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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More Bucs history with the Saints about to be recorded

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

(It’s the final regular season game for the Buccaneers and the Saints. Two long time NFC South rivals meeting, yet again. Our resident Bucs historian, Paul Stewart of BucPower.com in London, is back one last time some of his favorite games in in Tampa the series. As always, click the score of the game for photos and videos on his site of the games he recaps.)

THE BUCS AT HOME TO THE SAINTS
This will be the Saints’ 23rd trip to Tampa dating back to the final game of the 1978 season with the Bucs currently trailing 8-14 in this home series. We looked at three of the best road games with the Bucs’ division rivals earlier in the year, so we now feature a trio of games played in Tampa.

Sunday 23 December 2001 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 New Orleans Saints 21

The most well-known statistic about the Buccaneers for their first 30+ years was not being able to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Until Micheal Spurlock ended the great curse in 2007, this game with the Saints was the closest they came. RB Aaron Stecker took the opening kick and returned it 86 yards, weaving and dodgying multiple attempted tackles (and blatant blocks in the back) on his way to within 15 yards of the New Orleans goal-line. Close but no cigar.

“How many tackles did he break in that thing? It would’ve been easy for him to go down, he almost slipped the first part of the run,” Ronde Barber said. “The desire, the resolve, the urgency to make a play and do your part, it stood out today. He’s just one example of it.”

WR Karl Williams caught the first of Brad Johnson’s three touchdown passes to put points on the board from Stecker’s heroics and then it was all Tampa Bay as they tied their franchise records for points scored in a game set in the 1987 season opener against Atlanta. Mike Alstott had a 100-yard game, Ronde Barber had a pick six and after K Martin Gramatica was injured, S John Lynch found himself kicking off during the fourth quarter.

“Our death has been greatly exaggerated,” said Warren Sapp, who helped the defense allow one first down in the first half. “We’ve still got a lot of air in this ball club and a lot of good players, and we’re going to keep plugging. It was head to head. It was either them going or us going. You can’t have a better situation than that in this league. The team that you’re facing, for the last playoff spot, coming into your house and they’ve got to beat you? It’s not going down, daddy. It’s not going down.”

Sunday 8 September 2002 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 26

Less than a year later, the two teams met again in Tampa but this time with a new Buccaneer coach on the sideline. Jon Gruden had taken over from Tony Dungy and was making his debut in front of expectant fans. The result did not go their way but in spite of losing the battle, the end of the season saw them win the war.

The Bucs found themselves down by 10 with under three minutes left but a Brad Johnson to Joe Jurevicius touchdown pass brought them to within a fieldgoal and Martin Gramatica delivered a 41-yarder to tie the scores as time expired. Overtime saw neither team able to move the ball put a potential punt block led punter Tom Tupa to attempt a left-handed pass out of his own endzone only to find James Allen catch the wobbly throw for the winning touchdown.

“All those flags, those penalties, those plays, they may not show up in the stat sheet,” Gruden said. “But they were costly. And I’m disappointed. But I’m not going to let this one fester for very long. We have a good football team and we’re going to come back from this.”

Sunday 21 October 2012 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 New Orleans Saints 35

In 2009 the Buccaneers introduced an annual Throwback game in which they wore their original orange jerseys and Raymond James Stadium changed color scheme for one day. The NFL rule changes on helmets put an end to that after just four years but the final game (for now) in the Bucco Bruce throwbacks was against the Saints and turned into a true offensive shootout.

Josh Freeman had one of the greatest statistical passing games in Tampa Bay history throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns with WR Vincent Jackson recording the third 200-yard game in team history. He though had the decisive play when he went 95 yards on a pass down the Buc sideline but was tackled at the one-yard line. The Bucs failed to score and those seven points proved to be the difference in the final scoreline. “You talk about a game-changing play,” Saints coach Aaron Kromer said. “An unbelievable individual effort,” QB Drew Brees.

The final play proved controversial as Mike Williams seemed to catch a Freeman pass in the endzone but was penalised for illegal touching despite having been clearly pushed out of the endzone by Saints’ DB Patrick Robinson. The rule was complicated but the call was unfortunately correct for Tampa Bay fans.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Bucs coach Dungy- “You can’t make that move”

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It remains a huge topic for now in Tampa Bay, what happens when former number 1 pick and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston comes off of suspension after Monday night’s game with the Steelers?

For now, the answer appears to be simple, Ryan Fitzpatrick has played tremendous football for two weeks. This includes being named the NFC offensive player of the week for both weeks to start the season as the Bucs are 2 – 0.

Former Buccaneers coach and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Dungy weighed in on the Winston debate Friday morning on “ProFootballTalk Live” and NBC Sports Network:

“If Ryan plays like he played these last two games, if he does it again Monday night, how can you say ‘we have a better chance to win with a quarterback who hasn’t been in the building for three and half weeks….You can’t make that move.” Dungy continued, “Right now, you have to say ‘Ryan Fitzpatrick gives us the best chance to win.'”

Dungy, who’s the commentator now in the studio for NBC on Sunday nights, will actually be at the Monday night showdown between the Bucs and the Steelers. This is because he’s being placed in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor, acknowledging Dungy having turned around the Buccaneer franchise in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Dungy went on to reference the example in the early 70s of the Dolphins and Don Shula facing this dilemma when Bob Griese had broken his ankle at the beginning of a season. And veteran journeyman backup Earl Morrall replaced him, and ended up being the MVP of the NFL regular season that year. Morrall played all the way until he was ineffective in the AFC Championship Game. Griese replaced him and the Fins won it all with a perfect season.

Dungy’s point was the Shula chose to “ride the hot hand,” even with a great player and established quarterback waiting in the wings, and Miami ended up making history.

Dungy, the former Super Bowl coach of Colts, then even told Florio how he would handle the situation in his locker room and with the media after Monday night, if Fitzpatrick leads the Bucs to a win:

“I don’t think you can say with Ryan, ‘you’re our guy no matter what.’ … You’ve gotta say, ‘I’ll make the decision, when I feel like Ryan doesn’t give us the best chance to win, we’ve got a great player (Winston) ready to play. But, for now? Don’t ask me any questions, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s playing. I’ll let you know when he’s not gonna play.'”

It’s obvious that if Fitzpatrick just plays decently and the Bucs win, he’s going to remain their quarterback. Also, if FitzPatrick plays well and the Bucs narrowly lose, he more than likely is going to remain the quarterback, for now.

However, few believe that this situation is going to remain the same throughout the 16-game schedule and more than likely, the Bucs will turn back to Winston at some point and maybe soon.

However, as Dungy put it out there Friday, that time just isn’t right now.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs got good injury news Thursday starting with rookie DT Vea

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite their 2 – 0 start, the Buccaneers have been battling early-season injuries, but they got good news on Thursday. In particular, mammoth rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to the practice field for the first time, since injuring his calf in the first week of training camp in late July.

The former number 1 pick out of Washington was on the practice field with a helmet and shoulder pads during the time period that the media was allowed to view and film practice. There is eager anticipation on Vea being able to get in the lineup and be paired next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs defensive why.

Tampa Bay officially listed Vea as “limited” in Thursday’s workout, as they prepare for Monday night’s match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The good news on the defensive side of the ball, has lockdown defensive back Brent Grimes also returned to practice for the Bucs Thursday. Grimes has missed the last two weeks after injuring his groin just before the opening game at New Orleans. He was also officially listed as limited by the team on their injury report.

Grimes will be counted on even more heavily now that the Bucs have lost another starting Corner in Vernon Hargreaves, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury. Last week, Tampa Bay played a mix of rookies and a veteran, whom they had just picked up during the week.

Second round picks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis played significantly in last Sunday’s 27 – 21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay was also forced to use veteran free agent Marcus Williams for a couple of series, who they had picked up off of waivers during the game onSunday. Third-year veteran Ryan Smith played significantly, as well in the game and will also be counted on moving forward.

The Bucs also listed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week back to back to start the season, is also on the injury report with a knee, but he was able to practice.

Also, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is battling a knee injury and was not able to work out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul hurt the knee in New Orleans, but played that entire game and all of the Philadelphia game.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s cool to be a Bucs fan, again

Jeff Pantridge

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

(Please welcome a new contributor to F.F.I. Jeff Pantridge is a long time resident of the Tampa Bay area who has formerly hosted on the Tampa Bay sports radio scene, and also most recently in Virginia Beach, VA. He will be giving us his unique humor and insight into everything involving Florida’s college and NFL teams. Welcome “Pants!”)

In a country that’s as divided as ever; we don’t have many things that we agree on in 2018. Despite all of our differences though, there is one thing that we share. We all want to be cool.

This is how life works. You’re born. You learn how to walk. You learn how to talk. You run around the playground for a few years and once you hit 8 years old or so; you figure things out. You want to be cool. You realize that the cute sweater with the sailboat on it that mom got you when you were 7 sucks and you want to start picking your own clothes. From that point on, pretty much until we die, while we may have a few more meaningful purposes; we’ll always on some level, just want to be cool.

I’ve been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, since I was 7 years old. I started watching and listening to their games with my dad in 1984. I loved my Bucs and I would go to school every morning and let all of the other kids know it. They weren’t impressed. The Buccos finished 6-10 that year and 7 year old kids don’t like losers. Then 1985 hit. I ditched that stupid sweater and got me a brand new orange Tampa Bay Bucs shirt. I traded in my sailboat for a menacing pirate ship. I had to be cool at this point, right?

Nope. The Bucs went 2-14 that year. Unfortunately, 8-year old me had no idea that my football team hired a former used RV salesman (Leeman Bennett) to be their head coach. Meanwhile, the coolest team ever assembled shuffled their way to a Super Bowl by dismantling everyone in their path. They also danced, they rapped, they appeared on TV shows and redefined what cool was. Just about every 8-year old kid in my class and in every other class, was a Chicago Bears fan. After that 2-14 season, the Bucs had another 2-14 season. And then 10 more losing seasons after that. The Bears would go on to wear out their welcome at the cool kids table too.

The thing is; coolness is fleeting. Trends fade over time. For the rest of my youth, many teams sat at that cool kids table. The Giants were cool. Then the Redskins were cool. Then the 49ers were cool. Then the Cowboys were cool… It seemed like every team was getting to eat lunch at that table except my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then it happened…

In 1997; everything changed. The Bucs had just hired a new Head Coach (Tony Dungy) in the previous year. (This guy didn’t sell RV’s.) They were led by Hardy Nickerson and 2 first round draft picks in their 3rd year who were destined to become first ballot Hall of Famers. They ditched those comically uncool creamsicle uniforms and they were off and running.

While most people will tell you that 2002 was their favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneers season for obvious reasons; I will always lean towards 1997, because that’s when my football team became cool. They started 5-0 that year, and to this day; I’ve never seen The Bay Area buzzing like that.

Not when the Lightning won The Cup. Not when The Rays got to the World Series. Not even when the Buccaneers themselves brought the Lomabardi trophy home 5 years later. EVERYBODY was talking about the Bucs!

21 years later; everybody is talking about these Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again. It might be a new cast of characters, but your Pewter Pirates are the coolest team in America, led by the coolest athlete in America; Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who would’ve thought that a guy like him would ever fit that title? He’s a 35-year old backup quarterback that went to Harvard. This is 2018 though. Nerds are cool now. Marc Zuckerberg (another Harvard nerd) is worth more than the entire NFL. LeBron James wears glasses, when he doesn’t need to wear glasses.

Heck, I just watched SportsCenter do 10 minutes on some dude that plays video games for a living. By the way, this nerd also hangs with Drake, Paul George and a bunch of other really cool people that don’t hang out with any of us.

Do we know how long this ride is going to last? No. Will it be a long ride? Probably not. Like I said… coolness is fleeting. I’m just happy to be sitting at that cool kids table once again.

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