Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Series 4, Vol. 4

After another look at the Bucs’ best trades, the fans’ inside man dives into a pile of questions on draft tendencies, tryouts, the infinite goal line and more

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The Answer Man has been absent from Buccaneers.com for a few weeks, and for those of you who missed me (both of you), my apologies.

You see, I've been accompanying the team's scouts to a string of Pro Days around the nation. No, the organization isn't exactly interested in my opinions on draft prospects, but it's always helpful to have someone along who can hold clipboards, jot down 40 times and run out for some lunch.

Anyway, that means that the ol' mailbag is once again bursting at the seams, and there's a layer near the bottom that's several weeks old. But, you know what? That actually works to some degree, because a lot of the questions have already answered themselves by the time I pull them out, saving me a significant amount of time, if not exactly impressing those who came to me for timely answers.

For instance, to all of those asking if the Bucs are going to sign Terrell Owens, I can now answer, unequivocally, no. T.O. is a Cowboy as of March 18. At some point or another, I've been asked if Mike Alstott, Matt Bryant, Brian Griese and Chris Hovan were going to re-sign in Tampa. Yes, yes, no, yes.

But of all the letters I opened this week that related to events that have since passed, this one was my favorite:

Jason Storter of Anchorage, Alaska asks:

Dear Answer Man, Answer me this. Is there any pattern or formula that goes into deciding the teams that will play Dallas or Detroit on Thanksgiving? I will be in Dallas that week and was praying for it to be Tampa. Thanks Almighty Great One.

Jason sent that missive on March 21. Six days later, the NFL announced its nationally-televised games for opening weekend and Thanksgiving, and lo and behold, the Bucs were headed to Dallas on Turkey Day. It's the first time Tampa Bay has ever been given a Thanksgiving game, so it should be one of the more exciting afternoons in franchise history.

So, Jason, enjoy your week in Big D; that couldn't have worked out better, huh? Maybe you should reserve that "Almighty Great One" tag for someone else, though, as it seems your prayers were answered.

Actually, though, the question itself in this e-mail is still valid. And the answer is, no, there is no pattern or formula regarding which teams are sent to Dallas and Detroit each year on Thanksgiving. Well, I suppose I should say that it's not random, because you could call it a formula in another sense. That is, the NFL obviously tries to make those games as entertaining as possible for their captive, bloated, nationwide audience.

Here are Dallas' last 10 Thanksgiving Day visitors, from 2005 back through 1996: Denver, Chicago, Miami, Washington, Denver, Minnesota, Miami, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington.

Now, Washington-Dallas is one of the league's great rivalries, so it stands to reason that those two division mates should meet on Thanksgiving every now and then. It's a little surprising to see Denver, Miami and Minnesota all on the list twice in the last 10 years, but it's a reflection of those teams relatively sustained success during that time. Of those three teams and six combined seasons, five were coming off playoff seasons, excluding only Miami in 2003, and they had only missed the '02 playoffs on a tiebreaker.

So if there was a formula that sent the Bucs to Dallas, then it was Playoff Season in 2005 Road Game at Dallas on the Schedule Appealing Matchup in the Schedule-Makers Eyes.

Or perhaps it was divine intervention.

Now on to the rest of this week's questions.

**

Actually, I guess I should first run through the e-mails that tried to take me to task – with varying levels of validity – for mistakes or typos in the last column.

1a. First, a very valid one from Nicholas Carlson of New York, New York, who asks:

**Answer Man, good job with the trade question. But why don't you think the trade for Gruden was in the top ten?

Who did the Raiders end up taking with those picks, anyway? Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Reggie White, and Otto Graham?**

Answer Man: A very good point, though I want to start with a few clarifications. In throwing out an admittedly subjective answer for "best trade in team history," I chose the series of deals on draft weekend '95 that landed the team Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, and I prefaced it with a list of "honorable mentions." As I said then, the honorable mentions were in no particular order, and I listed six, not nine.

So I didn't really make a "Top 10" and leave the Coach Gruden deal off of it. I also briefly mentioned that trade with Oakland earlier in the answer as I described the different types of swaps a team can make.

All that said, I would have to agree that not mentioning the deal that brought Coach Gruden to Tampa in 2002 in the specific "best-trade" discussion was an oversight of fairly massive proportions. As I said, my choice was subjective, and I would not argue strenuously if you were to point to that trade as the best ever. After all, the goal of every season is to win the Super Bowl, and Coach Gruden led us to that peak that very year (with, it should be mentioned, Brooks and Sapp as cornerstones of a ferocious defense).

The trade, to refresh the memories of those who need it, was four high draft picks to Oakland for the rights to hire Coach Gruden, who was at the time still under contract with the Raiders. The picks were first and second-rounders in 2002, a first-rounder in 2003 and a second-rounder in 2004. Fabulously, the first-rounder in 2003 became the last pick in that round after the Buccaneers beat the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

The Raiders used that pick on Colorado linebacker Tyler Brayton, who was moved to defensive end and has 122 tackles and six sacks in three seasons, the first two as a starter. Oakland used the 2004 second-round pick it got from the Buccaneers on Virginia Tech center Jake Grove, who has played in 19 games and started 16 over his first two seasons.

The first-round pick the Raiders got from Tampa Bay in the 2002 draft was number 21 overall, but Oakland traded up twice to get to number 17 and take Miami cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Buchanon has been a starter for most of his four years in the league and has 11 career interceptions but was traded to Houston prior to the 2005 season.

The 2002 second-round pick in the deal was used on guard Langston Walker. Walker, listed as a guard out of California on the draft chart but as a tackle now in the NFL, has started 17 games over four years.

(Confidential to Nicholas: I very much liked your impression at the end of your letter, but in the interests of maintaining my employment here, I edited it out.)

**

1b. Next, a semi-valid catch by Ric Altman of Key Largo, Florida, who says:

**You must have been tired when you wrote this, two miss-spelled words in one sentence:

"Most of the time the quarterback lifts his knee, he's doing so for the benefit of the center, who is peaking back through his crouch."**

Answer Man: Ric was relatively gentle, so I bear him no ill will, though I sometimes wonder what the point of such e-mails is, really. I also find it humorous – and believe me, this has happened before – to be taken to task for misspelling a word by someone who misspells "misspell."

But, anyway, I am guilty of one misspelling in that excerpted sentence: peak instead of peek. Drats…nailed by a homynym that spell-check isn't going to catch! Indeed, I meant the type of peek that a player might do with his eyes between his legs, not the type of peak that teases mountain climbers. However, I stick by "crouch," which is exactly what I meant. He's crouching over the ball; he's in his crouch. I assume you thought I meant "crotch," but had I wanted to say that I would have found a less vulgar-sounding way to put it.

**

1c. And, finally, a correction I find to be not valid at all, though once again it was sent in by a reader who made a point of being nice. The Answer Man appreciates that. Gus of Reading, Pennsylvania says:

Well not to be difficult, but when San Francisco played against the Dolphins, they played at Stanford, which technically isn't all that far away from San Francisco. Though it wasn't technically a home game, it was about a 30 minute bus ride (I was there). How much closer can you get?

Answer Man: Gus, what you say is true, and it's even a topic we've discussed with some specificity before. In fact, I had to own up to missing that one previously, in a slightly different discussion. In this case, however, that game does not fit into the Q&A that was conducted.

In my last column (Series 4, Volume 3), I answered a question from one Nathan Howells that was similar to one I've addressed in the past: In essence, has a team ever played the Super Bowl at home. Since we've covered this before (short answer: No, but a few have been very close, such as the one mentioned by Gus above), I almost put Nathan's question in the Quickies section at the end. However, he had a new twist on it: What's the farthest the Super Bowl stadium's "host team" has made it in the playoffs?

In other words, almost every year there is the possibility of a team making it to the Super Bowl in its own stadium; what's the closest any team has come to making that dream come true?

So what I did was run down every Super Bowl and list the stadium, the team that played there during that season and how that team fared. Click the link above to see how that study came out.

On seven of the 40 Super Bowl occasions so far, the stadium was not the home of any NFL team during the regular season, as was the case when it was at Stanford. Yes, I understand that San Francisco was in essence playing at home, but they were not playing in their own stadium, and that was the very specific parameter of this question.

Now that you mention it, though, Gus, I see that I failed to answer one of Nathan's questions. Here is what he asked: How far has the Super Bowl host stadium's team made it in the playoffs and what is the shortest distance a team has had to travel from its home stadium to the Super Bowl?

Looking back, I see that I answered the first question but not the second one. Forty lashes for me. Your example would have been it, though, Gus, so as it turns out, you've actually done Nathan and I a service. Thank you. I don't know the actual distances between stadiums, but it would have to be either that one or Super Bowl XIV, which was played in Los Angeles. The Rams made it that year, but while they played their home games in the Memorial Coliseum, the Super Bowl was held in the Rose Bowl.

**

  1. PJ Shevlin of Cape Coral, Florida asks:

Answer Man, what position have the Bucs drafted the most times in their history?

Answer Man: PJ has taken to heart my repeated admonishment that while I cannot answer questions about the Bucs' specific strategies in the draft (nor do I actually have that information), I can provide trivia or historical analysis on the subject. His question is a case in point.

And an easy one. I like easy ones.

The Buccaneers have selected 314 players over their 30 years in the draft, and the most common position taken is: Offensive linemen! They hold a slim edge over defensive backs, 53-52.

Of course, that is a wee bit misleading in that both "offensive linemen" and "defensive backs" could be split into multiple categories. Splitting them up is somewhat unwieldy to do, however, because players are sometimes listed simply as offensive linemen or defensive backs – rather than, say, "guard" or "cornerback" – and they sometimes play different positions in the NFL than they did in college. So it's probably the only way to do it.

Here's how the Bucs' 314 draft picks so far break down by position:

  • Offensive Linemen…53 * Defensive Backs…52 * Running Backs…45 * Defensive Linemen…41 * Linebackers…41 * Wide Receivers…39 * Quarterbacks…18 * Tight Ends…16 * Punters…5 * Kickers…4

Perhaps there is one slightly more equitable way to compare these positions, given the difficulties described above. What if we noted how many players in each category are typically needed for a starting lineup and use that number to divide the number of players drafted in that category?

For instance, a team plays with five starting offensive linemen, and the Bucs have drafted 53, so that's an average of 10.6 players drafted per starting spot. A team generally starts two receivers, so the 39 drafted by the Bucs works out to 19.5 per starting spot. Since the Bucs' defensive history is almost evenly split between the 3-4 front of the early days and the 4-3 front of the '90s and the '00s, we'll assume four starting spots at both defensive line and linebacker. We'll also grant a starting spot each for the punters and kickers.

So, per starting spot, the most commonly drafted position for the Buccaneers is running back. The Bucs have drafted 45 of them and generally start two, so that's an average of 22.5 per spot. Receivers are next, followed by quarterbacks at 18 per spot and tight end at 16 per spot. Pulling up the rear, not surprisingly, are the kickers and punters. I assume you can do the math on those.

By the way, you could ask the same question as it pertains to just the first round, and since somebody probably would next week after reading this, I'll go ahead and answer that, too.

Once again, the defensive linemen come out on top, with seven first-round selections in Buccaneer history. Offensive linemen are next at five, followed by linebackers and running backs at four each, quarterbacks at three, wide receivers at two and defensive backs at one.

The seven defensive linemen who came to the Buccaneers as first-rounders are Lee Roy Selmon (1976), Ron Holmes (1985), Eric Curry (1993), Warren Sapp (1995), Regan Upshaw and Marcus Jones (1996) and Anthony McFarland (1999). You could also bump this list to eight if you included Keith McCants, a first-round pick in 1990 who was technically a linebacker at Alabama but played more at defensive end with the Buccaneers.

**

  1. Kenny Spindola of West Palm Beach, Florida asks:

How does the NFL decide who gets a supplemental pick in the draft and at what round a team gets that pick? Also when are the supplemental picks and rounds announced? Thanks, Answer Man.

Answer Man: See, here's another one that was sent probably days before the league shed some light on the topic.

First of all, I'm going to assume that you mean "compensatory picks" when you say "supplemental picks." That's a common confusion/typo, one the Answer Man even made in my last column before correcting it.

Compensatory picks come down every year at about this time and are a function of gains and losses in the previous offseason's free agency period. Supplemental picks would, I guess, refer to picks made in the supplemental draft, which is held each summer but doesn't always produce any selections. The supplemental draft is for any players who became draft-eligible after the regular draft and don't want to wait a whole year for the next one. That's a whole different topic, deserving of its own treatment if anyone ever wants to go over it.

Also, I believe that in the Houston Texans expansion (and probably previous expansions), they were given a few extra choices that were termed "supplemental picks." Oh, and the last five compensatory picks this year are actually called supplemental picks, to be honest with you. See, the league's formula spat out 27 compensatory picks this year, but the NFL is allowed 32 in its agreement with the player's union, so it uses them all.

But back to what I assume to be the topic at hand: compensatory picks. If you missed it, the Buccaneers were awarded three compensatory picks in the upcoming draft on March 28. Click here to read more about it. So that answers the second part of your question. Of the 32 compensatory picks awarded overall, the Bucs were given one pick at the end of the sixth round and two at the end of the seventh.

There is both a simple math and a more complicated computation for determining these compensatory picks. One clue to how its done is in the number of picks that has been awarded each of the last four years (that's as long as Answer Man has been keeping track): 32. That's one per team every year, suggesting it's a zero-sum situation. That is, each team's gain in free agency is going to be another team's loss, and when you add up all the gains and losses, it comes out even.

Obviously, though, some teams are going to gain more than they lose, and vice versa. The compensatory picks are meant to make up the difference for the teams that lose more than they gain. You can think of it in a basic shorthand: Lose three players to free agency, sign one and you'll be getting two compensatory picks.

That's basically true, but there are two complicating factors to keep in mind. One, not every player you would think of as a free agent is covered under this system. For instance, a veteran who is cut just before free agency and thus becomes a free agent, does not count on your plus ledger if you sign him, or on your minus ledger if you lose him. Think Brian Griese.

And, two, the NFL Management Council knows that not every free agent gained or lost is equal. It wouldn't be fair, for instance, to say a team that lost a starting running back to free agency and signed a backup cornerback came out even. For that reason, the Management Council uses a complicated formula that takes into account the salary, playing time and postseason honors that the free agents in question went on to accumulate during the season after they changed teams.

A good case in point is the New York Jets, who were the only team to be given a compensatory pick following the third round this year. Obviously, the value of such a pick is quite a bit higher than one that follows the seventh round. Almost every third-round pick in the draft ends up making the team that drafted him every year; the same is most definitely not true of seventh rounders.

Of the players covered by the formula, this is what the Jets lost in the 2005 free agency period: TE Anthony Becht (to the Bucs, as you may recall), DT Jason Ferguson, RB Lamont Jordan and T Kareem McKenzie. Becht, Jordan and McKenzie were all full-time starters for their new teams and Ferguson started the last five games in Dallas. This is who the Jets signed: RB Derrick Blaylock, LB Barry Gardner and DT Lance Legree. Those three combined for five starts and Gardner and Legree are already free agents again.

Apparently, when all of those players and their peripherals were plugged into the Council's formula, it spit out a third-round choice. And that's how compensatory picks are determined, Kenny.

**

  1. Joseph Moore of Round Lake, Illinois asks:

When are tryouts for undrafted and walk-on players?

Answer Man: Well, the easy answer is "never," and it's also true, so I could end it there. I do like easy answers.

But I guess there are some nuances to discuss here.

Let's start with your term "walk-on players." There really is no such thing in the NFL. In college, if you don't get a tryout to the school of your dreams (or the closest one, as the case may be), you might choose to attend that school on your own dime and then come to tryouts. If you make the team, you're a "walk-on" and if you prove good enough to play a significant amount you may eventually get a scholarship after all.

The NFL doesn't have anything like that. Very few teams have open tryouts of any kind. The Buccaneers certainly don't. In most cases, if you're getting a tryout with an NFL team, it's because that team has called you, not vice versa.

But if you happen to be an NFL-caliber player who has slipped through the cracks, how do you get a tryout? Well, you're going to need game film of some kind, whether it be old college footage, Arena League or maybe some semi-professional league. You have to have something to show to the scouts to get your foot in the door.

As for "undrafted" players, they make it into the league all the time because they've already been scouted. About 250 players get drafted out of the NCAA ranks every year, but dozens more sign on in the hours and days after the draft if they were not selected. At the beginning of the draft, they're all already on the Bucs' draft board, and they've already been evaluated several times over.

**

  1. Thomas J. Zero of Holiday, Florida asks:

**Answer Man,

Please shed some light on this very confusing topic.I have seen many football games where the player reaches the ball across the goal line with the ball actually out of bounds. The officials rule this a touchdown even though the ball is out of the field of play. The player may be either in the air or still in bounds but the ball is out of the field of play. What is the rationale and the rule behind the notion that the plane of the goal line extends beyond the field of play? Does this rule apply anywhere else on the field?**

Answer Man: Well, I'll try Thomas, but be aware that I've attempted to shed light on this topic several times in the past and I still get e-mails about it all the time. Believe me, that's no insult. This is a confusing topic and I have to tread lightly to make sure I don't spread misinformation.

Here's the basic gist of it: A touchdown is scored by a ballcarrier when that ballcarrier has the ball in his possession and causes it to cross the plane of the goal line. As you've obviously heard, for the purposes of the ball, that plane extends infinitely both horizontally and vertically. The vertical one is obvious; otherwise, you'd have to actually touch the ball to the ground on the goal line paint in order to score a touchdown.

Why does it also extend horizontally; what's the "rationale," as you ask? Well, I suppose I don't know the motivation of the NFL visionaries who created this rule, but I guess the idea is that, even though it's technically the ball that signals the touchdown, it's the athletic ability of the player that makes it happen. So if the player can get the ball over the plane of the goal line, out of bounds, while still getting some part of his body over the goal line inbounds (and that includes the pylon), then bully for him.

You also ask if this rule of the goal line extending infinitely exists elsewhere on the field, which strikes me as a strange question. There are no goal lines anywhere else on the field. I suppose you mean, does the notion of the ball continuing to advance after it is over out-of-bounds territory apply elsewhere? Or, to put it another way, do other yard lines extend indefinitely on the horizontal plane like the goal line does.

And you know what? That's actually an interesting question. If a runner in possession of the ball is trying to make it to the 50 in order to get a first down, can he pull the same trick he would near the goal line? Could he dive diagonally from the 48, hold the ball in the out-of-bounds hand but enough ahead so that it cross the 50 while he's flying through the air and hook his other arm around the yard marker but still inbounds.

The answer, in a nutshell: No. The goal lines are the only lines that extend indefinitely on the horizontal plane. When the ball goes out of bounds elsewhere on the field, the new line of scrimmage is where the ball went out of bounds, or where the ball was when a player touched the sideline. Here, let me quote from that hoary old tome, the NFL Rulebook.

*Rule 3, Section 20, Article 3: The Inbounds Spot is a spot 70 feet nine inches in from the sideline on the yard line passing through the spot where the ball or the runner is out of bounds between the goal lines.

Note: Ordinarily, the out-of-bounds spot is the spot where the ball crossed a sideline. However, if a ball, while still within a boundary line, is declared out of bounds because of touching anything that is out of bounds, the out-of-bounds spot is on the yard line through the spot of the ball at the instant of such touching.*

By the way, in reference to that last note but in no way relevant to your original question, a play is considered out-of-bounds and dead if the runner or the ball contacts an official or anything else other than another player who is standing out-of-bounds. You can touch a player who is out of bounds and still be in bounds; that makes sense, because otherwise a defender could get you done simply by touching you and touching the sideline.

So, Thomas, I hope I've answered at least part of your question. The situation at the goal line, the extended horizontal plane, is unique and does not apply elsewhere on the field. As to why the goal line is interpreted thusly, well the NFL Rulebook doesn't go into a lot of "whys." I suppose we could just as well ask why a touchdown is six points.

**

  1. Peter Paullin of Bradenton, Florida asks:

Answer Man it's been awhile, I know that Simms just signed a one year deal and Gruden eluded to signing him long term sometime this season. My question is "How many players that have signed an extension sometime in the season have been injured shortly after they signed?" It seems to happen more often than not. The one that stands out the most for me is when Jermaine Phillips signed his extension two seasons ago got injured shortly after that. So if the numbers aren't on the players side, wouldn't it be best to wait until the season is over and sign Simms to an extension then, so he doesn't get injured during the season? Go BUCS and stay fly Answer Man.

Answer Man: I've got to be straight up front and tell you I'm not going to try to answer your first question. I'm not sure if I could track down enough data – players signed to in-season extensions and, from that group, ones that subsequently got hurt that season – to prove or disprove anything. Though I have no proof of this, Pete, I would suspect that you're falling victim to that whole "confirmation bias" thing I discussed three columns ago. That is, you think a high-percentage of players who sign in-season extensions subsequently get hurt, and you're prone to remembering the information that supports your belief and missing the information that does not support it. Everybody does this.

But let's concede that, if you sign a player to a contract extension during the season that leads up to the end of his previous deal and his potentially hitting the free agency market, you are leaving open the possibility that he will get hurt during the remainder of that season.

So why would you take that risk? Well, under that argument, why would you ever sign a player. You could wait until the 2006 season is over, then sign a player, and he could get hurt in the first game of 2007, or during an offseason practice in May.

As Head Coach Jon Gruden is fond of saying, "We have to live in our hopes and not in our fears." A player who signs a long-term deal in say, October, is obviously a player the team wants to have around for a long time. Whether or not he might get hurt in November or December is not part of the equation.

You use the example of Chris Simms, who signed a new, one-year deal with the Buccaneers in late February. If there were no other developments between now and next March, Simms would become an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of the 2007 league year.

Now, I should note that none of this discussion comes from any foreknowledge on the Answer Man's part as to how Simms or the Buccaneers' management wants to handle the future beyond 2006, though as you mention the team did express a desire to work on a longer-term deal.

So your contention seems to be that it would be smarter for the team to wait until 2006 was completely over before pursuing a long-term deal with Simms, if that's what both sides wanted. Why assume the risk of a November or December injury on a new, long-term contract when you can let it ride on the current one-year deal?

My answer, Peter, is that the longer you wait to get a deal done, the greater your chances are that it won't get done. At all. Teams are motivated to get the players they want to keep re-signed before they become free agents, or have the imminent threat of that free agency hanging over everyone's heads. Just speaking hypothetically, what if the player was led to believe by the team's delay in negotiating a deal that the team was not really committed to him long-term. Now it's January, now it's February, and maybe the same player who would have struck a deal in October is thinking long and hard about trying his hand at free agency.

When the Bucs signed Simms, in particular, this past February, they were able to remove the hassle of free agency for both the player and the team. Simms was able to move on seamlessly from his breakout 2005 season into another fruitful offseason. That being accomplished, both sides then had the opportunity to start thinking about a longer-term deal. If both sides want that, why wait?

**

  1. Linda Johnson of Clearwater, Florida asks:

What happened to the two back-up quarterbacks for the Bucs last year? Are they still part off the team?

Answer Man: Since you say "back-up quarterbacks" and since both Simms and Brian Griese were starters for a good portion of the 2005 season, I'm going to assume you are referring to Luke McCown and Tim Rattay.

McCown joined the Buccaneers in a trade with Cleveland during draft weekend last year. Rattay also came over in a swap, this one struck with San Francisco at the trade deadline in the fall. Both cost Tampa Bay sixth-round picks.

And both are still with the team. In fact, with Griese's departure to the Chicago Bears, McCown and Rattay would seem to be in direct competition for the primary back-up spot behind Simms. Both are promising young passers – coincidentally, both starred at Louisiana Tech – and they are now entering their first full offseason under Coach Gruden together.

**

  1. Mark Plate of Waterloo, Iowa asks:

Who is the person or group of people that decide who to draft?

Answer Man: I made a couple of assumptions here, Mark. One, I went with Waterloo, Iowa because it was the first one that popped into my head. You might actually be from Waterloo, Illinois or Waterloo, Ontario, or even Napoleon's favorite Waterloo near Brussels. But I'm going with Iowa. Deal with it.

Two, I assume you mean who makes those decisions for the Buccaneers? It can vary from team to team, depending upon the organizational structure with the head coach, the general manager and the rest of the player personnel department. The most common answer is: The G.M.

Actually, our braintrust would tell you that it's really a collaborative process. During draft weekend, the Bucs' Draft Room will include, most notably, General Manager Bruce Allen, Gruden, Director of Player Personnel Ruston Webster and Director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey. There will also be any number of scouts and assistant coaches on hand, and everybody's input is welcome. In the end, the pick coming out of the Bucs' Draft Room is probably a consensus reached by Allen, Gruden and Webster. To your direct point, Allen would have the final say.

It's probably this way in most Draft Rooms across the league. Selections on draft weekend are not spur-of-the-moment decisions. Over the course of months and months of prep work, your team's coaches and scouts have probably come to some pretty strong shared opinions on players. It is rare then, for there to be much disagreement over who should be picked at any particular moment on the clock.

**

And now for a couple "Quickies" to take us home. As always, these are questions that I've either answered before or do not require lengthy answers.

  1. Mary Beth Slattery of Largo, Florida asks:

When will the 2006 training camp begin?

Answer Man: My buddies at Buccaneers.com just announced this, actually. Players will report for training camp on Thursday, July 27, and the first practices will be the next day, on Friday, July 28. Check out the story for more details.

**

  1. Mike Braner of South Bend, Indiana asks: We came down for Fan Fest last year and had a blast. Has the date been set for this year's extravaganza? Thank you.

Answer Man: "This year's extravaganza" (I like that!) has been scheduled for Saturday, June 3. Long-time readers will know that I basically answer this question once a column during this time of year. Click here for a slightly longer discussion on the matter in Series 3, Volume 7.

**

Okay, folks, that's it for this week's column. I'll be honest, I didn't come close to emptying out the current collection of questions. That's good in one sense – I know I've got plenty to work on for the next column. It might be frustrating to some of you, though. Please bear with me and I'll try to get to as many as I can.

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