The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two sets of player introductions on Saturday. The first, before the opening kickoff, was the usual roll call of starters for the upcoming game, with players such as Doug Martin and Josh Freeman getting huge rounds of applause. The second came during halftime, and was unlike anything the team has ever done before.
To celebrate the 10-year reunion of the their 2002 Super Bowl Championship team, the Buccaneers gathered more than 50 players and coaches from that squad for a ceremony in front of a sold-out Raymond James Stadium crowd on Sunday. The event began with a rousing highlight video from that season and a game-like run out of the tunnel for the Super Bowl XXXVII starters, with the public address announcer introducing those most famous of Buccaneers.
The vast majority of the Super Bowl starters were on hand, from Warren Sapp to Brad Johnson, as was then-Head Coach Jon Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. A crowd of 64,941 stood and cheered as the alumni mobbed each other at midfield. Gruden ran out of the tunnel with the Lombardi Trophy raised in his left hand, and he eventually broke away from the pack to take the podium and address the fans.
“We need another Lombardi Trophy!” said Gruden. “I’d like to thank the Glazer family for reuniting this football team. We had a great group of players, we had a great team, and we could not have done it without you, Tampa Bay. Thank you very much. Please give this  group of Tampa Bay players the same support you gave us, and you’ll be back there.”
The ceremony came at halftime of the Bucs’ Week 14 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. That significance of that was not lost on any current Bucs with a sense of the team’s history. After being eliminated from the 2000 and 2001 playoffs with losses in Philly, the Bucs won in the final game of Veterans Stadium in the 2002 NFC Championship Game to make it to Super Bowl XXXVII.
“Yeah, you recognize they’re here; you’d like to win the game for them,” said DT Gerald McCoy, who had two sacks Sunday. “If you know the history of Tampa Bay, you know that Philly was an issue for them. A game like this, you definitely want to get the win.”
Perhaps the halftime excitement was a benefit to the 2012 team, which struggled in the first half and went into the locker room down, 10-0. Tampa Bay scored the first three touchdowns of the second half to take a 21-10 lead; however, Philadelphia trumped that with a game-winning rally of its own. Ronde Barber, the man who sealed the 2002 NFC Championship Game with a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown, said the reunion was special to him but it didn’t make him feel any differently about Sunday’s final outcome.
“It was an honor to be a part of the 2002 Buccaneers team,” he said. “It was nice to see all of those guys, but it had nothing to do with the product on the field [today], so it doesn’t hurt more or less. It’s 2012 and that was 10 years ago. They celebrated rightfully, but it has nothing to do with this 2012 team.”