Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Series 3, Vol. 3

The Buc fans’ man on the inside explains his lengthy absence then dives into such topics as fair catches, NFL schedule-making and the difference between “released” and “waived”

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When it gets to the point where two out of every three letters in the ol' mailbag start out with something like, "Where are you, Answer Man?" it's clearly time to whip up a new column.

Yeah, it's been awhile. Sorry about that, but it was unavoidable. See, the Buccaneers have had the Answer Man on the road for much of September, and the mailbag has been back in Tampa, straining the floorboards.

Where have I been? Well, have you ever heard of an advance scout?

This is one of those important but little-known jobs in the National Football League. Each team employs a cadre of college scouts, of course, and they spend the fall criss-crossing the nation's highways to evaluate standout college players. You know about those guys. But each team also employs a few advance scouts, who are concerned with the pro game. During the season, they are specifically concerned with their team's next few opponents.

For instance, the Bucs will play the New York Jets on October 9 and the Miami Dolphins on October 16. You can bet that on September 18, while the Buccaneers were at home beating the Buffalo Bills, an advance scout for the team was at the Meadowlands watching the Jets and Dolphins battle it out. He probably had an elaborate depth chart for each team in front of him, with space to jot down notes on all the players on both teams, as well as the teams' strategic tendencies.

When the advance scout gets back to team headquarters, he immediately puts together a lengthy scouting report on the team or teams he just witnessed. That scouting report becomes an important tool in the week leading up to the game in which his team plays the scouted team.

So that's what an advance scout does.

That's not what the Answer Man was doing. You don't really think they'd let me be an advance scout, do you? No, but have you ever heard of a travel coordinator?

It's actually a pretty complicated matter, moving an entire football team across the country for a brief stay in another city. The trip includes several very large meals, hundreds of rooms, plane and bus travel, dozens of meeting rooms, tons of playing equipment, audio/visual needs and various VIP amenities. Each trip needs to go extremely smoothly, so that coaches and players can concentrate on the task at hand without being distracted by the minutiae.

Travel coordinators oversee all of this. They generally do a lot of advance work on the phones and online, but on the weeks of away games they spend several days in the host city nailing down last-minute details. It's a job that is done well when you are barely noticed.

So that's what a travel coordinator does.

That's not what the Answer Man was doing. They're going to let the guy who shines the cleats figure out the payload for a 747? Uh, no. Have you ever heard of a Director of College Scouting...like you're going to buy that one.

No, simply put the Answer Man has been out interviewing possible assistants. Hey, I love buffing cleats, sorting mail and pulling weeds along the fence out back as much as the next guy, but it's getting hard to do that and get any of these columns out.

So that's where I've been. But I'm back, baby, so let's get to your questions.

**

Before we get to the football topics, here's one that could lead to some more feedback from the rest of you. After my huge success with the whole "Bucs' number-one rival" thing, I'm suddenly feel confident about these e-mail solicitations. Read on.

  1. Derek of Auburndale, Florida asks:

I was wondering about those groups at the Bucs' home games (Cadillac's Kids, Alstott's Army, etc...). What are they about and how do they get started? I think I've heard and/or assumed they are the players' charities. If so who makes up the names for them and can fans also give ideas for them?

Answer Man: You've got the basic idea, Derek. Those black banners that ring the wall around the field at Raymond James Stadium represent dozens of ticket programs started by Buccaneer players and coaches. In each case, the sponsor of the program purchases a block of tickets that is given to kids who might otherwise not be able to attend a game. In many instances, this is part of a larger program; the tickets are used as incentive to push the kids to meet the goals of the program and to stay out of trouble.

In most cases they have alliterative titles, such as the two you mention above, Clayton's Crew or the well-known Brooks' Bunch. Others play off the player's name or position in a more unusual way, like Shelton Quarles' group, the Q Ballers, or Brian Kelly's BK Corner. Probably the most interesting program name, in the Answer Man's opinion, is that of Joey Galloway: Blaze's 84th Air Squadron.

Alas, the Answer Man's all-time favorite ticket program name is no more. Oh the player is still around and he's still sponsoring a program, but he apparently had second thoughts about his original title. That's how Kenyatta Walker's program, which was once marvelously named Big Yatta's Little Yattas is now simply Yatta's Youngster. That's still good but it's not nearly as much fun to say. I guess I'll have to switch allegiances now to Ryan Nece's new program: Nece's Pieces. I am not making that up.

Ah, but maybe you would like to make one up. Judging from his question, Derek has a few ideas for new ticket program names. I could throw out a few, too. How about Mahan's Mayhem Makers? Or Hovan's Heroes? Think you could do better? Send in your ideas (that means you, Derek) and if there are any particularly good ones I'll put them into the next column AND hand them over to our Community Relations crew. Every time a player comes by and asks about setting up such a program, they have to come up with these witty names. You could make their lives a lot easier.

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  1. Rick of Tucson, Arizona asks:

**Answerman, could you please settle an argument between my brother and me? In honor of the fantastic punt on Sunday where the Bucs downed it on the 1 with the punt being caught in the air by Tampa Bay.

My question is, if a punt is punted really high, and has a long hang time. The punt returner is waiting on the 20 for the punt, and a member of the punting team runs down to the 25 yard line, stops and catches the ball in the air, is this legal? Or does he have to move out of the way and allow the receiving team that spot in order that they may attempt to field the ball? In my scenario, the kicking team in no way touched the returner, just got to the spot the ball came down at first. Does that make sense? Thanks for the answer.**

Answer Man: I understand your scenario, Rick, but no, to answer your last question, I don't think it makes any sense.

Your example puts the return man on the 20-yard line, waiting for the punt to come down. He'd have to misjudge it historically badly to still be standing at the 20 when it came down at the 25. The Answer Man has tried to field punts out on the practice field before, to laughably bad results; believe me, if you haven't done it you'll be surprised how hard it is to judge where they're coming down. Still, even when you get it wrong, you still run up or back at the last instant to try to get to it. If the return man was at the 20 and saw it coming down at the 25, wouldn't he run up to try to get it, causing contact? If that occurred, it would be a penalty, as outlined in Rule 10, Section 1, Article 4, Supplemental Note 1 in the NFL Rulebook:

A receiver running toward a kick in flight has the right of way and opponents must get out of his path to the ball. Otherwise it is interference irrespective of any contact or catch or whether any signal (valid or invalid) is given or not.

But we'll put that objection aside. Could you stand there and make the catch before the return man got to the ball, as long as you didn't make contact with him? No. That's actually covered in the above paragraph, but it's spelled out even more clearly in an example scenario a little further down that same page in the rulebook. It reads:

Receiver B1 does not signal for a fair catch and runs toward the punted ball in an attempt to catch it. A1 is in his way on the B30 and B1 can't get to the ball. The ball rolls to the B20 where it is downed by B2. Ruling: A 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul for interference with the opportunity to make a catch… etc.

Actually the very next scenario in the rulebook applies to your question even more directly. Let's check it out, shall we:

Offensive end A1 goes downfield under a punt. He is struck by the kick in flight on the B30 while standing in front of B2 who is ready to catch. B2 had signaled a fair catch. Ruling: Fair catch interference and B awarded fair catch whether the catch is made or not… etc.

Now, on the play that sparked this debate with your brother, Juran Bolden ran past the return man and caught Josh Bidwell's punt on the fly at the one-yard line, which was a perfectly legal play. The Answer Man can't remember if the Bills returner signaled for a fair catch, but it wouldn't have mattered. This is a fairly common ploy actually; the return man will signal a fair catch at the 10 with no intention of going after the ball, hoping to fool the cover men into heading in his direction and increase the chances that the ball bounces into the end zone for a touchback. Once he lets the ball fly over his head without making an attempt at it, he has given up his fair catch opportunity and the punting team may now go after the ball.

Incidentally, have you seen the play where the return man lets the ball go over his head and then blocks the cover man while the ball is still in the air to keep him from downing the ball? This is legal only if the return man has not called for a fair catch. If he does call for a fair catch, he can't block or even initiate contact with a cover man until the ball has hit the ground.

**

  1. Bryan of Alxandria, Virginia asks:

If Ronde Barber gets two more sacks he will become the first cornerback in NFL history to join the 20-20 Club (20 sacks and 20 interceptions). My question is very simple: who is in that club?

Answer Man: Your question is simple, yes, but it does have one tiny mistake in it. You said "If" Ronde Barber gets two more sacks; the correct phrase is "When" Ronde Barber gets two more sacks.

[Note: See what I mean? Since I started on this column, Barber got number 19, taking down Detroit's Joey Harrington on Sunday afternoon. He nearly had number 20 on a beautiful blitz on the Lions' final drive.]

You are correct that Barber would be the first man in that exclusive club who plays cornerback for a living. Logically, this is a feat that is going to lend itself more to the linebacker position than any other. Defensive linemen get a lot of sacks but only occasionally grab an interception; defensive backs get a lot of picks but only a few blitz enough and successfully enough to put up meaningful sack totals. Safeties, who blitz more than cornerbacks on most teams, are the next most likely group to score in both categories.

Thus, the list below is, not surprisingly, dominated by linebackers and safeties. It is also very, very short. Barber would be, amazingly, just the seventh man on the list.

The NFL's 20-20 Club

**Player****Position****Seasons****Ints.****Sacks**
LeRoy ButlerS1990-20013820.5
Rodney HarrisonS1994-Pres.3127.5
Seth JoynerLB1986-982452.0
Ray LewisLB1996-Pres.2023.0
Wilber MarshallLB1984-952345.0
William ThomasLB1991-20012737.0

Barber entered the 2005 season with 23 interceptions and 18 sacks so he was, as you say Bryan, two sacks shy of becoming the seventh 20-20 man in league annals. Now he's only one sack away.

Will he get it? Come on! He's already there in picks and he's just one good blitz away from getting there in sacks. He had three sacks apiece in 2002 and 2004 and 1.5 in 2003, so all he has to do is maintain the pace he's on to get there. Barber's also just 30 and in peak condition physically (he says he feels healthier coming into this season than he has in awhile), so maybe he can stick around for awhile and try to become the first 30-30 man ever.

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  1. Charles Barber of Palm Harbor, Florida asks:

Oh Great Answer Guru, riddle me this. How many defending Super Bowl champions (besides our beloved Bucs) did not get to open their season at home? Say like in the last ten years. I'm still burning that we had to open in Philly, yet New England opens at home.

Answer Man: Did anybody else notice that transition, from a question about a Barber to one by a Barber. Anyone? Sigh.

Sadly, these are the kinds of things that delight the Answer Man, right up there with statistical breakdowns of third-down attempts, flea-flickers and the NFL Rulebook (just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention).

Anyway, back to Mr. Barber's question. Though he doesn't specifically say it, Charles is referring to where a team starts the next season after winning the Super Bowl. In one respect, the Bucs started the next season in Japan, because that's where the preseason opener, the 2003 American Bowl against the Jets, was held. But, of course, Charles is talking about the regular-season opener, in which the defending champs are almost always put in some kind of interesting spotlight game, such as this year's Thursday night matchup of Oakland and New England.

And, as Charles hints, they're almost always at home to start the season. It has long seemed like an unofficial reward to the champs, a game of national interest on their own home turf. In many cases, it is also a rematch of an important game from late in the previous season. In 2002 for instance, the defending-champ Patriots started out with a home game against Pittsburgh, the team they had defeated in the previous season's AFC Championship Game. In 2004, after the Patriots had again won the Super Bowl the previous January, they opened at home against the Indianapolis Colts, who had been their AFC Championship Game victim that time around.

The Bucs got a similar game, a rematch against Philadelphia, the team they had beaten - on the road - to advance to Super Bowl XXXVII. Here's the kicker, though: They had to play the Eagles on the road...on Monday night…in the brand new Lincoln Financial Field. Sylvester Stallone, Rocky himself, was there to deliver an inspirational message before kickoff. Not much of a reward.

Forget for a second that the Bucs absolutely dominated the Eagles again, winning 17-3 to spoil the Linc's debut. Believe me, that opener didn't go over well at Buccaneer headquarters. Where was the Bucs' reward for winning the Super Bowl? Where was the triumphant home opener, the perfect setting for a ring ceremony in front of the fans?

Every single defending Super Bowl champion from 1997 through 2002 started at home, as did the two champs after the Bucs in 2003 and '04…well, the one champ twice over. Before the Bucs in '03, the last defending champ to start on the road was Dallas, which won Super Bowl XXX in January of 1996 then opened at Chicago the next September (losing 22-6).

So it's easy and quite defensible to complain about the Bucs' tough draw in 2003. But we should also keep this in mind: While the order of the games on the schedule can be manipulated to come up with these marquee early-season matchups, the opponents and locations of every game the defending champs will play is already determined.

In other words, a Philadelphia-at-Tampa Bay opener for 2003 would have been nice, but it was never an option. The previously-determined scheduling formula had the Bucs at the Eagles at some point in 2003. Now, one could argue that there were plenty of other home-game options for the Bucs that would have been exciting – Carolina, Green Bay, the Giants, Atlanta – but one must also concede that the Eagles were probably the most interesting opponent on the Bucs' docket. Throw in the opening of the Linc, and it was just too good for the NFL and the networks to pass up, apparently.

So, in summary Charles, I wouldn't try to talk you down from your anger. You are in some ways justified. But I can still remember the days leading up to the announcement of the schedule that spring, and there was a general feeling that the league and the networks would do exactly what they did.

And the Bucs responded like champions on that Monday night, even if that would prove to be the high point of the season.

**

  1. Mario of Tampa, Florida asks:

Let's see if you can answer this faster than a speeding Cadillac! How is the NFL schedule determined? Thanks!

Answer Man: Am I rolling with the smooth transitions, or what?

If you read the last answer, you'll know that the schedule is manipulated each year, to some extent, to get the best matchups into the prime slots, such as Monday night, and Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

Still, a good portion of it is formulaic, and another portion of it is dependent on outside influences. For instance, if the Florida Marlins are due to play a home game in Dolphins Stadium on Sunday, September 11, the league isn't going to put the Dolphins at home that same weekend.

There are two aspects of making the schedule: Determining the opponents and setting the dates and times.

The first aspect is very formulaic. In fact, I can tell you, in 15 seconds or less, 14 of the Bucs' 16 opponents for the 2009 season. Ready? Atlanta twice, Carolina twice, New Orleans twice, Dallas, Philly, Washington, New England, Buffalo, Miami and the Giants and Jets (both New York teams here in Tampa, by the way). Okay, I guess whether or not that took 15 seconds or less depends on how quickly you read, but you get the point.

The Bucs' final two opponents in 2009 will be whichever teams from the NFC North and NFC West finish in the same spots in their divisions as the Bucs do in the NFC South.

That last bit is a nod to the way the NFL used to do its scheduling, before the realignment in 2002. The shorthand for that method was "strength of schedule," and it basically meant that if you finished in first one year, you would mainly play teams (outside of your division opponents) who also finished first or second the year before.

Now the NFL is on more of a prearranged rotation, without regard to strength of schedule other than those two games each year, as mentioned above. The Bucs, for instance, will play mostly NFC East and AFC North opponents next year (outside of division games) and mostly NFC West and AFC South opponents in 2007. And so on. When those divisions come around in the rotation a few years down the road, the teams Tampa Bay played on the road the previous time will now come to Raymond James Stadium. It's a good thing the Bucs won at Lambeau last weekend, because the only way they'll go back any time soon is if they finish in the same spot in the standings as the Packers in 2006 or 2007.

Since the opponents are mostly determined, the more difficult part by far is setting the dates and times. The first thing to do is take stock of all the possible obstacles, such as baseball games and other commitments that certain stadiums may have. The NFL also knows it can't schedule the Jets and Giants at home on the same weekend – or at least on the same day - since they share a stadium. They have to worry about the fairness of bye weeks, because a late bye for a playoff-bound team can be a big advantage. And, most importantly, they have to accommodate the networks.

That's why the whole thing isn't done by computers, as one might suspect it is. Oh, computers are involved, but there is a definite human touch. For many, many years, that human touch was provided by a highly-valued league employee named Val Pinchbeck. Pinchbeck died in March of 2004 when he was struck by a car in New York, but his creativity and hard work in creating the annual schedules will be long remembered.

Pinchbeck and other league executives have always accepted input from the teams and the networks before devising each year's schedule, but never after. What is produced is final, though there are occasionally changes in starting times to put games that prove to be marquee matchups into more of a national spotlight. Obviously, extraordinary circumstances like Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of New Orleans can result in changes to the schedule.

There are a lot of factors taken into account when devising the schedule, such as the importance of intradivision games. For instance, the league would like to avoid putting both of the Bucs' games against the Falcons in the first four or five weeks of the season considering how important they may be. Also, you can't put a team on the road for more than three weeks in a row, and even stretches that long are usually avoided.

The Bucs did draw a three-game road swing this year, and it's a doozy – New Orleans, Carolina and New England in December. But look at how the division game are stacked at the end – five of the Bucs' last seven games are against Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta.

It's a tough job, making the NFL schedule each year, and it's virtually impossible to please every club. In the end, though, it is usually very competitively balanced, at least in the Answer Man's opinion.

**

  1. Rob of Sarasota, Florida asks:

The Bucs have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in their entire existence. What is the number of attempts up to now? I'm guessing around 3500.

Answer Man: Is that your final answer, Rob?

The Answer Man must be a glutton for punishment, putting another question like this into the column. It's incredible how fixated we Buc fans seem to be on this little statistic, considering how ultimately meaningless it is. Therefore, I'm going to take my frustration over this topic out on you, Rob. I'm sorry in advance.

So, you're guess is 3,500, right? Okay, let's break that down.

The Bucs have played 29 seasons and four games. Given the two strike-shortened seasons and the fact that the 1976 and '77 seasons were only 14 games long, it's really more like 28 and a half seasons. To be exact, 456 games.

Dude, if you want to get to 3,500 that works out to almost eight kickoff returns per game. How many games have you seen where the Bucs have had to return eight kickoffs? Jiminy Christmas (to quote Coach Gruden), they've only had 13 kickoff returns this entire season through four games. The opposing team has to score (or get nailed for a safety) seven times to kick off eight times, and then you're assuming that each kick is returned. There is such a thing as a touchback, you know.

Look at it another way. To get 3,500 returns in roughly 28.5 seasons, the Bucs would have to average 123 runbacks per season. The team record for kickoff returns in a single season is 80. To paraphrase Monty Python, not for the first time, "3,500 is way off." How far off? Try double.

Have I thoroughly registered my disgust with this topic yet? I thought so. So here's your answer. Through last Sunday's win over Detroit, the Bucs have recorded 1,718 kickoff returns. Maybe number 1,719 will kill this topic forever.

**

  1. Robert Pompano of New Haven, Connecticut asks:

What is the difference between releasing a player and waiving a player?

Answer Man: That's an innocent little question that could have a very long answer, Robert. As much as long answers are usually unavoidable when I start to ramble, I'm going to try to cut through all the stuff we don't need and give you an abbreviated response.

There are lots and lots of ways for players to be removed from a team's active roster, including a variety of reserve lists, such as "reserve/physically unable to perform" and "reserve/did not report." Over the course of a few years, a team will use just about all of them in one way or another.

However, what I think you're asking me about here is the more straightforward process of "cutting" a player, and that's what we're going to focus on.

So what's the difference between "releasing" and "waiving" a player in the NFL? Well, the main difference is that the first one doesn't technically exist, at least not in the league's official terminology.

You can't be blamed for thinking that it does, because the term "released" is used frequently as the description when a player is let go. In fact, this web site likes to use that term to describe transactions. For instance, when the Bucs re-signed WR Mark Jones on September 7, they cleared space by waiving WR Larry Brackins. The story on our site read, "To make room on the active roster, the Bucs' released … fifth-rounder Larry Brackins."

That's not a rip on my Bucs.com buddies. There's nothing wrong with the term; think of it as sort of a catch-all for the idea of cutting a player. "Release" sounds a lot less harsh than "cut." In each case, it is replacing a more technical term like "waive" or "terminate." Believe me, there are hundreds of technical terms in the arena of contracts, free agency and player movement that few of us ever get the urge to explore.

But I'm guessing, Robert, that you were trying to get at a distinction that does exist between the two common ways of releasing a player (see, I just did it right there). If you are planning to release a player (I did it again!), it basically comes down to whether he is a vested veteran or not. A vested veteran is a player who has accrued four years of NFL service, and is thus eligible for full free agency.

If you're releasing a player who is not yet a vested veteran, then you "waive" him. He then goes on the waiver wire for 24 hours (a week during the offseason). If no team claims him in that period, he becomes a free agent. When the Bucs waived Brackins, they waited for him to clear waivers and then they re-signed him to the practice squad.

If you're releasing a player who is a vested veteran, then you have to perform a "termination of vested veteran." That's how the Bucs released T Derrick Deese, for instance. When a player is terminated in this manner, he immediately becomes a free agent, bypassing the waiver system.

By the way, even saying you've "waived" a player is a little bit of a short cut. The actual term is "waiver, no recall." At one point, the NFL had a waiver option like the one you see in baseball, in which you can dangle a guy on waivers, see if there is any interest in claiming him, then pull him back if you wish. Or, if you preferred, you could simply designated the player as "waiver, no recall." That recall option no longer exists, but the "no recall" term has stuck.

**

  1. Nathan Howells of Faribault, Minnesota asks:

I was born in Minnesota, but at a very young age I moved to Tampa. I quickly discovered that I did not bleed purple, but creamsicle orange. I have since returned to Minnesota, but my memories of watching the Bucs at the Sombrero will always stay with me. One of my favorite memories is that of Reggie Cobb seemingly going down at the line-of-scrimmage, but somehow managing to flip over the pile, land on his feet and run unscathed into the end zone. I tell my friends that I was at the game when this happened, and that it was against their precious Vikings. I would like to have some evidence that this actually took place, that it happened in Tampa, and that it happened while I was living there. I would also like to see some archived video footage of this great run (if indeed my memory is not playing tricks on me). Did Cobb ever do anything remotely like I described and where can I find footage if he did?

Answer Man: Mmm, creamsicles. That's really an underrated treat, you know. The Answer Man hasn't had one in a long, long time, sadly.

Yes, this happened, Nathan, and you got most of the details right except two that are, oh, kind of important. That was Lars Tate, not Reggie Cobb. And it was against the Phoenix Cardinals, not the Minnesota Vikings.

Here's the scene. It's September 18, 1988 in the Old Sombrero and the Bucs are trailing Phoenix (they wouldn't change their name to the Arizona Cardinals until later) 23-17. Facing a third-and-one at the Cardinals' 47, Vinny Testaverde hands off to the rookie back. Tate dives over the pile for the necessary yardage, and he gets it, but that wasn't all he would get.

Somehow, as he comes down on the other side of the pile, Tate rolls over the bodies of the Cardinal defenders without touching the ground, lands right on his feet and takes off to the end zone. Forty-seven yards later, he has a touchdown and the Bucs are up 24-23. Phoenix would rally for the game-winning score in a 30-24 decision, but Tate's play would become a staple of NFL highlight reels for years to come.

By the way, just to make sure I wasn't missing a similar play performed by Cobb, I called the former Buc back, since he is now back with the team as a scout. I mean, I was here back in Cobb's day, but I don't claim to remember every snap.

I think Cobb's been asked this question before, too, because he immediately said, "No, that was Lars Tate." Cobb attributes that to the fact that, after starting his career in jersey number 33, he then switched to 34, which was the number Tate wore right before him.

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  1. Chris of Tampa, Florida asks:

Karl Williams was a long-time Buccaneer who is better known as Karl "The Truth" Williams. I have always wondered exactly how he earned this unusual nickname. I knew if anyone could answer this question, it would be you, Answer Man. I mean, after all, you could never be stumped by a question, right?

Answer Man: Okay, I have to admit, I've seen this one in my mailbag before and skipped over it. It's not that it was too hard; quite the contrary. I just didn't think it was all that interesting (unlike Williams himself, who was a very entertaining player).

But I didn't want to risk having a fan out there thinking he stumped me with this softball, so I'll go ahead and take it on.

Karl Williams was nicknamed "The Truth" simply because that's what they used to call the professional boxer by the same name. I'm not sure if he had already been slapped with that moniker before he arrived in Tampa in 1996, but the Answer Man was around during that training camp and it was stuck on him pretty quick.

Now, the Answer Man doesn't know much about Karl Williams the boxer – the sweet science is not my job nor my area of expertise – and there is surprisingly little information about him on the web. So, if you want to know how the original nickname came about for Karl "The Truth" Williams, you're going to have to look it up on your own.

**

As usual, for those of you who even remember that I used to post fairly regularly, here are a few "quickies" to finish things up. These are questions that I've either answered before or that I feel need relatively little explanation.

  1. Douglas Faulkner of Nashville, Tennessee asks:

Answer man I saw the Bucs play live for the first time in 10 years on 8-12-05 in Nashville it was great to be in my pewter and red amidst all the sea of blue and even greater when the game was won by my life long favorite team. I have been a Bucs fan since 1976 when we came into the league and have supported them when we were laughingstocks but now is our year for our second ring. Now for the question I have: Derek Watson, what is his status on our team. Is he on the roster or just on the practice squad?

Answer Man: I only claimed the answers would be quickies, not necessarily the questions. We also seem to have a bit of "stream-of-consciousness" thing going here with Doug's letter.

Anyway, your answer is: Derek Watson is currently on the Bucs' practice squad.

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  1. Mark Snodgrass of Greenville, North Carolina asks:

Oh great one, please settle an argument between my wife and I. She says it is a league regulation that a player is required to own a home in the city (or general area) of the team they play for. I say that doesn't make sense since many players low on the totem pole may not be on the team long enough to even find a house to buy, and that many of those end up staying in hotels and/or short term apartments. Thanks in advance for short(ish) answer. GO BUCS!!!

Answer Man: That's a weird one. I can't imagine where your wife got that idea. But then again, she married into the last name of "Snodgrass," so one might question her judgment right off the bat.

No, there is no such requirement in the NFL. As you suggest, many young players rent, stay in hotels or crash with a buddy until they feel more established. Given the amount of movement in the league since free agency was introduced in 1993, it would be asking a lot to force a player to establish a permanent residence everywhere his career took him.

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  1. Amanda Wedgeworth of Saucier, Mississippi asks:

Where was Matt Mauck born?

Answer Man: I included this one mainly because I thought it was bizarre that anyone would ask the Bucs' Answer Man about a player who has never been associated with the Buccaneers in any way. I don't know why Ms. Wedgeworth of Saucier Mississippi (is that anywhere near Hot Coffee?) would come to me with this request, but I'm happy to oblige. Of course, if she could send this e-mail, she could probably find the answer on the web as quickly as I could, but whatever.

Matt Mauck, currently the third quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, was originally drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round in 2004, out of Louisiana State. Mauck was born in Evansville, Indiana.

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  1. William of Landover, Maryland asks:

How many times did the Bucs go to the Super Bowl?

Answer Man: Once. The Bucs played in and won Super Bowl XXXVII in January of 2003. They beat the Oakland Raiders, 48-21.

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  1. Lane of Tampa, Florida asks:

The patch that the player are wearing on the front of their shirts, what does it stand for?

Answer Man: It commemorates the Bucs' 30th season. Tampa Bay's first season was 1976.

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  1. Matt of Sacramento California asks:

What are your team colors? We have a dispute in the office that you would be considered orange or red. Can you please clarify.

Answer Man: The Buccaneers' official colors are Pewter and Buccaneer Red. Black and orange are considered complimentary colors.

**

  1. Mae Harvey of Winter Haven, Florida asks:

We are scheduled to play the New Orleans Saints on Dec 4, 2005 in New Orleans. Will this game be played by chance at Tampa instead? If so, will tickets be available and when? Thanks.

Answer Man: You sent this question awhile ago, Mae, so you may have already heard the answer. If not, here it is. That game will be played in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the LSU campus. The Saints, who played their first "home" game in New York, are splitting the rest of their home schedule between San Antonio and Baton Rouge. I assume that renders your ticket question moot.

**

  1. Frank of Oldsmar, Florida:

I would like to know who the first quarterback for the Bucs was, please.

Answer Man: Steve Spurrier, current head coach at South Carolina, was the starting quarterback in the Bucs' first regular-season game in 1976. Parnell Dickinson also played quarterback in that game, against Houston on September 12, 1976, and Terry Hanratty and Larry Lawrence also threw a few passes that season.

**

  1. Mick Dogherty of Southampton, England asks:

Got tickets for the Panthers game at Raymond James and wondered how the seat rows are labeled. My tickets are for section 243 row 'D' but on the web site the pictures of seating views for rows are numbered. Is there a point where the rows turn from numbers to letters (or vise versa)?

Answer Man: Well, that nice little feature has been up on the web site since it was launched in 1999, so I can't say for sure that anyone remembers why the pictures were labeled as "Row 10" and "Row 25" when in fact the rows have always been marked with letters.

Still, changing it to say Row J or Row Y or whatever probably wouldn't be that helpful. That doesn't give you an immediate sense of how high up in the section that seat is. So, instead, we've changed it to "10th Row" and "25th Row."

Row D would be four rows into the section, so it would be a bit closer than the lower picture for that section.

**

Okay, timeout. This could go on forever, but I've gotta call it a column here. Having been out of pocket for almost a month, I wanted to get to more of your questions, but I'll never get this one up on the site if I don't wrap it up soon.

There are a bunch of e-mails I haven't looked at yet, but there was also a handful of questions that I pulled out with the intention of getting them into this column. It didn't happen, but they will absolutely be in the next column. To make sure the questioners look out for their answers, here are the ones I punted this week:

Kier Murphy of Hartford, South Dakota asks if defensive coordinators can be elected to the Hall of Fame. Giles O'Dell wants to know about the Bucs' NFL-record sack and turnover streaks of a few years back. John Tillyard of Leeds is curious about the purpose of the pylons at the back of the end zone. Kevin of Tampa saw a ref get hit with a pass and wants to know what happens in that situation. And Eric of Brandon wants the Answer Man to get to the bottom of the Michael Clayton one-eye patch thing.

Take care, Buc fans, and keep the questions coming.

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