Jeff Gooch is leaving Tampa, but the 'Boos' will follow him.
No, wait … they're not saying 'Boo!', they're saying 'Goooooooch!'
Gooch was rarely if ever booed in Raymond James Stadium, but the long, drawn-out call of his name was sometimes deceptive to the uninitiated. The sixth-year linebacker from Austin Peay was actually a well-liked Buccaneer who performed very well on special teams, but now he's headed to St. Louis to be reunited with his former position coach, Lovie Smith. Smith is in his first year as the Rams' defensive coordinator.
After his trade to the Rams was announced on Monday – Tampa Bay picked up a valuable fifth-round pick in the deal – Gooch stopped by team headquarters in the afternoon to pick up some things from his locker. He spoke with fellow linebacker Alshermond Singleton, who was in for a workout, and generally seemed please with the development.
"I think this will be a good opportunity for me," said Gooch. "I've been with Lovie for five years and I know him, the system and the types of things he wants to do. I think it will give me a big advantage to go up there with him now. I think I'm going to enjoy it."
On one hand, this move is quite unlike a free agent signing in that Gooch had little say in the matter. On the other, it is pleasing for him to know that Smith believes he can play an important role in the rebuilding of the Rams' defense.
"That's all you can ask for," said Gooch. "You try to play your heart out every game, and you want that respect from your peers and your coaches. In this situation, it seems like that is what's happening, and that's gratifying."
Buccaneer fans have, indeed, approved of Gooch's approach to the game, and he has always been one of the team's more conscientious weight-room workers. He'll have to win over a new group of fans in St. Louis, but his provocative name and the strength of the Rams' roster should help smooth the transition.
"I think they have a lot going for them," he said. "I think they can do some things offensively and defensively, and as a team as a whole. I'm just going up there to try and contribute to that and be myself."