First off, it's a relief to see that I'm still a superhero. In today's economy, it's nice to have a little workplace stability, and my head was spinning from all the recent changes to my side occupation.
I say "side occupation" because my real raison d'être is always going to be answering Buccaneer and NFL-related questions. I think – I hope! – I've been able to do a pretty good job of that since I was fortunate enough to return to Buccaneer headquarters earlier this year after a lengthy absence. Still, part of what makes this job so great is the give-and-take you and I are able to have through this column, and I always appreciate the feedback, even if it's occasionally a game of "Spot the Typo."
Sometimes, I get a letter in my e-mailbag and it's clear that one of you out there feels you could have done a better job than I did answering a certain question. This is one of those cases. In my last column, I included a question from a fan named Chris Gaines from Kansas, who wanted to know this: "What does it mean to be a Buccaneer?"
Now, I only included the question as a sneaky way to plug the recent run of interviews here on Buccaneers.com exploring the more personal sides of our players a little bit. I felt the query was a little too nebulous to fit into my usual line of Q&As; I'm more of a nuts-and-bolts, do-the-research, break-out-the-rulebook kind of guy. Honestly, I didn't spend much time on it.
Now, at least one of you had a completely different reaction to the question. In fact, a Mr. Edward Perez of Kingsville, Texas reacted to Chris's question quite strongly. Now, if I was going to take a shot at Chris, I think I'd start with the unfortunate fact that he shares a name with that cringe-worthy alt-rocker persona "developed" by country singer Garth Brooks a few years back. Edward, however, took a different approach, and it was passionate enough that I thought I would simply let him rant away here. (Gets me out of thinking up an intro, too.)
Take it away, Edward…
There was a question that was asked [in the last column] that had me speechless. The question was: "What does it mean to be a Buccaneer?" Can I answer that for you?
Well Christopher Gaines, can you do me a favor and check out some footage of Mike "A-Train Alstott on Youtube? Wow, there's some great footage. To me what it means to be a Buccaneer is to cheer for a team that has the utmost respect for the other team as we are playing them on the field. As a fan the reason I'm such a fan is because I saw the GREATEST GAME ever played on a Monday night in Dec. 2000. The game was against the Rams. We won that game and it went into all the history books that we took them out. I've supported this team from that point on and through the Super Bowl and even last season. I caught a lot of jokes from my friends this past season and I never let them get to me. The look on my friend's face when we beat the New Orleans Saints in overtime was priceless as I cheered them on. So please feel free to look up the past year's footage and you will realize what it is to be a Buccaneer. If you notice the pirate ship that is on their sleeves, I too have that pirate ship tattooed on my right arm, and for my left arm I wear the colors of the Bucs flag. So everywhere I go I show my team pride as they continue on and on through the seasons to come.
You know what I just did? I went to Youtube and watched some Alstott clips! Edward is right, that never gets old. Anyway, I think Edward is saying, at the beginning, that Alstott's style of play embodies what it means to be a Buccaneer. And apparently he was personally inspired to be a fan by that admittedly incredible 38-35 win over the Rams in 2000. Your reasons may be different, and you may have been a fan for more seasons or less than Edward, and you may or may not have Buc tattoos. I think what it means to be a Buccaneer, from a fan's perspective, can be a very personal thing, so I still think it wasn't my type of question. Thus, it was fun letting Edward take the wheel on this one.
Now, on to your most recent questions.
- Keith Vance of Apple Valley, California asks:
This year I get lucky and have two games close to home, Arizona and San Fran. From what I understand there is a rotation of divisions. How long is it going to be until the Bucs are in Cali again?
Answer Man: The problem here, Keith, is it's a little difficult to answer that question definitively at the moment. Let me explain why.
In 2002, the NFL added the Houston Texans to even the league up at 32 teams, which has since been very conveniently divided into eight four-team divisions. With that nice number to work with and with a desire to get away from the previous "strength-of-schedule" emphasis (in which each team's place in the standings the year before played heavily into who they played the following season), the league set up a specific rotation that would be followed for the next eight years.
Each season, a team would play six games against its three division opponents (as the voice of Richard Schilling goes off in my head), four against one of the three remaining divisions in its own conference and four against one of the four divisions in the opposite conference. Only the remaining two games would be based on the previous year's standings; each team would play the team in the two remaining intraconference divisions (NFC vs. NFC, AFC vs. AFC) that matched its spot in the division standings. To use the Bucs' 2009 season as an example, the 16 games were as follows: six games against Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans (as always), four games against the NFC East (Dallas, Philly, Washington and the Giants), four games against the AFC East (Buffalo, Miami, New England and the Jets) and one each against Green Bay and Seattle. The Bucs finished third in the NFC South in 2008, and thus were matched up against the third-place teams from the NFC North (Green Bay) and NFC West (Seattle), as they were already playing the entire NFC East.
And yes, as you said, there was a rotation of the division matchups from year to year, set in place in 2002 and lasting through 2009. Obviously, it would take three years to cycle through the other divisions in your own conference and four to cycle through the divisions in the opposite conference. After four years, Tampa Bay had played every team in every division (some more than once, of course). After eight years, the Bucs had played every team in every division both home and away at least once. That was one of the main things the league wanted to accomplish, exposing one team's fans to every other team in the league. Under the previous system, there were strange and coincidental blanks in some of the head-to-head series; most notably for the Buccaneers, they had never played a single game in Buffalo. That changed last year in Week Two.
Here's the problem, Keith. After that original eight-year plan finished running its course last year, the NFL didn't immediately put another multi-year rotation into place. That is almost certainly due to the current uncertainty about the CBA and what the NFL landscape will look like after a new one is in place. For instance, what if the regular-season schedule is expanded to 18 games?
Now, for 2010, the league did keep the same basic scheduling structure, with the intra- and opposite-division matchups and the two games based on standings. It very well could be the start of a rotation very similar to the one that took place from 2002-09. For now, however, nothing has been set in stone by the NFL past 2010. It's worth noting that the rotation did not simply begin exactly where it had in 2002, and that was probably inevitable, since the intra-division and opposite-division rotations don't match up. Also, that first eight-year rotation was started in a way that gave preference to matchups of former division rivals that had just been displaced. For instance, the Buccaneers, who had just left the NFC Central, were matched up against what was left of that division (Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota) and renamed the NFC North. Those concerns are not as significant now, almost a decade later.
The NFC South was matched up against the NFC North that first year, in 2002. Their NFC matchup then followed a North-East-West rotation for the eight years, meaning it went N-E-W-N-E-W-N-E. In that way, the 2010 schedule does keep the rotation rolling, pitting the South against the West and leading to those great Arizona and San Francisco appearances you mentioned. If one conjectures that the rotation will continue in that way (no guarantee, as mentioned) in the coming years, then the Bucs would next be matched against the NFC West in 2013 and would make trips to Seattle and St. Louis (not exactly West Coast on that one!).
As for the AFC, the NFC South was originally matched up against the North in 2002, too. The rotation then followed a North-South-West-East rotation, making two full trips through that foursome and finishing up on a much neater note. Thus, the NFL could really start anywhere with its cross-conference division matchups in 2010, and in the NFC South's case it drew the AFC East, meaning Buccaneer games against Buffalo, Miami, New England and the Jets. It's hard to say, then, which divisions the Bucs will get in 2011-13, and there's also no telling which half of each division the Bucs will get on the road the first time through the rotation. It's perfectly possible that Tampa Bay will draw the AFC West in 2011 and make trips to, say, San Diego and Oakland. On the other hand, even if the Bucs get the West in 2011, they might end up heading to Denver and Kansas City.
Keep in mind, too, that there are always those two extra games based on the teams' standings within their divisions the previous year. The Bucs won't be matched up against the NFC West for a second straight year in 2011, but they will play one of those teams based on the standings. That could easily be San Francisco, for example, and it could be on the road.
I know that's not a definitive answer, Keith, but a truly definitive answer isn't possible at the moment. Hopefully, I've helped you understand the possibilities of another West Coast trip for the Buccaneers in the coming years.
- Darian of Brevard, North Carolina asks:
I've realized after the 2010 draft that the Bucs now have a lot of receivers on the roster including Stovall, Clayton, Stroughter, etc... (I'm sure you know them all). Recently they drafted Benn and Mike Williams and acquired Reggie Brown from the Eagles and re-signed Mark Bradley. I was just wondering, with all these talented receivers, who are the expected starters?
Answer Man: That's one of the big questions about the Bucs' depth chart this summer, Darian, and it will probably take all of training camp and the preseason games to answer. You're right that the possibilities seem endless at the moment, and at the moment your guess is as good as mine. (Well, that's probably not completely true, but I'm not really supposed to print my guess.)
Let's go ahead and define the field of candidates, however. As of May 27, the Buccaneers have 12 receivers on the roster, and 10-12 is about the number the team usually takes to training camp. (By the way, if you check out the team roster here on Buccaneers.com, be aware that it IS sortable by things such as position and school even though you don't get that usual pointer when you roll over the category headers with your mouse.)
Those 12 receivers, listed alphabetically, are Arrelious Benn, Mark Bradley, Chris Brooks, Reggie Brown, Michael Clayton, Terrence Nunn, Preston Parker, Micheal Spurlock, Maurice Stovall, Sammie Stroughter, Mario Urrutia and Mike Williams.
Now, Brooks and Parker are rookie free agents and Nunn and Urrutia are free agents signed during last season who have little or no NFL game experience. All are intriguing prospects for the 53-man roster, but I don't think it's a slight to any of the four to suggest that they are long shots to be starters for the Buccaneers in 2010. If they are, more power to them, but we'll put them on the backburner of this discussion for now. In addition, Spurlock has been mostly a return man in his NFL career (a record-setting one for the Buccaneers, in fact!) and so he too would be making a very significant rise to get all the way into the starting lineup.
That leaves veteran holdovers Bradley, Clayton, Stovall and Stroughter, trade acquisition Brown and rookies Benn and Williams as the most likely candidates, and that's as far as the Answer Man is going to define the competition in terms of who's leading the pack. Can Benn or Williams make an immediate impact? Well, Clayton himself proved that a rookie can step right into a leading role when he put up 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns in 2004. Clayton was a first-round draft pick that year, but many analysts believe that Benn and Williams might have been first-rounders, too, in any year that didn't have a draft class as crazy deep as the 2010 group. It's always dangerous to assume that any rookie will step right into a productive starting role, but the fact that the Buccaneers' drafted two such candidates obviously increases the odds.
Clayton, of course, has the NFL track record, and Bradley, too, has been a starter in both Chicago and Kansas City. Stovall showed on several occasions last fall that he could be productive in a starting role when injuries limited Antonio Bryant and/or Clayton at certain points during the season. And Stroughter, of course, proved to be an impressive seventh-round find, quickly emerging as the team's primary slot receiver and catching 31 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown.
After last week's OTA practices, both Williams and quarterback Josh Freeman commented on how intense the competition already seems to be among all those receivers. Obviously, they can all see the wide-open opportunity to grab a starting role, or at least a very active one. The Buccaneers obviously want to find the right group of weapons, long-term, for their young quarterback to exploit, as was evidenced by the drafting of Benn and Williams last month. Somebody needs to step up; it's going to be fun to see what happens this summer.
- James Wilson of Crewe, UK asks:
I figured I'll just keep asking questions until you get sick of me and publish a new column. As you can see, oh Answer Lord, my hometown is Crewe in the UK. A quick Wikipedia search will show that its soccer team is well-known for finding young talent and developing it. My question after much bloviation is: Are there any rules in place to stop franchises from finding good young talent and signing them up to the practice squad, keeping them from the draft and stopping the talent going elsewhere. Or if they could do this, would there be any other reasons to stop the franchise doing this? Many thanks.
Answer Man: /does quick Wikipedia search
//sees section on Crew Alexandra F.C.
///sees "developing young talent" line almost verbatim
////thanks Deadspin for showing an aging Superhero how to do this slash thing (and still probably getting it wrong)
Okay, James, we've established the veracity of your claims and terms like "Answer Lord" and "bloviate" are always going to increase your chances of getting into the ol' column. Also, I like your question. Let's do it.
The key to your question, and the difference between your soccer club's situation and that of an NFL team, is your mention of finding and developing "young" talent. For young football players in the United States, you must be out of high school three years before you can be eligible for the draft. An NFL team can't sign (or draft) a promising 16-year-old receiver and put him in some kind of minor league. That's the most basic element keeping teams from finding and developing particularly young talent before any other team, that and the fact that there is no minor-league system for American football.
Now, it is possible for a person farther removed from high school (and therefore not really in the "young" talent arena you describe) to sign with a team without submitting to the draft. For instance, the Buccaneers had a player named Ray Seals in the early '90s who they had signed out of a semi-pro league in New York. Seals had played high school football but then not attended college. After working in a factory post-graduation, he moved to Orlando and then returned to New York to play in the Eastern Football League. After two-and-a-half years in that league, Seals gained the attention of Buccaneers scouts and was signed as a free agent in November of 1987. He first played in 1988 and even had a five-sack season in 1992.
The key here is that Seals already had been draft-eligible, even if it wasn't anything he thought about at the time. Here's a passage from the NFL's eligibility rules:
Any player who does not attend college is automatically eligible for selection in the next principal draft that is conducted after four football seasons have elapsed since the player discontinued high school. … If said player is not selected in the draft for which he is eligible, he is eligible to be signed as a free agent, unless he subsequently attends college and participates in college football.
So Seals had already been eligible for an NFL draft and, of course, had not been selected, along with about eight billion other people, including you and me. That's why the Buccaneers could sign him in November instead of having to wait until the following spring to get a crack at drafting him.
- Andrew of Venice, Florida asks:
What is the highest number of rookies to start for one team in their rookie season?
Answer Man: When I first read this question, I liked it but thought it would be virtually impossible to find the answer when considering all the teams in the NFL. Then I browsed through some of the NFL statistical database sites to which I have access and actually found that…yeah, I've got no chance at finding that answer unless I have weeks to sift through rosters and drafts and the like.
So here's what I'm going to do, Andrew, since I do like your question, as I said. How about we see which of the 34 Buccaneers teams so far has started the most rookies? That I know I can do, though believe me, it's still gonna take quite a bit of time.
I'll explain the methodology first. I took the participation charts for each season, which list the games played and started for every player. Now, there are 22 spots at which a player can start but obviously, with injuries and various lineup decisions, more than 22 players end up with at least some starts every season. So I made an executive decision: To be considered a starter in that season, a player had to start at least half of the team's games. That would be seven starts in 1976 and 1978, five in 1982 and eight in every other season except 1987. In '87, there was a strike that led to one game being canceled and three being played by replacement players. That left 12 games for the non-replacement players, so I only required six starts to make the list.
One other note: I did not include players who went to the USFL for a season or two before jumping to the NFL to be a rookie, such as Steve Young, David Greenwood and Rob Taylor.
In 34 seasons, there were 59 men who qualified under that criteria, which is fairly close to two per season. The rate of rookie starters was actually pretty consistent during the first half of the franchise's existence. There was at least one rookie starter in each of those 17 seasons except one and at least two in eight of those season. The total from the first 17 seasons was 37 rookie starters.
That has tapered off quite a bit in the past 17 years, which has seen only 22 rookie starters overall. The 1989 season was the first one that did not include a single rookie starter, but a decade later the team went three straight seasons (1998-00) without one. After Kenyatta Walker started as a rookie in 2001, there were then two more seasons (2002-03) without a rookie starter. The Bucs also had no rookie starters in 2008.
Again, we are only considering rookies who started enough games to actually be considered starters, rather than the occasional fill-in. And, obviously, the number of starts a player makes is by no means a complete indication of how valuable he was to the team. For instance, Sammie Stroughter did not make a single start in his rookie campaign last year but he was the slot receiver for most of the season and finished third on the team with 31 receptions. Aqib Talib started only two games as a rookie in 2008 but was clearly an important part of the Bucs' defense and by his second season was an every-week starter.
Anyway, the answer to your question…okay, the answer to my question that I figured would be easier than your question…is a tie between the 1977, 1988 and 1991 seasons. Each of those Buccaneer teams had four rookie starters. In 1977, it was RB Ricky Bell, LBs Cecil Johnson and David Lewis and TE Dana Nafziger. In 1988 it was LB Sidney Coleman, DE Reuben Davis, T Paul Gruber and FB William Howard. In 1991 it was S Marty Carter, S Tony Covington, WR Lawrence Dawsey and FB Robert Wilson.
If you have to break the tie, I guess you could look at which of those foursomes started the most. The 1977 crew made a total of 46 starts, the 1988 quartet made 48 starts and the 1991 players made 48 starts. Call it a tie between the two latter teams, then.
Before tallying up the results, I had expected the answer would be either 1976 or 1987.
The '76 season, obviously, was the first in team history and I figured with every position up for grabs and a large draft class there would be plenty of opportunities for rookies to jump in. As it turned out, however, the majority of the 1976 starting 22 was made up of players taken in the veteran allocation draft in which the Bucs grabbed a couple dozen players off the 26 pre-existing teams. Not that all of those players were established veterans by any means; many of them had been drafted by other teams just the year before. Also, Lee Roy Selmon surely would have started enough games to qualify if he had not been hurt after playing in just eight games.
I had remembered that the 1987 draft was also very large and included a lot of names Bucs fans would recognize – Vinny Testaverde, Ron Hall, Bruce Hill, Mark Carrier, Winston Moss, Ricky Reynolds, etc. As it turned out, though, the only players who started at least half of the games in 1987 were Reynolds, Moss and an undrafted free agent named Ray Isom.
I would assume you are asking this question because there is a lot of speculation that the 2010 draft class will collectively have a big impact this fall. The Answer Man agrees with that speculation and expects big things from the Class of 2010. However, it would still be surprising if five of the nine draft picks were able to start at least eight games. As the above research shows, it usually takes more than one season for most rookies to break into the starting lineup.
- Cameron Stevens of Sydney, Australia asks:
Who do you think will be the stating QB for the majority of this coming season?
Answer Man: Well, Cameron, I sure hope it's Josh Freeman!
Okay, and to answer your question more directly, I also think it will be Josh Freeman. After starting the final nine games of last season, the second-year quarterback is definitely the starter heading into 2010. Obviously, one always has to consider the possibility of injury to any player on any NFL team, so there are no guarantees. But it's hard to imagine the team being impatient with Freeman and, personally, I find it hard to imagine him giving the coaches reason to reconsider. The future seems very, very bright for this young man.
Now, you probably expected me to say that, and even though I honestly feel that way I recognize that you could see me as a company man on this one. But here's another way to look at it: How often does a team take a quarterback in the first round, have him start at least half of his rookie season and then not make him the starter for all or most of his second season? There's no bias in that question – I'm talking about all first-round QBs and the simple matter of whether or not they started in season two.
So, let's take a look. We'll go over a decade's worth of first-round quarterbacks, and we have to start back in 2008 because we need there to have been at least two seasons played since the player was drafted. So, from 1999-2008, what do we find?
Frankly, the results are beyond conclusive. There were 28 quarterbacks drafted in the first round over that 10-year period, and 11 of them started at least half of their team's games as a rookie. Of those 11, nine started the majority of the team's games the following season, as well.
You might think that opens the door a little bit for the possibility of a benching in that situation, but in fact the two who did not start the majority of their season-two games would have if not for injuries. Arizona's Matt Leinart started 11 games as a rookie in 2006 and the first five of his second season before sustaining a season-ending injury. Cleveland's Tim Couch started 14 games as a rookie in 1999 and the first seven of his second season before sustaining a season-ending injury (on the practice field, poor guy).
So, really, that's 11 of 11. But wait, there's more. Seems we made the restriction a little too severe when we said the quarterback had to start at least half of his rookie-season games. Of those 28 quarterbacks, 22 started at least one games as a rookie. You know how many of those 22 didn't start a majority of their team's games in season two? Three. Three!! That includes the injured Leinart and Couch, as well as Chicago's Rex Grossman, who also was an injury victim! That's right, Grossman started three games as a rookie in 2003, then opened the first three of 2004 (and played quite well, actually) before tearing up his knee and missing the rest of the year.
In other words, at least in the decade of 1999-2008, there wasn't a single first-round quarterback who started at least one game in his rookie season and yet failed to nail down the starting job for most of his second year as well, unless he sustained a season-ending injury.
How about in Buccaneer history? There were only three first-round quarterbacks in team history before Freeman: Doug Williams in 1978, Vinny Testaverde in 1987 and Trent Dilfer in 1994. Williams started nine games in '78 (injuries were a factor there, too) and every game in 1979. Testaverde started four games in '87 and 15 in '88. Dilfer started two games in '94 and every game in '95.
Have I made my point? Yes, I believe I have. Take any bias or predictions of Freeman's bright future out of it and history still points in one direction. The torch has been passed.
- Steven Small of Ontario, California asks:
What do tryout guys get (money, transportation, uniform???) to try out for an NFL team? Thanks Answer Man.
Answer Man: My pleasure, Steve.
You're pretty much on the money there. If a player is asked by an NFL team to come to the team's facility for a tryout, the team pays for his transportation and his lodging while he's in town. While at the facility, he is given any clothing or equipment he needs to perform his tryout.
I think Steve is probably referring more specifically to the roughly 50 young players who came to One Buccaneer Place the weekend after the draft to participate in the team's rookie mini-camp on tryout contracts. Same idea though – they're flown in (or they drive if they're local), put up in a hotel and issued team practice uniforms during the camp.
Of course, the main thing these young men get is an opportunity. These are players who succeeded on the college level but, for whatever reason, were neither drafted nor signed as undrafted free agents in the days that followed the seven rounds. The Bucs structure their rookie camp this way, with so many guys on tryout contracts, because it not only helps them field a full-scale practice but because there are always some intriguing prospects who initially fall through the cracks.
It has probably been mentioned here on Buccaneers.com about a thousand times, but Clifton Smith is one such player. He was neither drafted nor signed after the draft in 2008, so he accepted an invitation to try out in the Bucs' rookie mini-camp even though it required a cross-country flight from Fresno. Demar Dotson, Marc Dile and Kareem Huggins all went from tryout players to spots on the roster last year, too.
This year, the rookie mini-camp uncovered six players who were signed after participating on tryout contracts: wide receiver Chris Brooks, guard Lee Grimes, defensive end George Johnson, long-snapper Chris Mauriello, fullback Rendrick Taylor and center Jeff Tow-Arnett
- Sam Kersenbrock of Orlando, Florida asks:
Considering our draft, who is going to be our starting defensive line? I really believe in Roy Miller, as he showed a tremendous amount of promise. Can it be Stylez G. White, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Miller?
Answer Man: I'm not sure that would work, Sam, because McCoy, Price and Miller are all defensive tackles and I don't believe any are considered candidates to move to the edge. If not, a maximum of two of those three could start, though they obviously could all play extensively in a rotation.
However, the team does return one of its defensive tackle starters from last year in Ryan Sims, so he is obviously a strong candidate for the starting front four, as well. On the ends, the two players who started the most last season were White and Jimmy Wilkerson. Wilkerson left as a free agent, so there will be at least one new starter there. As an incumbent, White is obviously a front-runner and would seem more likely to play on the right end. Tim Crowder started four of the last eight games and saw action at both end positions, so you'd have to believe he's one of the favorites, as well.
Who is going to be our starting defensive line, Sam? I'd say that's one of the most important and interesting questions we're going to be asking during training camp this summer.
- Tom Stein of Tampa, Florida asks:
Who was the QB in the first Tampa win. Who did they play and where did the QB play in college?
Answer Man: I get a lot of very basic questions like this, along the lines of, "Who was the first player ever drafted by the Bucs?" or "Who was the first quarterback?" or "Who is the Bucs' all-time rushing leader?"
Sometimes I throw them down below in the Quickies section, but I try not to do so too often because I can imagine most Bucs fans rolling their eyes and thinking everyone knows the answers. I thought this one was a little more fleshed out, however, with the potential for at least a partially interesting answer.
I mean, I'd imagine most of you know off the top of your heads that the Bucs' first-ever regular-season victory was over the New Orleans Saints in 1977. Some of you (like me, not that I'm bragging) can easily recite the date (Dec. 11), the score (33-14) and the fact that it was on the road in the Superdome.
But how many of you know who the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers was in that game? Well, Tom didn't and because he asked, now we all will. Mr. Gary Huff started that historic game for the Buccaneers and was actually quite efficient, though the victory hinged more on defense and the running game. Huff completed seven of nine passes for 96 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He gave the Bucs a 13-0 lead in the second quarter with a five-yard scoring pass to Morris Owens, and then the defense turned it into a rout with three interceptions returned for a touchdown. (By the way, the only other time the Buccaneers have returned three picks for scores in the same game was, yep, Super Bowl XXXVII.)
Huff started the next weekend, too, as the Buccaneers earned their first-ever home victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, by a 17-7 decision. That would prove to be Huff's last start as a Buccaneer and in the NFL in general. He did play one last NFL season, with the Bucs in 1978, but by then the team had drafted Doug Williams, who started the '78 opener as a rookie.
Where did Huff go to college? Why, he's a Seminole! The Chicago Bears drafted Huff out of Florida State in the second round in 1973, and he would start a total of 22 games for them from 1973-76. The Bucs then traded a sixth-round pick in the 1977 draft to the Bears to acquire him before the '77 season.
- Kendall Hardee of Greenville, North Carolina asks:
Have the Bucs ever drafted a player that went to East Carolina University? If so, who is it?
Answer Man: Have the Bucs drafted a player from East Carolina, Kendall? No, they've drafted three. That's actually the same number of players the team has ever drafted out of Auburn, Georgia Tech, LSU, Louisville, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Washington State and even Ohio State. And it's more players than the Bucs have drafted out of Arkansas, Boston College, BYU, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Oregon State, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, UCLA, Vandy and West Virginia, to name a few (even with UCLA's Brian Price and Vanderbilt's Myron Lewis this year).
So, yeah, Go Pirates!
What's that? Oh yeah, who were they. Forgot about that. Let's see. The three ECU draftees in Buccaneer history were – drum roll, please – safety Kevin Walker in the sixth round in 1986; running back Anthony Simpson in the eighth round in 1988; and linebacker Bernard Carter in the sixth round in 1994. Well, the drum roll might have been a bit of overkill. Only Walker made the team out of those three, and his Buccaneer career was comprised of seven games and three starts over two seasons.
Okay, that was pretty close to being a "quickie," so let's just transition right into that part of the column. The following are questions that I've either answered before, and recently, or ones that didn't really need a lot of elaboration.
- Brandon of Tampa, Florida asks:
What happened to the message boards?
Answer Man: When we launched the new Buccaneers.com as part of the growing NFL internet network, the previous message board was mothballed along with the old site. But, obviously, message boards are a big draw, and we want our fans to have a forum in which to communicate with each other. So, yes, the new Buccaneers.com will most definitely have a message board. It is due to launch in September.
- Anthony Flynn of Port Charlotte, Florida asks:
When will FanFest 2010 be?
Answer Man: This year's FanFest is set for Saturday, June 19. The big change this year is that it's in the evening. The stadium gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and the ultra-popular event will stretch well into the night. Otherwise, you should expect to find all of the things that make FanFest great year after year, including interactive games, coaches interviews, cheerleaders everywhere and, of course, awesome autograph opportunities with the players.
For the six people out there who don't already know, FanFest is free and open to everyone, and it's a Bucs fan's dream. If you haven't been to one before, and you can be in the Bay area on June 19, I highly suggest you come on by.
- Manuel of Tampa, Florida asks:
Who is our third quarterback?
Answer Man: The Buccaneers still have the three quarterbacks with which they finished the 2010 season – Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter. They were in that order on the depth chart at the end of the season, though there is no official depth chart during the offseason. The team has since added a fourth passer in rookie Jevan Snead.
- Ronald J. Mulholland of Deltona Florida says:
Hey, Answer Man, this is not a question, I just want to thank you for posting my question to you about trading up or down in the draft. You really explained it quite well and where very thorough. I did get to watch the entire draft this year and I was also able to see different teams trade up and down and it is interesting to see really how it works for those who do it. If I recall one team traded out of a round, picked up some extra picks and then traded back into that same round later and gave up one of those picks and one for next year. So it is very interesting and now I see why it's done and the way you explained it and profiled the players, it really answered my question very well. Thanks again and you are very up on your answers.
Answer Man: Okay, yeah, that one was for me, since I had to post all of those correction-type e-mails in the last column.
Finally, Rendrick in Nashville: I'm sorry. I missed Rendrick Taylor again during the OTAs. I absolutely promise I'll get your answer into the next column.
And to everyone else, please keep sending in the great questions. To be honest, the last month or so has been a little slower than usual in the mailbag. What that means to you is that, if you send a good question in now, you've got a higher chance than usual of getting it into the column. Talk to you again in a couple weeks.