Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cannon Boom-er

Noted ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman will make a special visit to Tampa on Thursday


DT Warren Sapp might get a chance to rush Chris Berman the way Lee Roy Selmon did 20 years ago

With the NFL world shrinking around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their follow Divisional Playoff teams, a host of well-known media types are heading into Tampa. Area sports junkies might be most interested to learn that ESPN icon Chris Berman will hit the scene on Thursday.

Berman, affectionately known as Boomer by the legions of ESPN fans, seems to have a particular affinity for the Buccaneers, perhaps dating back to his 1979 trip to Tampa for ESPN, then a fledgling network. During that breakthrough Buc season, Berman visited Tampa Bay's One Buccaneer Place practice facility, where the team is still housed, and got up close and personal with the team's rising stars.

Look for a reprise on Thursday. In 1979, Berman put himself in the middle of the action on Tampa Bay's practice field, catching a pass from QB Doug Williams in one scene and getting enveloped by a hoarde of Buccaneer pass-rushers in another. Those moments, which still pop up on ESPN from time to time, may be re-enacted on Thursday, according to a media source.

What definitely will occur during Berman's visit is a unique edition of his popular 'Swami' segment to be conducted on the famous pirate ship inside Raymond James Stadium. Berman will make his predictions for the weekend's playoff games from that locale and will also bestow a nickname on Tampa Bay's outstanding defense. Tampa Bay's unit hasn't exactly been a 'No-Name Defense', but it also has not yet inspired a lasting nickname. Hopefully, Berman can change that.

"I guess you have arrived when you get a (Chris Berman) nickname!" said Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy with a laugh. "But it will be nice to have Chris down here. I saw the piece that he did from '79 when he was here the last time, and it doesn't seem like that long ago. I know our guys will appreciate it, and we have quite a few guys around the office that want to meet him, so it will be fun."

The earlier part of Berman's visit will be used to interview Dungy and such key players as QB Shaun King, FB Mike Alstott, S John Lynch, LBs Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson and DT Warren Sapp. ESPN is just one of a variety of national crews that have visited or will visit the Buccaneers this week, including Fox's Saturday broadcast team of Dick Stockton and Matt Millen, Fox reporter Pam Oliver, CNN/SI's Mark Morgan and Sports Illustrated writer David Fleming.

All of which adds up to an increase of camera time for the Buccaneer players, but Dungy is not worried about the added media attention becoming a distraction. "No, I think our guys understand that the game is the important thing and you've got to play well," said Dungy. "But I want them to enjoy this. This is the part that comes with the playoffs and this is what comes with getting to be a good team. We have to learn how to handle it and deal with it."

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