs

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It is the signature moment in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. January 26th, 2003 in San Diego, CA, the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII 48-21 over the Oakland Raiders.

After having been viewed as mostly a punch line franchise for their first 27 years of existence, the Bucs finally put together a tremendous regular season (12-4) and finished it off with an amazing playoff run.

They destroyed Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and the Steve Mariucci led-49ers 31-6 in the NFC Divisional playoff game at home. Then, Buccaneers traveled to play the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb Eagles at the old “Vet” in Philly for the NFC Championship.

The Eagles had been the Bucs nemisis, not only beating Tampa Bay in that regular season of 2002, but having knocked them out of the playoffs the previous two seasons, as well.

When, it was all said and done, the Buccaneers defense dominated that day. And, when Ronde Barber intercepted McNabb with just over two minutes remaining, and raced 92 yards for the clinching TD in a 27-10 win, the Bucs had reservations for the NFL’s biggest game.

Seven days later (it was one of the last times the NFL has not taken two weeks off before the Super Bowl) the Buccaneers were on the field with their new coach, Jon Gruden, against his old team, the Raiders.

And after a shaky start, it was all Pewter and Red over the Silver and Black.

Here’s a quick highlight montage’:

You may not remember that the Bucs were back on their heels early, as QB Brad Johnson threw an interception to Charles Woodson and the Raiders kicked a field goal to lead 3-0.

What you likely remember was Bucs safety Dexter Jackson returned the favor, twice, intercepting Raiders QB Rich Gannon on back to back possessions in the first half. Jackson would later named Super Bowl MVP.

Legendary fullback Mike Alstott scored the first Bucs TD in Super Bowl history on a two yard run. And, Johnson later threw a five yard TD pass to WR Kennan McCardell late in the second quarter making the game 20-3 Tampa Bay at halftime.

The Buccaneers came out strong to start the third quarter taking the opening kick and marching 89 yards in 14 plays. Johnson hooked up with McCardell, again, for another score and a commanding 27-3 lead. Then, the clinching moment came for Tampa Bay’s illustrious defense, as DB Dwight Smith stepped in front of Gannon’s pass on the left sideline and raced 44 yards for another quick TD to make it 34-3.

Essentially, game over.

The crowd of 60-70% Raiders fans in Sand Diego was stunned. And the Bucs, were ready to party.

Yes, the Raiders actually did make a game of it, sort of, as Gannon hit Jerry Porter on a 39 yard TD in the third quarter. They then blocked a Tom Tupa punt for another TD, and when Gannon hit Hall of Famer Jerry Rice from 48 yards out, it was quickly 34-21.

But the Raiders, they would get no closer. And when, Bucs Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks picked Gannon for the fourth time and headed 44 yards to the end zone, the deal was done:

Dwight Smith added yet another Tampa Bay “pick six” in the final 10 seconds to finish the scoring and start the official celebration.

Gannon’s five interceptions were a dubious record and the Buccaneers remain the only Super Bowl winning team to score three defensive touchdowns in the game.

For players like Brooks, fellow Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and John Lynch it was the culmination of coming a team in disarray in the mid-90’s and helping it eventually, become World Champs.

It’s the last time that any Florida team has made, much less won, the NFL’s biggest game.

And, it happened 16 years ago Saturday, in San Diego.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans

Florida Football Insiders

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.

Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?

The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.

“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”

Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.

When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:

“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”

First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.

Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.

As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.

Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.

Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.

Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.

After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:

“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.

The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.

Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.

This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.

When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.

Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.

Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game.  And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.

Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.

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