Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Vol. 21

The fans’ inside man gives out a holiday gift list for the Buccaneers, then dives into discussions on drop kicks, X-rays, future schedules, illegal passes and much more

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There was a pretty good mix in the ol' e-mailbag this week, from the personal (Do I like my job?) to the professional (How can I get a tryout?), and from the polite (Could you please deliver a message to Coach Gruden?) to the not-so-polite (You don't want to know). There were many questions worthy of our discussion this week, as you'll see below, and a few that barely qualified as gibberish.

Perhaps the most humorous e-mail came from a previous contributor, Peter Paullin, who went off on a lengthy diatribe against the officials. However, I'm sorry Peter...The Answer Man can neither print your letter nor comment on it. The rules on that subject – and most importantly, the fines – apply to all NFL employees, not just coaches.

Hopefully, just writing the letter was cathartic for you.

Then I came across an e-mail from one John Bellanger of Lakewood, California, and I knew I had to answer it right up front. Here it is:

"Answer man", hello. Can you please send me the mailing address of the Bucs? along with information on how I may obtain a team picture,game program and media guide?

Now I can see you out there scratching your heads and wondering why this one jumped out at me. Not only is it a painfully easy question, but I answered it, in effect, in Volume 3. What, has the Answer Man gone soft? Is he only fielding softballs this week?

I think you'll see below that I still addressed the meatier topics. This one, however, gives me an excuse to give out the team address. You see, two weeks ago Adam Fournier of Gainesville, Florida asked the Answer Man what he wanted for Christmas and I provided a nice little list. I realized, however, that I never told Adam where to send his gift(s), and that is the reason, I assume, that nothing has shown up yet. Sorry about that Adam. Here's the address: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, FL, 33607. I'll be waiting.

That's the office address here at One Buccaneer Place. I thought everybody out there could take note, in case any of you have a gift to send to any of my buddies here. Just to help out, I've put together a list of what some guys who have been very good this year might like to find in their stockings.

  • Brian Kelly...A DVD of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kelly is a devoted film buff, and he's got an eye for finer cinema. Perhaps Kelly would disagree with the Answer Man's choice – he is the Corner Critic, after all – but I think he might find it to be a trippy but warm meditation on the value of all life's experiences, good and bad, from the brilliant mind of Charlie Kaufman. * Ronde Barber...A copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Barber is an author now, having shared in the production of the children's book, By My Brother's Side with his twin, Tiki. There's something creative in Barber's post-NFL life; perhaps its writing for a larger audience. If so, he'll want this essential – and hilarious – book on common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them. * Jermaine Phillips...A CD: Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse. We admittedly have no idea about Phillips's musical taste. However, we do know that he has abandoned all pretense and just belted out his own numbers when singing holiday carols to the folks at a local retirement home. Phillips let his enthusiasm carry him through several musical bits. Similarly, Modest Mouse layers catchy guitar work with vocals that are winning but far from polished. * Shelton Quarles...Some Man of the Year recognition. Quarles is the Bucs' 2004 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee, which means he excels both on and off the field. Only one winner will be chosen among the NFL's 32 finalists – and Derrick Brooks is the only Buc ever to win the award – but Quarles should get some local love nonetheless. The team has rarely had a player more devoted to community work. * Monte Kiffin...A vacation, for goodness' sake. Despite his stature as one of the most accomplished coaches in the NFL, this man can still be found haunting the halls of One Buc Place at almost any hour, his mind always on football. Get this man a drink served in a coconut. * Corey Ivy...A couple championships. Ivy is a former Oklahoma Sooner and a St. Louis Cardinals fans, so if the 2005 calendar year were to bring rings to his favorite teams, that would be alright with the Answer Man. (Another Super Bowl trophy wouldn't be bad, either.) * Edell Shepherd...An injury-free 2005 season. This virtual unknown was coming on very strong in training camp for the Buccaneers and almost certainly would have won a roster spot if not for a freak preseason foot injury. Shepherd worked hard to overcome his undrafted status; he deserves a chance to prove he belongs in 2005. * Mike Alstott...A spot on Survivor 11. Forget Rupert; this guy might be the ultimate survivor. He's a team player in the best sense of the word, which should serve him well in the early going. But he also has a useful mean streak when in competition and, as an athlete, he's got a lot of balance, which should help him in many of the challenges. Doesn't talk too much, doesn't take crap...something tells me he would be a straight-shooting, popular candidate. * Dave Moore...One more receiving yard. Now that he is mostly handling the deep snaps, it might be easy to forget that Moore has had a very fine career as an all-around tight end. Moore started for the better part of six years in Tampa and was a constant scoring threat, recording 24 receiving touchdowns. At the moment, Moore's career statistics, which include two seasons in Buffalo, stand at 203 receptions for 1,999 yards. With Will Heller out, Moore may get more playing time, which could put him over 2,000 yards on his career.

I could go on, but I'll let you use your imagination. Oh, and John, a media guide would be $12 through the mail, a game program would be $8 and the team picture would be complimentary. However, before sending a check, I suggest you wait until the end of the season, then contact the Bucs' public relations department to see if there are any of those three items left. They are only sold or distributed if there is a surplus. The phone number is 813-870-2700.

Now, on to this week's questions.

**

  1. Ken Swanger of Greenville, South Carolina asks:

Answer Man, Is the Drop Kick still legal? I don't remember it ever being written out of the rule book. Also, if it is still legal, why don't teams choose to use it anymore? It worked in "The Longest Yard"!

And...

Simon Tavanyar of Lake Mary, Florida:

Dear Illustrious One, I am an ex-English-rugby fan now converted to a Tampa Bay football fan. In rugby, a player can score three points by drop-kicking the ball through the goal posts from anywhere on the field. Well, this football-savvy friend of mine told me that football rules allow the same thing. Is this true, and has it ever happened in the NFL?

Answer Man: You know, the drop kick is funny in that everybody has heard the term but virtually nobody has seen it in the wild.

Two things to know about the drop kick: 1) It is exactly as it sounds; the executor of a drop kick drops the ball and then kicks it either right as it hits the ground or just as it comes back up off the ground, and 2) It is still quite legal in the NFL.

Of course, it's also still legal for an NFL team to line up in the Wing T and run the triple option all day. What a team can do and what it wants to do are two very different things.

That being said, it is amusing that the drop kick is still specifically listed as an acceptable option in the NFL rulebook, considering the last drop kick in the league occurred in 1941. Basically, any time you would want to placekick, you also have the option of drop-kicking. If you wanted to line your kicker up right behind center and let him take his own snap, then drop it to the ground and kick it, you could.

Ken wants to know why nobody uses it in the NFL anymore, given its success in The Longest Yard. The Answer Man thinks the better question is, why would you use it, other than an unhealthy fascination with Burt Reynolds?

Given that soccer-style placekickers have nearly perfected the art in the NFL, to the point that most teams expect an 80% success rate, there's not much point in letting an inexperienced drop-kicker try his thing. Even with practice, it's hard to imagine the drop kick being as reliable as the soccer-style placekick.

Conceivably, I suppose, one could fool the opposition if the quarterback was capable of drop-kicking; your team could line up in the shotgun and then kick out of it. But why bother?

Anybody got any good drop-kicking stories from actual competition?

**

Clay of Patterson, California asks:

I am a radiologist major and I was wondering when a player gets hurt they say "he is going in for X-rays". Do the Bucs hire their own x-ray techs, or do they just Volunteer for the job, and is a year round job or just for sundays. Thanks ohh mighty Answer Man!

Answer Man: Clay, while the Bucs have a lot of full-time medical employees, the X-ray technicians on game day are contracted for that specific purpose. This season, the Bucs have two specific technicians from University Community Hospital who handle all of their X-rays for home games.

The two X-ray technicians are actually stationed on the sideline during the game, only going into the examination room if a player gets hurt and is taken in that direction. To take a player to the X-ray room at Raymond James Stadium, by the way, trainers go through the northeast tunnel, to the right of the pirate ship. Perhaps you've seen carts head in that direction when players have been hurt.

Teams don't bring their X-ray people on the road; both teams are serviced by the X-ray technicians on hand through the home team.

**

Tony Manning of Hot Coffee, Mississippi asks:

**Dear great Man of Many Answers, please field this question…

Here is the situation: A quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage and throws an illegal forward pass, which is in turn intercepted and returned for a touchdown by the defense. Two questions:

1) Since the forward pass was illegally attempted across the line of scrimmage, does the pass count as a pass? If not, what is it considered? 2) Does the TD definitely count?**

Answer Man: Tony, given your name and the state of this question's origin, we're going to hazard a guess that you are a huge Peyton and Eli Manning fan. Who knows, by the time you read this answer, Peyton may have already broken the single-season touchdown pass record currently held by HBO analyst Dan Marino.

But on to your question. First, the most important thing we need to find out in researching this answer is obvious, and that is: Is there really a town called Hot Coffee, Mississippi?

Indeed there is, a little internet surfing has taught us. The name apparently dates back to an inn that was a popular stop for early-1800s travelers making the trip from Ellisville to Mobile. The inn featured ginger cakes and, uh, hot coffee, and became so well known for said refreshments that it hung a large sign that read 'Hot Coffee.' Nineteenth-century travelers being understandably preoccupied by ruts in the road andd stagecoach depreciation, the sign eventually led everyone to believe that was the name of the inn and, by association, the town.

Or something like that.

It appears as if that name is still the town's main claim to fame, though visitors apparently are encouraged to visit the 'mini-mall,' which features Moon Pies, pottery, hot coffee (natch!) and something called Hoop Cheese. Don't leave without some Hoop Cheese.

Okay, so blah blah blah 19th century, blah blah blah cozy little inn. Whatever. What I really want to know and can't seem to find out on the internet (Hot Coffee City Council, are you listening?) is whether the town has any sister cities. Like, say, Cream, Wisconsin and Sugarland, Texas? Are they part of a bed-and-breakfast circuit with Two Egg, Florida, Toast, North Carolina and Bacon, Indiana (all real cities)? And are they really, really tired of lame jokes like these?

Ahem. Where were we? Ah, yes, the intercepted illegal forward pass.

Let's go from the bottom up here, because number 2 in this question is easier to answer than number 1. Yes, the touchdown definitely counts. A flag will be thrown on the quarterback, but the ball is still live, and thus the defense can profit off the play and make it stand by declining the penalty.

The trickier question is, how do we score this? Is it considered a pass, and thus an interception, given that it is illegal to throw a pass in this situation? Or is it considered an intentional forward fumble, which would also be illegal but would make the resulting turnover a fumble, even if it was caught in midair?

The answer is: Interception. And the reasoning is foolproof. According to Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1, Supplemental Note 5 – ah, the joys of bureaucracy – "an intentional forward fumble is a forward pass."

Admittedly, I added the italics, but that's just because I was so pleased at the conclusive nature of this rule-book finding. Usually, it's not that easy. Also, just to put an official stamp on things, here is Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1(b): "When any illegal pass is caught or intercepted, the ball may be advanced and the penalty declined."

Hope that helps, Antonio. The Answer Man knows he could never measure up to Peyton Manning in your eyes, but I did my best.

**

Paul Fisher of Towanda, Kansas asks:

Answerman, this is the part where I usually would put flattery, but not this time. My question is how exactly do they determine season schedules? Someone once told me that scheduling was determined by how well you performed in the previous season, but on the Buccaneers website, you can see the schedules a few years in advance. So, basically, do they determine schedules randomly, or just switching which teams you play so there are not too many repeats (except for divison games of course), or do they have another method of madness to determine schedules?

Answer Man: Astute readers of past Answer Man columns may recognize Paul as the questioner who briefly lived on the other side, as he fielded a question in an effort to take on the role of my sidekick, Answer Boy. Paul did a fine job with that question (regarding PAT attempts in overtime) but has now apparently stumbled on one that has him stumped.

Paul, you came to the right place. And to again start from the end of the question, yes there is a method to the madness; there was before and there is now. It just so happens that the team changed methods about three years ago.

In the past, a team's schedule (or rather, the opponents that it played; the actual dates and times of the games are not really relevant to the discussion) was indeed largely determined by its record the previous season. That was known as the 'strength of schedule' format.

Under the previous system, teams were matched up with teams of other divisions based on where they finished in their own divisions. For instance, a fourth-place team in a five-team division was likely to play the third, fourth and fifth-place teams in another division. First-place teams found a lot of other first-place teams on their schedule.

You identified the main problem with this system, Paul. Scheduling in this manner sometimes led to huge blocks of seasons in which two teams never met. If you were a Buccaneer fan living in Dallas, for instance, and hoping for a visit from your favorite team during the 1990s, well forget it. After playing each other twice in 1990, after both teams had rough '89 seasons, the Bucs and Cowboys didn't meet again until 2000. And if you're talking cross-conference matchups, the wait could be even longer. The Bucs played the Broncos in 1981 and didn't see them again until 1993. Expansion brothers Seattle and Tampa Bay didn't meet once between 1977 and 1994. Even the Dolphins, an obvious natural rival for the Bucs, didn't show up on the team schedule for six years at one point.

When the team realigned to its current eight-division format in 2002, it also changed its scheduling format, almost completely erasing the strength-of-schedule element. Now, only two games each year are determined by where team's finish in the standings; for instance, next year the Bucs will play the teams from the NFC East and NFC West that finish in the same spot in their divisions that the Bucs do in the South.

Otherwise, the rest of the opponent list has been mapped out well in advance…through the 2009 season, in fact. Now, divisions simply rotate in their matchups with each other. Next year, the NFC South will play teams from the NFC North and the AFC East. In 2006, the Bucs' division will be pitted against the NFC East and the AFC North. And so on.

That format guarantees that the Bucs will face every team in the NFC at least once every three seasons, and every team in the AFC at least once every four seasons.

So I can't yet tell you the dates, but I can tell you that the Bucs will have (non-division) home games next year against Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo and Miami (and another team to be determined) and away games at Green Bay, Minnesota, New England and the New York Jets (and another team to be determined).

By the way, that handy little page on our site is here (look at the top of the page for links to the 2005-09 seasons. Note that the Bucs will play at Buffalo for the first time ever in 2009. Get your plane tickets now.

**

Scott from Tampa, Florida asks:

If a player is cut in midseason, is that player paid the remainder of his contract? I was under the impression that NFL contracts were not guaranteed, while my brother believes they are and that is why his salary will count against the cap next year. Does it just depend on the player and the individual contract? Please clarify if possible. Thanks.

And...

Devin of Brandon, Florida asks:

Answer Man, I've been trying to find out the answer to how cap penalties work, but no one I've asked seems to have the answer, so can you explain why teams get a cap penalty for releasing a player before the contract is up and how does the cap penalty effect the salary cap itself???

Answer Man: The Answer Man knows he's explained this topic before (Volumes 7, 8 and 13, but who's counting?), but it is admittedly a labyrinthine topic that may never be exhaused.

So let's see if we can address these specific cap questions with something between thoroughness and brevity. We're just going to mish-mash Scott and Devin's questions into one in order to answer them.

First things first, the 'cap penalty' to which you refer is not a sanction of any kind from the league. When a writer describes a team as sustaining a cap penalty, what he means is that the team's ability to operate under the cap is adversely affected by a move that has financial repercussions. As I discussed in Volume 8, there is a penalty system in place for teams that exceed the cap, but it is rarely needed because teams police themselves very well out of necessity.

So, Devin, penalties rarely happen and they do not affect the cap. However, what I think you are referring to will be answered in the next few paragraphs.

Scott, you're right about NFL contracts not being guaranteed, but that applies only to the annual salaries, not the signing bonuses. A signing bonus is 'guaranteed' simply because the player gets all of it up front. If his signing bonus is $10 million and his salary is $1 million a year for 2004-08, and he is cut after 2004, he will have made $11 million. He will not be paid the $1 million per from 2005-08.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. Although a signing bonus is paid up front, its effect on the cap is prorated by the number of years on the contract. Thus, in the example above, that player would have been a $3 million hit on the cap each year, $1 million for his salary and $2 million for the one-fifth prorated portion of his bonus.

When a highly-paid player is cut, it is the remaining portion of his signing bonus that is such a problem, cap-wise, to his team. In the example above, the player would count $3 million against the cap in 2005. However, if his team cut him, the prorated cap hit of the last $6 million of his signing bonus (due to hit in 2006-08) would accelerate to that moment and all of a sudden his cap hit would be $9 million.

That is why it is often so financially difficult for a team to cut a player who has previously signed a large contract. In terms of actual money, the move makes no difference to the team, and it only hurts the player in terms of his future earnings.

**

Christian Rohr-Rosin of Berlin, Germany asks:

Hi Answer Man, when I started to be interested in Football I found out, that the numbering system in the NFL is very strict. I remember Seahawks LB Brian Bosworth being disallowed his High School and College No.44, because Linebackers in the NFL had to wear No.´s 50-59 or 90-99. Have the rules changed? Why was Keyshawn Johnson allowed to wear No. 19? I thought the only exeption the league made was for players who switch positions and were therefore allowed to keep their original numbers, like former Raiders TE Todd Christensen keeping No.46 after switching from FB.

Answer Man: Christian, the rules haven't changed but there has been one notable alteration in the numbers that are available to each position. Beginning in 2004, receivers may wear numbers in the 11-19 range, which was previously reserved for quarterbacks, kickers and punters. Previously, receivers were only allowed to wear numbers in the 80s.

However, as you note, Keyshawn has been wearing 19 for quite some time. That speaks to the other exception to the rule: If there are no numbers available in your position's range, then you can go to another range. For instance, a linebacker who joins a team whose 50s and 90s are all filled could then take a number in the 40s.

When Johnson first joined the NFL with the Jets in 1996, New York had no numbers available in the '80s, so he went with 19. Some teams have a more difficult time handing out numbers in certain ranges due to retired jerseys or players on injured reserve taking up options.

By the time Johnson was traded to the Buccaneers, he was very clearly identified with that number and an exception was made by the league to allow him to keep it in Tampa, even though some 80 numbers were available. He would have been given the same exception in Dallas, but it became moot when the new range was opened up for receivers this year. Now you see lots of receivers in the teens, such as Reggie Williams in Jacksonville (11), Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona (11), Darius Watts in Denver (17) and Kelly Campbell in Minnesota (16).

**

Matt Pizzolongo of Newington, CT asks:

Yo answer dude, If a team opts to kick a field goal on, say, second down to win the game, and they miss, but there is still time on the clock, can they kick again, would it be third down? or do they loose the ball. Thanks.

Answer Man: Yo, Matt. Sorry, but as soon as you try that kick, you're giving up the ball.

Allow me to quote my dog-eared NFL rulebook, a little something I affectionately refer to as Rule 11, Section 5, Aricle 2:

All field goals attempted and missed when the spot of the kick is beyond the 20-yard line will result in the defensive team taking possession of the ball at the spot of the kick. On any field goal attempted and missed when the spot of the kick is on or inside the 20-yard line, the ball will revert tot he defensive team at the 20-yard line.

(Ding! Every time a bell rings, the Answer Man learns something new from the rulebook. Did you catch the second half of that Article? If a team attempts a field goal from the two-yard line, the actual kick will probably take place at the 10, but the opposing team will get the ball at the 20. That's a good rule.)

You kick it, you lose it, Matt.

But there is some strategy involved in kicking on second or third down. The thought in such a situation is that, if you kick on second down and the snap happens to be very bad, the holder could simply fall on the ball, which would be scored as a run. The kicking team would then be able to line up at the new spot, albeit about eight yards back, and try again.

**

Tony Cacace of New Castle, Delaware asks:

The Bucs have had 5 shutouts over the past 3 seasons. Is that the most in the NFL? If not, then what team has more shutouts over the past 3 seasons? Also which team has the longest active streak of consecutive seasons with at least one shutout?

Answer Man: I'm glad you didn't ask me what the longest such streak ever was, because shutouts used to be much more commong. Almost two-thirds of all games from 1920-32 were shutouts, for instance. Of 116 NFL games in 1926, 86 were shutouts. So the answer would probably be some team like the Dayton Triangles or the Milwaukee Badgers.

But are the Bucs the current Kings of the Shutout? First, let's set the parameters. When you say the past three seasons, you must be including this one, when the Bucs added their 27-0 blanking of the Falcons to two shutouts each in 2003 and 2002. So which team has had the most shutouts from 2002 through the first 13 games of 2004?

The answer is indeed Tampa Bay and its five. That's almost a quarter of all NFL shutouts in that span; there have been 21 total, including only two this season. Seattle shut out San Francisco in Week Three, and that game stood alone until the Bucs blanked the Falcons.

Next up is New England, which got all three of its shutouts last season. Seattle and Atlanta are the only other teams with two shutouts from 2002-04, with both of the Falcons' blankings coming against Carolina in 2002.

Those clues tell you all you need to know about your last question, Tony. If the only other team with three shutouts over the last three seasons (New England) got them all in one year, then the Bucs stand alone with their string of three seasons with a shutout.

**

David A. Bradshaw of Washington, Pennsylvania:

hola answer guru! allow me to set up the situation with a brief (yeah, right) example. the bucs lead the falcons 23-21 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…let me save you, the reader, from the rest of Mr. Washington's so-very-NOT-brief scenario. The gist of it is, the Bucs end up punting on fourth-and-10, having forced the Falcons to use all of their timeouts. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled question…

…the clock reads 1:40 and ticking, the punt teams enter the field. now instead of lining up and waiting for the bucs to run down the clock before kicking, one of the falcons defensemen jumps across the line and causes an offsides penalty (which would be ok, since it would still be 4th and 5 after the yards get marked off). but is it legal for a team to commit an intentional penalty to stop the clock in the same way its illegal to intentionally fumble out of bounds? and would the clock even stop in such a situation?

Answer Man: Good question, David. Brief or properly capitalized, not so much. But definitely good.

That dastardly deed would do the Falcons no good and would in fact hurt them on the field and on the clock.

In such a scenario, the game and play clocks would indeed stop while the penalty was assessed. Then, since the penalty occurred within the last two minutes of the game, the officials would run 10 seconds off the game clock. To make matters worse, once they spotted the ball, they would start the game clock again, with the play clock reset to the beginning.

All in all, just a bad, bad strategy.

Such rules have to be in place because, believe the Answer Man, players would definitely employ such strategies if they would help. For instance, when the Answer Man first started working in the NFL, there were no specific rules regarding clock stoppage for an injured player. Thus, a player could get away with feigning an injury in the closing seconds in order to stop the clock.

The league responded by charging a team a timeout if the game had to be stopped in the final two minutes to attend to one of its injured players. If the team does not have a timeout, then a 10-second penalty would be assessed and, again, the clock would restart when the player had been helped off the field and the ball had once again been spotted.

**

Harry Jones of Dunedin, Florida asks:

Hey Answer Man (Nice suit, but it's a little baggy around the waist). Are the Bucs going to have a Christmas Toys for Tots pick area for the game of the 19th? I can't find any publicity about it,come on, get the word out so some of the Buc fans attending the game can be prepared.Our local kids need your support, through us attending the game and bringing toys.

Answer Man: My favorite e-mail of the week, even if Mr. Jones took an unnecessary swipe at my expensively-tailored get-up.

The story about the Toys for Tots drive hit the site on Thursday, as planned. Perhaps it should have gone up earlier. Our theory in such matters is to put up the information/reminder close to the event, so as to have the most immediate impact on our fans' memories.

We're glad you were thinking ahead, Harry. The Toys for Tots drive at the stadium, a partnership the Bucs have had with the Marine Corps Reserve for almost three decades, is always a smashing success. The Answer Man will come bearing gifts, and we would bet Harry will, too. How about the rest of you?

**

Okay, we've got a heaping handful of quickie questions today. We won't elaborate on these too much because we suspect a lot of you out there already know the answers. But these folks deserve responses, too (plus, it's good filler for a long column, which should impress my bosses with how hard I'm working).

Grant of Brandon, Florida asks:

Oh mighty, all-knowing, all-seeing Answer Man, master of all Buccaneer knowledge, I wish to draw from your infinite wisdom in order to settle an office dispute. Have the Buccaneers ever worn their orange uniforms again since changing them in 1997?

Answer Man: Wow, Grant, that was serious overkill on the flattery for such a benign question. The answer: No.

**

Sergio Reyes of Allen (maybe Texas, maybe Nebraska, who knows):

Can a player come off of injured reserve for the playoffs?

Answer Man: No, he cannot. Once a player is put on a team's injured reserve list during a season, he cannot play again in that season, including the playoffs. However, if a player recovers sufficiently from his injury and gets released from the club that put him on injured reserve, he can sign with another team and begin playing immediately. That was the case with the Bucs' signing of TE Billy Baber, who started the season on Kansas City's IR list.

**

Dave Carter of Brandon, Florida asks:

What was the date of the first Buccaneer preseason & regular season games in 1976?

Answer Man: The first preseason game was a road contest against the (then) L.A. Rams on July 31, 1976. The Rams won, 26-3. The first regular season game was at Houston on Sept. 12, 1976. The Oilers won, 20-0.

**

Abel of Long Beach, California asks:

Who was the coach and quarterback for the 1979 NFC championchip game for Tampa Bay?

Answer Man: The coach was John McKay, who took over the expansion team in 1976 and stayed at the helm through 1984. The quarterback was Doug Williams, who is now a Personnel Executive with the team.

**

Bryan Rogers of Charlestown, Rhode Island:

2 questions first what year did Tampa change from the orange uniforms and did T.Dilfer ever play in the orange jersey? thanks for your time Bryan.

Answer Man: I think this is the first question I've received from Rhode Island. Seven miles of beaches, huh...

Anyway, the Bucs began playing in their new uniforms in 1997. Therefore, Trent Dilfer, who played in Tampa from 1994-99, threw passes in both orange and pewter uniforms.

**

Sorry, the Answer Man is beat. There are presents to wrap and carols to sing on the neighbors' doorsteps (they love that). While this was a very lengthy column, I didn't get to a few questions I wanted to try because they required a little extra research. I'll try to get to them in my next column...that means you, Mike from Safety Harbor (uniform-combination records) and Mark from St. Petersburg (Simeon Rice's sack-forced fumble record).

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