The Answer Man's winning streak is officially over. At one.
It was exciting while it lasted, though.
See, your question-conquering pal at One Buccaneer place chose to ignore his own history, and thus – say it with me – was doomed to repeat it.
Simply because I had received an unusually large dose of feedback when I tossed the "Bucs' biggest rival" back at all of you, I thought I could do it again in the last column, asking for cute names for the Buccaneer player's ticket programs.
Uh, not so much. Two lessons here, in descending order of how incredibly obvious they should have been to the Answer Man:
1) "Who is the Bucs' biggest rival in all the NFL?" is infinitely more interesting than "What would you name Chris Hovan's ticket program?" I can imagine two Buc fans sitting at their local eatery during a game and arguing over which team they despise more, the Eagles or the Panthers? I don't see these same two fans heatedly comparing the relative merits of "Ike's Tykes" and "Jeb's Celebs."
2) My e-mail solicitations (almost) never work. The rivalry thing was an exception. In general, you all care about your questions, not mine. Someone please pull my cape really tight around my neck next time I'm contemplating another call-and-response.
The downside to all of this, if you're me, is that a good response would have led to a ready-made intro for this column and more time to track down answers to the questions below. Instead, I got a total of three e-mails on the subject, hardly enough to build a single paragraph around. For the record, here are the meager suggestions I received for names for potential player ticket programs at the stadium, along with my comments:
Mark of St. Petersburg sent four: Cadillac's Pit Crew (I like that one), Hovan's Heroes (uh, that was my idea in the last article, thief), Graham's Crackers (surely you can see the potential problem with this one) and Ruud's Manners (cute, but meaningless).
Jay of Tampa sent one: Booger's Babies (that just sounds gross, and the teenaged kids involved might be insulted).
David Williams of Hernando sent six, two of which I chose not to print. Here are the other four: Derrick's Double Nickels (clever, but he is pretty entrenched with "Brooks' Bunch"), Gruden's Grungies (alliterative, but I don't get it), Booger's Buggers (I think we need to take McFarland's nickname out of the equation) and Ronde's Retrievers (I don't get that at all).
And that's it. Hope you enjoyed that; you didn't get any younger while you were reading it.
Since that idea fell apart, I decided to run with an unrelated fan question a little bit for the rest of the intro. Here's the question:
Boje of Broken Bow, Nebraska or Oklahoma, I guess asks:
First I want to congratulate the Bucs on a 4-0 start, that's awesome!! Here's my question. What is the single season rushing record for a rookie? Is Carnell "Cadillac" Williams on pace to break that record? Do you think he will continue to get 30 carries a game while he's healthy?
Answer Man: As you probably could have guessed, I had several mailbags full of Caddy-related questions, many of them along the lines of "What do you think Cadillac will do…etc., etc." There's not much the Answer Man can do with that type of question; I mean, who cares what I think he'll do?
But Boje here at least gives me some statistical nuggets to chew on. Plus, and this is no small thing, his name is "Boje." I like that. I find myself wondering how that's pronounced. Bowzhe? Bowjee? Baaghe? Bodge? And he's from a place called Broken Bow, on top of it all? That's good stuff.
Obviously, his question dates itself a little bit, but that's not Boje's fault. It was sent in before the team's loss at New York and win at home over the Dolphins, two games in which Cadillac didn't play. The furor over Williams' early workload has died down and now the focus is just on getting him back on the field.
Still, if you just returned from 39 days on Survivor and you didn't know how the Bucs had raced out to a 5-1 start, you would probably be pretty thrilled with Caddy's 447 rushing yards through six games. I mean, that's still good enough for eighth in the entire NFL, even though he has essentially missed half the season. The long layoff due to his foot injury has quieted the worry over his projected number of carries, but it doesn't mean he's out of the running for that rookie rushing record.
That record is, to finally answer your question, Mr. Bojangles, 1,808 yards by the Los Angeles Rams' Eric Dickerson in 1983. Here, let me give you the top 10 rookie rushing seasons in league history:
|1. Eric Dickerson||L.A. Rams||1983||390||1,808||4.6||18|
|2. George Rogers||New Orleans||1981||378||1,674||4.4||13|
|3. Ottis Anderson||St. Louis||1979||331||1,605||4.8||8|
|4. Edgerrin James||Indianapolis||1999||369||1,553||4.2||13|
|5. Clinton Portis||Denver||2002||273||1,508||5.5||15|
|6. Mike Anderson||Denver||2000||297||1,487||5.0||15|
|7. Barry Sanders||Detroit||1989||280||1,470||5.3||14|
|8. Earl Campbell||Houston||1978||302||1,450||4.8||13|
|9. Curt Warner||Seattle||1983||335||1,449||4.3||13|
|10. Jerome Bettis||L.A. Rams||1983||294||1,429||4.9||7|
Williams may have a tough time unseating Dickerson at this point, but that would certainly be a nice group to join. Sanders, Bettis and Dickerson are all among the top six rushers in NFL history, and Ottis Anderson and Campbell are in the top 20. James, already 24th on the list, is still going strong, as are Mike Anderson and Portis. Neither Rogers nor Warner cracked the top 40 all-time, but both had fine careers.
So, let's assume Cadillac comes back after the bye week and plays at San Francisco (please, please, please!). That would give him 10 more games this season to chase that top 10. Right now he has 447 yards, which means he would need to average, roughly, 100 yards per game to climb onto the bottom of the list.
To unseat Portis and get into the top five, Williams would need to up the pace just a little bit, to 106.2 yards per game. To catch Dickerson, he would need to really rev it up, to 136.1 yards per game.
Of course, when Williams had 434 yards through the first three games of the season – an NFL record for a player starting his career – there were breathless pronouncements that he was on pace for an NFL-record 2,315 yards. That just goes to show you how useless it is to project a player's 16-game totals after a three-game "pace." So many things can happen over the next 13 weeks; in this case, it was a strained arch. Williams still looks like one of the best rookie backs to hit the NFL in awhile, but he's now a long shot to break Dickerson's record.
Do I think he will continue to get 30 carries a game when healthy? Well, my initial answer would be, "Who knows?" However, on further contemplation I would have to say no.
Even during the first three games, when he was setting a record "pace" for carries, Cadillac only reached the 30-carry plateau in one of those games, at Green Bay in Week Three. The Bucs were trying to run out the clock and keep the frightening Brett Favre off the field, and Williams kept picking up big chunks of yardage even when the Packers knew he was coming. In other words, game strategy dictated his 38 totes that day.
Looking at the NFL leader board, there isn't a single back in the NFL who is averaging 30 carries a game. Not one. Not Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James or even LaDainian Tomlinson. In most games, there just aren't enough snaps to get the feature back 30 carries, particularly when a good number of those snaps (i.e. third-and-long) are plays in which you're rarely going to run it.
Take the Bucs. Through six games they're averaging 65 offensive plays per contest. If you split that directly down the middle between runs and passing plays (and most teams skew a little more towards passing plays), that's only about 32 carries per game. You'd have to give Caddy virtually every carry for the rest of the year – and have a lead in most of your games – to have him come close to averaging 30 carries per game.
Okay, off my soapbox. The Answer Man's main point is, the Bucs will use Williams as often as he can provide them with effective carries that lead to victories. Let's not worry too much about per-game averages.
Now, on to your questions.
- Kier Murphy of Hartford, South Dakota asks:
Can a defensive coordinator, like Monte Kiffin, be elected to the Hall of Fame?
Answer Man: The Answer Man likes your line of thinking here, Kier, and furthermore, I think you can back this idea up with action.
First off, the answer to your question is yes, a defensive coordinator can be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So can a special teams coach, a general manager or a trainer. Let me read to you a paragraph from the official selection process information provided by the Hall.
"Any fan may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player must have been retired for at least five years before he can be considered. … For a non-player, there is no mandatory retirement period, but a coach must be retired before he may be considered. Every nomination received will be processed and forwarded to the Board of Selectors."
The Board of Selectors, by the way, is a group of 39 member of the media that covers the NFL, with at least one in each NFL city. Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune is the board member from Tampa. Membership is open-ended; that is, once you're on the board, as long as you regularly attend meetings, you're on for as long as you wish. Kinda like the Supreme Court, just without all the wildly-entertaining hearings.
In other words, Kier, you could personally nominate Kiffin for consideration by the Hall of Fame! Got an envelope and a stamp? Here's the address:
Pro Football Hall of Fame 2121 George Halas Drive NW Canton, OH 44708
It should be noted that there are only 20 coaches in the Hall of Fame right now, and all of them were head coaches at one point (a good number of the inductees from the early years were player-coaches, such as Guy Chamberlin and Jimmy Conzelman). Those Hall of Famers you might consider "modern-era" coaches (from the 1960's on, let's say) include Joe Gibbs, Marv Levy, George Allen, Bud Grant, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Hank Stram and Bill Walsh.
There are also 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who fall under the catch-all category of "Contributors." This includes famous team founders, owners and administrators, and many who fell into (or still fall into) several categories, such as George Halas, Jim Finks, Lamar Hunt, Al Davis, Tex Schramm, Art Rooney, Dan Rooney and George Marshall. There are a couple commissioners on this list, including Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle.
Probably the most unique inclusion on this list is Hugh "Shorty" Ray, who was a "Technical Advisor on Rules" and "Supervisor of Officials."
No, it doesn't appear as if there are any Hall of Famers (yet!) who would be considered "just" defensive coordinators. The Answer Man suspects that's because most of the great D-coordinators through the years have at some point become head coaches. That's not a knock on Monte – he certainly could have had his hat in the ring for several head coaching jobs had he wished.
I hope you decide to write that letter, Kier. Kiffin has truly been a star in his area of the game. Simply by popularizing the "Cover Two," he has made a significant impact on the game over the last decade.
- Giles O'Dell of Olympia, Washington asks:
Do the Bucs hold the record for most games in a row with both an interception and a sack? I seem to remember them making a run a few years ago at a record like that that had been held by the Cowboys.
Answer Man: I don't know if you read some of the nimble question-to-question segues in my last column, Giles, but I think this tops them. And, again, I'm probably the only one who cares, so why am I bringing it up again?
See, we were just discussing, in a roundabout way, Monte Kiffin and his Hall of Fame possibilities. Now comes your question, and the answer can be lifted straight out of Kiffin's bio in the Bucs' media guide. (Which also means that this was a pretty easy question for the Answer Man, but I need a breather before tackling the next one down the page, about pylons in the back of the end zone.)
For a long time in this decade, the Bucs' defense had dual sack and turnover streaks going (yes, a turnover streak, not specifically an interception streak). That led to a week-by-week watch of three different record pursuits:
- Most consecutive games with a sack; 2. Most consecutive games with a takeaway; 3. Most consecutive games with a sack and a takeaway.
All three ended up among the greatest runs in modern NFL history, but only one set a new league record.
From October 10, 1999, through November 9, 2003, the Buccaneers' defense came up with at least one sack in 69 consecutive games. Interestingly, the streak began and ended with the Green Bay Packers. That is, the first game in the run was a 26-23 loss at Green Bay in 1999 and the game that ended the streak, the first game without a sack in over four years, was a 20-13 loss to the Packers in Tampa.
That is the longest streak in NFL history of consecutive games with at least one sack.
The Bucs' string of consecutive games with at least one turnover forced was nearly as impressive, lasting 54 games. It began during a thrilling, 41-13 win over Minnesota at home on October 29, 2000 and also ended in 2003, when the Bucs failed to record a takeaway in a 16-3 win over Houston on December 14.
That streak of consecutive games with at least one takeaway stands as the second-longest in the NFL over the last 20 years.
As you can see, those two streaks overlapped for most of their existences. The takeaway streak started about a season later than the sack streak but lasted four games longer. Thus, the third streak, the one that combines the two, lasted a neat 50 games, beginning with that Minnesota contest in 2000 and ending with that Green Bay game in 2003.
That streak of consecutive games with at least one sack and at least one takeaway was the longest in the NFL since 1963.
(Note: All of these streaks include regular-season games only.)
Pretty cool, huh?
- John Tillyard of Leeds, United Kingdom asks:
I've wondered for a long time what the pylons at the back of the end zone are for? I never even knew they were there until I saw them on a replay of Jurevicius' tiptoe TD catch on MNF two years ago. The ones at the front are clearly to tell if a ballcarrier reached the end zone before going out of bounds, like that wide TD run Michael Pittman had against KC last year. But you don't need that at the back of the end zone. Also, I heard someone say the other day "the goal line extends round the world" what does that mean? Does it mean Griese could throw the ball into the stands and as long as a Bucs receiver caught it, it would be a TD?
Answer Man: Please allow me to address these in reverse order, John, because I want to get that "goal-line around the world" thing out of the way first.
I've actually covered that topic before, not surprisingly because that description of the goal line's properties is definitely confusing. People sometimes use the term "infinite plane" to describe the way the goal line is treated.
There are two things we must clear up here. First, there are vertical and horizontal planes to be considered. A ballcarrier scores a touchdown when he has possession of the ball as it crosses the plane of the goal line. In this case, that is a reference to the vertical plane. That is, the ball doesn't actually have to touch the painted line, it just has to cross its plane somewhere above the line.
There is a horizontal plane, too, and yes, it extends infinitely past the sidelines on both sides, which means technically, yes, it does extend all the way around the globe. However, since there are no people whose bodies can stretch infinitely around the globe, that point is somewhat irrelevant.
Here's the basic thing you need to know in this conversation: The ballcarrier needs to be inbounds with possession of the ball before he takes advantage of that infinite plane. Thus, a running back could sweep towards the front corner of the end zone and dive across, putting the ball across the goal line while out of bounds. That works as long as he dives from inbounds. If he steps on the sideline as he's diving, then he's already out of bounds before he gets the ball to the goal line.
That does not work for a receiver catching a pass, so no, you won't see Michael Clayton landing in Section 114 and doing a touchdown dance in the front row. See, the receiver would already be out of bounds when he caught the ball. He needs to get two feet inbounds at some point after catching the ball and before landing out of bounds to have a legal reception, let alone a touchdown.
Okay, that's the part I had to "get out of the way," doing so in an economical six paragraphs. Now let's get to the new part: The pylons in the back of the end zone. That is, indeed, an interesting question, John. Unfortunately, the answer's not that interesting.
The back pylons are just there for demarcation purposes, as an eye-catching device to show the players where the corner of the end zone is. They do not have any magical properties to help a pass-catcher establish that he is inbounds.
Obviously, these pylons could only apply to passing plays if they were in play. A player who ran the ball into the end zone would have a touchdown long before he got to the back pylon. A receiver, though, might be running to the corner of the end zone to make a catch. If so, he needs to get two feet down on the end zone grass, and the pylon doesn't count. If a player caught a pass and got one foot inbounds but had the other foot hit the pylon (and not the ground) and then land out of bounds, that would not be a touchdown.
The Answer Man has to admit that he had to go to the experts over in the football offices on this one. My initial guess was that the back pylon would serve as an extension of the end zone, so hitting it with your foot would be the same as getting the foot down in the end zone. Nope. Glad I asked before popping off. I don't want to reveal my specific source over there, but suffice it to say he is about as expert of an expert as you can get.
- Kevin of Tampa asks:
Dear Answer Man, Good to see you back for another season. I saw as a very brief clip in a series on SportsCenter, a referee get hit by a pass that very well could have been complete. Since I didn't catch them talking about it, and I didn't see the game in question, what is done in a situation like this? Thanks AM.
Answer Man: What is done in this situation is that the ball is picked up off the ground, brought back to the same line of scrimmage and prepared for the next play. Upstairs, the stat crew marks "incomplete pass."
This is not a good situation for the passing team or the official, but it is what it is. All officials in the field of play are in play, meaning a pass that hits them and falls to the ground is as incomplete as one knocked down by a defensive back. Obviously, officials do their best to stay out of the way of the ball, but anything can happen, particularly to that poor soul the umpire who stands in the middle of the defense a few yards past the line of scrimmage.
If a pass were to hit an official and deflect to a player, that player could catch the ball and advance it. Similarly, a fumble that bounced into a ref would be just as live coming off of him as going onto him.
One additional note that isn't terribly relevant to your question but is interesting to the Answer Man: If you touch an official who's standing out of bounds, then you're out of bounds. For instance, if a kickoff returner were to field a kick near the sideline and, in swinging his arms as he started to run, touch the line judge who was standing on the sideline right next to him, the returner would immediately be declared out of bounds.
- Eric of Brandon asks:
Michael Clayton wears an eyeblack patch only under his left eye. The reason for this has intrigued me since his arrival. Can you kindly discover his reasons for this?
Answer Man: Here's a good opportunity for a Buccaneers.com plug. Have you seen the new "Featured Player of the Week" page? There's a very large banner on the right-hand side of the home page that links to this area, and this week it happens to be Michael Clayton.
And Clayton just happens to answer your question among those sent into him the week before, saving Answer Man a trip to the locker room.
Clayton began wearing the one eyeblack patch in college at Louisiana State, in emulation of something the older receivers were doing. It has become something of a tradition at LSU; it doesn't particularly mean anything, it's just handed down from one group of receivers to the next.
That's it. That's the whole story.
- Pete of Pinellas Park, Florida asks:
I keep hearing about an injury called a "stinger." What is that?
Answer Man: If you're working in your lawn, it's probably a wasp. If you're playing football, it's probably a stretching of the brachial plexus nerves. That's right, I said a stretching of the brachial plexus nerves.
Generally, you hear these injuries described as a "neck stinger" or a "shoulder stinger." They're also known as burners. And they hurt, though they generally aren't injuries that keep a player out of action for long. Players can usually return once the symptoms are gone, though they are not allowed back into the game until then due to the fear of a more significant injury.
The aforementioned nerves stretch from the spinal cord across the shoulders, under the collarbone and into the arms. That's why a player who gets a stinger can feel pain in his neck, shoulder and arm. The pain can be intense, especially right when it happens, and can be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the arm and hand.
Players get stingers when they are hit hard from the side, forcing the neck or the shoulder sideways. This compresses or irritates the nerves and causes the above symptoms.
To put it all in simple terms: It's a compressed nerve, it hurts like the dickens but it usually goes away relatively quickly.
- Matt of Atlanta, Georgia asks:
**Rules question: When a QB drops back in the pocket, looks downfield for a receiver and gets tackled it is ruled a sack. What if a QB drops back, fakes the look downfield and tucks the ball to start running then is tackled behind the line of scrimmage? Is this still considered a sack or, because it was now an intended running play, does it only count as a tackle behind the line of scrimmage?
I seem to remember in the Superbowl season John Howell tackling Mike Vick behind the line of scrimmage on what looked to be a naked bootleg. The play was initially ruled a sack in the game but later in the week it was changed because of the intended run. Please clarify.**
Answer Man: I'll get to your question in just a second, Matt, after a brief delay to let the Answer Man's Id come out and address a pet peeve:
IT'S SUPER BOWL! SUPER-space-BOWL! It's only the greatest sporting event in the world (look out, here come the letters from soccer fans) and IT'S TWO FLIPPING WORDS!! The Answer Man has covered this.
Okay, thanks. The Superego is back in control.
Good question, Matt. And, really, you have the parameters for most of the answer right there in your question. Let's break it down.
As you seem to be aware, when a quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage it can be ruled as one of two things, a tackle or a sack (although, technically, a sack is also a tackle, so either way the defensive player is going to get a tackle).
As you also seem to be aware, it's ruled a sack only if the play was originally intended to be a pass. If the quarterback takes a snap, tucks the ball and starts running around the left end, you're not going to get a sack if you drop him before he gets to the line of scrimmage. That was clearly not a passing play. No passing play, no sack.
In the play you described above, it appears as if you are saying the play was intended to be a run all along. The fake look downfield is part of the deception, but the coach sent in a play intending for the quarterback to pass, not run. That would not be a sack.
Now, the obvious question is, who determines if the play was intended to be a pass or a run. Initially – that is, at the time the play occurs – the answer is the statistics crew that is on hand to document the game. If, on the play you described above, they believed that the quarterback was going to pass but started to run because he saw an opportunity, they will credit a sack.
Eventually, though, the final ruling belongs to the Elias Sports Bureau, which compiles and keeps all the NFL's statistics. Rulings and statistics can be changed later, after the game is reviewed at Elias, and they could claim that the play was indeed a running play and take the sack away. One important note here: Teams can and do have input during this stage. The coaches for the team who called that play you described may have someone on staff call Elias and tell them to review that play because it was intended to be a run.
And your example from 2002 is absolutely perfect. That's exactly what happened in that game on December 8, 2002, eventually won by the Super Bowl-bound Buccaneers, 34-10. Starting safety John Lynch had been injured very early in that game and replaced by Howell. That was significant because everyone agreed that the key to this game was who won the matchup between the Bucs' defense and the incredibly elusive Vick. As the Bucs had done earlier that season, they completely corralled Vick, allowing him just nine yards on six runs.
The moment that seemed to signal that this would be the Bucs' day and not Vick was when Howell brought the quarterback down in the backfield. Vick took a shotgun snap and Howell blitzed. Just as Howell arrived, Vick tried to spin and run right, and had he escaped the blitzer, he appeared to have a lot of room to run. Howell managed to hang on to Vick's legs, however, spinning him to the ground for an apparent sack.
At the time, it appeared that Vick had just reacted to a blitz and decided to run, which is certainly something we've all seen him do. However, the Falcons later called Elias and made it clear that it was a designed run all along, which is also something we've seen Vick do. Thus, it was changed from a sack to a tackle-for-loss. About the only thing that was hurt was Howell's career numbers; the result of the play was still a big loss and a dead drive.
- Nate of Calera, Alabama asks:
**Early this season, a kickoff was rolling harmlessly near the sideline and the goal line. Unsure what the ball would do, the player put one foot out of bounds and the other in-bounds and grabbed the ball, thus making the kickoff officially out-of-bounds and incurring a penalty on the kicking team.
What is the official ruling if the KR steps out of bounds on any kick, runs back into the field of play, and touches the ball? Is it illegal-touching or is it a kickoff out of bounds?
It seems it has to be the former, since teams could position two returners at the goal line (and next to each sideline), step out immediately after the kick, and then have half the field to cover to field the ball. It would make it too easy for teams to always start on the 35 or 40 yard line (I don't remember which is used in the pros). Thanks for your help and outstanding research.**
Answer Man: Are you sure that was this season, Nate? I didn't catch that one, but we actually have discussed this before in one of my columns, after Chad Morton, then of the Washington Redskins, performed the move described in your first paragraph. Morton ran out of bounds on a kickoff that was close to the sideline, then reached back in, making sure to keep one foot out of bounds, and grabbed the ball. The play was ruled a penalty on the kicking team, because the way the rule is written, when the ball hits a player who is out of bounds it's the same thing as the ball going out of bounds.
If you'd like to read the original discussion in Volume 11, click here.
There was a little confusion after I answered that one, and I addressed it in the next column. The confusion was somewhat similar to what your describing in your third paragraph, Nate. You make a point of assuming that the strategy your suggesting can't be legal, and indeed it isn't. Here's the difference:
In the scenario in your first paragraph, the player goes out of bounds and stays out of bounds. When you go out of bounds, you are considered back inbounds when you establish yourself back on the field of play, and that generally entails getting two feet back onto the field. The player who reaches out from the sideline, even if he has a foot on the field, is still out of bounds.
In the scenario in your third paragraph, the player has (or players have) run out of bounds, then come back in bounds. If they touch the ball now, the ball is still in the field of play. Oh, and they'll also draw a penalty, because now they've established themselves back in bounds and you can't go out of bounds, come back in and be the first person to touch the ball. There's your illegal touching penalty.
- Rick of Evans, Colorado asks:
Hey there Answer Man, I have seen some penalties called lately for the following infractions: No receiver on the end of the line, and only six men on the line of scrimmage. My questions are: Why must there be a receiver on the end of the line? And also, what is the required number if men on the LoS, and does the QB count is he is under Center (not in Shotgun formation)?
Answer Man: Why must you have a receiver on the end of the line, you ask? Why is a field goal worth three points, I counter? Why do you have to get two feet inbounds on a catch? Why are announcers always referring to end-arounds as "reverses?" Dem's da rules (well, except for that last one, which is more of a brain cramp).
That's just the way the rules are written, Rick. There are five eligible players for the quarterback. The offensive linemen are not eligible targets. And the line must have an eligible receiver on each end. Those are the rules; I'm not sure if there's a "why" to be asked here.
A note: It doesn't actually have to be a wide receiver, specifically. It just has to be one of the five eligibles. And the receiver doesn't have to be right on the end of the line. Somewhere between the offensive tackle and the sideline on each side of the line, there needs to be a back, receiver, tight end or lineman who has been declared eligible before the play on the line of scrimmage.
Thus, to answer your second question, you must always have at least seven men on the line of scrimmage. You'll often see a receiver go in motion from one side to the other and, after he stops on the line of scrimmage, he'll wave the other receiver who was already there back a step, since he doesn't have to be on the line any more. Note in such a scenario that there better be a tight end or some other eligible still on the end the player in motion has left. If he goes in motion and leaves the tackle as the last man on the line on that side, that's going to be a penalty.
And, no, the quarterback does not count as being on the line of scrimmage when he's under tackle.
- David Williams of Hernando, Florida asks:
I have one for you answer man, My step son and I had a discussion yesterday and I need you to prove me right. He says that Mike Alstott is the only Buccaneer who started his career as a Buc has only been a Buc and will retire as a Buccaneer. I told him no there are many more but I cannot think of any of their names. Help.
Answer Man: I hate to come down on the side of authority here, but David you're right and your well-meaning stepson (I'm guessing an Alstott fan, as most of us are) is off by dozens of men. (If it helps to even the score, unnamed stepson for whom I'm rooting, I had to edit the way your stepdad spelled Buccaneers! Too many Ns.)
The Answer Man isn't going to try to name all of the men who played for the Bucs and no other team, and retired as Buccaneers, as it would take ages to verify that I was right on some of them. But there are some rather obvious names that I can throw out there, beginning with this one:
Lee Roy Selmon.
C'mon, Dave. You couldn't think of Lee Roy Selmon, even with a bet like this on the line? You know, Lee Roy Selmon, the guy in the Hall of Fame? Has a restaurant and even a highway under his name here in Tampa? Went to about a jillion Pro Bowls? Ringing a bell?
Let's do a few more: Tony Mayberry. Paul Gruber. I'm not even trying here; these are off the top of my head. John Cannon. Steve Wilson. Randy Grimes.
Okay, I'm admittedly trailing off here. I could probably come up with some more by going into the media guide, but I guess we really only needed one name to decide the bet. And I stick by that "dozens" comment if we are liberal with the term "retired." I mean, there are many players on every team who don't last in the league very long and never surface with another team. A quick example: Wide receiver Darnell McDonald, a seventh-round draft pick in 1999. McDonald made the roster long enough to appear in eight games in '99, but he was cut the next summer and never played in another game.
Looking back over your question, you also leave it a little open-ended. I mean Alstott hasn't retired yet and could conceivably still play with another team. Nobody expects that to happen, but it could. We might also project that, say, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber have a chance to fall into the same category. Who knows, maybe Brian Kelly, Anthony McFarland and Jermaine Phillips will also be life-long Bucs?
Anyway, pop, you win.
- Mark of Clearwater, Florida asks:
**Oh mighty Wizard of Westshore, Guru of the Gridiron, Sage of the Single Wing and Sooth-Sayer of the Skinny Post, I have a question.
How many uniform numbers have been retired from the Buccaneers rotation?**
Answer Man: This one really should be down in the "Quickies" section, but I liked your introductory sentence so much that I kept it up here in the main body. Soothsayer of the Skinny Post? Nice.
There is only one jersey number that the Bucs have retired: 63. It belonged to Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon (there's that name again). The number was retired on September 7, 1986. The Bucs' equipment staff has pretty much always avoided giving out 42, Ricky Bell's old number, but that's an unofficial retirement.
Just to give the answer a little more flavor and justify it's non-quickie status, here's a few additional facts regarding retired numbers in the NFL:
- The Chicago Bears have the most retired numbers, at 13. It's hard to get a number in the 40s or 50s if you're a Bear, thanks to the exploits of Gale Sayers, Brian Piccolo, Sid Luckman, Dick Butkus and Bill Hewitt. * The New York Giants are next, with 11 retired numbers. Among them is Phil Simms (11), father of new Buccaneer starter Chris Simms. * Baltimore, Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland, Carolina and Dallas are tied for the least retired numbers, with none. Obviously, Baltimore, Houston, Jacksonville and Carolina are relatively new franchises, but there has obviously been an organizational decision made in Oakland and Dallas. * The Seahawks have two retired numbers, one of which is Steve Largent's 80. The other is 12, not for any particular player but for the fans, "The 12th man." Cute. * The Washington Redskins also only have one: Sammy Baugh (33). Buffalo's only retired number is 12, for Jim Kelly. * Four jersey numbers share the distinction of being retired by the most teams: 7, 12, 40 and 70, all of which have been retired by five teams. The five players who got #7 retired, by the way, are Denver's John Elway, Chicago's George Halas, Detroit's Dutch Clark, the Giants Mel Hein and the Rams Bob Waterfield. * Thirty-five numbers have been retired by more than one team, and 37 have not been retired by any team.
Okay, now on to the real "Quickies." As usual, these are questions that either require little elaboration or have been addressed in a previous column.
12 Ed Meehan of Plant City, Florida asks:
Prior to the start of Training camp questions were solicited for the Bucs' GM. He was to address these questions or concerns, I thought, either at the beginning of pre-season or the beginning of the regular season. Did I miss something? I never saw a follow up article where he did this. Please advise.
Answer Man: Yes, you missed something. We took pre-camp questions for General Manager Bruce Allen for about a week, beginning on July 19. Allen answered 17 of them that were representative of the topics most commonly asked. That article was posted on the day camp opened, July 28, as promised. Here's the link, if you'd like to go back and take a look at it: Allen Answers.
- Ron Nociti of Bartlett, Tennessee asks:
As I read your latest column I noticed that you had the score of the Bucs-Eagles season opening game following the Bucs Super Bowl victory as 17-3. I was sure that is was 17-0 but checked buccaneers.com and confirmed that the Bucs had pitched a shutout in the first game in The Linc. Seems that jet lag has made your memory a little fuzzy.
Answer Man: Yeah, yeah, I typed that score wrong. It was 17-0. I'm an idiot, blah blah.
By the way, Ron, wouldn't it have been funny if, when you had sent in your question, you had left the "Hometown" field blank? Then you would have been Ron Nociti of no city.
Oh, I kill me.
- Jonathan Beard of San Antonio, Texas asks:
Hey Answer Man I have an easy one for you, I was watching a game Sunday and noticed a guy on the sidelines running around with orange gloves on up to his elbows. What is up with that, none of my friends had seen this before either. Was he waiving off planes, sending in plays, getting ready to clean the facilities, or just trying to slowly work his way into the "Answer Mans uniform"? Nobody knows. Who is this guy?
Answer Man: "Nobody knows?" Well, obviously, you assumed I know. Which, of course, I do.
We covered this one way back in Volume 19. That's really an orange sleeve, not a glove, and the person wearing it on the sideline is referred to as the Orange Sleeve in a fit of originality. This person's purpose to keep the refs informed as to whether a timeout should be of the long or short variety, the latter of which allows for a commercial break. For the details, follow the link. And before anybody asks me about the guy with the green hat on the sideline (yep, he's called the Green Hat), read about it here.
- Brian of Harrisville, Ohio asks:
I was wondering if the NFL releases the offensive and defensive ranks throughout the season. I've been trying to figure out but no one I've asked knows. If they do, what are the top 10 on each? And how high doesn't TB rate?
Answer Man: Yes, those rankings are updated each week and the writers here at Buccaneers.com refer to them quite often. You can always find them in the stats section on NFL.com. Here, for instance, are the current defensive rankings, which just happen to start with the Buccaneers.
Right now, Tampa Bay is first in defense and 17th in offense, as measured by yards gained or allowed. You can sort the stats in a variety of ways, too. The Bucs, for instance, are second in points allowed and 17th in points scored.
I'm not going to list the top 10 in each. You can check them out for yourself.
- KM Smith of St. Pete, Florida asks:
Which Buc player has kicked a 57 yard field goal, the longest in team history?
Answer Man: What is this, trivia hour? That would be Michael Husted, at the Los Angeles Raiders, on December 19, 1993. The Answer Man was there.
- Chris Lathrop of Parker, Colorado asks:
Did the Bucs start in 1976 in the AFC?
Answer Man: Yep. The Bucs were in the AFC West and sister expansion team Seattle was in the NFC West. The Bucs played only AFC teams that year. It was a prearranged thing, though, and the Bucs knew they would be moving to the NFC the next year.
Okay, that's going to have to do it for this column. I know you all haven't heard from me in a few weeks, but I think 7,500 words is enough for my comeback. Keep the questions coming and I'll keep the answers coming.