Hey, I'm back!
If you're reaction is in the range of "Hey, that's wonderful news!" o "Hey, let's what's on ESPN.com instead?" then you know who I am. And if you know who I am then you know we've proven at least one thing over the last year (other than the NFL Rulebook=headache corollary): The Answer Man is fallible.
For a recent example of that, scroll down a bit to an alternately nice and needling submission from one of my regular contributors out there. Or you can stay right here for the more relevant reason I bring up my fallibility:
Apparently, I did not do a very good job of making it clear that I would be out of commission during training camp. To maintain my secret identity, I perform a number of menial tasks around team headquarters, such as shining cleats and restocking the rocks in the sauna. As you may be able to imagine, with 91 players trapped in one small location for three weeks, training camp is rich in menial jobs. There simply wasn't any time to slip away to my alter-ego's office (richly appointed in mahogany) to answer your questions.
Thus, the Answer Man's e-mailbag is a bit bloated these days. Actually, the Answer Man himself is a bit bloated (too many catered camp meals)…the mailbag is bursting at the seams.
I dived into that bag yesterday, looking for a new bit of fodder for my comeback column. Well, I had a good 5,000 words worth before I had barely skimmed off the top. The Answer Man may have taken a break; you all, obviously, did not. As such, I had to invoke one of my rarely-used powers, one I feel bad about using. Knowing no other recourse, I instantly vaporized several weeks worth of questions in the mailbag.
See, if I'm going to give the questions below any semblance of the time and attention they deserve, I just don't have the ability to go back all the way to mid-July. I'm telling you this for one reason: If you sent what you believe to be a particularly good question over the last few weeks and you don't see it answered here, send it again. We're wiping the slate clean. You may notice, in fact, that I have dubbed this column the beginning of Series 3.
And just to prove I can make bad decisions in bulk, I'm also going to start this week's Q&A session off with a solicitation of your responses. Longtime readers will know that this has almost always gone badly, but it's a new year and [insert other shallow rationalizations here].
So, without any further ado to add to all the tiresome ado above, we bring you a question from Andrew Thompson of Fort Collins, Colorado. Andrew asks:
Despite living in Colorado all my life I have never liked the Broncos. I have been a loyal Buccaneer fan since 1984. After being a fan for all these years, I still don't know who is our rival. My question is which team is our rival?
Answer Man: Andrew is stuck in Bronco country, so he has surely had Denver's natural rivals ingrained into his consciousness from shortly after birth: Kansas City and Oakland. I venture to say that the Raiders are number one.
He wants to know who fills the same spot for the Buccaneers, and I want to answer him. However, I'm not completely sure my answer(s) would jibe with that of all of you out there. Is it the Packers, or does the demise of the NFC Central make that rivalry defunct? Same question for the Bears. Is it Atlanta, given the proximity and the new NFC South pairings? Is it Carolina, given the recent enmity fostered by some bitter games over the last few years? Is it the Rams, an unlikely rival taken to a new stature by some incredible games in recent seasons?
I know my answer, but I want to know yours (and, not coincidentally, I would love a ready-made intro for next week's column). I'm soliciting this: Your answer as to the Bucs' top rival, and an entertaining defense of that selection. Break out your finest prose; it's time to impress your fellow Buc fans with the depth of your Buccaneer passion.
And, with crossed fingers that I will receive even a few worthy submissions, it's on to your questions.
Actually, I must first pause and admit my failure. Maybe it's because my home planet uses a base-17 numerical system, but I partially flubbed the math part of an answer regarding Ricky Williams' suspension in my last column. I got more than a few e-mails to this effect, and I would have loved to have used a new voice, but unfortunately old pal Richard Schilling sent the most entertaining submission. To wit:
- Richard Schilling of Breinigsville, Pennsylvania says:
Holy scuffed cleats! I can't believe what I just read. You missed one! The pressure of getting the locker room cleaned up for the players reporting to camp must be getting to you. When you answered Kip "Private" Pyle's question about the return of Ricky Williams, you said that the Bucs-Fins game will likely be Ricky's second. However, as Kip pointed out, the Fins have a bye (actually week 4), making this game their fifth. Therefore, it will be the first game for which Ricky is eligible. And thank you for starting my Monday with a head full of R. Lee Ermey's humorous quips. Now get me a jelly donut.
Answer Man: In my defense, the original question that led to this flub was flawed itself. In my haste to prove myself superior to the questioner, I screwed up the math myself.
The original question referred to Ricky Williams' four-game suspension and the notion that the Bucs would see his first game back in Week Five. Well, we actually play the Dolphins in Week Six but, as the questioner noted, Miami has a bye week in Week Four, which makes the Bucs-Fins game Miami's fifth one of the year. Looking back, I think he had the right idea, he just accidentally typed Five instead of Six, and that threw me all off.
So, yes, it appears as if we will get Williams' return in Week Six, which will be Game Five for the Dolphins. There…I've bowed my head. Get your own donut.
Okay, time to get back in the saddle. Your most recent questions:
- Michael Smith of Tallahassee, Florida asks:
**Querido Hombre de Respuesta, First, let me apologize for not having a clever intro on this question submission (I see you don't have one for your column today so I don't feel too bad about it). We, the Buccaneer faithful, haven't heard from you in a while, and you have us a little worried. Perhaps your preseason duties are mounting up; in that case, I can't wait for the regular season to start, where it seems you have more time for us.
Anyways, I have just one stupid question for you: Where (on which official NFL stat sheet) is it written down each week which uniforms were worn by each team? Of course, I am presupposing that it is an attribute that's recorded (they seem to keep track of everything these days), so please don't harp about that. Once you know that, could you please tell me which uniforms the Bucs wore during their game against Chicago on 12/14/1991? I greatly appreciate it; you have NO IDEA what you're doing for me right now. ;)**
Answer Man: I don't know, Mike, you may be selling yourself a bit short. I actually enjoyed that e-mail quite a bit, though my imagination is running a bit wild as to what is at stake here.
Okay, first things first, while your supposition about the play-by-play is understandable – after all, this is a document that records such things as the day's humidity, the name of the replay operator and the person who holds the ball for each field goal try – there actually is no entry regarding the colors of the uniforms being worn.
So the answer to your first question is: Nowhere.
Fortunately, the Answer Man has other means at his disposal, so your second question is not a lost cause.
My first thought was, "Hey, that's the game Jeff Carlson started in rough conditions in Chicago because Vinny Testaverde was out with a bad back." Thus, I looked in Carlson's old photo file here on site, hoping to find a picture of him from that game, since it was his one career start and all.
No dice. A Jeff Carlson file does exist, but it has no pictures from that game. Carlson appeared in three other games that year and got some shots from that action.
So instead I peeked into the Keith McCants photo file…and bingo! On a photo clearly marked 12/14/91, we see McCants tagging the immortal Peter Tom Willis in what I deduce was a final-game kneeldown (see, Willis has no passing stats for the game but does have one rush for negative-two yards). In the photo, McCants is clad in a white jersey and white pants. So there's your answer.
Now, just in case it's not obvious, Mike, these were the old uniforms, with orange primary color and the winking pirate. The Bucs went to their current logo and color scheme in 1997.
- Torrey L. Williams of Alpharetta, Georgia asks:
What happens to old helmets when a player is traded, cut or retires?
Answer Man: When a player leaves the Buccaneers, his helmet is taken to a an underground labyrinth below One Buccaneer Place for a secret and often dangerous ceremony. Depending upon the player's level of service, his headgear is either retired to the elite Hall of Helmets and encased in bulletproof glass, put in storage for future consideration for the hall or melted down for source minerals. All who witness the ceremony are sworn to eternal secrecy, on penalty of death.
Uh, no. When a player leaves the Bucs, he's finished with the team but his helmet isn't. Helmets are constantly polished, refurbished and made to look shiny and new again, so that they may be reused. They are quite sturdy, you know. That's kind of the point. Eventually, that same helmet will be crammed onto a new Buccaneer noggin and sent back out into battle.
- Robert Pompano of New Haven, Connecticut asks:
Seeing that the Bucs are wearing a 30th season patch, why aren't the Seahawks wearing one? They came into the league the same year as the Bucs. Does the league only allow as many as four teams to wear a commemorative patch?
Answer Man: I can't imagine the league has a cap on the number of teams that can wear commemorative patches, though they do have to approve anything that's going to go on a game-day uniform well in advance.
You're right that the Bucs and 'Hawks are expansion twins, so this is also Seattle's 30th season. For a 29-year comparison of the two teams' fortunes, see the chart I put together in response to Joe of Tampa's question in Series 2, Volume 21 a little over a month ago. (That column also has a nice bit on the Bucs' streak of top-10 defensive rankings and where it ranks in NFL history.)
Actually, the Seahawks do have a 30th-season logo, just like the Buccaneers. They've put it on the front of their media guide and in a few other publications, but have generally chosen not to use it as extensively as we will with ours. So why aren't they wearing it on their uniforms? That's just their choice.
- Chad Spangler of Cape Coral, Florida asks:
I'll try to keep this short and to the point. Do you know where I can find a list of radio stations that carry the Buccaneer Radio Network? I remember finding one on Buccaneers.com last year but I can't find it here now. I love listening to Gene Deckerhoff and Scot Brantley call the game while watching it on t.v. but I can't pick up 103.5 very well here. Please Help!
Answer Man: My pleasure, Chad! That is a cool way to enjoy the game, isn't it. In your case, your best bet is probably Ft. Myers' WCCF 1580 AM.
The full affiliates list is still a bit of a work in progress, but you can definitely listen to the game on all of the stations below, and that represents pretty good coverage of the state of Florida.
|Brooksville||WWJB 1450 AM|
|Crystal River||WXCV 95.3 FM|
|Daytona Beach||WELE 1380 AM|
|Ft. Myers||WCCF 1580 AM|
|Ft. Pierce||WPSL 1590 AM|
|Gainesville||WBXY 99.5 FM|
|Homosassa Springs||WXCV 95.3 FM|
|Jacksonville||WFXJ 930 AM|
|Lake City||WFXJ 930 AM|
|Lakeland||WLKF 1430 AM|
|Naples||WGUF 98.9 FM|
|Orlando||WQTM 740 AM|
|Panama Beach||WYOO 100 FM, WPCF 1290 AM|
|Port St. Lucie||WPSL 1590 AM|
|Punta Gorda||WCCF 1580 AM|
|Sarasota||WFUS 103.5 FM|
|Stuart||WPSL 1590 AM|
|Tallahassee||WNLS 1270 AM|
|Tampa Bay||WFUS 103.5 FM, WDAE 620 AM|
|Titusville||WQTM 740 AM|
|Venice||WFUS 103.5 FM|
You know, Chad, we have had that info on the site before, but I don't know if it was up there last year. The point is, we should probably bring it back, shouldn't we? That's a rhetorical question; yes we should.
And we have! I spoke to my buddies that run this site, and you should expect to see this information on its own page soon.
- JB Wolf of Orlando, Florida asks:
Answer Man, I love to play the football games on xbox and ps2 so I was wondering, sometimes when you release a player to free agency your salary cap goes down. I don't understand how that would work. It shows the salary and cap charge but wouldn't your cap go up if you get rid of the salary you're paying the player?
Answer Man: The Answer Man is going to have to plead ignorance as to how the salary cap works in those games, having not played them myself. However, if they're trying to emulate the real NFL system – and it sounds like they are – then there is a very simple answer. We've actually discussed this topic quite a few times in my various columns, but there's no harm in touching on it again.
But let's keep it brief, because there have to be a few readers out there who are sick of this topic.
I assume when you say it confuses you that "sometimes when you release a player to free agency your salary cap goes down," you mean your available cap space goes down. In other words, you don't understand how removing a salary from your team could actually give you less cap space.
The answer, as always, is in the prorating of the player's signing bonus. I'll use my usual example, which is far simpler than most contracts but gets the point across.
Say our player is named John Answermanzik. Answermanzik signs a five-year contract in 2004 that gives him a $5 million signing bonus and a $1 million salary each year. To figure out the cap hit for each season, you prorate out the signing bonus hit – that is, you divided the $5 million bonus by the five years on the contract – and then you add it to that year's salary. In this very simple example, Ansermanzik's cap hit to his team will be $2 million per year.
The trick is, if a player is released with years remaining on his contract, than any signing bonus hit that has been prorated ahead to the remaining years suddenly "accelerates" to that year in which he's cut. So if the team holds on to Answermanzik for 2004 and 2005, then cuts him in 2006, his cap hit for that year will be $4 million. That's his $1 million salary, his original $1 million prorated portion of his signing bonus and the "accelerated" $1 million each for 2007 and 2008.
So Answermanzik costs your team $2 million against the cap if he stays, and $4 million if you cut him. As always you have to make the distinction between actual money (the player got his whole signing bonus up front) and cap hit (the signing bonus is prorated over the life of the contract).
I lied…couldn't keep it brief. As we all know, that's not one of Answer Man's superpowers.
- Andrew L. of Sarasota, Florida asks:
Hello Answerman, I have a quick question. You know how the NHL had a strike for about one season? Well, has the NFL (throughout its history) ever had a strike before? Full season, or even half a season? Thanks a lot, talk to you next time.
Answer Man: The NHL had a strike?
Oohoo, just kidding. That's just a little Answer Man humor there. I actually love hockey and we are all very proud of our still-defending champion Lightning here in Tampa. Let's move on.
I'm guessing you're a young fan, Andrew, though a well-spoken one. In fact, if you were born after 1987, then there has not been an NFL strike in your lifetime. That is thanks in large part to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was put into place in 1993, which has been the cornerstone of labor peace for a dozen years. The players and owners are working hard on a new agreement right now, so let's hope there isn't another NFL strike for the rest of your lifetime. Strikes (and lockouts) stink.
Anyway, back to your question. Yes, there have been player strikes in the NFL, most notably in 1982 and 1987. The league dealt with those two strikes in very different manners.
In 1982, the labor unrest led to almost half of the season's games being cancelled. The league eventually got in nine games per team, and scrapped its usual playoff format for something they called a Super Bowl Tournament. The divisions were erased and the top eight teams in each conference were put into the playoffs and seeded 1-8 according to their records. The Bucs finished seventh in the NFC with a 5-4 record and made the playoffs, losing to Dallas, 30-17 in the first round.
The players called the strike at midnight on Monday, September 20, right after a Giants-Packers Monday Night Football game. They returned to play on November 21-22 after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement had been reached, addressing such issues as minimum salaries, increases in postseason pay, medical insurance and retirement benefits. That CBA was to run through 1986, which helps explain why the next problem came in 1987.
In 1987, the strike came early in the year, after just two games had been played. The league chose to use replacement players, and each team hastily put together a new squad. Only one week was cancelled, then the replacement teams were ready to play. The league played three weeks in this manner before the strike ended and the regulars came back to play. The Bucs won two of their three replacement games but finished 4-11 overall. There was no new deal at the end of this strike.
- Larry of Visalia, California:
How many players from the 1976 season made it to the NFC championship game in 1979?
Answer Man: Cool question, Larry. Let's pull out the play-by-play from that NFC Championship Game and go through the names.
Well, first let's set the scene for young fans like (probably) Andrew above.
The Bucs first entered the league in 1976, along with Seattle, giving the NFL 28 teams. Without free agency or the salary-cap benefits that expansion teams of the current era have enjoyed, it was very difficult for the new franchises to build competitive teams. Thus, it wasn't terribly surprising that the Buccaneers got off to an 0-26 start over most of their first two seasons.
However, shrewd drafting and a sneakily-good defense got the Bucs into contention faster than anyone had the right to expect. A 5-0 start in 1979, just the team's fourth season, led to a 10-6 record, the NFC South title and the Bucs' first playoff berth. After beating Philadelphia in a thrilling Divisional-Round matchup in Tampa, the Bucs hosted the 1979 NFC Championship Game, facing the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, in a game that would echo 20 years later in the 1999 NFC Championship Game, the Bucs fell short in a defensive struggle, 9-0.
So, obviously the Bucs had to make some significant improvements to the roster between the early struggles of 1976 and the team that fell nine points shy of the Super Bowl in 1979, right? Well, yes. However, there was still a decent core of players on that '79 team who had been there at the beginning. Here's the list (for our purposes, any player who was on the 1976 team at any point counts):
- WR Isaac Hagins. He started the '79 game and had two catches for 42 yards. * T Dave Reavis. The starting left tackle in that '79 game, he was one of 38 players the Bucs got in the 1976 "veteran allocation draft," so he was truly one of the franchise's first players. * C Steve Wilson. The Bucs drafted Wilson as a tackle in 1976 but he became a long-time starter at center. * DE Lee Roy Selmon. Larry probably knew this one. The only Hall of Famer (so far) in team history, Selmon was the team's first-ever draft pick in 1976 (and the first player taken that year). He started the '79 playoff game, of course. * LB Richard Wood. Known as "Batman," Wood came to the Bucs in a draft-weekend trade in 1976 after spending one year with the Jets. A team captain in 1979, he had 18 tackles in that championship game. * S Mike Washington. A starter from his first season, the Bucs got Washington in a trade with the Colts on draft day. He started at RCB and had seven tackles and three passes defensed in the '79 playoff game. * S Mark Cotney. The strong safety, Cotney, like Reavis, arrived in the veteran allocation draft. He lasted through the 1984 season with the Buccaneers and was a starter his whole career. * S Cedric Brown. One of the top defensive backs in team history, Brown had the Bucs' career interceptions record for a long time before Donnie Abraham broke it. Brown, the starter at free safety, was barely a '76 Buc. He joined the team after 13 games that season, appeared in one contest and was traded to the Oakland Raiders after the season. The Raiders released Brown in the following preseason and he re-signed with the Buccaneers. * S/CB Curtis Jordan. The nickel back, Jordan was a 1976 draft pick. * CB Danny Reece. Better known as the team's fearless punt returner (only seven fair catches versus 222 career returns), Reece, a waiver claim in 1976 from Cincinnati, set an NFL record with 70 punt returns in 1979. * WR Morris Owens. A waiver-claim acquisition from Miami three games into the 1976 season, Owens led the team in receiving and scoring that first season. He was a reserve by 1979, his final Buc season, but he played in the game in question.
So, 11 players made it from that first season into the 1979 championship game, and many of them were starters. Not bad! Take a look at the secondary, in particular. Three-quarters of the starting four, plus the nickel back, were all players picked up in the very early days. The Bucs had the NFL's top-ranked defense in 1979, by the way.
As usual, I will finish things off with a round of quickies. These are questions that I've either answered before or don't require a large amount of explanation. Yeah, yeah, you already know that. But I've been gone for awhile and I just feel like I need to explain a few things again.
- Matt Holden of Tampa, Florida asks:
Answer Man, is it possible to get a scan of what the "Opponent Killer" stickers Jon Gruden is passing out look like?
Answer Man: By way of explanation, Matt is referring to the helmet stickers Gruden gave some of the players following the preseason opener at Tennessee. Such stickers, in the tradition of an Ohio State or Michigan, are not allowed by the NFL during games, but the Bucs have been wearing them in practice.
I thought we got a pretty nice shot of them during the second camp practice after that Tennessee game, on August 15. Click here to go to that photo page, then scroll to the bottom. When you click on the thumbnail to get the larger image, you'll get a pretty good look at the sticker. That's Michael Clayton's helmet, by the way.
- Andrew of Fairborn, Ohio asks:
I was just curious as to which side of the field is the Home (section 136?) side and which side is the Visitors side (section 110?). Thanks!
Answer Man: For a look at a diagram of the stadium, in case you want to see what Andrew is talking about, click here.
Andrew, I'm sorry to say that your guess was wrong. Section 110 is behind the Buccaneers' bench, while section 136 is behind the visitors' bench. The Bucs run through the tunnel between Sections 118 and 119 when coming onto the field, then take the bench on the West side of the stadium. The visitors run through the tunnel between Sections 102 and 103, then cross the field to the bench on the East side.
When a Buccaneer stands in front of the home bench, Buccaneers Cove and the Pirate Ship are two his left, on the North End.
- Wess Jacobs of Fort Myers, Florida asks:
Answer Man, Where have you been? Are you MIA or at a superhero convention in Vegas? Anyways, my question is since Levy Restaurants is taking over concessions, will the designated driver program still be in force. I'm quite fond of my free soft drink, especially since almost all of the regular season games are early. i.e. in the sun. Thanks, and if you get this, welcome back.
Answer Man: Thanks, Wes with two S's. Welcome back to you, too (a former contributor). I guess I explained where I've been in the intro, so I'll get right to your main question.
Yes, the Designated Driver Program is still in full effect. I can't imagine the stadium doing away with that wonderful concept. I first explained the program back in Series 1, Volume 15 thanks to another e-mail from Wess, and I think I'll just do a quick cut-and-paste here:
The program is run by Budweiser, and it's not unique to Raymond James Stadium. You'll find the same service at many sports venues. Yes, you get an arm-band, and just to be clear, you are given one free soft drink. I suppose an unlimited soda tap would be a bit more exciting, but then you'd probably miss a handful of plays while waiting in line at the restroom. Plus, the real reward is getting your buddies home safe.
Going back for that paragraph also served to remind me of the word Wess taught the Answer Man almost a year ago: bloviated. Thanks again for that.
- James of Owasso, Oklahoma asks:
What is the mailing address for fans to mail players requesting autographs?
Answer Man: James, anything you want to send to a player or coach should go to One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, FL 33607. All of the players' mail is sorted and put into their individual lockers here at team headquarters.
- John Footdale of Medford, Oregon asks:
I would like to know what happened to Tim Brown (#81 when with the Raiders).
Answer Man: Brown wore #81 with the Bucs, too. He finished his illustrious, 17-year NFL career in Tampa last year, catching 24 passes, including his 100th career touchdown, as a Buccaneer.
Brown retired earlier this summer, as most expected. You'll probably see him pop up on network NFL coverage pretty soon. Here's an article on Buccaneers.com written by an NFL.com correspondent that sums up Brown's career.
Okay, that's going to do it for the Answer Man this week. Not my longest effort ever, but it's still the preseason, and I'm rounding back into form like everyone else. Keep the questions coming, and like I said at the top, if you sent one during camp that you think deserves attention, send it again. We're starting fresh with the ol' e-mailbag.