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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lots of history in Bucs-Packers series

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eff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

(As the Buccaneers travel Sunday to legendary Lambeau Field to play the Packers, our Tampa Bay historian, Paul Stewart of BucPower.com in London, takes a look at the lengthy rivalry of former division rivals and gives a few of his top games.)

Overall
The all-time series with the Packers is led 31-21 by Green Bay with there also being one tie, the only one in franchise history, in the 1980 encounter in Tampa. The two teams played twice a season from 1978 to 2001 as part of the original NFC Central Division. They also met in the 1997 Divisional playoff at Lambeau Field, a game won by the Packers 21-7.

Sunday 1 December 1985 at Lambeau Field
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 Green Bay Packers 21

This game regularly makes NFL highlight programmes whenever inclement weather is mentioned. Because the Buccaneers and probably not many other teams, have ever played in conditions like this. There was a foot of snow on the field at kickoff time and another four inches fell during the actual game. Less than 20,000 fans actually braved the elements to make it to Lambeau Field with over 45,000 no-shows as the local media stressed to travel if absolutely necessary.

On the field, the Buccaneers were in white and QB Steve Young could often not even see his receivers through the blizzard. He ran the same pass play to Kevin House consecutively with one sailing over the receiver’s head on the wind and the next falling five yards short at his feet. On the other side of the ball, the Packers seemed to move the ball at will outgaining the Bucs 512-65 in total yardage making the final 21-0 scoreline amazingly small
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The Bucs did get out of Wisconsin on a flight that evening but several of the players had staged a protest convinced it was not safe to fly. Eventually the pilot had to come out of the cockpit to convince them that he had a wife and family and wouldn’t put them at risk by taking off in dangerous conditions. “Show us the pictures” LB Scot Brantley remembers calling out. “You could hear a pin drop when we rolled down the runway” he added.

Sunday 13 September 1992 at Tampa Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 Green Bay Packers 3

The Vincredible game. Sam Wyche arrived as head coach for the 1992 season and the Bucs opened his reign with a 23-7 win over the Cardinals on opening day. Expectations were raised for the arrival of the Packers the following week but no-one anticipated the almost perfect game that would be played at the Old Sombrero.

QB Vinny Testaverde was a staggering 22 of 25 for 363 yards and two touchdowns, only falling short of an NFL record for completion percentage when a long pass to Courtney Hawkins fell incomplete in the fourth quarter. “I messed him up right there,” Wyche said. “I actually knew – I hate to even admit this – I knew that he’d set an NFL record for the highest percentage of completions in the history of the game. But the important thing is that we won.”

On the other side of the ball, competing against CB Ricky Reynolds who won NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts, was a young QB making his debut in relief of an injured Don Majkowski. If the Bucs and NFL had known what Brett Favre would go on to accomplish, they might not have been so generous. But Favre did complete his first NFL pass … to himself. A deflected pass came back to him to result in a great trivia question for the future Hall of Famer.

Sunday 8 November 2009 at Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38 Green Bay Packers 28

After 12 years, the Bucs finally returned to their orange colours for their first-ever Throwback game in November 2009. The stadium was decorated orange and Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon was being inducted as the first member of the team’s Ring of Honor. It was truly a memorable day in Tampa.

Raheem Morris’ team was 0-7 on returning from playing in England and made the decision to start rookie QB Josh Freeman. He merely passed for three touchdowns including the go-ahead score to WR Sammie Stroughter on 4th down with just over four minues remaining. @The guy was very poised – unreal, like, wow,” RB Cadillac Williams said. “That’s the hardest position to play in football, man. For that guy to come in and do the job he did, unbelievable.”

S Tanard Jackson sealed the victory with a pick six off QB Aaron Rodgers in the final seconds and as the Gatorade bath descended on Morris for his first NFL coaching victory, the Bucs were able to party like it was 1979.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers cornerstone player in 2018?

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

(This is the first look at all three state NFL teams’ roster and identifying a player that we at F.F.I. believe is the foundation starter for their potential success in 2018)

It’s still a couple of weeks before the Buccaneers gather for training camp at One Buc Place and there’s already uncertainty everywhere. Off a disappointing showing down the stretch with a 5-11 finish in 2017, both head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht were already feeling warmth under their seats.

Now, the perceived team leader, QB Jameis Winston, is suspended for the first three games of the season for violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. And, this has called into question whether he Winston is going to be on borrowed time himself, once he comes back.

So, who is the player that the Bucs will look to for leadership, stability and to help them get through tough times this year? Well, it’s not clear cut in Tampa Bay, but we have a strong guess.

If we are talking cornerstone player for 2018, we are talking yearly Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.

The reasons are apparent.

McCoy has tenure in the Bucs locker room and has played at the high level for the past six seasons (under three different head coaches) and made the Pro Bowl in each one.

Most importantly, he provides a veteran presence to what is an uncertain situation.

And with the additions of former Eagles DE Vinny Curry in free agency, a trade for Giants Pro Bowler and Superbowl champion Jason Pierre Paul and the drafting of Washington All American DT Vita Vea in the first round, McCoy has more help than at any point in his career.

This means the former #1 pick out of Oklahoma will have a chance to excel, especially right away, this season.

Sure, the Bucs have a “franchise receiver” in Mike Evans, and gave him a huge extension in March. And they have one of the top star defenders in the NFL that few on the national level talk much about in LB LaVonte David.

However, with Winston’s future with the Buccaneers uncertain, Gerald McCoy is the guy to count on for this and the next few seasons.

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Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.

As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.

Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.

Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:

“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station.  “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”

Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.

He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.

Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.

As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.

“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of  job.”

At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.

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New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.

One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.

It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.

But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his  hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.

The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing  as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.

This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.

After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.

Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.

Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.

That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.

The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.

He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:

The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.

Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.

Alas, the Giants had a nightmare of a 2017 season that finished at 3-13. Pierre-Paul had a solid season with 8.5 sacks and 68 total tackles despite the dismal team finish.
Then, Bucs GM Jason Licht swung the deal for Pierre-Paul and Tampa Bay agreed to assume his $12.1 million dollar salary for 2018.

So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.

It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.

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