Man, I hope you all aren't mad at me.
It's been a little over a month since the last time I opened up the ol' e-mailbag, and there were more than a few, "Where have you gone, Answer Man?" missives mixed in with the other questions. The Answer Man will be the first to admit that I don't keep up the same kind of schedule I did in the early days, when this was a nearly-weekly column. But you'll recall that this is just a side gig for me with the Buccaneers.
Mainly, I bounce from one odd job to another around here, and when you're about to open a brand new, state-of-the-art training facility, there are a lot of odd jobs to go around. I've never done so much light bulb-changing, grass-plugging and equipment-lugging before. So I apologize for letting the mailbag get a little overstuffed, but I'm back to take a crack at it today.
And hmmm…now that I think of it, my editors here at Buccaneers.com haven't exactly been hounding me for another column. Perhaps I should take that as a bad sign? Well, whatever. I have the floor now.
Anyway, my frequency of posting may have changed, but my approach hasn't. As usual, I'll get to the questions in just a moment after I've taken up some of your valuable time with an intro section of usually unrelated rambling.
See, one of the other odd jobs I recently assumed was entering the Bucs' all-time roster, which is included and updated in the team's media guide each year, into an Excel spreadsheet for easier updates. The beauty of the end result is that it is fully sortable, which allows the Answer Man to immerse himself in one of his favorite topics, the minutiae of Buccaneer history.
Without further ado, then, allow me to thrill and amaze you with some of the obscure facts I've dug up by sorting and re-sorting the franchise's all-time roster in a variety of ways.
- There are 737 men on the Bucs' all-time roster, 1976-2005. To qualify, a player must be on the team's active roster during a regular season game, though he does not have to actually play in the game. That is not a terribly unusual occurrence, either; in fact, it happens almost twice a season, on average. There are 49 players on the all-time roster who never actually played in a regular season game, beginning with LB Tim Kearney and WR Curtis Leak in 1976 (yes, the Curtis Leak who is father to Gators QB Chris Leak). The Bucs padded that list considerably last year, with seven players making the roster without playing in a game: tackle Chris Colmer, center Scott Jackson, quarterbacks Luke McCown and Tim Rattay, wide receivers J.R. Russell and Paris Warren and running back Derek Watson. All are still with the team, however, and hopefully will put some crooked numbers in that games played column. * Another 37 players on the all-time roster played in just one game, a group that includes quarterbacks Joe Hamilton and Scott Milanovich, cornerback Hank Poteat and a tight end named John (Lord) Farquhar. The interesting thing about this list is that there is one man among those 37 players who actually started the only Buc game in which he played. That sounds rather strange but is really pretty straightforward. The Bucs tried out a lot of starting quarterbacks during their first three seasons, most of whom struggled, in part because the offensive roster as a whole was still pretty shallow. Mike Boryla started the second game of 1978 but completed just two of five passes for 15 yards in a 15-7 loss to the Lions. Doug Williams got the majority of the starts as a rookie that year and Mike Rae was the main starter after Williams got hurt. * Tackle Paul Gruber famously started every game in which he played as a Buccaneer (and that was his entire NFL career). He holds both Buc records, games played and games started, with 183 each, though Derrick Brooks could catch him in both categories this year, and Dave Moore could catch him in starts. The record for most games played as a Buc * without making a start is 96 set, not surprisingly, by a kicker, Michael Husted. Only six players in franchise history have appeared in at least 50 games as a Buccaneer and started every one of them: Gruber, Hardy Nickerson (104), Simeon Rice (79), Doug Williams (67), Greg Spires (63) and Keyshawn Johnson (57). * There have been seven players in team history with the first name of "Anthony" and, amazingly, four of the seven were on the roster last year: Misters Becht, Bryant, Davis and McFarland. * By the way, Anthony Davis is the second player in team history to bear the same first and last name combo, as there was a running back by the name of Anthony Davis on the squad in 1977. Those two (unrelated) Davises form one of the two duplicate name pairs in Buc annals (disregarding middle names). The first grouped 1976 tackle Steve Young with the quarterback of the same name, who played with the Bucs in 1985 and 1986. * Thirty-four men have played in at least 100 Buccaneer games, with Cedric Brown, Gerald Carter and Pete Pierson all hitting the century mark on the nose. The most common position at which players have reached 100 Buc games is linebacker. Seven linebackers qualify: Brooks, Nickerson, Scot Brantley, Jeff Gooch, Cecil Johnson, Shelton Quarles and Richard Wood.
Okay, if you get the impression I could go on like this all day, steadily sinking into even deeper obscurity, you're right. So I'm just going to stop. For the few of you who haven't already scrolled down to the actual Q&A portion of the column, feel free to do so now.
- A.J. Larmon of Atlanta, Georgia asks:
**Answer Man, I'm a big Bucs fan (even here in A-T-L) and I'm also a big fan of running the ball as much as possible, so I like the fact that the Bucs worked on the offensive line in the draft. I've noticed that a lot of the media has given the Jets and the Eagles credit for doing the same thing. But here's my question: I get the offensive line thing, but why did the Bucs seem to reach for the players it took in the first two rounds, at least according to the media? Were Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood rated as high as we took them?
Again…I'm not complaining. I just want to understand how this works, and I know you're the man to help me out.**
Answer Man: It's good to have fans embedded there in enemy territory, and you've approached this topic quite politely, so I'm going to try to do the same. However, A.J., I hope you don't mind if I answer your question by redefining it a little bit. To answer it straight would almost be to lend credence to the idea of the Bucs' "reaching," which I don't want to do.
So, instead, I would ask this (and hopefully still get around to the answer you want): "What does it actually mean to say a team 'reached' for a pick?"
Please don't read what I'm about to write as a criticism of the media or its role in making the NFL Draft so enormously popular. The Answer Man has nothing against mock drafts, post-draft grades or any of the ubiquitous coverage the draft receives. That stuff is fun to read, and I devour it before and after the draft just like the rest of the nation's diehard NFL fans.
However, this "reach" concept has always struck me as a little bit specious; the same can be said for giving a team credit for a "steal" in a later round. And here's why: The logic that results in a particular pick being described as a "reach" or a "steal" is often circular, in the Answer Man's opinion.
Let me try to explain. Mock drafts start hitting the papers and the internet in February, and most of them are produced by sports journalists. I'm not knocking these men and women, many of whom are very well-informed. However, they're not scouts, and the majority of their information comes from their contacts at various teams and other analysts in the media. (There are, of course, some members of the media who do more of their own scouting than others.) They assemble all of this information into their best guesses at how the draft will go, and do a much better job of it than the Answer Man ever could.
Then you and I, the fans, read these mock drafts for months. We see a player we may have known almost nothing about constantly included in the first round of these mock drafts – in my case, a good example would be Virginia Tech cornerback Jimmy Williams – and so we come to think of him as a likely first-round pick. Now, when Williams actually goes five picks into the second round, we are quick to call that a steal for your hometown team, the Falcons.
Conversely, we didn't see many mock drafts with Joseph listed as a first-round pick, even though there were a lot of lists that called him the nation's best interior lineman. So the same analysts who produced the mock drafts sit down to assign their post-draft grades and conclude that Joseph is a "reach" because he went higher than he "should have."
But all Williams or Joseph did was go higher or lower than the combined mock drafts had predicted. And what does that really signify? Why does that constitute a reach? Mock drafts are intended to predict which players will go to which teams, and they are based on the analyst's information or guesses as to who the teams prefer. In the case of the Buccaneers, apparently, nobody was able to glean that information accurately before the draft, and that may not have been an accident.
Put it this way: In the weeks leading up to the draft, did you hear anything about the Bucs liking Davin Joseph? Exactly. Had a writer or two been able to get a Buccaneer coach or scout to tell her that the team thought very highly of Joseph, than the writer probably would have started including Joseph in her subsequent mock drafts, and other writers might have followed suit. After seeing Joseph's name in the first round for a few weeks, we all would have started thinking of him as a first-rounder, would not have been surprised when the Bucs did take him and thus would not have been so quick to call it a reach.
Of course, if that information began to be reflected in mock drafts, it could have been disadvantageous for the Bucs. There only had to be one other team that really liked Joseph and was hoping he would last a few picks longer to them in the first round to create a possible trade-up situation.
All of this, of course, applies to Jeremy Trueblood in the second round, too. It also applies to most of the players you will see listed as possible steals from this draft. Any player who was commonly seen going high in mock drafts but actually went much later is thought of as a steal, despite the fact that the teams that passed must have felt they had good reasons for doing so.
From a team's perspective, all that matters are its internal evaluations. The Bucs reached a strong consensus on Joseph before the draft and obviously had him graded very highly. Believe me, no one in the team's draft room considered it a reach at the time. From a team's perspective, you would only "reach" if you took a player in a round that your own grade did not warrant, perhaps because you were trying to fill a particular position. Teams try to avoid doing this. And you would only get a steal if a player you had graded in, say, the second round was still on your board in, say, the fourth. The Bucs, for instance, felt they got a steal with QB Chris Simms at the end of the third round in 2003. It's beginning to appear as if they were right. Of course, they may have felt the same way about Marquise Walker in the third round in 2002; the Answer Man doesn't know.
Of course, in the final analysis it's all a matter of opinion at this point. You can choose to accept the opinion of those who consider certain picks reaches or steals, or you can choose to accept the opinion of the teams that made those picks and their evaluators. Or, better yet, you can reserve judgment for the three or four years it really takes to determine how good a draft class really is. Then, when all 255 players of this draft have established or not established themselves, we can legitimately say that a particular fourth-round pick was a steal or a particular second-round pick was a reach.
Example: The Answer Man vividly remembers that the Cincinnati Bengals were thrashed for having "reached" to take Arizona State tackle Levi Jones with the 10th overall pick. That's because most mock drafts had Jones going later in the first round (I just searched and found three mock drafts from that year, on which Jones was slotted 24th, 29th and 32nd, respectively). Four years later, Jones is considered one of the NFL's better left tackles, and that's an extremely valuable asset, more than worthy of the 10th overall pick. I also found a list of team grades from the day after that draft, and the Bengals were given a C-, specifically and only because of the Jones pick.
That same year, the Answer Man recalls, Buffalo "graded out" nicely because it took Texas tackle Mike Williams fourth overall and was able to nab LSU receiver Josh Reed with the 36th overall pick, four into the second round. See, the Bills got two players of "first-round" value because Reed had commonly been slotted into that opening stanza in mock drafts. Plus, they took Williams right where they were supposed to. The same three mock drafts referenced above had Williams going fourth, fourth and fifth and Reed going 23rd, 25th and 33rd. Not to close the book on either Williams or Reed, but it's safe to say that neither has yet established himself as a star, and Williams is no longer with the Bills.
So, after aaaaaall of that, A.J., I would say this to you: Enjoy the fact that the Bucs concentrated on a position you were hoping they would improve, and don't worry about any grades or analysis you read for a few years now, or until your eyes tell you directly whether the picks were good or not. Enjoy reading those grade sheets, of course, just like you enjoyed the mock drafts before hand, but don't get hung up on them.
Therefore, from the team perspective, I can say this unequivocally: The Buccaneers did not reach for either of their first two picks. They either graded Joseph and Trueblood correctly, or they graded them incorrectly, but they followed their grades when making the selections. Only time will tell, but at the moment the Answer Man feels comfortable trusting the men who recently brought us Michael Clayton, Carnell Williams, Alex Smith and Dan Buenning, to name a few.
- Jitin of Longwood, Florida asks:
Hey, Answer deity. When the Houston Texans came into the league, they were put in the AFC and the Seahawks were moved from AFC to NFC. I assume that this was done partly to keep rivalries intact while maintaining geographical continuity, but was were the exact reasons and logic behind the actions. Also what geographical and rivalry conditions were taken into consideration in the creation of each division? For example, the NFC North resembles the old Central, while the NFC South has the teams ejected from all 3 divisions.
Answer Man: I have pontificated on this subject before, but it was quite some time ago (14 months ago, to be exact, in Series 2, Volume 11, so I'll do another run through the details here. I have to admit, though, I don't have anything particularly new to add to the last discussion.
Before the Texans began play in 2002, there was an awkward total of 31 teams in the league, which created a few less-than-perfect situations. Among them: The necessity to have at least one team on a bye week every week, including one and 17, and the existence of a six-team division where all the other divisions had five.
Houston's addition squared things nicely, but because they were slated to play in the AFC – keeping alive pre-existing rivalries with teams like Cincinnati and Indy and creating an obvious one with Tennessee, the team that had moved out of Houston – somebody else had to switch conferences. There were six teams in the AFC Central before the last expansion, and 16 in the AFC against 15 in the NFC.
The new divisional structure was obvious and elegant: Four divisions of four teams each in both conferences, with each division winner and two wild cards in each conference advancing to the playoffs. The only question was, which teams would be moved to make this possible.
In essence, the NFL tried very hard to keep as many traditional rivalries intact as possible, particularly the long-established ones, while still correcting the most egregious geographical anomalies. The Buccaneers' old division is the absolutely perfect example. If you were going to take an NFC Central comprised of Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota and Tampa Bay and pare it down to four teams, who would go? The Bucs may have enjoyed their old Black-and-Blue rivalries, but they were easily the farthest removed in terms of geography and they were also the newest team in the division.
It worked out fine for the Buccaneers, who ended up with a division that not only is much easier in terms of travel but was also ripe for new, heated rivalries. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans were sensibly removed from the NFC West but were also kept together and added to the Bucs.
The NFC East was a similar story. Philly, Washington and the Giants are not only "east," but they are longtime bitter foes. Dallas doesn't fit quite so nicely in that geographic matrix, but no one wanted to lose the two annual Cowboys-Redskins, Cowboys-Giants or Cowboys-Eagles games.
If you look at the realigned divisions, you'll see that the NFC East and Central and the AFC East and West came out of alignment pretty much as they went in, with one team removed each. The Cardinals, Bucs, Colts and Seahawks were the obvious choices to leave each of those divisions, respectively, and the Seahawks made the whole thing work by agreeably switching to the NFC and joining in the West.
Those four teams and the remainders of the NFC West and the AFC Central – plus the Texans, making it 16 teams in all – were jumbled up a bit to create the other four divisions, with geography playing a big role. That proved a little easier in the NFC, where the North and South divisions make obvious sense, than it did in the AFC, where teams such as Cincy, Baltimore, Indy and Jacksonville were shunted North or South. To repeat what I wrote the last time we did this:
"I would say the final alignment is a mixture of rivalry-preservation and geographical sense.
You gotta admit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are all pretty close to each other. They are also, as a group, a bit more East than Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee (yes, I know that Jacksonville is farther East than Cincinnati…I said, "as a group"). Plus, Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Cincinnati-Cleveland are two heated rivalries, as is Houston-Jacksonville (just kidding!)."
- Brian White of Torrance, California asks:
**Oooh Mighty Answer Man - My wife & I had a discussion the other day about players making the team and how far down in the draft they had been picked. I believe that the Bucs have done quite well in rounds 4, & 5 maybe even some greatness has come out of the later rounds, especially during the McKay period. So my question is. Of the Bucs teams over the last few years. Perhaps starting with the Super Bowl team until last year. Can you list some of our great later round picks?
Also - As we live in the LA area - And this will be just between the two of us - Do you have any inside scoop on the decision to put a team out here ? - I promise not to tell.**
Brian White of Torrance, California amends:
Hold On!! Yesterday I sent you a question about the Bucs success with later round draft picks. Last night, my wife Danielle said we should ask you to include a couple more years, picks from Oakland, when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen where together. I may be asking for to much but as you can see the Los Angeles fans don't have a lot to talk about.
Answer: See, here's one case in which my inattention to the mailbag actually paid off. I read these questions almost back-to-back, so I didn't have to waste time answering one and then fixing my answer for the second one.
Okay, to put it all together, you would like to know what late-round draft picks have worked out well for Coach Gruden over the last seven or eight years. You include Bruce Allen, too, but there are a few years in Tampa where the two were not together, so the only unifying figure is Gruden. And, as you pretty much define above, we'll cover the second day of the draft, rounds 4-7.
Gruden and Allen began working together in Oakland in 1998, when Gruden was hired as the Raiders' head coach. Their first combined draft experience produced five picks in rounds 4-7: C Gennaro DiNapoli, TE Jeremy Brigham, LB Travian Smith, DE Vince Amey and DE David Sanders.
That wasn't a bad second-day haul, overall. DiNapoli has played for three teams and started 27 games, nine of them with Oakland in 1999. Brigham lasted four years in the league, all with the Raiders, and played in 47 games with eight starts and 33 receptions. Smith played seven years for the Raiders and was an occasional starter, amassing 242 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Neither Amey nor Sanders made much of an impact.
That's a reasonably good second day, but the best second-day Raiders pick during Gruden's four years in Oakland came the next spring. With the 153rd pick overall in 1999, the Raiders selected East Carolina defensive tackle Rod Coleman.
Perhaps you've heard of him? He's now collapsing pockets for division-rival Atlanta and is clearly one of the best defensive linemen in the league. Coleman was part of a very productive fifth round for the Raiders that year, as they also got Maryland linebacker Eric Barton seven picks before Coleman. Though he's now with the N.Y. Jets, Barton first developed into a starter in Oakland. He produced 125 tackles and six sacks for the Raiders team that lost to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII.
There are no players of particular note from the second day of the Raiders' 01 draft, but Gruden's first year with the Buccaneers saw the team make a nice fifth-round pick: S Jermaine Phillips. Now a hard-hitting starter in the Bucs' secondary, Phillips is actually the only player still on the team from that draft, which was bereft of first and second-round picks due to the deal that brought Gruden over from Oakland.
Two of the Bucs' second-day selections from 2003 are still on hand: fifth-round G Sean Mahan and sixth-round CB Torrie Cox. Both have been more than marginal players. Mahan has started the last 24 games at either center or right guard and Cox has had stints as both a nickel back and the primary kickoff returner while excelling on special teams coverage.
In 2004, with Allen now on board as the general manager, the Bucs picked six players in the latter rounds, including three in the seventh round, and all of them played in the NFL as rookies, albeit a few of them with different teams. Still toiling for the Bucs from that group are fourth-round S Will Allen, who could start opposite Phillips this year, fifth-round G Jeb Terry and seventh-round WR Mark Jones, the team's punt returner.
It's probably a bit early to tab any of last year's second-day picks as unequivocal hits, with one exception: G Dan Buenning, who was so good so fast that he started all 16 games last year as a rookie. The Bucs also still have high hopes for the other five 2005 second-day picks who are still around: S Donte Nicholson, WRs Larry Brackins, Paris Warren and J.R. Russell, DT Anthony Bryant and FB Rick Razzano.
As for the second part of your first question, no, I don't have any inside scoop on the "NFL team in L.A." issue. (You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?) However, it does tie in nicely with the previous question, because it is beginning to seem most likely that if L.A. is to get a team in the near future it will be a relocated club rather than an expansion franchise. The league is fond of its 32-team symmetry, and who can blame them?
- Dan Nix of Live Oak, Florida asks:
In which game did Joe Jurevicius catch 'THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE CATCH IN NFL HISTORY'? (I think it was in 2002, but it could be later.) He and another receiver, along with two defensive players, were in tight coverage near the end zone; as he went high in the air with the front defensive man, he tipped the ball over the 1st defensive's man's head and right to the 2nd defensive man. As the 2nd man dove to make the interception, somehow Joe spun around, and dove just above the 2nd man and made the touchdown catch. I'm sorry this question is so long, but this catch made "THE CATCH" in San Francisco PALE in comparison. I still cannot understand why Jurevicius' reception, has not been hailed as 'THE GREATEST EVER!'
Answer Man: Yeah, people still seem pretty fond of Dwight Clark's catch, don't they? Not to mention a few memorable ones by Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Antonio Freeman on Monday night or Terrell Owens against the Packers in the playoffs.
Not to argue the magnificence of the catch you described above – though the Answer Man would argue it went down a little differently than you say, and we'll get to that – but "The Catch" by Clark was both a great athletic play AND an incredibly important turn of events. Joe's catch was important to the Bucs and that particular game in Philadelphia, but it was the season opener and it was one of two touchdowns in a shutout win by Tampa Bay. Presumably, the Bucs would have won the game anyway. "The Catch" put San Francisco in the Super Bowl for the first time and essentially launched a dynasty. Likewise, the "Swann Dive" occurred in a Super Bowl, Harris' "Immaculate Reception" is one of the most controversial moments in league history, Freeman's deflected catch won an overtime Monday Night Football contest and Owens' fourth-down grab beat Green Bay in the playoffs.
The Answer Man will not argue, however, with your contention that Joe's catch was one of the most athletic and amazing receptions any of us has seen, worthy of a lasting place in our collective memory no matter how critical a moment it was.
To answer your question, the game was played on September 8, 2003, and there were some factors that added to its mystique. For one, it was the season's opening Monday Night Football game. In addition, it was the first regular-season game played in Philadelphia's new Lincoln Financial Field. For the Buccaneers, it was the beginning of its Super Bowl title defense, and it went incredibly well, as the Bucs absolutely dominated their opponents from the previous year's NFC Championship Game. Jurevicius had the key offensive play in that game, which shut down Veterans Stadium, and he scored twice on two acrobatic catches in the following season's opener to christen the Eagles' new nest.
You describe the scene as unfolding with two Bucs receivers and two Eagles defenders bunched together. The Answer Man remembers it differently…and just to be sure, I went back and checked out the tape, with the help of the Bucs' video department.
Here's how the play actually went down. On third-and-six from the Eagles' seven-yard line, Jurevicius lined up on the right side and ran a simple out that took him down to about the two-yard line. Keyshawn Johnson lined up in the slot a few yards to Jurevicius' left and ran a parallel pattern into the back of the end zone. Jurevicius and Johnson were both covered man-to-man, by Troy Vincent and Sheldon Brown, respectively. Quarterback Brad Johnson took the snap, immediately rolled several steps to the right and threw in Jurevicius' direction.
Here's where it got crazy. Johnson's pass didn't lead Jurevicius sufficiently so, as the receiver continued running toward the sideline the pass came in behind him. On the run, with his back to the end zone, Jurevicius reached back with his right hand and, as Vincent closed in, tipped the ball up and back toward the end zone.
Knowing what he had done, Jurevicius reacted immediately when he hit the ground, turning and spinning around Vincent, who reacted a moment later. That semi-circle took Jurevicius dangerously close to the sideline, but he located the ball quickly as he spun to face the end zone.
Meanwhile, Brown recognized what Jurevicius had done, too, and left Johnson to go after the ball. Brown dove first and would have picked the ball off about a yard into the end zone, but Jurevicius, his feet just missing the sideline and his arms extended awkwardly away from his body to the left, plucked the ball out of the air just before it fell into Brown's hands. Brown slid under the receiver and Jurevicius hit the ground and rolled over, never losing his grip on the ball.
Touchdown! The Answer Man was there – and it was a Monday-nighter, so millions of fans saw it live, too – and I concur with Dan that it was an unbelievably athletic and heady play. But here's the part that came through more clearly when watching it in slow-motion on tape: It very much appears as if Jurevicius did this little tip drill on purpose. It's hard to imagine that idea coming to his head and him executing it in the split-second that it occurred, but the particular direction of the flip with his right hand and the immediate spin as he hit the ground sure make it look deliberate. Just remarkable.
- Josh of DeLand, Florida asks:
**Answer Man, help me out here. Last year the Bucs started the same five guys on the offensive line in every game. So I have two questions: 1) How many other teams did this in the 2005 season, and 2) How long has it been since the Bucs last started the same linemen in every game of a regular season.
Your assistance is appreciated.**
Answer Man: I'm a little bit surprised at the second half of your question, Josh, because it seems to me that just about every time we've mentioned that note here on Buccaneers.com, we've made a point of saying it was the first time it had happened in team history. Here's an example from when the team re-signed Mahan, one of those five starters; look in the fourth paragraph.
So, to begin with part two, the answer to your question is: A long time. Forever. Before 2005, the Bucs had never had the same five men start all 16 regular season games together on the offensive line (Mahan and company also started the long playoff game together to make it 17 straight). The team did come very, very close just a few years ago. In 2000, the Bucs fielded a starting line of LT Pete Pierson, LG Randall McDaniel, C Jeff Christy, RG Frank Middleton and RT Jerry Wunsch for games 1-14 and game 16, but George Hegamin started game 15 at left tackle, as well as the playoff loss at Philadelphia.
Part one of your question is a little bit harder to answer, but certainly not beyond my powers. It is also worth researching, in my opinion, because it adds another dimension to a good note. That is, is this a first-time accomplishment for the Buccaneers mostly because the team hasn't had particularly good continuity on the offensive line, or is it a relatively rare feat throughout the NFL?
So, a quick trip to the Answer Cave and…here's your answer: The Bucs were one of only three teams in the NFL to accomplish that feat last year. One of the other two was right in Tampa Bay's division – the Carolina Panthers. Carolina started the following five men on their offensive line in every game: LT Travelle Wharton, LG Mike Wahle, C Jeff Mitchell, RG Tutan Reyes and RT Jordan Gross.
The other was the Denver Broncos, which suited up the following five in every game: LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Cooper Carlisle and RT George Foster.
- Jesse Spinelli of Bradenton, Florida asks:
I am a huge Bucs fan. I am 12 years old and have been a fan forever. I have been pondering a question that I heard when I was 8 or 9. The question to me was: At each Buccaneer game there is an intro video played. This video shows our pirate ship attacking the other team's pirate ship. During this video a piece of music is played. What is the name of this piece of music and who composed it? This question has been a question that I could never figure out. Hopefully you will answer this for me.
Answer Man: Wow. Those years from 8 to 12 are pretty formative in a young person's life, and this poor fan spent some portion of that time in angst over this Buccaneer-related question. If only this fan had discovered the Answer Man sooner!
You came to the right place, Jess. I've actually answered this question before, or at least one related to it. See, the Bucs use that particular piece of music fairly often as it just seems to fit so perfectly. The piece in question was a stage work composed by a German named Carl Orff and is the opening section of "Carmina Burana," called "O Fortuna."
So there's your answer. Now get back to some useful 12-year-old pursuits, like Wiffle Ball in the backyard or practicing for a spelling bee.
- Brett Chandler of Indian Rocks Beach asks:
The quarterback takes the snap under the center and takes 5 steps or less back, still in the pocket and throws a forward pass that is short of the line of scrimmage, is it a incomplete pass or intentional grounding?
Answer Man: I feel like this is one of those standardized tests where there are several possible answers among the multiple-choice options plus one that reads, 'Not enough information is given.'
This is just not enough information, Brett. Mainly, I need to know if there was an eligible receiver in the vicinity of where the pass landed. A quarterback can throw a legal forward pass to a spot still behind the line of scrimmage as long as he's throwing it to someone (specifically, an eligible receiver, not a lineman). It is when he is throwing it away, with no specific target, that he can get in trouble. And, technically, that is true even of a pass that goes beyond the line of scrimmage. A quarterback can be called for intentional grounding if he throws a ball well out of bounds on purpose, though the officials don't throw that flag often.
Also, was the quarterback hit as he tried to throw. If a defender's hit causes a pass that was intended to go elsewhere to fall at a spot nowhere near an eligible target, that is not intentional grounding.
The fact that you make a point of saying the quarterback drops back and remains in the pocket makes me believe you are at least partially familiar with the rules allowing the passer to spike the ball to stop the clock and to intentionally throw away a pass while outside of the pocket. However, if your scenario is describing a passer who has dropped into the pocket and then chosen to throw the ball to the ground without attempting to hit an eligible receiver then, yes, that is intentional grounding.
- Scott of Orange Lake, Florida asks:
What is the minimum salary now in the NFL for a player making the cut and the team as a regular season player? And who on the Bucs squad were at the minimum pay last year?
Answer Man: Unfortunately, Scott, I have to dance around this one a little bit and leave you with a somewhat incomplete answer because it is team policy never to release a player's specific salary figures. Obviously, that information tends to get out anyway, in part because player's agents want to publicize their new deals and in part because the information can be found by journalists who know their way around the NFL and the internet.
Still, we as a team feel it is inappropriate to share those numbers, so I won't be able to answer the second half of your question. Generally, however, young players who join the team as undrafted rookies or as free agents still trying to make their first regular-season roster are going to be looking at a contract somewhere around the minimum.
Not that the NFL minimum is anything to sneeze at. The minimum salary that can be paid to a first-year player, at least this season, is $275,000 a year. The number goes up for players as they earn accrued seasons in the league. That is, the minimum salary a team can pay, say, a fifth-year veteran is higher than the minimum salary it can pay a rookie. Again, I don't believe I'm at liberty to reveal that entire pay scale. Hopefully, that figure of $275,000 was the answer for which you were looking.
I do have an additional side note regarding that sliding scale of minimum salaries for veterans. It was recognized early on in this new era of free agency that a higher veteran minimum, while seemingly a good thing for the older players, could actually work against them later in their careers. That is, if you needed, say, a fifth wide receiver and you could choose between an untested and (relatively speaking) cheap rookie and a proven but more expensive 10th-year veteran, you might have to go with the rookie simply to save cap space. In other words, the higher minimum salary could end up pricing equally competent but older players out of jobs at the end of the roster, potentially ending their careers sooner.
The solution: Keep the higher veteran minimum in terms of actual salary being paid but have it count less against the salary cap in the bookkeeping. That way, if you didn't mind giving up the actual cash, you could choose either player and have the same impact on the salary cap.
- Clyde Savage of Redington Shores asks:
I know the BUCS are going to camp on the 27th of July. I want to know when they will break camp? I want to get a place in Orlando for a week and catch most of the practices and would like to make my reservations asap. Thanks, Clyde
Answer Man: I could have put this question down among the "Quickies" at the bottom of the column, but it actually asks a slightly different question that most of the "training-camp date" e-mails. Clyde is right about the start date of camp being July 27 (though the first day of practice is actually the 28th) but wants to know when it ends.
Well, Clyde, like the one above, this answer is going to be a little incomplete. See, the actual break date of this year's camp hasn't been fully finalized just yet. That's because the Bucs plan to go directly from camp in Orlando to their new, nearly-complete headquarters near Raymond James Stadium. Thus, some factors regarding the completion of the facility will play into the exact date that camp ends.
That being said, you should expect to break sometime in the week leading up to the second preseason game on August 19. For practical purposes, if your intention is to see as many practices as possible, you should shoot for as early in camp as possible. The Bucs always start camp with a nearly solid week of two-a-days, morning and afternoon, before easing back a little bit in the second week to ease the load on fatigued players and injury-plagued positions. So I would suggest starting your week on Friday, the 28th and planning to hit as many practices over the next four or five days as possible. Some time around the third or fourth day, the team usually has its first full-contact drills, which are always a highlight of camp.
As a reminder to all, if it's not obvious from the above explanation, all Buccaneers training camp practices are open to the public. They will be held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, and while there is an admission fee for most of the activities at that park, all Buc practices are free.
As I alluded to above, here are a few "Quickies" to finish us off. As usual, these are questions that either require little elaboration or have been answered sufficiently in a previous column.
- Jerry of North Fort Myers, Florida asks:
Haven't heard if Earnest Graham was re-signed for 2006.
Answer Man: No, not yet, but it will probably happen soon. Graham is an exclusive rights free agent, which means he can only negotiate with the Buccaneers. As this article on Buccaneers.com stated last week, only Shepherd and Graham remained to be signed, and the team inked Shepherd the very next day.
- Don of Seffner, Florida asks:
I saw Gradkowski in number 7. I cannot think who else was number 7 in Bucs history. Can you help?
Answer Man: Can I help? That one is right in the Answer Man's wheelhouse! And, frankly, the Answer Man is a bit surprised that you can't think of the player who wore 7 in the most Buccaneer games: Martin Gramatica, for goodness' sake! Gramatica wore that number for five of his six seasons in Tampa before switching to 10 in 2004. Gramatica wore that number for a total of 78 games.
The other prominent #7 in Buc history is quarterback Craig Erickson, who took that number into battle on 37 occasions and is responsible for 30 of the 31 starts made by a player in the 7 jersey. The only other player to make a start while wearing 7 is QB Jeff Carlson, who played in only four games overall. Three other men played for the Bucs with that number: QB Alan Risher (16 games), P Sean Landeta (10) and QB Jeff Komlo. Rick Neuheisel was on the Bucs' roster during the 1987 regular season and was issued number 7, but he never got into a game.
- Karlene of Orlando, Florida asks:
I was wondering if it is possible to tour the stadium on days when nothing else is going on? Are any restaurants in the stadium open every day?
Answer Man: I included this question as a public service but I just can't bear to answer it again, for the 813th time. Here's a link to the last time it was asked: Stadium tour answer.
Okay, that's it for this…well, I guess I can't say "this week," since I've hardly been keeping up a weekly schedule. Well, the draft is over, training camp and the move to the new facility is still a few months away and the Answer Man might find a little more open space on his schedule in June and July. Tell you what, if you fill up the mailbag anew with good, meaty questions, I'll do my part and try to get back on an almost-weekly schedule. The ball's in your court!