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Finally, a reward for long-suffering fans

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2003

Former Bucs coach Ray Perkins never got near the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, failing to win more than five games in any of his four seasons as coach from 1987-90. He played in two Super Bowls, however, winning Super Bowl V, and was on the Patriots' coaching staff that lost Super Bowl XXXI. The 61-year-old Perkins, now retired, remarried and enjoying time with his 5-year-old daughter, Rachael, in Hattiesburg, Miss., took time out to talk about his old team's long-awaited Super Bowl debut.

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The Buccaneers have been knocking at the door the last couple of years but just were not quite getting there, and with the Super Bowl, just getting there is not enough.

Losing a Super Bowl is not any fun. I was in Baltimore when the Colts lost to Joe Namath in 1969, and after we lost that game, I didn't want to talk to anybody for about three months. We came back and beat Dallas, but then I lost again with Bill Parcells in New England in 1997.

When you're on the losing end in the Super Bowl, it changes everything that got you there. It's almost meaningless. It's hard to explain, but you put so much into it. I certainly hope the Bucs can push it on through and win the big game.

This franchise has gone through so much. I don't know if there is another franchise that has gone through more; maybe Cincinnati. All the sudden, the Bucs are so good. This is a reward for all the fans who bought the tickets all those years.

I think the key is Brad Johnson. I've always liked him. I actually recruited him out of high school when I was at Alabama. He had already told Bobby Bowden he was going to Florida State, but he was good enough I just had to give him a little pitch. If you go back through Super Bowl history, with just about every winner you can pinpoint two prime things: who plays the best defense and which quarterback plays the best game.

When we won, we won with Johnny Unitas, and it was a big loss for the football world when we lost him last year. It was such a privilege for me to play with him. They don't make them like that anymore. That's what I remember most about our Super Bowl team: the players, the camaraderie. That's what you reflect back on, and to win that as a player, it's quite spectacular.

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