One-Eighth of the 2013 Schedule Still a Mystery

A trip to Minnesota, Chicago or Detroit?  A visit from the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants or Eagles?

All of those are still possibilities for the 2013 Buccaneers, even with the 2012 regular season holding just two more weeks of play.

Since the arrival of a 32nd team in the expansion Houston Texans and the subsequent NFL realignment into eight four-team divisions, the league has followed a scheduling format that deemphasizes the “strength-of-schedule” factor that used to figure prominently in the process.  Now, 14 of a team’s 16 games each season are decided by a rotation of division-vs.-division matchups that is known years in advance.  In addition to six games within its own division, each team plays all four teams of one of the other three divisions in its conferences and all four teams in one of the four divisions from the other conference.

Astute mathematicians will surely realize that adds up to 14 games, not 16.  The remainder is the last vestige of strength-of-schedule considerations. Continue reading

Barber Still Impressing at 37

At 37 years old, Ronde Barber is still playing every game and toiling through every practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  And as Eric Adelson of Yahoo.com Sports recently suggested, he is still underappreciated.

Using the Buccaneers’ Week 14 reunion of their 2002 Super Bowl team as a backdrop, Adelson took an extensive look at the career – the amazingly still ongoing career – of the Buccaneers’ most-tenured player, getting reactions from many of his former teammates.  Barber’s signature play, the NFC Championship-clinching interception in Philadelphia a decade ago, is discussed but Adelman has an interesting perspective on the past and the present of the defensive back’s career.

“The crazy thing is,” writes Adelman, “Barber is actually more valuable to the franchise now, at age 37, than he was when he helped them win the Super Bowl.” Continue reading

Instant Debate: Who is the Bucs’ 2012 MVP?

Doug Martin is having the greatest rookie season in Buccaneers history and is among the NFL’s top offensive producers.  Josh Freeman has a stellar 25-8 TD-INT ratio.  Michael Bennett has been a backfield presence for the defense and Gerald McCoy has been as dominant against the run as he has been as a pass-rusher.  Lavonte David is among the NFL’s leaders in both tackles and tackles for loss.  Vincent Jackson picks up more yards per catch than anybody in the NFL, scores touchdowns and moves the chains.  Ronde Barber continues to make plays even after his move to safety.  Donald Penn is protecting Freeman’s backside on a team that has allowed only 19 sacks.

All of those Buccaneers have been outstanding in 2012? Which one has been the team’s MVP?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but a group of Buccaneer fans tackled it on Thursday night during a live chat here in the Captain’s Blog.  With T.J. Rives of the Buccaneers Radio Network leading the discussion, the chat participants went through such names as Martin, Jackson, Barber and McCoy.  Here are some of the chat excerpts: Continue reading

Talk Bucs with T.J. Tonight!

T.J. Rives, the sideline reporter for the Buccaneers Radio Network and host of several of the weekly radio shows featuring Tampa Bay players, gets his information from the team directly from the source.  Now you can get yours – and share your own opinions – directly with T.J. through another live chat session here in the Captain’s Blog.

Rives, who moderated our first chat last week with guest Shelton Quarles, a member of the reuniting 2002 Super Bowl team, will handle this one on his own.  The chat session will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET but you can begin submitting questions at 6:00.  To go to the chat page, simply click on “Live Chat” in the red bar at the top of this page.

Rives in his eighth season as the sideline reporter for the radio network on game days and has been covering Bay area sports on radio and television for more than two decades.  His weekly coverage of the Buccaneers includes an exclusive pregame interview with Head Coach Schiano and direct interaction with some of the team’s biggest stars.

Got a question for T.J. Rives about anything Buccaneer-related.  Now’s your chance to chat it out.  Join the live chat on Thursday night and get your info straight from the source.

Vitt: Martin a Complete Threat

Joe Vitt, the Saints’ acting head coach, wasn’t on the sideline for New Orleans’ Week Seven game in Tampa as he was finishing up his own suspension.  But Vitt has obviously watched plenty of film on the Buccaneers’ offense in preparation for Sunday’s rematch, and he doesn’t need an in-person viewing to convince him that Doug Martin is one of the most complete rookie running back to hit the NFL in years.

“In my opinion he is,” said Vitt.  “What can’t he do?  I think he’s an excellent screen back.  I think he has good hands.  Listen, he plants his heels eight yards deep in the running game and he’s to the line of scrimmage as fast as anybody I’ve seen.  He can make people miss.  He drops his pads and gives you very little surface to tackle on.  He splits defenders and when he splits the defenders now he’s back to top speed very, very quickly.  This guy is a very, very impressive back.” Continue reading

Anticipation Grows for Super Bowl Alumni

John Lynch and Warren Sapp (along with teammate Derrick Brooks) once famously sat up late one night in 1996, in a hotel room in San Diego, and drew a line in the sand.  Their Buccaneers were about to take on the Chargers the next day in a game they were expected to lose, and that evening’s ESPN broadcast had referred to them as the “Yucks.”  They were determined to bury that nickname forever.

Sixteen years later, Lynch, now an NFL game analyst for FOX, has coincidentally made his home in San Diego.  On this particular Thursday night, however, he was in a hotel room in Tampa, having come to town to call Sunday’s Bucs-Eagles game.  He was up late, and he got a text from his good buddy Sapp.  No outrage this time, just anticipation.  Times had certainly changed. Continue reading

Live Stream Lets All Buc Fans Enjoy Sunday’s Ceremony

The Buccaneers will be playing in front of a packed house this weekend, but there are still countless of other Tampa Bay fans who won’t be at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.  However, those who can’t attend the Buccaneers-Eagles game on December 9 but would like to watch the halftime ceremony honoring the reunited Super Bowl Championship team of 2002 are in luck.

Buccaneers.com will carry a live video stream of Sunday’s halftime, complete with player introductions and a featured speaker.  The game will be broadcast in the Bay area by FOX, but the network will obviously be providing other content, such as league-wide game updates, during halftime.

More than 50 players and coaches from the team that beat Oakland 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII will gather this weekend to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the team’s first NFL championship.  The Super Bowl alumni will first meet for a private event at team headquarters on Saturday night, then will get a chance to step on the Raymond James Stadium turf in front of the fans one more time on Sunday afternoon.  Kickoff for the Bucs-Eagles game is at 1:00 p.m. ET; halftime is likely to arrive at approximately 2:30.

Among those returning for the reunion are Head Coach Jon Gruden, Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, LB Derrick Brooks, S John Lynch, DT Warren Sapp, QB Brad Johnson, FB Mike Alstott and WR Keyshawn Johnson.  Of the 22 players who started in Super Bowl XXXVII, 19 are expected to be on hand, plus such fan favorites as WR Joe Jurevicius and dozens of others.

Super Bowl Memories: McCoy Needed a Little Help to Stay Updated

Gerald McCoy grew up in Oklahoma City but was an unabashed Buccaneers fan, thanks to his appreciation for #99, Warren Sapp.  He was 14 years old in January of 2003, and on  Sunday the 26th he was in a little slice of football heaven as he sat down to watch Super Bowl XXXVII.

There was just one small problem: His mom suddenly announced it was time to go to church. Continue reading

Join the Live Chat Thursday with Shelton Quarles

Three days before he joins more than 50 former teammates and coaches from the Buccaneers’ 2002 Super Bowl championship team for a halftime reunion ceremony, former Tampa Bay linebacker Shelton Quarles will conduct a live chat with fans in the Captain’s Blog.

Quarles’ chat will be moderated by T.J. Rives of the Buccaneers Radio Network and will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.  Fans may begin submitting questions at 5:00 p.m. when the chat module goes live.  Click here to visit the chat landing page; if you wish, you can set up a reminder that will be sent to your e-mail address.

Quarles, who is now the Buccaneers’ coordinator of pro scouting, will be able to answer fans’ questions about both the 2002 Super Bowl team and the current squad.  Quarles has been a member of the Buccaneers’ player personnel department since 2007, joining the staff shortly after his retirement following a 10-year playing career with the team.  He has thus been intimately involved in the construction of the 2012 squad, which is in playoff contention under first-year Head Coach Greg Schiano.

And, of course, Quarles has vivid memories of the Bucs’ Super Bowl year, as well as all of the work that led up to it.  He joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 1997 (after one training camp in Miami and a stint in the CFL) but quickly rose to the status of starter.  He switched from the strong side to middle linebacker in 2002 and earned Pro Bowl honors that year as he helped lead the team to a 48-21 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Keeping an Eye on Red Zone Tendencies

As Head Coach Greg Schiano pointed out to the Captain’s Blog before last Sunday’s game in Denver, his team’s red zone offense has been quite efficient, but it’s few misses have proven painful in some of the team’s closest losses.

Shortly after that game began, after Denver had scored a touchdown on its opening possession, the Buccaneers drove deep into Bronco territory, gaining a first down at the 14.  The visitors eventually had to settle for a field goal, though they would take a 10-7 lead on a Dallas Clark touchdown on their next possession.

Tampa Bay lost that game by eight points, it’s biggest final deficit of the year, so it’s hard to pin the defeat on that one red zone letdown.  Still, the team has eased down a bit from its offensive explosion in the middle of the season, and efficiency around the goal line is just one of the reasons. Continue reading