Mike Alstott's thoughts on the Bucs' imminent move out of One Buc Place were shared by many: 'There are a lot of good memories in this place, but it's time to move on'
There's a long, stand-alone awning at the back left corner of the far field at One Buccaneer Place, arching over a collection of blocking sleds and other practice equipment. The face of this awning reads, in foot-high white letters on a red background: "Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2002 World Champions."
On Thursday, just minutes after what may prove to be the last practice ever on that field, a reporter directed Jon Gruden's attention to the de facto banner on the face of the awning. "You plan on taking that with you?"
It's the same question every family asks itself dozens of times when it moves from one house to another. Should we take the old couches or just buy new furniture? Should we bring the washer and dryer or leave them for the new residents? Should we even bother with those old tools in the garage when we can instead lobby for a freshly-stocked work area at the new place?
Gruden peered at the awning and the reminder of his team's victory in Super Bowl XXXVII, paused for a moment, then made the same decision so many other movers have made before him.
"We might leave that here," he said, "and try to get an updated version at some point, I hope."
Yes, why not start fresh? Some new art for the shiny white walls of the new house. The Buccaneers' 30 years and change at One Buccaneer Place included that one championship season four years ago, obviously the peak moment of those three decades. The Bucs didn't win the Super Bowl because of One Buc Place, obviously, and they don't feel as if they won despite One Buc Place, either. But all the hard work they put in at "The Woodshed" that year, and the insular feeling it lent that campaign, will always be part of the story. The new place deserves its own championships.
And may even have something to do with getting them.
"It's such a great compliment for what [the team] achieved in winning the Super Bowl," General Manager Bruce Allen said recently. "What they call 'The Woodshed' is ranked 35th out of 32 teams in the NFL. We are all looking forward to the move, but the players who have been here for over a decade I think are going to be shocked."
Of course, the players who have been around that long are still in the league and still with the Buccaneers because they are the dedicated type, not likely to be overly affected by their surroundings. Derrick Brooks, for instance, has known only this one NFL home, but it hasn't held him back and he holds no regrets.
"I accept where we're at and what we're doing," he said. "No matter where we are, I'm still going to have to work. So I try to take advantage of it in certain aspects. Really, I'm not one of the ones who complains about it at all because I've been there long enough and heard all the jokes."
And all the stories. For instance, quarterback Chris Simms, who has logged a comparatively short three years at One Buc, recalls his first impression of the place in an incident that involves Brooks.
"My first memory of this place was…I believe the second day I was ever here, I walked into the locker room and there was a dead mouse in front of Derrick Brooks' locker," said Simms. "That's when I knew I wasn't in the Texas Longhorns' facility anymore."
That's right, it was a step down, facility-wise, for Simms when he got to the NFL. He wasn't expecting the, uh, alternate life forms. The mouse stories may be a bit exaggerated – old Veterans Stadium supposedly took the gold medal in that category, at least in Gruden's stories of the place – but they are a common thread in the veterans' memories of the place.
"We've had a few mice here and there," said tight end Dave Moore. "Our old tight end room there was loaded with them. We would just leave them food and make them pets. You've got to do what you've got to do."
Moore first walked into One Buc in November of 2002, making him by far the earliest occupant on the current roster. He remembers a place quite different from the current headquarters, with the entire team staff easily housed in one building and a whole lot more orange paint. There have been many revisions to the building, all for the better, since the Glazer Family took over in 1995, but One Buc hasn't gotten any bigger. The team – and the NFL – has outgrown the place.
"It's going to be a pleasurable move," said Moore. "Mike Alstott was telling me the other day that he thought he was going to miss the place, but I won't miss it. I really won't.
"How many mornings we sat in the weight room trying to lift and water is coming in through the windows and the carpet is wet. You go to take a shower and there are 25 showerheads but only six of them give you enough water to shower with. You go to the bathroom and two or three urinals are broken. There's a lot of stuff I'm not going to miss.
If Alstott felt that way at some point, he has changed his mind. A Buc since 1996 and another hard worker who never complains about his situation, Alstott never wanted to go to another team. There were rumors that he would retire after his 2005 renaissance season, but he re-signed in March and will now get to make the move with the rest of his teammates. He's ready.
"There are a lot of good memories in this place, but it's time to move on," said Alstott.
Alstott also is a man of few words, but he very succinctly summed up what seems to be the shared attitude of the team's veterans. They aren't complaining about the current surroundings – they seem almost amused by its little imperfections – but they're understandably excited about moving into what will be the NFL's best facility.
"Actually, I'm looking forward to going over there," said Brooks. "This facility has served its purpose and as the new building gets ready, you get ready to turn the chapter. But some things have to remain the same, and that's working hard, staying committed and keeping the goals short-term no matter where we practice."
"Served its purpose." That seems to be the shared catchphrase regarding the imminent mothballing of One Buc. It is quite distinctly past-tense. One hears mild reservations, guesses that the team may eventually hold one or two more practices at One Buc, but for all practical purposes the place has run its course.
That's not a bad thing.
"This place has served its purpose," Gruden repeated. "It helped us win a championship. What else can I say? We're very excited to move into the new building, very appreciative of our owners for putting the amount of effort, money and time, and all the vision that they have, [into it]. This facility, they tell me, is going to be state-of-the-art. We're really looking forward to it; I think these players are also."
Sure, who doesn't look forward into moving into the new house, especially when you're moving from an outmoded property into one outfitted with all the modern amenities. It's easy to look back with nostalgia at the home of your youth when you're reclining in a comfortable chair in your expansive new living room.
"I've got a lot of great memories [about One Buc Place]," said Gruden. "I've got a lot of great memories about my house I grew up in as a kid, too. Again, we're going to look forward to the coming months, and having a new facility is really something to get excited about. It sure is."