Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Padding Stats

The base equipment for every football player is the same, but individual tastes differ

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Each Buccaneer has a bag packed with equipment to his specifications

Darin Kerns, equipment manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has 50 players, 16 coaches and dozens of staff members to outfit every weekend.

On one hand, this is a team, meant to be clad similarly, so many items can be ordered in bulk. On the other hand, people are people, and individual preferences vary. An equipment manager has to stay on top of all those preferences.

Some examples?

Jerseys come in ascending sizes, just like any shirt or sports coat you might buy off the rack. Just knowing which players are 42s and which are 50s isn't enough, however. Many players want their jerseys custom altered to create a particular fit. For instance, CB Donnie Abraham is one of a handful of players that has his jersey taken in through the torso. The idea is to create a form-fit across the chest and back in order to give opponents nothing to grab.

Similarly, about a dozen players go through a taping ritual before each game. Their shoulder pads are lined with double-sided tape, and then the jerseys are pulled over the shoulder pads and affixed tightly. This is common among offensive and defensive linemen, who are engaged in hand-to-hand combat on almost every play. They don't want to give their opponents any material to latch onto and pull them down. Warren Sapp and Chidi Ahanotu are two practitioners of this method.

Every player wears shoulder pads of some variety, but each one is custom-fitted and produced off-site just for one particular player. The Buccaneer with the most unique shoulder pads is kicker Martin Gramatica. Almost a cross between hockey and football pads, Gramatica's set is very small and light.

Also, some players occasionally require extra inserts into their shoulder pads. These are guys who have had shoulder injuries in the past and sometimes experience discomfort in that area. On the Bucs, that group includes center Kevin Dogins and wide receiver Jacquez Green.

And, while most players where variations of the same helmet, about six Bucs have acquired a taste for the new Bike helmet, a version being pushed by the Player's Association. This particular helmet is lighter while offering the same protection, and DE Steve White is one of the converts.

All in all, it's a lot for an equipment manager to keep track of, not that Kerns minds. Any thing he can do to help the team on the field he considers just part of the job.

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