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Bucs pay MacDill visit to show appreciation

Players say they value the chance to thank the military personally, and the base tour restored feelings of safety.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 11, 2002


Players say they value the chance to thank the military personally, and the base tour restored feelings of safety.

TAMPA -- Bucs players are used to rabid fan support and sellout crowds. But on the eve of the Sept. 11 anniversary, it was their turn to show appreciation by visiting MacDill Air Force Base.

More than a dozen players and general manager Rich McKay passed out hats and T-shirts and signed autographs as a way of saying thanks to the men and women in the service.

"A lot of people sacrificed so much on that dreadful day. This was just one of the ways we could show our appreciation," quarterback Shaun King said. "To go out, not send a card or message, but to personally say thank you.

"It was good for me because it is kind of therapeutic in that you can get out and personally tell the guys and the girls thank you, and we appreciate them for everything they do because what greater love is there than being willing to sacrifice your life for someone else? That's what they basically do in the military and I thank them for that."

Despite heightened security, some players were allowed access to the Scope Command Intelligence Facility and the nerve center where Gen. Tommy R. Franks runs the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.

"It was a feeling of safety. Our country is secure," tight end Marco Battaglia said. "After seeing what is going on at the Air Force base, it is refreshing. It really was. It was a great day for me. After what transpired last year, there was some doubt. But that doubt has definitely been washed away."

Among the players who visited MacDill were Battaglia, tackle Lomas Brown, safety John Howell, center Jeff Christy, guard Russ Hochstein, cornerback Corey Ivy, King, linebacker Ryan Nece, safety Jermaine Phillips, receiver Karl Williams, defensive end Ellis Wyms and tight end Todd Yoder.

Though Franks was not present, the Bucs met with Maj. Gen. Select Wayne Hodges, Commander of the Sixth Air Mobility Wing, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Lewis E. Monroe III of the Sixth Air Mobility Wing.

Brown, who played for the Giants last year, said the anniversary of Sept. 11 will be tinged with sadness but also pride over how Americans have rebuilt, particularly in New York.

"I think it'll be mixed. I think there will be a lot of sadness. But I think for the people who helped New York come back to where it is now, there will be a lot of joy in what they have been able to accomplish in a year. But a year is not a lot of time for a lot of the families and a lot of the kids. Hopefully, (today) will just be a great day for America, period."

ROSTER MOVES: Tight end Casey Crawford, who spent his first two seasons with the Panthers, was signed to the five-man practice squad. Dwayne Stukes was released to make room for Crawford.

Crawford (6-6, 255) was waived by the Panthers on Sept. 1. Crawford had been with the Panthers for three training camps and two regular seasons, though he was inactive for 13 games in 2001 and eight in 2000. In 11 career games, with one start, he has five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.

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