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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gruden made decision to come back on night Bucs honored him

Roy Cummings



Photo by Icon Sportswire

On Monday night December 17th, the Buccaneers hosted the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. They also immortalized their former Super Bowl winning coach, Jon Gruden, in their “Ring of Honor,” as part of the 15th anniversary of that championship team.

And that night, Gruden says he decided, once and for all, to come back to the NFL. Just not back to the Buccaneers.

In a phone interview with Mike Florio Thursday on his “Pro Football Talk Live” television show on NBC Sports Network, Gruden expounded on what that night at Raymond James Stadium meant to him and how it pushed him “off the fence” to return to coaching in the NFL.

Gruden gave a rousing speech at halftime, as the Glazer family unveiled his name on the facade of the upper level of the stadium and he told Florio, “I got to be around 60 or 70 of my ex-players in Tampa. It just hit me like a brick. I just missed being around those guys, I missed being around that coaching environment, and I got all choked up emotionally. I remember driving home that night thinking, ‘I gotta get back on the field, I just wanna be a part of a team again, and see if I can help somebody. So I think that was the signature moment for me really.”

But, a few weeks later Gruden was sitting in Oakland with owner Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie, having accepted a reported 10 year $100 million contract to return to the team that gave him his first chance as a head coach in 1998.

Gruden said at that press conference, and in interviews since, that the Raiders never fired him in 2002, but rather traded him (which is 100% true) for two #1 and two #2 draft picks and $8 million dollars. And, that the Raiders have, and will always have, a special place in his heart.

15 years later it’s still the most outrageous trade for a coach in North American sports history.

Oh, the Buccaneers also won the Super Bowl that same year at the expense of his old team, too.

Meanwhile, he’s back now in Oakland, and he spoke with more passion about the fans in Oakland with Florio Thursday, “these people in Oakland, they supported me as an unknown nobody. When I was 34 years old they got behind me, they got behind the Raider football team, and they helped me. And I feel the urgency to come back here and do everything within my power to try to deliver the best possible football for them for the next two years before they move to Vegas. It was very important.”

There is no doubt that there’s a large segment of Bucs fans that if Gruden was going to come back, wanted him to come back to the Buccaneers for 2018.

They’ll have to settle for the memories of 2002 and his “Ring of Honor” night 15 years later.

The night that Gruden says it all became clear to him to return to coaching.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Angela Diaz

    January 19, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    The Bucs have a long way to go and a lot of problems, but Gruden isn’t the answer. The equivalent of throwing money down a well and hoping it’ll stick. Toward the end of his contract, they’ll be looking to get rid of him.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders



Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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