Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Every Little Bit Helps

Notes: Pittsburgh’s advancement to the Super Bowl has improved the Bucs’ draft standing by a small margin…Derrick Brooks spins the Wheel for charity…Bucs help six Navy sailors re-enlist

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The Bucs got tackle Chris Colmer with the 28th pick in the third round last year, but they'll be slotted two spots higher than that in the third round this spring

How much you enjoyed last Sunday's AFC Championship Game between Pittsburgh and Denver probably depended upon whether you were rooting for the Steelers or the Broncos. Non-attached NFL fans might simply have wished for a closer game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans, however, actually had a reason to cheer for the Steelers. Admittedly, it was a very minor reason, but still one worth noting after Pittsburgh did indeed upset the home-team Broncos on Sunday.

See, by virtue of the Pittsburgh win, the Buccaneers' draft position improved by a small fraction.

The Bucs won't be any better off in the first round – they became locked into the 23rd slot when they lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and Carolina won – but the subsequent rounds will be affected. Here's why:

By defeating the Broncos and advancing to Super Bowl XL, the Steelers locked themselves into one of the last two spots in the draft. The reigning Super Bowl champion always picks last while the runner-up picks second-to-last (in this case, 31st). That drops Pittsburgh out of the segment of six teams tied in the draft order due to 11-5 records in 2005. The Buccaneers are one of those six teams.

Ties within segments are broken by team's strength of schedule – that is, the combined winning percentage of the teams they played the previous year. Before the conference championship games last weekend, the six 11-5 teams were ranked like this in the draft order:

  1. Tampa Bay 24. Cincinnati 25. N.Y. Giants 26. Chicago 27. Carolina 28. Pittsburgh

The order has been shuffled a bit since it first was released thanks to various teams' playoff advancement, or lack thereof. However, while a team can move down the order by advancing farther in the postseason than the other teams in its segment, it can't drop out of that segment unless it reaches the Super Bowl.

Which is what Pittsburgh did.

Thus, the Bucs are now at the top of a segment of five tied teams. Why is that relevant? Well, beginning with the second round, this order starts to rotate. The team at the top drops to the bottom and the other teams all move up one spot. Therefore – here's the big payoff! – the Bucs will now drop to 27th in the second round instead of 28th.

Like we said, it's not an earth-shaking change. Then again, every little bit helps. The Bucs will also be one spot higher in each subsequent round than they would have been, picking 26th instead of 27th in the third round for instance, and will get back to the top of the segment one round quicker. The Bucs will be back in the 23rd spot by the sixth round instead of the seventh, then will drop to 27th for the final round.

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Brooks Spins for Charity

If there are secrets to winning at The Wheel, Warrick Dunn isn't sharing, not even with an old friend.

Dunn, the Atlanta Falcons running back and Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks are two of the 15 current players and Pro Football Hall of Famers who recently took turns as contestants on the popular game show Wheel of Fortune. The 15 past and present football stars traveled to Ft. Lauderdale in December for NFL Players Week on the extremely popular game show, producing a series of five "episodes" airing this week.

Brooks and Dunn are fellow Florida State alums and were Buccaneer teammates for five years (1997-2001). Still, Brooks knew better than to ask his buddy for any Wheel tips.

"Warrick Dunn probably wouldn't give me any advice if I did ask him," said Brooks, laughing. "That's how much of a competitor he is. But I like my chances, my brainpower versus his."

See, Dunn had a little bit of an advantage: He had appeared on Wheel of Fortune before. Brooks was a first-timer, but he guessed right about the Falcon's willingness to help out a former teammate.

"As a returning Wheel of Fortune player, did I offer any advice?" asked Dunn with a smile. "No. I'm keeping all the secrets in my pocket so my partner and I can hopefully win this year."

That was probably good strategy for Dunn, given that he and Brooks ended up as competitors on the same show, along with Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor. Each player was teamed up with a hometown fan who was competing, as the Wheel has long said, for "fabulous cash and prizes." Brooks was paired with Celeste McLaughlin of Tampa.

Who won? Well, you can tune in to CBS on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. ET to see if Brooks or Taylor were able to topple the Wheel veteran. The larger answer to that question, though, is a group of charities supported by the NFL guests. Brooks and Dunn, for instance, were playing for their own foundations, both of which do extensive work for children and families.

McLaughlin and the other hometown fans were also competing for an overall "Super Prize," to be awarded to the contestant from the pairing with the highest cash/prize total for the week. That prize, valued at over $20,000, includes a five-day/four-night trip to Super Bowl XL in Detroit that comes complete with game tickets, passes to exclusive NFL parties, autographed memorabilia and a $1,000 gift certificate from Reebok.

Other contestants during Wheel of Fortune's 10th annual NFL Players Week included Marshall Faulk, Santana Moss, Deuce McAllister and Roy Williams. Tuesday's show was a battle of three Hall of Famers: Bob Griese, Franco Harris and Gale Sayers.

Most of the NFL players chose to participate because they had long been fans of Wheel of Fortune, the number one program in the history of syndicated television.

"When I was a kid, my whole household watched Wheel of Fortune," said Brooks. "Today, my mother, she still watches Wheel of Fortune."

**

Ship Mates

On Tuesday, the crew of the USS Carney, an accomplished Naval destroyer currently on a goodwill tour, treated a visiting group of Buccaneers to an extended tour of their ship. On Thursday, the Bucs returned the favor.

Six of the sailors on board the Carney elected to take a re-enlistment oath to remain in service with the Navy. The Buccaneers arranged for that ceremony to take place on board another well-known vessel: the Pirate Ship in Buccaneers Cove at Raymond James Stadium.

The six soldiers taking the oath led a party of approximately 50 members of the Carney crew to visit the stadium on Friday. The group boarded the Pirate Ship late in the afternoon and performed the ceremony. Afterward, the ship's cannons were fired to celebrate the event.

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