Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Series 2, Vol. 20

The Buc fans’ inside man takes a look at an interesting group of stats, then attacks such topics as Super Bowl QBs, defensive rankings and Edell Shepherd’s gloves…or lack thereof

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In the process of answering a question from one local named Chris Lundquist below, the Answer Man referred extensively to an in-house statistical sheet called "Situational Records."

Chris' question had to do with coin toss records, but this particular stat table has many other categories, some of which offer up little-known numerical oddities. In some cases, they provide statistical evidence for things many of us accept as truths.

What do I mean by that? Well, for instance, have you ever repeated the widely-espoused belief that turnovers (the causing of and avoidance of) win ballgames? Well, you go right on with that one, because the stats back it up, at least in the Buccaneers' case.

The Buccaneers played 144 regular-season games in the nine seasons from 1996-2004. Among those 144 games, they played 68 in which they had a positive turnover ratio; that is, they forced more turnovers than they committed. In those 68 games, the Bucs compiled an overwhelming 57-11 record. In that same span, Tampa Bay played 55 games in which it had a negative turnover ratio and went a depressing 11-44 in those games. That's an enormous difference, and it shows up every year. During the Bucs' Super Bowl season, they were 10-0 when they won the turnover battle.

Even coming up even in that category is often not good enough. The Bucs played 21 such games from 1996-2004 and went just 10-11 in those games. That may be somewhat peculiar to the Buccaneers, who have proven to be very good at taking the ball away; it's a big part of what we do when things are going right.

That's just one of the little nuggets we can pull out of this gold mine of a stat sheet. And since I still have it handy here on the Answer Desk, and since I think this might be longest column ever even without a lengthy intro, I'm going to use this little introductory space to share a few of them with you, then we're going to get straight to the reason we're here.

Did you know…

  • …that having a receiver go over 100 yards in a game is not a very reliable indicator of team success? Over the last nine years, the Bucs are 12-21 in games in which they've had a 100-yard receiver. One possible reason for this, if it's more than just a random occurrence: You're more likely to get a 100-yard receiver when you're passing more frequently in order to close a deficit. Over the last three years, the Bucs are 0-10 when they've had a 100-yard receiver, which is just remarkable. * …that the Bucs have never lost a game in which Mike Alstott rushed for 100 yards? That's right – Mike has seven career 100-yard games, and the Bucs are 7-0 in those contests, the most recent one occurring in 2002. That's not surprising, really. A 100-yard rusher is a very good indicator of team success, and if the Bucs are pounding away with Alstott they usually have a lead. The most famous Alstott stat of this variety remains this one: The team is 40-9 in games in which he scores a touchdown. * …that the Bucs are 0-1 in games with an equal time of possession ratio over that span? That's right, the Bucs have played one game over the last nine years in which the final time of possession was exactly 30:00 to 30:00. That prompted the addition of the "equal time of possession" line on the stat page, even though it hasn't happened again since the first occurrence, in 1998. The Bucs lost that game, 23-15, at Green Bay on September 15. * …that the Bucs' struggles in very close games in 2003 were, at least statistically, pretty fluky. In 2003, Tampa Bay was 0-5 in games decided by three or fewer points. However, in the entire 1996-2004 span, the Bucs are 17-16 in that scenario. That would be 17-11 with the 2003 season removed. The Bucs were 2-1 in such games last season, and have never been more than two games over or two games under .500 in any of the other seasons in this study. * …that the Bucs have been pretty dang good on artificial turf over roughly the last decade? From 1996-2004, Tampa Bay played 34 games on artificial turf and compiled a 20-14 record. Now, that winning percentage of .588 looks pretty good on its own, but keep in mind that all of those games were played on the road. When you consider the significant home field advantage demonstrated in the NFL, and the Bucs' own 31-41 record on the road in that same span, that 20-14 record looks downright awe-inspiring. Maybe we should install artificial turf at Raymond James Stadium…uh, maybe not. * …and, finally, that the Bucs were 44-23 from 1996-2004 when they recorded at least three sacks. The best stretch in terms of that statistic was from 2001-03, when the Bucs had 24 games in which they got at least three sack and won 21 of them. During that time, you pretty much knew that if the pass rush was on the Bucs were going to win. Strangely, the team was only 3-5 under those conditions last year. Okay, if you dig stats as much as the Answer Man, you probably really liked that intro. If not, you were probably wondering when we were going to get to the fans' questions, and when you might see your own name on the screen. Well, that time is upon us.

**

Actually, the "Bucs-in-the-Movies" e-mails keep trickling in, so we'll start with those. If you aren't familiar with the discussion, go to Series 2, Volume 16 for the original question. We've spent about a month trying to think of all the references to the Buccaneers that have popped up in the movies (and we've thrown a few TV bits in there, too). I got two more this week:

Karen McKinley of Sarasota, Florida says:

One more for Bucs in the movies. There is a documentary now playing called Mad Hot Ballroom. It's about 11 year old kids in New York City public schools learning to ballroom dance and going into city wide competition. One of the boys is wearing an old number 99 Warren Sapp jersey in some scenes!

Answer Man: I can safely say that I never would have come across that one on my own, so thanks, Karen.

Brian of Brandywine, Florida says:

No question but an addition to your Buc mentions on TV/Movies. I was watching the tube a few weeks ago and it happened to be Friends (please no laughing) and Ross was telling Joey and Chandler about a dream he had. He was playing football with his son and the strange part about it was his son was the ball (yes I laughed at that one). He said he was playing against the Tampa Defense. Then Joey made some comment that there was nothing to worry about being that it was Tampa. I figure the writers don't watch too much Buc-Ball. Anyway not sure if your still posting these but I wanted to get my two cents in. Thanks.

Answer Man: I got a few e-mails about this one, but Brian's was the most detailed. I bet that was a pretty old "Friends," though.

**

Now on to the questions.

  1. Jameson Dyal of Sarasota, Florida asks:

**To begin, an invocation; O Sacred Knower of The Powers That Be Ovoid:

My twin brother and I are avid players of Madden NFL 2005, now that school's out. (Insert rowdy-college-kid yell here.) On occasion, an interesting scenario arises when the losing team has run out of time-outs, and the winner is trying to run out the clock; the scene plays out like this: The winning team executes three running plays in an effort to keep that clock moving, all of which gain less than five yards in total. Consequently, the clock is still running as the players take the field for fourth down. In order to prevent the leading team from eating up more valuable clock, the team receiving the punt will commit a false-start penalty, incurring a five-yard penalty-gain for the leading team. This stops the clock and allows the losing team's offense to regain control, once the leading team punts, with at least a few more seconds on the clock. My question is: is this legal in the NFL? i.e.: outside the confines of my summer football substitute? If so, when has this been used in the NFL, more specifically by the Bucs (perhaps in one of our frequent three-four point squeakers), and what were the results? Also, a quickie that came up in the creation of the question: What's the difference been encroachment, false-start, and off-sides penalties?

I thank thee for so magnanimously bestowing upon your miserable proselyte thy voluminous intellect.**

Answer Man: Wow, I don't think I've ever been invoked before! Am I supposed to appear out of a cloud of smoke or something?

That may be the longest question I've ever printed in its entirety, but it was quite entertaining, so I beat back the urge to edit. In fact, the question might end up being longer than my answer (that would certainly be a first!) because this is really a rather easy one.

That tactic would not work in the NFL and in fact would be counter-productive to what the team receiving the punt is trying to do. Here's why: The penalty for such a move in the last minute of either half is five yards and a reset of the 40-second play clock. The officials would assess the foul, spot the ball, reset the play clock and then – here's the important part – start the game clock again.

Do you see what I'm saying here, Jameson? Let's say there are 45 seconds left in the game and 20 seconds left on the play clock. If you jump offside, not only are you going to cost your team five yards, but the officials are going to wind the play clock back to 40 seconds and start it again. You've accomplished nothing and given the offensive team a chance to run 40 seconds off the clock instead of 20.

Just in case you don't believe me, here's the relevant verbiage from ye olde trusty NFL Rulebook. This is Rule 4, Section 3, Article 10:

*A team is not permitted to conserve time inside of one minute of either half by committing any of the following actions: fouls by either team that prevent the snap (i.e., false start, encroachment, etc.), intentional grounding, an illegal forward pass thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage with the intent to conserve time, throwing a backward pass out of bounds with the intent to conserve time, and any other intentional foul that causes the clock to stop.

Penalty: Loss of five yards unless a larger distance penalty is applicable. When actions referred to above are committed by the offensive team with the clock running, officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready for play signal. The clock will start on the ready for play signal. If the offensive team has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of a 10-second runoff. If the action is by the defense, the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds and the game clock will start on the ready signal. If the defense has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of the game lock being started.

Note: There never can be a 10-second run off against the defensive team.*

One would argue that, since this tactic isn't legal in the NFL it shouldn't work in Madden, either, but it's unreasonable to expect the game to have every single one of the NFL's many, many rules incorporated into play. Maybe you and your bro should voluntarily stop using that tactic, Jameson. What do you think?

Oh, and you had a little quickie question there at the end. You definitely need this answer, because in your scenario, what you described as a false start would actually be encroachment.

It's easy to separate false start from the other two, because that is a penalty that is called exclusively on the offense. It refers to an act that simulates the beginning of the play before the ball has been snapped. It might be an offensive lineman rocking up out of his crouch or a receiver flinching forward before the snap. It's a very common penalty, and one that drives coaches nuts. Five yards against the offense, replay the down. (Actually, there was no down ever played, because the penalty is technically before the down. Thus, this penalty cannot be declined by the defense, though the yardage can be declined in certain situations, and that can be frustrating if the play erroneously went on because no one heard the whistle and the defense made an interception or something on that order.)

There is really only a subtle difference between encroachment and offside, in most cases. In what is an almost exact quote from the same Rulebook, a player is encroaching on the neutral zone when any part of his body is in it and contact occurs prior to the snap. A player is offside when any part of his body or his person is beyond his scrimmage line when the ball is put in play.

The difference there is contact. If you're a defensive end and you jump before the snap and run into the tackle, well shucks if you aren't guilty of encroachment. If you jump over and don't touch anybody, but the ball is snapped while you're still in the bad place, then you're merely offside. Either way, it's five yards.

A defensive player cannot false start. If that same defensive end jumps into the neutral zone, but gets back to his side of the line before the snap, then the play continues with no penalty. Two exceptions to that: If the defensive player's jumping offside causes the offensive player to start the play, then it's a penalty on the defensive player. That rule was added about five years ago. And, if you jump offside and don't touch anybody but you have an unobstructed path to the quarterback, they're going to penalize you for that and stop the play.

A player on either side of the ball can line up offside, but you're not going to see encroachment on an offensive player because he would be flagged for false start as soon as he moved over the line.

In the final analysis, it's all pretty much the same thing, so don't worry too much over which term you use unless you make a living as a referee.

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  1. Mike of Orono, Maine asks:

Greetings from up north Answer Man. Thanks for answering my question about Bucs fans around the globe (I still think I am the most north in the United States). However, I have another question for you. I was looking at some practice photos and I noticed only one Bucs WR NOT wearing gloves. In all the pictures of him, Edell Shepherd is never wearing any gloves like the rest of the WR corps. So my question to you is, what are the rules with WRs and gloves. Obviously they are allowed to wear them but are there any specific rules that go along with them. Thanks and keep up the good work!!

Answer Man: Even though Mike invoked me much less dramatically (via e-mail), this was still my favorite question among the current bunch. I've got two reasons for that. The first one: The Answer Man had never noticed that before about Edell. I went back through the photo archives (mostly the practices) and saw that Mike was right. I found one picture where Edell had gloves on, but in most of the he did not. Check out Shepherd's pictures on this page and this one. Even in the one game shot we have of Shepherd, from the 2004 preseason game in which he hurt his foot breaking up a possible interception, you can see that he has no gloves on. On this page you can see the one I mentioned where he does have gloves on.

If you looked at any of the other receivers on those pages, you probably noticed that all of them have gloves on. In fact, I think we all know that NFL receivers always wear gloves, and that was what prompted Mike to send in this question.

The second reason I liked this question: It gave me a reason to call Edell, who's one of the more personable and positive guys on the roster. He was more than happy to clear up the mystery.

Edell's reasons for going without gloves is simple: He's training his hands. Obviously, receivers were gloves because it makes it easier for them to catch the ball. The surfaces of the gloves the receivers wear in the NFL are "tackified," for want of a better word, giving them extra grip. It's the same reason baseball players wear batting gloves.

Therefore, if it's easier to catch the ball with gloves on, and you train without gloves, then your hands are going to be even better. Edell also does it to improve his concentration. He says that, with gloves on, he has a tendency to look away quicker and start into his run-after-the-catch, since the gloves make him feel like he's going to make the catch.

Recently, Shepherd (who is also engagingly honest) has dropped more passes on the practice field than he would like, and it always seems to be on passes thrown by Chris Simms. According to Shepherd, Simms has a bit more velocity than the other guys. Anyway, what Edell does now is start a practice without gloves and play that way until he drops a pass, if he does. When and if he drops one, he puts the gloves on.

So it's all just a matter of how one player has chosen to train himself. Of course, he also goes into some games without gloves on, as that one picture proves. In that case, it's a matter of weather and how he happens to feel that day. Shepherd says the other offensive players get on him about it all the time, but he just feels like he's cheating in practice with the gloves on, because it makes it too easy.

There aren't any real rules as to when a player can or cannot wear gloves. There are even a few quarterbacks who wear them in the cold weather – Brad Johnson rather famously did when the Bucs played that 2002 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia. There are certain types of gloves that are approved by the league, and every team's equipment room is stocked with thousands of them.

There are actually more rules in the NFL Rulebook about the colors of gloves that can be worn, but there is a specific mention of tackified gloves in Rule 5, Section 3, Article 4. The rule, which prohibits adhesive and slippery substances, goes like this:

Adhesive or slippery substances on the body, equipment, or uniform of any player [are prohibited; provided, however, that players may wear gloves with a tackified surface if such tacky substance does not adhere to the football or otherwise cause handling problems for players.

So, great question, Mike, and good eyes!

**

  1. Michael Pozzi of St. Petersburg asks:

Hey answer Man, What was the Buccaneers' rushing defensive ranking in 2002 against the run. It must have been better than now since we were ranked #1 on defense that year and last year we were #1 against the pass but fifth overall. Also, please bear with me I am not quite sure how to put this, but considering the Bucs were 19th (I think) against the run and first against the pass, how were they ranked fifth. Is it because total yards and points also get factored in?

Answer Man: In 2002, the Bucs were ranked first overall in defense, first in pass defense and tied for fifth in rush defense. Last year, the Bucs were ranked fifth overall in defense, first in pass defense and 19th in rush defense. Yes, I think it's fair to say that the difference in the rush defense played a part in the difference between the overall rankings of one and five. I also think that it's fair to say that, as outstanding as the pass defense was in 2004, it was even better in 2002, perhaps one of the best ever.

The real question here is the second one. To paraphrase on your behalf, Michael, how can a team rank first against the pass and 19th against the run and come up with a fifth overall ranking? You might expect the overall ranking to be somewhere closer to the middle of the two sub-rankings.

First of all, no, points allowed are not factored in. That's a completely separate ranking, and the Bucs were first in 2002 (no surprise) and tied for ninth last year. I'm not sure what you mean by "total yards" being factored in, though. That is what is being measured. Rushing defense is, simply, rushing yards allowed. Passing defense is net passing yards allowed (which includes yards lost on sacks). Overall defense is overall yards allowed.

So, yes, the amount of overall yards a team allows can be expressed by this formula: (Rushing Yards Allowed) + (Net Passing Yards Allowed) = Total Yards Allowed.

However, the corollary in rankings is not valid. It is not true to say: ((Rush Defense Ranking) + (Pass Defense Ranking)) / 2 = Overall Defensive Ranking.

Probably the best way to explain how, in the Bucs' case, 1st and 19th averaged out to fifth is to simply break down the numbers from that season.

The Bucs ranked first in the league by allowing 2,579 net passing yards, or 161.2 per game. The NFL average was 210.5 per game. That means the Bucs allowed 49.3 fewer passing yards per game than the average team last year.

The Bucs ranked 19th in the league by allowing 1,973 rushing yards, or 123.3 per game. The NFL average was 116.6 per game. That means the Bucs allowed 6.7 more yards per game than the average team last year.

Put those two together and you'll see that the Bucs allowed 42.6 fewer yards per game than the average team last year. And that's exactly right. The Bucs allowed 284.5 total yards per game last year, while the league average was 327.2. Allowing for numbers being rounded, that's the same difference: 42.6 (or 42.7) yards per game. Perhaps now you can see how that would produce the fifth best overall ranking.

To put it another way, the difference between teams in the passing rankings was more significant than the difference between teams in the rushing rankings. Which is not to say that the Bucs' occasional stumbles against the run were insignificant. Had the team ranked fifth against the rush again in 2004, which would have meant they allowed 97.9 yards per game instead of 123.3, they would have been second in the overall defensive rankings, less than a yard behind Pittsburgh. And that might have made a difference in some of the close games the Bucs lost.

One last thought: The overall defensive ranking is obviously the most important number, and the two sub-rankings can sometimes be misleading. Let me offer an example.

In 2000, the 5-11 Dallas Cowboys had just the 19th-best defense in the league, but they finished with the third-best pass defense. Now, did the Cowboys really have a better pass defense than 28 other teams (there were only 31 teams at the time)? Maybe. But allow the Answer Man to offer another hypothesis. That year, the Cowboys had the league's worst run defense, dead last, allowing a whopping 164.8 yards per game. Opposing offensive coordinators, knowing that they could run the ball against Dallas, were more than happy to choose that safer option over passing the ball. In other words, there was less of a need to pass the ball against the Cowboys, and thus fewer yards were thrown up against them.

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  1. Chris Lundquist of Tampa, Florida asks:

Another Question for you Answer Man! This one has to do with the gambling problem that the team captain has just before each away game. I'm speaking of course about the coin toss. When we choose heads or tails how often do we win? Are there any trends in the 2004 season between winning or losing a coin toss and winning and losing the game? PS- Tell Bruce Allen to bring number 83 back!!

Answer Man: Chris, I came this close to dumping your e-mail without reading the whole thing, given the second sentence, but luckily I read on long enough to get the joke. Nice one.

And I just happen to have a nice sampling of statistics on this matter. You want to talk trends? Well, then we can't just look at 2004…no, I can take it all the way back to 1996. Yes, I have many powers.

Well, at least I can go back to '96 with your second question, if not your first. That is, I can quite easily tell you how well the team does when winning or losing the coin toss. How do we fare in terms of winning the toss itself depending upon whether heads or tails is called? Well, nobody here has ever bothered to track that, and I don't believe I can adequately research it. See, the gamebooks that are produced after a game include who won the toss, but not whether heads or tails was called. I could keep track of that going forward (but probably won't) but I can't find that info going back without watching the opening of each game broadcast (definitely won't).

So I hope you'll settle for the latter bit of information; that is, how is the Buccaneers' record affected by whether they win or lose the coin toss.

And my carefully-researched answer is: Not much.

Okay, I suppose you're going to demand some specifics, because that's the way you are. So here goes.

From 1996-2004, the Buccaneers played 66 games in which they won the coin toss (or their opponents lost it, I guess). In those 66, they went 38-28, for a winning percentage of .576. In that same time span, the Buccaneers played 78 games in which they lost the coin toss. In those 78, they went 40-38, for a winning percentage of .513.

Now, I suppose a difference of .066 in winning percentage is actually somewhat significant, but I have a hard time attributing the difference to anything beyond random chance. Look at this past season – the Bucs were 1-6 when they won the coin toss and 4-5 when they lost it. That's actually a two-year trend, because they went 1-4 after winning the toss and 6-5 after losing it in 2003.

Now, I don't know what the Bucs usually call when it comes time for the coin flip, but the records would indicate that they haven't been too successful (or lucky, when the other team is making the call). You have to go back to 1999 to find a season in which the Bucs won the toss in more than half of their games (they won 11 times that year and went 9-2 in those games…wow!). Of the nine years included in these statistics, that 1999 campaign was the only one in which the Bucs won more than half of the coin flips.

Oh, and as to your last comment, Allen already brought #83 back…Dave Moore!

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  1. Michael Phipps of Adrian, Michigan asks:

Answer Man- my question is this I was wondering what year preseason games started, my friends and I don't remember them when we were kids. Could you please tell me the Bucs' standings for all pre-season years?

Answer Man: Now, as you may know, the Answer Man likes to ramble on incessantly over the most minor topics, as if I'm getting paid by the word. For this one, however, I'm going to try to keep it short, even though I've got tons of info from which to work. Basically, while it's a valid question, I figure it probably bores most of my readers to tears.

So, how long has the preseason been around, Mike? As long as the NFL itself, or almost. As we discussed at some length in my last column, the first official NFL season was in 1920 (though the league was known as the APFA for the first two years). And the first preseason games were played in 1921. For instance, the Chicago Staleys (soon to be the Bears) warmed up with a 35-0 tuneup against Waukegan, a team not even in the league.

The Green Bay Packers, new to the league, played four contests that didn't count before jumping into the fray, having little trouble going 4-0 against the Chicago Boosters, the Rockford Maroons, the elegantly named Chicago Cornell-Hamburgs and the always tough Beloit Fairies. Yes, the Beloit Fairies. The Answer Man couldn't make this stuff up. There were lots of club teams around at the time.

Anyway, the Packers eventually jumped into the league midstream and went 3-2-1, while the Staleys were racking up a 9-1-1 campaign.

So, unless you're something on the order of 95 years old, it's not likely that you missed the preseason concept simply because it wasn't around during your childhood.

Now, how are the Bucs overall in preseason play? Again, let's waste too much time on this, because, while necessary, preseason games are quickly forgotten and not often a good measure of a team's real strength. For instance, the Bucs went 1-3 before their breakout 1997 season but were 4-0 in the preseason that preceded a 2-14 regular season in 1983.

The Bucs are 64-59 all-time in preseason play. The total of 123 preseason games doesn't equate exactly to four games a year multiplied by 29 seasons because not every preseason has been four games. The Bucs played six – SIX! – preseason games before the 1976-77 seasons and have had three five-game preseasons thanks to two Hall of Fame Bowl appearances and one American Bowl berth in Japan in 2003.

Tampa Bay's most frequent preseason opponent has been, naturally, the Dolphins. The two teams have met 19 times, with Miami winning 12 of them. The Bucs are also 7-9 in 16 preseason games against Atlanta. Tampa Bay's best all-time preseason records are against New England (5-1), Tennessee (5-1), Cincinnati (7-4), Houston (2-0) and Jacksonville (2-0).

And that's all I'm going to say about the preseason.

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  1. Dan Robb of Lancaster, Pennsylvania asks:

I have two questions for you AnswerMan. I know that you might not want to, or might want to, do either of these, but it is possible for a quarterback to scramble out of the pocket and then either take a knee or spike to ball? As in to make the defense think that the offense is going to run another play, but simply take a knee after running more seconds off the clock or to stop the play when the QB gets pressure by spiking the ball? (This question spawned from watching an Arena ball game where the QB took an extra long drop to run time off the clock and then threw the ball out of bounds since you have to have positive yardage to keep the clock running.) And my other question is, if a player is running down the sideline and he is 'tackled' by a player who was sitting on the bench, could he get back up and run if he is not down by contact by one of the 11 defenders on the play? (Similar to the 'not down by contact' touchdown by Marvin Harrison the Colts-Broncos play-off game two years ago).

Answer Man: Actually, Dan, I'd argue that there are three questions here, and I've actually touched on all of them in the past, but in bits and pieces, prompted by slightly different questions. I think it's easier to just tackle this one fresh.

I say it's three questions because your first question includes two very different scenarios. The issue, if I'm reading you correctly, is a play in which the quarterback tries to run some extra time off the clock before ending the play, rather than just spiking it at the snap.

Well, he could do it by running around and then taking a knee, but he could not do it by running around and then spiking the ball. Actually, I should clarify the whole "taking-a-knee" business. The quarterback is allowed to end a play (and leave the clock running) by receiving the snap and immediately taking a knee. Any player who is running with the ball, including the quarterback, can declare himself down by falling to the ground and making no effort to advance (Rule 7, Section 4, Article 1(a). In addition, Article 1(c) in that same section says that a runner can declare himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball at the instant the runner so touches the ground.

So, yeah, instead of taking a knee your quarterback could run around for awhile and then throw himself feet first to the ground. But you're never going to see this because it's too risky. What if the quarterback doesn't see a defender and gets blindsided before he can do his little slide. Fumble! The beauty of the take-a-knee option is that there is virtually no risk, besides a mishandling of the snap.

Now, running around and then spiking the ball, that's a no-no. As we've discussed here in the past, spiking the ball to stop the clock looks like intentional grounding, but it's not because there is a specific provision in the rules allowing for it. However, it must be done immediately after taking the snap from the center, with the quarterback doing so with one continuous arm movement. If he were to scramble around and then spike the ball, he would most definitely be flagged for intentional grounding.

I should also point out that it wouldn't work for what you're trying to accomplish. Rather than killing some time and then leaving the clock running, the spike-the-ball play would stop the clock. Bad idea. He'd be better off holding onto it and hoping not to get sacked.

As for your second (third) question, that isn't really covered in the rulebook, but I'd have to say, a) Yes you could get back up and run, but b) It probably wouldn't be necessary.

See, if you were running down the sideline toward the end zone and somebody came off the bench to tackle you, the officials would be forced to call that a "palpably unfair act" (Rule 11, Section 2, Article 1, Supplemental Note 2) and award you a touchdown. So get back up if you wish, but your work on the play is already done.

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  1. Ben Shedden of Winnipeg, Canada asks:

Hey Answer Man! I have a simple question dealing with football rules that I'm sure you can help me with. If a quarterback throws an underhand shovel pass to a halfback but it falls incomplete, is this a fumble or an incomplete pass? It seems to me that many fumbles by quarterbacks fall forward near halfbacks or fullbacks, so if an incomplete shovel pass is not a fumble, how is the distinction made?

Answer Man: The distinction is a simple one, Ben, and it has nothing to do with the manner in which the pass was delivered (overhand, underhand, sidearm, one-handed, two-handed, via FedEx). Ball thrown forward = pass. Ball thrown backward = pitch. A pass that hits the ground is an incompletion. A pitch that hits the ground is a fumble.

Your question isn't clear, so I'm not 100% positive that you're referring to what I would consider a "shovel pass." To me, that means a ball delivered underhanded, the way a quarterback might pitch it backward to a back on a pitch play around the end, but thrown forward. It's usually a very tricky play; the quarterback drops back as if he is going to look downfield to throw a pass, but then quickly flicks a low pass to a back who has cut in front of him and is looking for a whole in a defensive line that, thinking the play is a pass, is concentrating on getting to the passer. The Bucs used this play successfully with Michael Pittman for a touchdown at Carolina last year.

A fumble by a quarterback that goes forward is different from an incomplete forward pass, so there's no loophole for the offense if a quarterback is sacked and his fumble happens to fall near a running back. If there's any question of whether the quarterback fumbled or did actually attempt a pass, this will be ruled upon by the officials, who might have to consult replay. But, yes, if a quarterback was in danger of being sacked and he purposely threw the ball forward towards a running back, even underhanded and even in the backfield, that would be ruled an incomplete pass. If he tried the same thing backwards, it would be a fumble.

**

  1. Jeremy Loya of Gold Canyon, Arizona asks:

How many Pro Bowlers do we have on the Bucs at this time?

Answer Man: I'm going to assume your question to be referring to any players who are on the Buccaneers' roster right now who have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl.

And the answer is: Eight.

There are five players on the current roster who have been to the Pro Bowl as Buccaneers: fullback Mike Alstott (1997-2002), cornerback Ronde Barber (2001, 2004), linebacker Derrick Brooks (1997-2004), linebacker Shelton Quarles (2002) and defensive end Simeon Rice (2002-03).

Rice also went in 1999 when he was a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

There are three other current Buccaneers who went to the Pro Bowl with another team: running back Charlie Garner (San Francisco, 2000), quarterback Brian Griese (Denver, 2000) and tackle Todd Steussie (Minnesota, 1997-98).

**

  1. Brian of Sarasota, Florida asks:

First of all I think that you are Brilliant. Except in your last "Volume", you said that the first championship was played in 1993. Right after that you said that the Cardinals won it in 1943? My Question is when did the NFL have its first championship?

Answer Man: Well, I think you're pretty swell, too, Brian.

Sorry if I left you hanging there with my Brief History of the League last week...and sorry if I mistakenly typed 1993 instead of 1933. To recap for those who didn't see it or might have forgotten the information of which you speak: the NFL started play in 1920 and for the first 13 seasons gave its championship to the team with the best regular season record. (Well, in 1932, it was determined that the 6-1-6 Chicago Bears and 6-1-4 Portsmouth Spartans had tied for the best record and they played a playoff game, which Chicago won, 9-0. So that, really, was the first championship game, of sorts.) In 1933, the league was split into two divisions and the two division winners played the first NFL Championship Game, with the Bears beating the New York Giants, 23-21. The next year, the Giants got revenge with a 30-13 win over Chicago in the championship game.

Also, to clarify, the Cardinals (then of Chicago, later of St. Louis, now of Arizona) won it in 1947, not 1943. They haven't won a league championship since.

That 1933 championship game, by the way, was played at Wrigley Field. The 1932 playoff game was supposed to be played at Wrigley, too, but a blizzard brought deep snow and very chilly temperatures to Chicago, so the game was played indoors at Chicago Stadium, in front of nearly 12,000 fans. Oh, one more by the way, those Portsmouth Spartans moved to Detroit in 1934 and became the Lions.

Anyway, in 1933 the championship game was scheduled ahead of time, before the season. The Giants took a 21-16 lead early in the fourth quarter when Harry Newman, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns, threw an eight-yard scoring strike to Ken Strong. The Bears prevailed, however, thanks to a thrilling play in which Bill Hewitt took a short pass from Bronco Nagurski, ran to the Giants' 19-yard line and lateraled across the field to Billy Karr. Karr took it into the end zone for the go-ahead score, his second touchdown of the game.

**

  1. Kevin Thompson of Dixon, Missouri asks:

All knowing answer man, Yoda of the pig skin, Dali Llama of the grid iron. I have been curious about this for some time. How many Superbowl winning quarterbacks have played for the Bucs? How does that stack up against other teams?

Answer Man: Boy, I've been getting a lot of e-mails from Missouri lately. Good to see the Bucs are gaining a foothold in Rams and Chiefs country.

The first part of your question is easy, Kevin, and I'm guessing you have a decent idea of the answer. There have been four quarterbacks who played at one time or another with the Buccaneers and who have won Super Bowls as starters for their respective teams, either with Tampa Bay or another team. Brad Johnson won with the Bucs in XXXVII, Trent Dilfer won with the Baltimore Ravens in XXXV, Steve Young won with the San Francisco 49ers in XXIX and Doug Williams won with the Washington Redskins in XXII.

To answer the second half of your question, which took no small amount of research, I'm going to assume you're speaking only of the quarterbacks who started for the winning Super Bowl teams. In other words, you wouldn't count Shaun King or Rob Johnson, who were the other two quarterbacks on the Bucs' roster when they won Super Bowl XXXVII. As much as I love a good swim through the history books, I'm not going to track down the history of every backup quarterback in every Super Bowl.

So here's what the Answer Man did. I made a list of the starting quarterback for every winning team through the first 39 Super Bowls. Thanks to some repeat winners (e.g. Troy Aikman, Tom Brady), that proved to be a list of 24 players. Then I marked every team that each of those 24 men played (or are playing) for. The result was a list by team that showed the different Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who played there.

Before I give you the results, I have two quick notes. 1) The quarterbacks had to be on a team's regular-season roster in order to count for that team. Thus, John Elway does not count for Indianapolis; the Colts drafted him but he never signed and was traded to Denver. In the same way, Kurt Warner won't count for Arizona until the season starts. 2) The quarterbacks had to start in a Super Bowl, but they did not have to start for the other teams they were on. Thus, Dilfer counts for Seattle even though he has not started regularly for the Seahawks.

The team that has employed the most Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks is the Washington Redskins, with five. Joe Theismann, Williams and Mark Rypien all won the big game as Redskins. Johnson played there before winning it with the Bucs and Jeff Hostetler played there after winning it with the Giants.

The Bucs are second with four, as we covered above. Green Bay (Bart Starr, Jim McMahon and Brett Favre), the L.A./St. Louis Rams (Joe Namath, Rypien and Warner), the Oakland/L.A. Raiders (Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett, Hostetler), the San Francisco 49ers (Plunkett, Joe Montana, Young) and the New York Giants (Phil Simms, Hostetler, Warner) have had three each.

Now, all that being said, I'm guessing that what you really meant was quarterbacks who have left a team and gone on to win Super Bowls elsewhere. In that category, the Buccaneers have the most with three. No other teams have more than one and there are relatively few teams with even one. Here they are: Pittsburgh (Len Dawson), Cleveland (Dawson), New England (Plunkett), San Francisco (Plunkett), Washington (Johnson), Minnesota (Johnson) and Atlanta (Favre). Obviously, Dawson, Plunkett and Johnson are responsible for most of that list.

Of the 24 quarterbacks on the list, nine played their entire careers for their original teams: Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Aikman, Bob Griese, Brady (at least so far), Joe Theismann, Phil Simms and Elway.

So, does that answer your question, Kevin? I hope so.

Oh, one more thing that is a previously-mentioned pet peeve of this "Yoda of the pigskin": Two words is "Super Bowl," not one.

**

  1. Luca Pasculli of Wilderen, Belgium:

yow answer man, this (I believe) is a rather stupid question but as we in Belgium say: "wie niet waagt,wie niet wint" (who doesn't dare, who doesn't win). Anyway here it is: what is a fantasy season? And what's a fantasy draft? And why all of that fantasy stuff? "De Groeten uit België" (Greetings out of Belgium)

Answer Man: And as we say in Florida, Luca, "There are no stupid questions, only stu-" Uh, never mind. That's not one of the nicer things we say in Florida.

Besides, that's not a stupid question. I find it interesting, because fantasy sports are so big over here, but their influence obviously hasn't spread to your neck of the woods.

Some people over here decry the growing fascination with fantasy sports, believing it takes away from the pure enjoyment of real sports. Others find it to be hugely entertaining and believe that it enhances one's enjoyment of real sports. The Answer Man's opinions lie closer to the latter sentiment, though I do believe it is more important to root for your favorite real team than for your fantasy team.

Here's a condensed version of how most fantasy sports work. Take an existing professional sports league, like the National Football League. It's best if the sport has a lot of statistics and a lot of different players, which is why the whole wave started with baseball. It works very well in the NFL; it wouldn't be so hot, in my opinion, with soccer, though I'm sure fantasy soccer is out there.

Now, get together with about 10 of your friends right before a season starts and "draft" teams. That is, if you're doing an NFL fantasy league, the first person would select any player in the league that he wants for his team, say Kansas City running back Priest Holmes. The next player can then draft anyone except Holmes, who is no longer available. And so on, until all 10 or 12 people in your fantasy league have drafted an entire fantasy team.

In American football, a fantasy team doesn't resemble a real NFL team, with 53 players and cornerbacks and defensive tackles and so on. An NFL fantasy league is mostly concerned with offensive stats (I'm simplifying a bit), so a typical team will consist of, say, two quarterbacks, three running backs, four receivers, etc.

After you've drafted your team, you sit back and watch the real action unfold. If you "own" Holmes, and he rushes for 150 yards and three touchdowns for the Chiefs, that's going to be worth a lot of points for your fantasy team. Depending upon the format of your fantasy league, Holmes will either help you beat another team in your league with that performance or add to your season-long totals in a variety of categories.

The object, basically, is to accumulate more points than your competitors, using the combined results of your various players on various teams. Thus, if I have a fantasy team, I may be more interested in Sunday's Buffalo-Seattle matchup than I would have been because I happen to "own" Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and Bills wide receiver Josh Reed.

Fantasy sports are so big now that most large sports-related web sites have their own versions of the game, including NFL.com. Much of it is free but you can also pay for premium services, which some players do because they are interested in getting any edge they can on their opponents. So it's a big business now, but it's also a lot of fun, and it's possible to play it in a very small and friendly way with your close friends.

**

  1. D. Lewis of Birmingham, Alabama asks:

What's up answer man? I was wondering if you saw the article on Buccaneers.com about the 30 year anniversary? If so, they made mention about the Bucs sporting a new look this year. So my question is, will the Bucs have a new uniform that will have the 30 year patch on it or will the uniforms have the same look with the patch added to the sleeve? Do you have any idea?

Answer Man: Well, yeah, D., I have some idea, mainly because I read that very article to which you refer. For those who haven't here it is: The Big 3-0.

Not to be too hard on you, D., but the answer to your question is right there in the article. The 30th Season logo will be added to the existing uniform, placed on the jersey in front of the right shoulder. Otherwise, the Bucs are not changing their uniforms.

I'll concede this, D.: You may have interpreted the article the way you did because of the opening sentence, which reads: "Following a very encouraging offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are likely to have a new look in 2005. Their jerseys definitely will."

Now, I believe what the author was saying was, in effect, "The Bucs have made a lot of personnel changes this spring and are hopefully going to be an improved team. In addition, their jerseys will look different because they will have a commemorative patch on the right shoulder." In fact, I spoke to the author and that is indeed what he meant. If that was misleading, we apologize.

**

  1. Rick of Tucson, Arizona asks:

Answerman, While reading about the salary cap and teams' room under it I always see something called "dead money". What is this and how much do the Bucs have in their salary cap this year and next year? Thanks for the information.

Answer Man: "Dead money" is one of the two obvious ways a team can get in trouble with the salary cap. The other is to have a large portion of the available cap space tied up in too few players, or in players whose performances have declined.

Dead money refers to cap space that is devoted to players who are no longer on the team (I've also seen it applied to players who are on injured reserve). It is thus named because it is cap space that is returning no benefit to the team.

Here's an example. A player, John Smith, signs a five-year, $10 million contract with Team A. The contract pays him a $5 million signing bonus and a $1 million salary each season. That means each year his cap hit is $2 million, because he is making $1 million each year and the impact of his signing bonus is prorated out through the length of the contract, coming out also to $1 million per year.

After two years of the five-year deal, Smith is released. He will not receive his $1 million per year for the last three years and that part of the contract will not count against the team's cap. However, as we have discussed in many previous Answer Man columns, the remaining prorated portion of his signing bonus, in this case $3 million, will "accelerate" to the current season. Thus, Smith, while no longer on the team, still takes up $3 million worth of space under the cap.

That's dead money. It's not really money in the NFL in most cases, since most contracts aren't guaranteed. That signing bonus has already been paid in actual money; it's the cap hit that's important.

This can be an even bigger issue in a sport like baseball or basketball, where many contracts are guaranteed. Thus, if a baseball team signs a player to a contract that will pay him $10 million a year for the next 10 years, and he becomes ineffective after just three years, that baseball team is still going to have to play the remaining $70 million. That's serious dead money.

The second part of your question is the amount of dead money the Bucs are currently working around, this year and next. I'm sorry to cop out here, Rick, but while that type of information is often printed in the papers, I'm not allowed to share it here. The Buccaneers' team policy is never to release players' salary figures, and this is an extension of that policy. I can tell you, in general terms, that General Manager Bruce Allen has taken a very difficult cap situation and made the necessary moves to put the Bucs back in a good position in 2006.

**

Alright, as usual, let's finish this off with a little round of "quickies."

  1. Simon Tomlins of Reading, United Kingdom:

Hi Answer Man, another question about the ol' rookie allocation pool, albeit a slightly shorter one. Do teams get an increased rookie allocation as a result of taking players in the supplemental draft? I assume so, but like to be thorough.

Answer Man: To quote the imitative school of fish in Finding Nemo, "Sure do!"

If any team makes a selection in the upcoming supplemental draft, its rookie allocation pool will be increased accordingly, based on the specific pick that is used to take the player.

**

  1. Michael Mealer of McEwen, Tennessee asks:

What is the longest field goal ever kicked by a Buccaneer player?

Answer Man: The longest field goal ever kicked by a Buccaneer remains Michael Husted's 57-yarder against the Raiders in Los Angeles on December 19, 1993. That broke a record that had stood since 1986, when Donald Igwebuike nailed a 55-yarder at Minnesota on November 30. Martin Gramatica tied Igwebuike's mark and kicked the longest field goal ever by a Buccaneer in a home game on October 19, 2000 against Detroit.

Bonus fact: The longest field goal ever attempted by a Buccaneer was 62 yards, first by Igwebuike in 1985. In fact, he tried it in consecutive weeks that year, against Minnesota on September 15 and at New Orleans on September 22. Gramatica later tried a 62-yarder against Indianapolis on October 6, 2003.

**

  1. Erica Mulanouskus of Cathedral City, California asks:

I love you Answer Man! You do such an awesome job getting facts and questions answered for us Bucs fans...I thank you!!! I have learned so much! If only I wasn't married....hahaha I wanted to know, what brand of tennis shoes do the coaches wear? They're on their feet all day like I am and I haven't seen this questioned asked. Thanks Answer Man! You're the BEST!

Answer Man: Ohmigod, you are, like so nice! Currently, Buccaneer coaches are shod in Reebok sneakers, because that is the fine company that supplies Tampa Bay with all of its gear.

**

  1. Clinton Woodall of Tampa, Florida asks:

Wow Answer Man your answer muscles seem to be getting bigger every week! Soon you should go by "The Incredible Buc", well anyways on to my question, if the defense picks off a pass on a two-point conversion and returns it for a td, do they get points?

Answer Man: I gain answer bulk by taking on new questions so, unfortunately, this one isn't going to help my exercise routine much. We've actually discussed this on several occasions. The simple answer is no. In the NFL, a two-point conversion play is dead as soon as the offensive team has failed to score. An interception would take care of that. You can read a longer discussion in Series 2, Volume 4.

**

  1. Stephen Mezzapelle of Spring Hill, Florida asks:

Ok oh wise one, I have been looking. When does camp start in Orlando? What players are you going to keep a eye one?

Answer Man: Well that hurts, Stephen, because you obviously haven't been looking in my column. I've answered that question in virtually every edition of my work over the last five or six weeks. Still, it is a common question, so we'll do it again (and probably again the next week!).

Players report for training camp on Thursday, July 28. The first practice at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex will be on the morning of Friday, July 29. There will be two practices a day pretty much that whole first week. Want to check out a daily schedule for training camp? Click here to read an article with that information that ran on the front page of Buccaneers.com about a week ago.

**

  1. Andrew LaRose of Sarasota, Florida asks:

Hello Answer Man! I have a quick question. Who was the most recent player drafted from NC State to the Buccaneers? And possibly can you answer this one, how many total players have they drafted since the beginning of their franchise? Thanks a lot!

Answer Man: Oh, the Buccaneers have dipped into the Wolfpack talent pool very recently…like two months ago! Tampa Bay's second of two third-round picks in the 2005 draft was North Carolina State tackle Chris Colmer.

Before Colmer, it had admittedly been some time since the Bucs tabbed an NC State player on draft day. The most recent one was wide receiver Danny Peebles, taken in the second round in 1989.

As to your last question, I'm not sure if you're asking me how many NC State players we've ever drafted or how many players we've drafted, period. If it's the first question, the answer is three: Colmer, Peebles and linebacker Elijah Marshall, in the sixth round in 1978. If it's the second question, the answer is 314, from 118 different schools.

By the way, the Buccaneers have drafted five players from the University of North Carolina, which ties that school for 13th on the Bucs' all-time draft list. I thought you might like to know that.

**

  1. John Csoborko of London, Ontario, Canada asks:

What jersey # is Chris Hovan wearing this season? I've seen jerseys being sold with #99 on it, but I've also seen pics of him in spring camp wearing his old college #95. Could you please tell me so I can go buy a Hovan jersey!! thanks!

Answer Man: Hovan will be wearing jersey #95. Happy shopping!

**

  1. Andy of Atlanta, Georgia asks:

**Answer Man,

What are the official colors of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Red and _? Is it gold, silver, or gray?**

Answer Man: Gold, silver or gray? Those colors are played out. The Buccaneers are red and pewter, man. Pewter! It's unique, it's cool, and it looks great in a full-body leotard, combined with an electric leather helmet.

**

Okay, that's it for this week. Keep the questions coming, because this last month before training camp is the perfect time to discuss all these off-the-wall topics.

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