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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Place to Be

As he becomes reacquainted with One Buccaneer Place, new Bucs GM Bruce Allen will look for every way possible to make Tampa an NFL free agent's dream…Plus, a local PPK champion


Attracting TE Ken Dilger as a free agent in 2002 helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl

The road in front takes off at a different angle, the old hotel that was next door is no more and the golf course across the street is now an upscale mall. The building itself, however, looks very much the same, at least from the outside.

Bruce Allen first encountered One Buccaneer Place in 1977, when he came to Tampa to play in a Canadian-American all-star game. The game's participants used the practice fields behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' headquarters in the week leading up to the contest.

The Bucs, like their facility, were new then. The team had played just two seasons at that point, winning just two games. Obviously, quite a bit has transpired for the Tampa Bay franchise since then, most notably its purchase by Malcolm Glazer in 1995 and, eight years later, a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. For the moment, however, the Bucs' football operations still occupy the same building. Allen, the new general manager, is settling into his office in the back corner of the building, with a large, tinted window giving him a perfect view of the practice fields he utilized 27 years ago.

Actually, the interior of One Buccaneer Place has undergone a series of changes since the Glazers took over, in an effort to meet the coaching staff's and players' needs, and a series of additional offices next door houses a front office staff that is many times larger than it was under previous ownership. Those are, in effect, temporary changes, as a new, state-of-the-art facility is on the horizon for the Buccaneers; at his press conference last Friday, Allen hinted that progress in that direction may soon speed up.

But what really interests Allen is not how familiar the façade of One Buc looks to him, but how quickly he can become familiar with all of its inner workings. Allen and Head Coach Jon Gruden plan to be very aggressive in shaping the team's roster for 2004 and beyond, and at some point that will involve attracting free agents to Tampa. Echoing what has been the mantra of the Glazer family since '95, Allen wants to make sure the Buccaneers operate at an elite level in every category.

That means top-notch coaching, strength and conditioning, video support, medical attention and every other type of work that goes on in the building. Friday was Allen's first time at One Buc since 1977, but he walked in with a good feeling about what has been done and what can be done at Buc headquarters.

"It's a great compliment to the people here, what was accomplished," said Allen of the team's rise to elite status in the NFL. "I think they've created a great environment. There must be a special camaraderie with the players and the staff here. It's very unique."

Allen still plans to analyze every aspect of the Bucs' football operations to see where improvements can be made. One area that will never be neglected is the training room.

"The first thing is, we want to make sure we have the best medical staff we can and make sure the players have the best treatment they can get," said Allen. "Taking care of them is going to be taking care of our franchise. The players are very understanding of the new technologies and the new medicines that are available to them. We want to make sure we're at the cutting edge for all of this."

The camaraderie and team unity Allen immediately detected in Tampa should aid him in his efforts. According to the team's new head of football operations, ideas for improvement could and should come from every corner of the staff. That's a lesson he learned from his father, late, Hall of Fame coach George Allen.

"My father long, long, long ago (said) it was 'Team, team, team,'" quoted the son. "You'd be surprised by how many great decisions for any organization are made by people just having an idea one day or one night, off the cuff, and giving it to the right person. We don't care where the great idea comes from. We want to get the best players we can and the best staff we can to help us win.

Winning football games is good players making good plays, and that comes from good preparation."


Local PPK Champion

For the second straight year, one of the eight national champions of the NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick competition is a Bay area youngster.

Evan McKeon of Palm Harbor, Florida beat out hundreds of thousands of young competitors to win the 14-15 year-old boys bracket of the PPK competition. On Sunday before the AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Colts and Chiefs in Kansas City, McKeon outperformed three other finalists in the highest age bracket to take home the title.

Like each of the competitors, McKeon threw one pass, punted once and performed one placekick, with each of those efforts measured by distance minus accuracy from a straight line (that is, a 60-foot throw that landed a foot off the line would be a score of 59 feet). The Palm Harbor athlete won by excelling in all three categories and putting up by far the longest placekick. McKeon's punt, pass and kick traveled a total distance-minus-accuracy of 412'10'', well beyond the 382'2'' put up by the second-place finisher, Bay City, Michigan's Nathan Bauer.

Two other Bay area youngsters were among the four finalists in their respective brackets. Jessica O'Shea of Spring Hill competed in the 12-13 year-old girls bracket and Sarasota's Daniel Meacock competed in the 12-13 year-old boys bracket. O'Shea was the national runner-up in her group, just edged by Davis, California's Jenna Doyle (254'6" to 248'8").

McKeon and the other seven first-place finishers were introduced live on CBS-TV between the third and fourth quarters of the game. Former Buffalo Bills and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly helped present the awards to the children, including his nephew Chad Kelly, who won the 8-9 year-old boys division.

The eight champions started from a field of 3.5 million enthusiastic participants. The 32 finalists represented 18 states and 21 NFL teams. McKeon, O'Shea and Meacock gave the Buccaneers three of those 32 finalists; only the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers matched that.

Current NFL players who took part in the league's Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick program as youngsters include Tampa Bay P Tom Tupa as well as Green Bay QB Brett Favre, Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe, Baltimore K Matt Stover and New York Jets' QB Vinny Testaverde.

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