Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Series 2, Vol. 22

The Buc fans’ inside man reminisces about training camp longshots before wrapping up his second series with such topics as the salary cap, penalty problems and the Heisman Trophy

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When Todd Yoder reported to his first Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp on July 23, 2000, he hadn't yet seen the team's depth chart. Buccaneer coaches customarily work on that document during the offseason, then allow its release only after camp has begun. Even then, it is a work in progress.

If Yoder caught a glimpse of the depth chart after he arrived at the team's old University of Tampa training site, he might not have been too encouraged. Some young players worry about whether they're going to start out second or third-string; Yoder was seventh on the Bucs' tight end depth chart.

Seventh. If Yoder was cowed by that ranking, he didn't show it during camp. Perhaps he used it as motivation, perhaps he figured it was basically meaningless, or perhaps he never even knew about it. The point is, that depth chart was drawn up, and standing seventh on it made Yoder a serious long shot to make the team.

But make it he did, and he lasted four years as a Buccaneer, too, before signing as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. He caught 14 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns during that time and also played quite well on special teams, even blocking a couple punts.

The Bucs are about to begin their 30th training camp, and with about 90 players coming to camp, there are going to be a few athletes farther down the list than others. These are, by and large, confident men; they don't need Answer Man stories about Todd Yoder to know they have a shot. Still, it might be interesting, on the eve of training camp, to take a quick look at some of the other prominent long shots in recent Buccaneer history.

For instance, Karl Williams.

Williams came to Bucs' camp in 1996, after a good but fairly anonymous career at the University of Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Buccaneer scouted who visited the little Kingsville campus that preceding year had actually been interested in a different player, but came away with a favorable impression of Williams. Still, there was no reason, at the beginning of that '96 camp, for an observer to pay special attention to Williams.

That didn't last long. Williams showed a preternatural skill for running routes precisely, and he was good enough in every other way for that to make the difference. By mid-camp, he had a strong buzz. By the final cuts, he had a spot. Later that year, he took over the punt and kickoff return jobs and set team records for average in both categories. Eventually, he returned five punts for touchdowns, the only Buccaneer ever with more than one.

Chartric Darby was signed to the Bucs' roster just two weeks before the beginning of training camp in 2000, following a nice turn with the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL Europe League. He was available to the Bucs and anyone else in the NFL because he had gone to Europe as a free agent, without any team's backing. At the time, he was thrilled to land with the Bucs because they felt he would overlook his relative lack of size and give him a shot to show off his abilities.

He was right. Though Darby was only a practice-squad player that first year, he made the active roster the following year and by 2002 was the perfect choice to fill in at nose tackle when Anthony McFarland landed on injured reserve. Darby, in fact, was the Bucs' nose tackle starter in Super Bowl XXXVII. He started all of 2004, too, before signing with Seattle this past offseason.

Here's one that might have some current-day resonance: Kicker Michael Husted.

In 1992, the Bucs started the season with a kicker named Ken Willis, who had won the job in training camp after a previous stint with the Dallas Cowboys. Willis didn't last half the season, however, before the Bucs replaced him with wizened veteran Eddie Murray (no, not that Eddie Murray).

That didn't seem like a long-term solution, so the job was open again in 1993. This time, a total unknown named Michael Husted won the job with a fine training camp, and it worked out. Husted eventually played six seasons as a Buccaneer and ended up with 502 points, second in team history only to Martin Gramatica (591).

And finally, here's one who is still on the roster...in fact, still playing a very prominent role: Shelton Quarles.

It's safe to say that few NFL fans knew who Quarles was at the time, even though he had gone to training camp with the Dolphins in 1994. In fact, the Bucs can thank some good north-of-the-border scouting to have turned up Quarles, who had several good years in the Canadian Football League (as well as some time working at a hometown printing press in Tennessee).

Like Williams, Quarles looked good on the field from day one of his first camp with the Bucs. He easily earned a roster spot and immediately became the team's best special-teamer, a product of his impressive size-speed ratio. In 1998, the Bucs were looking to replace their departed strongside linebacker, Rufus Porter, who had himself replaced Lonnie Marts in 1997. The job went to a very deserving Jeff Gooch, but few know that Quarles had a decent shot at it before a preseason injury.

Quarles took the job in 1999, though, and held it through 2001. He didn't lose it in 2002; rather, Jon Gruden moved him to middle linebacker and the result was a Pro Bowl season and Super Bowl rings for Quarles and all his teammates.

Yeah, it really worked out well for Quarles (and the Buccaneers). It worked out well for Williams, Darby and Husted, too, all one-time training camp long-shots who came up big. Chances are, another player is lurking somewhere down the Bucs' current depth chart, about to make a very similar move as the team begins its 2005 training camp.

Who will it be? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, your latest questions to the Answer Man await. This will be my last column in the current series, as training camp is the perfect time to start a new one. That's where this all started, in fact, a year ago. Please bear with the Answer Man during camp, as I've got a lot of menial tasks to perform and might not get to the mailbag as often as I'd like.

**

Actually, I'm going to start off with an e-mail that isn't really a question, but is right on the money and adds important information to one of my recent answers. Here, I'll let the letter speak for itself…

Keith of Orlando, Florida says:

Maybe this isn't a question, but perhaps you'd be interested. I saw this response from the latest volume, and had something to add...

*Has there even been an NFL team that played in the superbowl in their home city that very year? If so, how many teams (if any) won that superbowl contest?

Answer Man: Oh, great. Now Super Bowl is not only one word, it's not even capitalized. No respect.

I've answered this one before, but it was admittedly a pretty long time ago, in Series 2, Volume 2, way back in January. The basic answer is no. Well, kind of. The Los Angeles Rams faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, and the game was played in L.A., though not on the Rams' home field. The Rams played their games at the Memorial Coliseum, while the Super Bowl was played at the Rose Bowl.*

**And while that's true, there's also another "close" one. Super Bowl XIX (SF vs. Mia) was played at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif. The 49ers played in Candlestick Park at the time, but Palo Alto is in the Bay Area, right down the road from downtown San Francisco. That year's Super Bowl official poster/artwork/ticket stub even included the Golden Gate Bridge on it.

Again, while not in their own stadium, it was pretty close. Oh, and the 49ers took advantage of that "hometown" crowd and won. Thanks for reading.**

Answer Man: Actually, thank you, Keith, for that letter because not only is it true, it is also obvious enough that I feel like I really missed one there. If I can catch Pasadena and L.A., then surely I should have been able to catch Stanford (which is how it is listed on the NFL's Super Bowl summary sheet) and San Francisco.

So, to re-summarize, no team has ever played the Super Bowl in its home stadium, but two teams have basically played a Super Bowl in their own backyards. Those teams are 1-1 in the big game. Thanks again, Keith.

**

Now, on to your questions. The mailbag was a little lighter than usual this week, but I think we can still get some good discussions going.

  1. Matt of Tampa, Florida asks:

Hey, Answer Man, have the Bucs signed any of their 2005 draft picks yet? According to what I've read from other news sources, the Bucs' salary cap situation will be a major issue in clearing cap room. In the event these players are not signed by the start of camp, have you heard anything as to their willingness to play on injury waiver?

Answer Man: To start from the bottom of your question, Matt, it is irrelevant whether or not a player would be willing to participate in camp with an injury waiver. That is simply not permitted by the NFL.

For those who may not have Matt's level of understanding, an injury waiver is what allows unsigned players to participate in a team's offseason workouts. To attend, say, a June mini-camp, a player has to either have a signed contract or be willing to sign a waiver regarding how his contract status will be handled in the unlikely but unfortunate event of a significant injury. Obviously, if a player had no protection, he would be leery of putting his career on the line before he signed even his first NFL contract. This is not an option when it comes to the big one, training camp. No contract, no dice.

Matt's question was sent in before the Bucs got their rookie signings underway on Wednesday and Thursday, with the inkings of defensive tackle Anthony Bryant and guard Dan Buenning, respectively. Buenning and Bryant were the Bucs' fourth and sixth-round draft picks, respectively, and that's the way it usually works. Due to the slotting of contracts to come up with the rookie salary pool – basically, each specific spot in the draft is assigned a dollar value and all of a team's salary slots are added together to produce the maximum amount a team can pay its draft class – there is not a huge amount of leeway for players taken in the lower rounds. Usually, it behooves them to be among the first signed, while cap space remains.

Of course, there is always much more that goes into the first-rounders' contracts, and more room for creativity, so those deals are usually (not always, but usually) the last ones done.

It has become rather common for teams to do most of their draft-pick contract work in the last couple weeks before training camp; that has certainly been the Bucs' patter in recent years. All of last year's picks signed in the final week – beginning, unusually, with first-rounder Michael Clayton – and the 2003 class came in en masse on the first day of camp.

In other words, no need to worry. It would be virtually unprecedented (at least for the Buccaneers) for any of the players picked in the second through seventh rounds to report late, and even problems with the first-rounders' contracts have been rare for Tampa Bay. As Buccaneers.com noted in its story about the Bryant signing, the last Tampa Bay first-round pick to miss any significant amount of camp due to a contract negotiation issue was Trent Dilfer in 1994.

**

  1. Robert Pompano of New Haven, Connecticut asks:

When a draft pick is signed, are they on the team automatically or are they signed to a tryout in training camp?

Answer Man: I'm not trying to be rude, Robert (sometimes I do it accidentally), but I'm not 100% certain I understand what you're asking here. I'm going to answer what I think is the basic question; that is, do draft picks automatically make it onto the regular-season roster simply by signing?

The answer to that question is no. I don't know exactly what you mean by "signed to a tryout in training camp," but rookies go into camp competing for roster spots and starting jobs just like every player. It is actually relatively rare for every player in a draft class to make the active roster, though it almost always happens for the players in the top four rounds. A study of the Bucs' history of drafts that the Answer Man pulled together quite awhile ago (in Series 2, Volume 4 back in February) showed that, out of all the players the team has ever picked in the first three rounds, only one who tried to make the team failed to do so. (I worded it that way to exclude 1996 first-round pick Bo Jackson, who refused to report to the Buccaneers.) Only seven of the 34 players picked by Tampa Bay in the fourth round failed to make the team.

Last year, all four of the players the Bucs picked in the first five rounds (Michael Clayton, Marquis Cooper, Will Allen and Jeb Terry) made the team out of training camp, and sixth-round tight end Nate Lawrie was re-signed later in the year. Mark Jones (N.Y. Giants), Casey Cramer (Carolina) and Lenny Williams (Dallas) – the Bucs' three seventh-round picks last year – all made it onto active rosters elsewhere in the league, which means the Bucs' entire draft class from 2004 proved NFL-worthy in their first seasons, which doesn't happen very often.

Nobody is guaranteed a spot on the roster simply by reporting to training camp. Now, common sense tells us that there are some players who have little to worry about in terms of roster security. It would be quite surprising if Derrick Brooks or Brian Griese were released, no? Still camp is all about competition, and there are often roster surprises of a slightly less surprising nature. That's part of what makes it so much fun for us fans (if not for the players, who don't exactly giggle at the prospect of four hours of practice each day under Central Florida's brutal sun.

**

  1. David Williams of Hernando, Florida asks:

Oh wise and powerful answer man. My question to you is the answer to a debate. What NFL team has had the most Heisman trophy winners playing for them at one time? Who has had the most in the team history, and finally which team has picked up the most from the draft? Thank you sir, David Williams.

Answer Man: Man, this Heisman thing has been big in the last few weeks. What's the sudden fascination? Hopefully, David has covered all of the bases here, because I really don't want to have to bring this topic up again.

Last week, we went over the Bucs' own history with Heisman winners which amounts to Steve Spurrier, Vinny Testaverde and Tim Brown, plus Bo Jackson if you want to count him. The Bucs drafted Testaverde and Jackson (who never played for Tampa Bay) and got Spurrier and Brown later in their NFL careers.

Well, now David has all of these follow-up questions, some of which are easier to research than others. I'll start with the lowest level of difficulty and move up from there.

Which team has drafted the most Heisman Trophy winners? Well, the Answer Man knew it wasn't going to be the Bucs, given that the NFL has been drafting Heisman winners since 1935 and the Bucs just got into the game in 1976. Before looking it up, the Answer Man thought Dallas might be a good bet, because I immediately thought of Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker. However, the Cowboys weren't even close (they've had three, including Roger Staubach).

The Detroit Lions are far and away the "winner" in this category. The Lions have drafted no fewer than 10 Heisman Trophy winners over the years, beginning with Yale's Larry Kelley in 1936 and ending most recently with Houston's Andre Ware in 1989. The Lions last two Heisman picks resulted in one over-the-top hit (Barry Sanders) and one very regrettable miss (Ware).

The only team to come close to Detroit was the Rams, first of L.A. and now of St. Louis. The Rams have chosen seven Heisman winners, most recently Nebraska's Eric Crouch in 2002.

Who has had the most in the team history? That also goes to the Lions, who put the number at 12 in their own records. Detroit doesn't count the first two of the 10 it drafted (Kelley and Yale's Clint Frank in 1938), though it does count Glenn Davis, who won the award for Army in 1946, was drafted in the first round by Detroit but never played due to his military commitment. The Lions also count Gino Toretta, the 1992 winner who signed with Detroit in November of 1994 but was inactive for all seven of the games for which he was on the 53-man roster.

The Lions got Doak Walker's outstanding six-year career even though he was drafted by the Boston Yanks in 1949. The Yanks drafted the 1948 Heisman winner as a "future selection," then traded Walker's rights to the Lions before the 1950 season.

More recently, Desmond Howard and Ty Detmer played for the Lions after starting their post-Heisman careers with other teams.

And, finally, which team has had the most Heisman winners at one time? Well, the Lions had two on several occasions, having picked them back-to-back. Actually, the Answer Man found several instance of Heisman-winning teammates, but not a threesome. Perhaps it's out there, but for now, we'll have to call it a tie at two.

**

  1. Kasi V. Sridharan of Dunedin, Florida asks:

In my opinion, Bucs team is very capable of getting into play-off every year unless they play against themselves. Based on analysis of 32 games played in the last two years, the total amount of penalty yards were significant and affected Bucs win ratio. Do you think it is one of the top priorities for the coaches this year?

Answer Man: Well, this may sound like a copout of an answer, Kasi, but I think it's one of the main goals of the coaching staff every year to minimize penalties. The number of flags the team drew was certainly one of the things Coach Gruden mentioned as a problem in 2003, and the team has been using officials at many of its practices ever since.

To make sure you don't think I'm copping out, I'll do a little analysis of the penalty statistics, too. This will be a very basic look at the numbers, but then, you didn't really elaborate what your "analysis" was, either.

First, a simple little chart. What you'll see below are numbers for eight seasons (1997-2004), a period covering when the Bucs first rose to prominence, through their Super Bowl victory and then on through the last two seasons. The first two columns after the years are the penalties and penalty yardage against the Buccaneers; the third column represents the difference between how many times the Bucs were penalized and how many times their opponents were penalized; and the final column shows the Bucs' record each year.

**Season****Penalties****Yards****Difference****Record**
2004117916+55-11
20031171104+137-9
2002103789+1012-4
200177672-149-7
200082702-1310-6
199975583-1311-5
199899840+118-8
199777660-1610-6

Now, the first thing you'll notice in that table is that, yes, the Bucs have committed quite a few more penalties over the last three years than they had, on average, in the five seasons before that. However, that's the key right there: "the last three years." That period covers the Bucs' Super Bowl season. Are penalties a problem? Yes, and the problem peaked in 2003. However, can we really claim that they are one of the main reasons for the Bucs' two losing seasons when, in 2002, the team committed 26 more penalties than it had the year before and still won the Super Bowl?

As you can see, the Bucs committed 117 penalties last year for the second year in a row, but that was only five more times than their opponents were penalized. Perhaps we should look and see if penalties were up all across the league.

Aha! Here are the average per-team penalty numbers for the last four seasons:

  • 2001 - 93 * 2002 – 104 * 2003 - 106 * 2004 – 112

Last year was the highest of the four, just five under what the Bucs committed, and there was an obvious jump from 2001 to 2002, when the Bucs' numbers also jumped.

But the gist of your content, Kasi, appears to be that penalty problems have specifically cost the Bucs some games, not necessarily that overall penalty problems during the course of a season led to a poorer record. That's hard to quantify, of course, because it's rare that you can say with any confidence that a certain penalty cost a team a game. One that was rather important comes to mind…when the Bucs lost to Indianapolis, 38-35, in overtime in 2003, the Colts had two tries at the game-winning kick. Mike Vanderjagt missed on the first one but was given a reprieve when Simeon Rice was called for "leaping." Even on that one, however, you can't say with any certainty that the Bucs would have won without that penalty.

Maybe if we look at the game-by-game records when the Bucs were penalized a lot or a little. Below is a chart covering the last four seasons that shows Tampa Bay's win-loss records when committing 0-5 penalties, when committing 6-10 penalties and when committing more than 10 penalties in a game.

**Season****0-5****6-10****11 or more**
20042-32-51-3
20033-24-50-2
20024-28-20-0
20016-53-20-0
Totals15-1217-141-5

Well now. It seems obvious that it's hard to win when you commit more than 10 penalties, probably because you are bound to kill most of the good drives that you get going. Plus, an 11-penalty game is probably going to go hand-in-hand with other problems on the field.

However, is there really that much of a difference between the games in which the Bucs committed 0-5 penalties and the ones in which they committed 6-10? The winning percentage in that first group is .556; the winning percentage in the second group is .548. In 2002, the Bucs actually had a better winning percentage when committing 6-10 penalties. There were surely moments during that season in which Tampa Bay wished it had not committed as many penalties as it had, but the team was good enough to overcome them.

To be clear (and repetitive), the Answer Man is not saying that a high number of penalties is acceptable or irrelevant. To say that would be to contradict the coaching staff, and the Answer Man wouldn't do that. I am simply suggesting that the strong relationship you wish to draw between penalties and the Bucs' 12-20 record over the last two years may be overstated.

**

  1. Kevin Philpot of Lutz, Florida asks:

Answerman, we've all heard about the "cap trouble" that the Bucs have been in for a couple of years now. Could you please explain what the actual cap number is for all teams to be at or under this year? Also, when can we expect to see the Bucs be able to become more active in the free agent market (i.e., when will Bucs get some cap relief?) Thanks in advance!

Answer Man: I'm not going to dwell on this one too long, Kevin, because General Manager Bruce Allen is sure to give a better answer when he addresses the fans' questions on the opening day of training camp. (Click here to see what I'm talking about.)

But I can tell you the cap number that applies to all teams in 2005: $85.5 million. The cap number each year is tied to league revenues, so it has gone up steadily since debuting around $50 million in 1993. The percentage of league revenues that are devoted to the salary cap has also gone up in recent years, from 63% in 2001 to 65.5% this year.

Again, I'll let Mr. Allen handle the remainder of this topic. However, it was stated several times early in the spring that some of the difficult decisions the team had to make were not only necessary to comply with this year's cap, but were a great start at getting the team into a better situation in 2006.

**

  1. Roy the Army Man of (currently) Baghdad, Iraq asks:

Hey there all mighty Answer Man. Just two short questions. First one is, We all know that the Bucs have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the regular season but has this ever occurred in the preseason or playoffs? Ok and my second question is, When a player that has made it to the playoffs stats are listed for a season does this include what he accomplished during the playoffs as well?

Answer Man: Fortunately for the Answer Man, I've already answered that first question, because it can be a pain to look through about 125 preseason play-by-plays for that kind of information. As I detailed in my first column of 2005 back in January, the Bucs have five kickoff return touchdowns in the preseason. What's amazing is that, as long as the Bucs have waited for that first regular-season TD, they had almost no wait at all for the first one in the preseason.

There's more about the topic in that column I've linked to above, but here's a key paragraph in case you don't feel like clicking through:

"It took Hagins only 271 game-minutes into the history of the franchise to record a kickoff return touchdown, then he did it again seven days later. Eight days after that, the Bucs played their first regular season game at Houston; almost 30 years later, we're still waiting for somebody to pull a Hagins in a regular-season contest. Judging from those early results, it appeared as if big plays on kickoff returns were going to be a strength for the Buccaneers."

The Bucs do not have a kickoff return touchdown in postseason play, however.

Speaking of the postseason, the answer to your second question is no. Regular-season and postseason statistics are always kept separately (or at least should always be kept separately. If a writer or editor is going to combine the two, he should at least say so as he's doing it. If you get your hands on a media guide for any team, you'll usually see both types of stats listed separately. The Bucs, for instance, list a player's year-by-year regular-season stats, then have a Totals line for all of those years, then put the player's postseason stats in one line underneath the Totals line.

Combining the two types of stats can be useful in some features or analyses. For instance, it is both impressive and perfectly reasonable to say that Derrick Brooks scored five defensive touchdowns in 2002, including the playoffs. He had four during the regular season, which is impressive enough in itself, then added a fifth in the Super Bowl. His stat line for that 2002 season, however, will only show the four regular-season scores.

**

  1. Axel of Haines City, Florida asks:

What's up Answerman? Well, I have a simple question from you concerning Tim Brown. There's a lot of talk questioning his Hall of Fame stature (I think he very much deserves it), but my question is: Even though he retired as a Raider, would he be joining Lee Roy Selmon in the Hall of Fame as a Buccaneer too?

Answer Man: Yes, Axel, he would be joining Lee Roy Selmon and Steve Young.

We've had this discussion a few times already, so I'm not going to go into great detail, but here's the deal. The Pro Football Hall of Fame does not require its inductees to claim allegiance to a particular team. The busts in Canton do not have helmets on them. When a player who has played for more than one team enters the Hall, the Hall updates all of those teams lists.

Thus, when Steve Young made it this year, he became the second Buccaneer to be voted into the Hall of Fame. You can treat that information however you like; the Hall isn't making value judgments on how much of a player's Hall-of-Fameness (the Answer Man has the power to create new words, by the way) is attributable to each of his teams. The Hall just tells you for whom he played.

Tim Brown won't be eligible for induction for another five years, so we won't really have to worry about it for awhile. However, he would give the Bucs' a third member in the Hall if he made it. If you, or anyone, believes that Lee Roy is the only player in the Hall who is in because of what he did as a Buccaneer, that is very much your, or anyone's, right.

By the way, while it's neither here nor there, the Answer Man agrees with you, Axel. Brown should make it into the Hall. Say what you will about the manner in which he put up his numbers or the strengths of the teams for which he did so, but the man has more receiving yards than anyone but Jerry Rice and more receptions than anyone but Rice and Cris Carter. Can you imagine the second-leading man in any of baseball's main career statistics not in that sport's Hall of Fame? (Please, no Pete Rose comments!)

**

Okay, I've got a fairly deep group of "quickies" to finish off the column with, so it looks like we'll get into double-figure questions after all. As usual, these are questions that either I have answered before or (I felt) needed very little elaboration.

  1. Josh of Lake Orion, Michigan asks:

How many sacks did Simeon Rice have in the Bucs' Super Bowl season?

Answer Man: This is a perfect chance to illustrate what I meant in my answer to Roy the Army Man above.

Josh, in the Bucs' 2002 championship season, Rice had 19.5 sacks, including postseason play. Now, 15.5 of those came during the regular season, the second-highest total in team history and the leading mark in the NFC that year. He added four more during the postseason, including two in the Super Bowl.

**

  1. David Corrow of Spring Hill, Florida asks:

Are they going to have a kick return this year?

Answer Man: Well, let the Answer Man do a little math on this one. In the team's 29-year history, it has averaged about 60 kickoff returns per season...so, uh, yeah, I'm going to have to say that it would be a massive upset if the Bucs finished with zero kickoff returns in 2005.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess you meant a kickoff return touchdown. Will the Bucs get one of those in 2005, after rather infamously not doing so during their first 29 seasons? Well, I went on record at the beginning of last year saying I believed that 2004 was going to be the season it finally happened...and then it didn't. Well, no dice this year. Since the Answer Man believes that sheer luck is playing a big part in the continuation of the streak, he is not going to say anything that might add to the jinx.

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  1. Terrance of Warner Robins, Georgia asks:

Will the Bucs be playing any Monday night games in 2005?

Answer Man: No, for the first time since 1997, there will be no Buccaneer presence on Monday Night Football in 2005. Tampa Bay's one nationally-televised game is the Week 15 game at New England, on Saturday, December 17.

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  1. Kip Pyle of Palm Harbor, Florida asks:

If we play the Fins the 5th game of the year, but they have a bye week 3, does that mean that Ricky's 4-game suspension would be up week 5 or week 4? Hope we get his 1st game.

Answer Man: Well, I hate to burst your bubble, Private Pyle, but we play the Miami Dolphins in Week Six. Still, the underlying question has a rather straightforward answer: A four-game suspension is a four-game suspension. A well-timed bye week can help an injured player get back with one less game missed, but it doesn't shorten a suspension. Returned running back Ricky Williams faces a four-game suspension at the beginning of this season for violating the league's substance abuse program before last year's abrupt retirement, and he would serve those in games 1-4. Williams should be back for the Bucs game, but it will likely be his second game back. The Answer Man thinks the Bucs will probably be more worried about Ronnie Brown.

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  1. Alex LaRose of Asheville, North Carolina asks, rather rudely:

Yo fool...what are the Buccaneers' 2 main team colors?

Answer Man: Buccaneer red and pewter, playa.

The Bucs also use black and a little bit of orange, but they're known for red and pewter. And you know what, after all the "renowned pigskin prognosticators" and whatnot, the Answer Man likes a little insult every now and then. Fool.

**

Okay, that's it for this week. I told you it was a smaller sample than usual. Since the game's are starting again in a few weeks and I'll be a bit busy during training camp, I expect the next column to be bursting with good questions.

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