Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Answer Man, Vol. 5

Wherein the Buccaneers.com crack investigator tracks down answers to fans’ questions concerning NFL Europe exemptions, stadium flyovers, retired numbers and more

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The 333rd Fighter Squadron will give Buc fans some added excitement before the home opener

The Answer Man has it on good authority that, on the day of a game, this space is usually reserved for a feature article on one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' players. Well, look who's on the top of the site now, baby! (Please disregard exclamation point when my work inevitably moves down the page.)

Now, the Answer Man wouldn't say this treatment is going to my head, but I'm thinking of requesting my own locker in the locker room. Right now, I'm paired up with the security guard and the guy who brings the bagels in the morning, like I'm an undrafted free agent or something.

But don't worry – I'm still 110% focused on the task in front of me (did I get that cliché right?). Your questions keep pouring in, and it's all I can do to keep up with a fraction of them. This week, I tackled four new ones – such as the procedure behind retiring a jersey number (hint: There isn't one) – and you'll find the answers below.

Keep sending in your questions. I may not get to them all, but I still think your inquiries are helping all Buc fans gain some interesting knowledge (and maybe helping me get a little more locker space).

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1. Paul LaBelle of Jacksonville, Florida asks:

When do the NFL Europe exemptions expire? Isn't the final roster cut the deadline?

Answer Man: Answer Man is just going to kick back with a glass of lemonade and watch some old ESPN2 reruns of the Bucs' 2002 highlight film, because this job is getting easier. Fans are now sending in questions with the answers already attached!

Yes, Paul, the NFL Europe exemptions expire when the final cuts are made, which will be very soon…on Sunday, in fact. On that day, every team in the league must get down to 53 players, and in this case, 53 really means 53. During training camp, the roster limit of 80 really meant 88 for the Buccaneers, and even after Tuesday, when the first round of cuts were made, 65 actually meant 72. That's because the Buccaneers earned eight roster exemptions through 2004 NFLEL play, of which they kept seven through the first cuts, and those exemptions are good for the rest of the week.

See, there's simply no reason for a team to cut NFLEL players before Sunday if they don't wish to; NFL Europe roster exemptions can only be used by players who just finished NFLEL seasons (there are some limited exceptions to that rule), so cutting one of those players on Tuesday won't open a roster spot for any other player a team would like to keep.

Since Paul left me little to do with the original question, please allow the Answer Man to show off his boundless knowledge of the issue by discussing how NFLEL exemptions are earned.

The tricky part of that answer is that the number of players a team sends overseas will not necessarily equate exactly with the number of exemptions that team earns. The final exemption number also depends on the amount of playing time those players receiver and the positions they played. The Bucs got eight exemptions out of six players in the NFLEL this year, in part because most of them were starters who played extensively.

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2. Steve Rey of Tampa, Florida asks:

Needless to say RJS is a great venue. What can the season ticket holders expect this year as far as flyovers when the National Anthem is sung? When that C-130 cargo plane escorted by helicopters flew over last year, it gave me goose bumps.

Answer Man: You too? Answer Man likes the way the BucVision videoboard show the planes as they are approaching, and then the roar as they pass over.

Anyway, flyovers are loved by just about everybody, and it is the Buccaneers' goal to have one at every game, if possible. There will definitely be a flyover for the home opener against Seattle on September 19; the rest of the dates are still being arranged. It's not always easy, as the team has to arrange these things with the Pentagon.

The flyover for the opener will be executed by the 333rd Fighter Squadron, United States Air Force. Perhaps you noticed the picture of an F15s attached to this story (and got some inkling your question would be answered); that's what will be buzzing Raymond James Stadium on the 19th!

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3. Steve of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida asks:

I'm a long time Bucs fan. I have been wondering, can any Joe Schmoe score his/her way into the Cove? Do I need tickets, an invite, or what? PLEASE help me on this one.

Answer Man: Well, since you said PLEASE…

Steve, I'm going to assume that you know you need a ticket to get into the stadium first. That place would get a bit overcrowded if it was open to the street outside on game day. That would truly be the best value in sports.

Okay, so you've got your ticket in hand, maybe a hotdog and a soda, and you've found your seat for the game. You're glancing around that (as Steve Rey would say) great venue and you notice a happenin' little gathering on the platform above the north end zone.

That's Buccaneers Cove. If you want to check it out, just head on down. The area is accessible from any seat in the stadium, and you're more than welcome to spend any portion of the game there. You'll find concessions, bathrooms, lots of other fans and, of course, the Pirate Ship.

Now, the Pirate Ship isn't open to traffic, if that's what you meant. As for the Cove, though, no invite necessary. Come on down and check it out next game.

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4. Matt from Orlando, Florida asks:

There have been some excellent players departing from Tampa in recent years, stalwarts of the franchise. Just as a short list of those I'm referring to: Sapp, Lynch, Paul Gruber... You get the idea. These are guys that I truly believe should have their numbers retired with the team. This goes double for Gruber, since he played his entire career in Tampa.

My question(s) are: One, can a team retire a number for a person if someone else has worn it between the time the player left and the time of retirement? For example, if someone wore 47 this year, could the Bucs still retire it for Lynch at some point? And two, do you know of any efforts within One Buc Place to act on retiring any additional numbers currently?

Answer Man: The answer to your main question, Matt, is that there are no rules governing the retirement of jersey numbers. Teams are free to do as they please. Checking out the handy-dandy NFL Record & Fact Book, which I highly recommend you get your hands on if you can (not this particular one I'm using, but your own copy), I see that the Chicago Bears lead the way with 13 retired numbers, whereas Dallas and Oakland have none. That in itself is interesting, as there are certainly many worthy candidates for both of those franchises. (Baltimore, Houston, Carolina and Jacksonville also have none, but are so new that that is not surprising).

The most unusual retired number is in Seattle, where no one can wear 12. That number has been retired in honor of (I quote) "Fans/the twelfth man." That, if nothing else, tells you that teams can retire numbers any way they please.

Yes, a team could retire a number even if it has been worn in the interim since the to-be-honored player retired or left. Perhaps your question was prompted by the way in which teams often leave a prominent player's number unused for a little while after he leaves (see 47 and 99, currently, on the Bucs' roster). That's nothing more than unwritten tradition.

Lee Roy Selmon's 63 is the only retired number for Tampa Bay, although number 42 has been 'unofficially retired' in honor of the late Ricky Bell. Are the Bucs considering retiring any more numbers? While those are all very worthy candidates you mentioned, the Answer Man has honestly not heard of any such talk. That's not disrespect for Gruber or any of the others; it's just a subject that comes up very rarely and is probably best viewed with as much historical perspective as possible. Either way, it's a good bet that all of those men will be remembered for a long, long time here in Tampa.

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5. Ferry Lee of Sydney, Australia asks:

On the Buccaneers.com home page, whenever you scroll over the menus, a sub-menu pops up and a sound wave is played. What I'd like to know is who is saying, "You ain't seen nothing yet, Tampa," when you scroll over the 'news' button and what is this in reference to?

Answer Man: Answer Man acolytes (both of you) will recognize this question as one I've already answered. Those words came from the mouth of Head Coach Jon Gruden at the gathering at Raymond James Stadium on the Monday night after the team's Super Bowl victory, right after the Bucs' charter plane had arrived back in town.

The reason I included this question again, from a different fan, is that it gives me an excuse to point out that there is an Answer Man Archive with all of my previous ramblings, plus the video interviews with answers from players and coaches.

If you missed any of my previous columns, you can go back to the archive and review answers to previous submissions, or watch the players and coaches responding to other questions. I receive approximately one e-mail a day, for instance, asking why kicker Martin Gramatica has changed his number from 7 to 10; Gramatica answered that himself on August 10, while the Bucs were still at training camp. (Hint: Think Diego Maradona.)

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