The isolative nature of NFL training camps tends to lead to fast friendships, particularly among young players. Newcomers find buddies in fellow roster hopefuls, helping them get through the grueling days and idle nights of camp.
Matt Sweeney might not be starting off on the right foot, however. At least three future teammates in this summer's Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp may not have the fondest memories of Sweeney, the former Miami Hurricane defensive tackle.
On Sunday, punter Andrew Bayes, guard Wilbert Brown and cornerback Terrance Parrish of the Frankfurt Galaxy are living with a Saturday night loss instead of an exciting victory thanks to the game-turning play of Sweeney in the fourth quarter.
Sweeney plays defensive tackle for the Amsterdam Admirals in this, his first go-around in the NFL Europe League. On Saturday evening, the Admirals hooked up with the Galaxy in what started out as a defensive struggle.
Bayes, in fact, was one of the busiest players on the field through three quarters, punting seven times for a 39.9 yard average, with one dropped inside the 20. Bayes also suffered a blocked punt in the second half, but the play was called back by a facemask penalty.
When the punters are the main statistical focus 45 minutes into the game, you know you have two struggling offenses. Frankfurt, led by elusive QB Michael Bishop of the New England Patriots, and Amsterdam, led by NFL Europe veteran Spergon Wynn of the Cleveland Browns, combined for just 171 yards of net offense before halftime, and the only score of the first half was a 66-yard return of a blocked field goal by Amsterdam's Jermaine Smith.
The game abruptly changed in the fourth quarter, however, as Bishop and Wynn began to move their respective teams up and down the field, with Bishop constantly dancing out of trouble. After Bishop's 31-yard touchdown pass to Marc Soumah tied the game at 14, Wynn came right back with a 43-yard scoring strike to Chris Coleman to regain the Galaxy's seven-point edge.
That set the stage for Sweeney, who joined the Buccaneers as a college free agent just after the conclusion of the 2000 season. Sweeney started every game of his junior and senior campaigns at the University of Miami but was not selected in the 2000 draft nor signed to a training camp roster that summer.
Bishop took the field with just under two minutes remaining and once again looked to make something happen with both his arm and his feet. After an incompletion on first down, he scrambled away from pressure and up the middle for a six-yard gain. However, he was met at the end of the run by defensive back Evan Howell, who forced Bishop to fumble.
Sweeney quickly scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 35 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. It was Sweeney's first score of the 2001 NFL Europe season, which is now three weeks old. Just moments later, Sweeney put an end to the game by sacking Bishop for a 17-yard loss in the closing seconds.
It was a tough loss for Bishop, who threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns and scrambled for 59 more yards. The loss dropped the Galaxy – and Bayes, Brown and Parrish – to an 0-3 mark while the Admirals improved to 2-1.
On that same evening, the Barcelona Dragons upended the Rhein Fire, 27-21. Playing for Rhein, Buccaneer-allocated WR Eddie Hardaway turned in three catches for 11 yards. He now has three-game NFL Europe totals of eight receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Hardaway played collegiately at C.W. Post, where accumulated 74 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for 196 yards and five scores on 36 carries. He first entered the NFL as a college free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals last summer, then signed with Tampa Bay at the end of the 2000 season.
Several other Buccaneer-allocated players were in action on Sunday. Tight end Randy Palmer and guard Kendell Mack took the field for the Scottish Claymores against the Berlin Thunder in the NFLEL's weekly Sunday contest. Through the first two games, Palmer had three receptions for 23 yards for the Claymores.