Bucs actually did exist before 1995

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 27, 2008

TAMPA - Walk into One Buc Place or Raymond James Stadium, and you immediately are greeted by tributes to the Bucs' endeavors and great players.

They're everywhere. Bronze statues. Near life-sized portraits. All of them are bold reminders withone thing in common: They feature players and events from roughly the past decade. There's nary a drop of creamsicle to be seen. It's as if Lee Roy Selmon never dominated or Doug Williams never pioneered.

I'm pretty sure Bucco Bruce is turning in his grave because, well, is there any doubt he and his entire era have been laid to rest?

Which brings us to Mike Alstott. The beloved fullback retired last week, so there seems no better time to ask when, exactly, will the Bucs find a way to pay homage to their past?

This isn't about retiring Alstott's No. 40 jersey. Selmon is the only Buc to have his number retired, so it deserves deliberations. Somehow, I doubt many would object.

But really, the "how" isn't really that critical. The Bucs need to find some way to recognize their history as opposed to what they're doing now: ignoring it. Maybe that means a ring of honor or something in that vein. The Panthers didn't exist before 1995, but they have a "Hall of Honor" - even if has just three members.

There's a larger issue here. The Bucs have long attempted to separate themselves from their undistinguished past. When Malcolm Glazer bought the foundering franchise in 1995, he set out to transform a team that had enjoyed just two winning seasons among its previous 19.

Soon, a new stadium was being erected. Creamsicle was pushed aside by red and pewter. These days, the Bucs have a Super Bowl trophy and making the playoffs has become an expectation. Tampa Bay has never looked back.

But maybe it's time it did.

You can celebrate the good in your past without reliving your frequent failures. It doesn't seem right for Selmon to have a greater presence in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than at his former stomping grounds. Jimmie Giles went to the Pro Bowl four times and was a dynamic pass-catcher long before tight ends evolved into plus-sized receivers.

Sure-fire Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks often credits Hardy Nickerson for helping his career get off the ground. Why not recognize Nickerson for his contributions?

Give the Bucs some credit. There are a handful of ex-players employed in the organization, including Williams. And the team recently held an alumni weekend that brought together old teammates, many of whom hadn't seen one another in years. They were honored in a nice little halftime ceremony, and a good time was had by all.

When it was over, those ex-Bucs disappeared into the shadows, where most have remained since leaving the game.

Perhaps the team can find a way to ensure Alstott and others who barged their way into our consciousness remain there.

STAYING HOME: The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Saturday the Chargers and Saints will play a regular-season game in London on Oct. 26. The NFL, which is expected to make an official announcement this week, also considered the Bucs and Seahawks.

ROGERS UNLIKELY: The Bucs might be in the market for a defensive tackle in free agency, and one who appears likely to be on the market is Detroit's Shaun Rogers. With coach Rod Marinelli on record in his criticism of Rogers' work ethic and weight, indications are he won't be retained.

But don't expect the Bucs to have much interest if Rogers hits the market. Sure, he's a disruptive force who would address a need, but Marinelli and Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin think like identical twins. If Rogers can't play for Marinelli, hard to see him cutting it here.

BUCS LOOK AT BAKER: Among the players the Bucs interviewed at the Senior Bowl last week was Southern Cal offensive linemanSam Baker, who is projected as a first- or early second-round pick. Baker's strength is his athleticism, which has helped him excel at left tackle for the Trojans. It remains to be seen if the Bucs will address the tackle position, though they were the first team Baker sat down with.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.