Scroll about seven questions down into this column, and you'll find a reader from "Villianville, New Hampshire" trying to stump the Answer Man with a Buccaneer trivia question.
Now, as you'll see, this particular reader didn't even cause the Answer Man to break a sweat. However, he may have started something, because I also recently received an e-mail from a past contributor to this column who tossed a few light trivia questions at me regarding the Bucs' 2002 season finale in Chicago.
This reader, one Todd Oehlsen from Anna, Illinois, attended that groundbreaking game, to which I alluded in last week's column. Not only did the Buccaneers win, on that day, for the first time in a game where the kickoff temperature was below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they also stole a first-round bye en route to the Super Bowl title.
Now, I'm not going to print Todd's whole e-mail, but basically he wanted to know if I knew where the game was played and who the starting quarterbacks were. The location: Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Illinois. The Chicago Bears played their home games there in 2002 while Soldier Field was being renovated. And the starting QBs were Rob Johnson for the Bucs against Henry Burris for the Bears. A former CFL standout, Burris might have been prepared for the cold, but he couldn't do much against the Bucs' top-ranked defense, which intercepted him four times, allowed only seven completions and led Tampa Bay to a 15-0 victory.
It's nice to reminisce about the big games of that magical 2002 season, of course, but we can't live in the past, and that's not the purpose of bringing up Todd's e-mail.
Rather, the purpose is this: Neither of these readers could really stump the Answer Man (and in their defense, they probably weren't trying too hard). But can it be done? That's what the Answer Man wants to find out.
This week, as you submit your usual questions regarding NFL rules, free agency, Buc history and so on, I challenge you to also send me a trivia question regarding the Buccaneers. Anyone who stumps the Answer Man will see his or her question in a coming column. One note: I will be the sole decision-maker as to which questions are worthy of inclusion. And, just to make sure there's no controversy, there will be no prize at stake. All you have to gain is the everlasting respect of the Answer Man and other Buccaneers.com readers.
So send your stumpers, and in the meantime, read on for another list of fan-submitted questions.
- Drew Pittman of Iowa City, Iowa asks:
Your wish has been granted, I shall reawaken your lost relationship with your precious book. Let's say a receiver catches the ball in the air at the two yard line and is forced out by the DB so that he never touches the ground in bounds, but he also puts the ball past the plane of the goal line. If the ref says it was a force out, does the receiver get the touchdown or is the ball placed where the force out occurred? Thank you.
Answer Man: Pah…easy.
No offense, Drew, but I really don't have to open the Rulebook to answer that one (though I will, for the sake of authenticity, as well as my "relationship reawakening").
This is really a combination of two rules, the force-out rule and the ball-breaking-the-plane rule. The Answer Man will remind the readers of both.
First, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 7, Supplemental Note 5:
A pass is completed or intercepted, or a loose ball is recovered, if the player inbounds would have landed inbounds with both feet but is carried or pushed out of bounds while in possession of the ball in the air or before the second foot touches the ground inbounds by an opponent. The player must maintain possession of the ball when he lands out of bounds.
Second, Rule 3, Section 38:
A Touchdown is the situation in which any part of the ball, legally in possession of a player inbounds, is on, above or behind the opponent's goal line (plane), provided it is not a touchback.
So the first rule establishes your player inbounds, Drew, and the second rule gives him a touchdown. The ball is in fact, spotted where the force-out occurred, it's just that we have to remember that the spot relates to where the ball is (as long as it's legally in a player's possession) and not where the player's feet are. Therefore, it's important that the player gets the ball across the goal line before he goes out of bounds, because the spot is going to be where the ball was when he crossed the sideline.
One thing the Answer Man also has to point out from the first rule above. It is critical that the receiver maintains possession of the ball when he hits the ground. A drop, or even a bobble, will invalidate the catch. While the 'ground can't cause a fumble,' as we've all heard a million times, it can cause an incomplete pass. Any time a player catches a ball in the air, then lands on the ground, he must maintain possession when he hits the ground, even if it's out of bounds, or the pass is incomplete. So, in your scenario, the receiver could do everything else right and be about to score a touchdown, but lose it if he bobbles the ball when he hits the ground. That's true even in the case of a force-out, as several notes in the Rulebook explicitly spell out.
By the way, a "Drew Pittman" tied for the lead in the Home Team Challenge in Week 11, but he claimed to be from Riverside, Louisiana while you've identified yourself as an Iowa man. I wonder if you two are one and the same, or if the Buccaneers are cornering the market on fans named Drew Pittman. Because that's an important demographic.
- Lee of Tallahassee, Florida asks:
When the NFL fines a player where does the money go?
Answer Man: My question to you Lee is, "Are you testing me to see if I come up with a better answer than Chris Mortensen?"
One Lee from Tallahassee submitted the exact same question to the ESPN analyst in 2003 and got what seems like a pretty straightforward answer. Is it a different Lee from Tallahassee, perhaps? Here's the link in case you just needed to jog your memory.
Anyway, it's still an excellent question, because the answer is probably just what any fan would want to hear, so I'll mirror Mr. Mortensen's musings.
Basically, all of that money goes to charity.
Mortensen revealed the three charities to which the money is distributed – the Brian Piccolo Cancer Center, the Vince Lombardi Cancer Research Center and the NFL Players Association Players' Assistance Trust. That is still true, but here's a little extra detail.
All fine money collected during a season is first split 50-50 between the NFL and the NFLPA. The NFL then donates its share to the first two charities while the NFLPA gives its share to the third one.
- Kris of Fort Riley, Kansas asks:
Man whose knowledge is bigger than mine. I am huge fan of the column (it's the only one I never miss) and of the Pewter Pirates (I am a native of Plant City). I also enjoy my Madden Football. This year's version features the Tony Bruno show, and Tony asks questions that fake callers answer. One of the questions is which linebacker returned 3 picks for TDs in a single game, which he attributes to our very own Derrick Brooks, against Atlanta in October 2002. Now I didn't miss a minute of that wonderful season, and I don't remember DB returning that many picks for TDs. The team record book shows that Pro Bowler Ronde Barber owns the team record for picks in a game with 3. What's the scoop? Should I be trying to find Tony B to set him straight or has my memory failed me? And before you ask, I sported Buccaneer colors all over KC before and after we beat them this year.
Answer Man: That's just bizarre. No player in NFL history has ever returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a single game. The record is two, shared by 22 players, none of whom are Buccaneers (though it has happened to Tampa Bay…anyone who remembers the Bucs game against the New York Jets in 1997 probably wants to forget it).
In fact, the Buccaneer team record (man, I'm going crazy with the italics) for a single game is three interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is actually quite good. In fact, it has only been beaten once in NFL history, by Seattle, which scored on four interception returns against Kansas City on Nov. 4, 1984.
The Bucs own one of the eight three-interception-TD outings in league history, and it stands as one of the most significant games in franchise history. Tampa Bay's first-ever victory, a 33-14 decision over New Orleans on Dec. 11, 1977, was fueled by interception-return touchdowns by Mike Washington, Richard "Batman" Wood and the immortal Greg Johnson (who played all of five games as a Buccaneer).
Actually, the Bucs have matched that feat on one other occasion, and you just might remember that one, too. On Jan. 26, 2003, Dwight Smith scored on two picks and Derrick Brooks added a third in a 48-21 win over Oakland.
In Super Bowl XXXVII. That was a record. It's not listed with the rest of the games I mentioned, however, as those records apply only to the regular season.
Well, have we strayed far enough away from Kris' question yet? Obviously, that "note" by the digital Bruno is inaccurate, if you're reporting it correctly, Kris. However, that was the season in which Brooks returned three interceptions for touchdowns, which is a record for NFL linebackers. I would suspect that a game editor got the note a little confused.
- Mitch Kutun of Deerfield Beach, Florida asks:
**Dearest Answer Dude: Oh great sage...I recently heard that Shelton Quarles took part in an officiating internship right there in Tampa which brings me to this question. Has there ever been a former NFL player who has gone on the be a an NFL game official??
P.S. I used to live in Ft. a.k.a. Fort Myers and no matter how you spell it, the mail still gets through!!**
Answer Man: I'm alright with "Answer Dude," but "Dearest" creeps me out a little bit.
Anyway, I'm happy to say that I'm going to be able to answer this question with much more clarity than I originally assumed, thanks to the help of some fine folks at the league office and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The HOF estimates that 60 former NFL players have gone on to officiate in the NFL, including two who are currently working the job, Steve Freeman and Phil McKinnely.
Sixty! That's a lot more than the Answer Man expected. Now, admittedly, you're not going to recognize many of the names, unless you're an NFL officiating aficionado (that's fun to say!), and a good percentage of the player/official crossovers date from the 1940s and '50s. Of the men with the most combined NFL years between the two jobs, Freeman, a safety for 13 years with the Buffalo Bills, played the longest.
There are several very notable names, however. Paddy Driscoll and George McAfee were eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame for their achievements as players. Some NFL fans may recognize the name of official Gary Lane, who was a side judge and then a referee for 23 years. Well, Lane was also an NFL quarterback for three years, two with Cleveland and one with the N.Y. Giants. Lane, the father-in-law of San Francisco Giants catcher Mike Matheny, died in 2003, a few years after finishing his NFL tenure.
So Quarles wouldn't be blazing any new trails exactly if he followed his playing career with a turn in the striped jersey. However, it's an uncommon move for players of his era, so it would still be very intriguing.
The last bit of Mitch's missive refers to the Answer Man's recent question about the proper spelling of all the "Fort" cities in Florida. Is it Fort Myers or Ft. Myers? Obviously, either can be used, but which is the official spelling and which is the alternate? Tellingly, the Fort Myers' town web site goes with Fort.
- Michael of St. Petersburg, Florida asks:
Hello, almighty answer man. I have 2 questions. First do you know when the dates for fans to go to Buccaneers training camp and watch along with getting autographs is? Second, in one of your previous columns I asked a question that you didn't get to but said you would answer in the next one . You didn't! My question was, did the members of the 2002 Practice Squad get Super Bowl rings? Thanks!!!!!! Go Bucs!!!!
Answer Man: I didn't answer your question before because you didn't use enough exclamation points last time. Now that we've taken care of that…
The specific dates for training camp have not yet been announced Michael, but you can always figure out an approximate date for the opening of camp by finding the first preseason game and going back 15 days. That's the earliest teams are allowed to go to camp. Last year the Bucs' first preseason game was scheduled for August 14 (it was actually pushed back to August 16 by Hurricane Charley), and the first day of camp practice was July 31.
Now, while the specific date of the Bucs' first preseason game hasn't been announced yet, we did report last week that the first preseason weekend would be that of August 11-15. If the Bucs open on a Saturday, as they often do, that would be August 13. Fifteen days before that is July 30.
Please don't consider that official information. The actual camp dates and information will be released later this spring. Still, that should help. And, as usual, all of the Bucs' training camp practices at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex will be open to the public and free. There are autograph opportunities at the end of almost every practice.
As to your second question, the real reason I let it slide after suggesting I would hit it in a subsequent column is that I decided it was not proper for me to reveal information about who got Super Bowl rings and who didn't. Still, I can give you the basic guidelines.
It is left up to each Super Bowl-winning team to decide who gets championship rings. Obviously, all full-time players and coaches are on that list. The question is, what to do about men who spend shorter stints with the team, say three or four weeks on the practice squad. The Bucs used a specific guideline based on number of games with the team to decide who would receive rings. So, yes, some of the practice squad players did receive rings; I'll leave out the specifics.
- Jay the "Question Man" of Tampa, Florida asks:
Answer Man I have a strong desire for understanding though all I can gather is more questions. Can you help? Why do NFL teams give long contracts of five or more years to players in their thirties, since they will likely retire before the end of the contract? Does an NFL team like the Bucs take a cap hit when a player retires with a couple years left under contract? Does the remaining signing bonus money get accelerated into the retirement year? So what's the deal, can you answer this or has all your power faded in the off season?
Answer Man: As you'll see below, Jay, you've got some competition for status as my sworn enemy. While your villainous superpowers seem to revolve around the ability to make vague insults, the other Question Man's shtick is trying to turn my own powers against me.
Neither works, of course.
Not only can I answer it, Jay, I already have. Sort of. Check out the discussion regarding career-ending injuries and the salary cap in Volume 23. That isn't the same thing, of course, but it might as well be because the rules are the same.
If a player retires with years remaining on his contract, the rules are the same as if he was released or traded. Any prorated salary cap portions still remaining would accelerate to the current year. (As always, teams can split the hit into the current year and the next one by making the move after June 1.)
- Question Man, Your Arch nemesis of Villianville, New Hampshire asks:
**For months you've been answering curious Bucs fans' questions, but today things change. I have a question even you, answer man, could not answer. One of the great all-time names in Buc history beat the odds to make the roster in 1983 as a ninth-round pick but that was to be his only season in Tampa Bay. He recorded three sacks during the 1983 pre-season to earn a roster spot and took advantage of injuries to the likes of Lee Roy Selmon and John Cannon to make his only NFL start against Chicago. Did not make the team the following year out of training camp.
What was his name?**
Answer Man: I think the most interesting thing here is the apparent fact that Villianville is in New Hampshire. Somehow, New Hampshire doesn't seem like a cradle of evil genius to me. New Jersey, maybe. Not New Hampshire.
As to your so-called unanswerable question, you do realize that the Answer Man owns a little thing called a "Media Guide," right? And that this very same "Media Guide" has a section called "Draft History?"
This question might have been at least momentarily brow-wrinkling if you hadn't provided a direct trail to the answer. The Bucs only had one ninth-round pick in 1983, for heaven's sake, and he was a defensive end, so, um, perhaps that's our guy. You think?
Now, to be clear, the Answer Man wouldn't have had much trouble with this question even without that information, as he knows the Bucs' all-time roster backwards and forwards – Quick, when did Derrick Thomas play for the Buccaneers? The Answer Man knows – and has plenty of additional resources.
So here's your answer, Question Man: Hasson Arbubakrr.
The Answer Man does appreciate this question, however, as he has always loved that name on the all-time roster but until now had never found a way to work it into a column. Let's say it again: Hasson Arbubakrr.
You've got his Buccaneer career pretty well nailed, though. I'll give you that. Perhaps you even are Hasson Arbubakrr; I mean, he grew up in New Jersey. Hmmm.
Arbubakrr played a lot on special teams that year, as well, as he had very good speed for a big man. He played in all 16 games and started that one Chicago contest. Also, according to the 1984 media guide, one pronounces his last name without the Rs: "AH-boo-bah-kah."
What else ya got, Question Man?
- Richard Schilling of Breingisville, Pennsylvania asks:
What a thorough explanation of the various realignments of the league over the years in [Series 2, Volume 9]! I learned much. However, there was one point that leaves a question in my mind. You said that in 2002, "The whole league was juggled a bit to get the geography of the geographical divisions back in line." What explanation was officially given for the seemingly out-of-place teams. For example, Dallas in the NFC East despite being west of St. Louis (NFC West) and south of Carolina (NFC South). Also, Indianapolis is in the AFC South despite being north of Baltimore (AFC north). I had heard that some value was placed on preserving rivalries, though it seems that some rivalries were disrupted nonetheless. Any thoughts?
Answer Man: The Answer Man doesn't have thoughts, Rich; he has answers. You should know that by know.
Anyway, you allude to the answer in your question. While the realignment corrected several large geographical anomalies, it left a few smaller ones intact if the value of a rivalry was considered too strong.
Basically, the whole thing was a big negotiation. It's fortunate that Seattle was relatively willing to make the move from the AFC West to the NFC West, because switching conferences was thought to be a difficult sell. Seattle "took one for the team" but still ended up in a pretty interesting division with San Fran and St. Loo.
Take the Buccaneers. They probably felt some pretty strong ties to their Black-and-Blue rivalries, especially Green Bay and Chicago, but they were the least tenured team in the division. The Packers, Bears, Lions and Vikings had been together since the league first split each conference into two divisions in 1967. In the end, the Bucs ended up in a more geographically conducive set with Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans, and it hasn't taken much to build heated rivalries with those three teams.
St. Louis was the obvious choice to leave the NFC East. Yes, Dallas is a bit farther West, but it's rivalries with Washington, Philadelphia and the Giants have always been a huge part of the NFL's popularity. Atlanta and Carolina moved from the NFC West to the South because…well, those are pretty obvious.
If you look at the AFC East and West and the NFC East and Central of the pre-2002 setup, you'll see that they came through the realignment almost intact, sacrificing one team each.
The AFC Central and NFC West got mixed up quite a bit, along with the four castoffs from above, into four new divisions. The new NFC North and South seem to make sense, but the AFC North and South are a little trickier. I would say the final alignment is a mixture of rivalry-preservation and geographical sense.
You gotta admit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are all pretty close to each other. They are also, as a group, a bit more East than Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee (yes, I know that Jacksonville is farther East than Cincinnati…I said, "as a group"). Plus, Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Cincinnati-Cleveland are two heated rivalries, as is Houston-Jacksonville (just kidding!).
So let's stop splitting hairs, Richard. I think the NFL did about as well, geographically, as we could have hoped with the latest realignment.
A few quickies before I go…
- Philip Barr of Canton, Ohio asks:
What is the font style for the buccaneers? I have never seen it before and was just wondering. Thanks, Philip.
Answer Man: It's called "Totally Gothic" and it's pretty widely available. I did a quick internet search on it and found a bunch of links as to how to purchase it.
- Rich Allis of Eugene, Oregon asks:
When does the new salary cap start each season?
Answer Man: Generally during the first few days of March. This year it was March 2. Last year, it was March 3. It kicks in one click after midnight, by the way, and the free agency period starts at the same time.
11a. Michael Rose of Clermont, Florida asks:
Just wanted to know when FanFest will be this spring/summer. Thanks.
11b.…and Nick of Orlando, Florida asks:
When is the Bucs' FanFest and where?
11c.…and Joe of Port Charlotte, Florida asks:
When is FanFest?
Answer Man: Guys we touched on this just last week in Series 2, Volume 9. The answer is Saturday, June 4 at Raymond James Stadium.
Gotta go. Gotta get ready for FanFest, apparently. Answer Man out.