Martin Gramatica seems close to kicking his way to the Pro Bowl in just his second NFL season
There are two very distinct eras in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' history when considering the annual Pro Bowl.
From the team's inaugural season in 1976 through the 1996 campaign, a total of 19 Pro Bowl appearances were made by Buccaneers players. In just the past three seasons, Tampa Bay players have made another 19 Pro Bowl trips. Though balloting for the Pro Bowl to follow the 2000 season is just in its early stages, it appears as if this Buc team belongs firmly to that second era.
The NFL chooses its Pro Bowl participants in a three-pronged manner, with coach, player and fan ballots each accounting for an equal third of the selection process. If there is a tie, the fans' portion of the voting is used to break it. While a significant portion of the fan balloting is conducted in league stadiums during games, a large percentage also comes from online voting.
In a recently-compiled update of the online voting indicated Buccaneers in the lead or near the top at several positions. If this were an election, the most crucial position in need of some serious stumping is placekicker. Second-year Buc kicker Martin Gramatica, who has made 18 of 22 field goal tries, including five of seven from beyond 50 yards, is running a very close second to Minnesota's Gary Anderson.
Anderson, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, has tallied nearly 40,000 votes, while Gramatica is right behind at almost 37,000. The third-place votegetter, Green Bay's Ryan Longwell, is a distant third at under 10,000.
Elsewhere, Buccaneer players enjoy sizeable leads at outside linebacker, strong safety, interior defensive line and fullback.
Derrick Brooks is the NFC's leading outside linebacker in the voting with over 53,000 counted his way and just over 31,000 in New York LB Jessie Armstead's ballot box. John Lynch, at 56,000 votes, has nearly triple the total of his next closest competitor, Minnesota's Robert Griffith at 19,000. Warren Sapp, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has the most votes of any Buccaneer or any NFL defensive player with over 97,000, far more than John Randle's 61,000. Mike Alstott may be on the way to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl with a lead at fullback of more than 70,000 votes over Washington's Larry Centers.
G Randall McDaniel and C Jeff Christy, a pair of ex-Vikings in their first seasons as Buccaneers, also lead at their positions, though by slimmer margins. Christy's almost 47,000 votes outpaces Dallas' Mark Stepnoski (31,000) while McDaniel is staying just a step ahead of St. Louis' Adam Timmerman (52,000 to 42,000).
A few other Bucs are doing well in the balloting. CB Ronde Barber is second at his position to Washington's Champ Bailey, which means, he would be a starter if the voting were to end today. His teammate, CB Donnie Abraham, stands fifth, but he Barber, New York's Jason Sehorn and Dallas' Deion Sanders all rank between 32,000 and 39,000 votes.
DE Chidi Ahanotu stands fifth at his position but is just a few thousand votes behind Philly's Hugh Douglas and Washington's Marco Coleman. P Mark Royals currently ranks fourth with nearly 14,000 votes, but is within 500 votes of second place. Minnesota's Mitch Berger has a sizeable lead, but Detroit's John Jett, Philadelphia's Sean Landeta and Royals are tightly bunched behind.
Buccaneer fans can fill out an online ballot for the Pro Bowl by following the Pro Bowl link among the rotating banners at the top of the home page of Buccaneers.com.