Dunn has the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award back in his grasp for the first time since 1997
The NFC Player of the Week award has become something of a traveling trophy in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room.
During the first three weeks of the season, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Warren Sapp scrawled 'Defensive' on it and played keep away from the rest of the league. The award then took a hiatus from One Buccaneer Place until Shaun King brought it back as an offensive honoree in Week Nine. Karl Williams then grabbed it last week as the first special teams winner for Tampa Bay this season.
Now the mythical trophy is in the hands of RB Warrick Dunn, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 14 on Wednesday after rushing for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 27-7 downing of the Dallas Cowboys.
Both times Dunn has set a new personal rushing standard in the NFL (excluding his first career game), he has won this award. However, the two occasions fell almost four years apart.
After rushing for just 37 yards against San Francisco in his first pro game in 1997, Dunn came back with 130 yards at Detroit in Week Two and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, as well as Offensive Rookie of the Month when September ended.
Surprisingly, Dunn had not topped that 130-yard high until last Sunday. Though he finished his rookie season with five 100-yard rushing games, he had just two in 1998 and '99 combined and none through the first 12 games of 2000. However, after the team lost FB Mike Alstott to a knee injury at Chicago on November 19, Dunn has averaged 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in the Bucs' last two contests.
In addition to the multitude of Player of the Week Awards, Buccaneers have also hauled in two NFC Player of the Month honors. K Martin Gramatica grabbed the Special Teams award for October and Brooks grabbed the Defensive accolades for November. Tampa Bay's eight combined weekly and monthly conference awards equals Philadelphia's total for the most in the NFL.
Dunn is just the second player in Buccaneer history to top the 200-yard mark. James Wilder set the still-standing team record on November 6, 1983 when he rushed for 219 yards at Minnesota. Wilder is also the only player still ahead of Dunn on the Bucs' all-time rushing chart. Dunn has 3,509 yards to Wilder's 5,957, but Dunn's 4.1 career yards-per-carry average is the best among all Bucs with at least 1,000 yards.
Speaking of 1,000 yards, the fourth-year scatback now needs just 111 yards in the last three games, or 37 per contest, to reach that mark for the season. In doing so, Dunn would tie Wilder and Errict Rhett for most 1,000-yard seasons (two) in team history, as he put up a career-high 1,026 in 1998.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers have now won 22 NFC Player of the Week Awards in the five seasons since Tony Dungy took over as head coach. The NFL began distributing these awards in 1984 (the Special Teams award wasn't added until 1993), and Buccaneers won exactly 17 of them in the first 12 years of the program.