Buckner-ing the trend

"I just think (the 49ers) are going through that stage again where the salary cap is hitting them. You also have to account for injuries. When you lose key players such as your Derrick Deeses, your T.Os, your Garrison Hearsts, and their backups are not ready to play, you're going to go through this transition stage. That is what they are going through right now. They're not a bad team. It is just growing pains. But, when they come out of it, they will return to be one of the dominant teams."

Q: Did your career take off after you left 49ers?

Buckner: Really, I can say my last year with the 49ers, it really got started because I had arguably probably the best year since I was playing in the NFL. When I finally got here, it really began to take off because I found a home.

Q: What was it about your last year with the 49ers that got you going?

Buckner: Just being there for three years, really getting integrated to that system, finally knowing the system and just being allowed to line up and play without having to rotate with nobody or worry about how many plays I was going to get. I knew I was going to be the starter every down. I was going to be allowed to play.

Q: Were you surprised when you had that good (2000) season that they didn't continue to pursue you and rather went with Dana Stubblefield?

Buckner: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised, but you have to look at it. Dana was a guy who was Defensive Player of the Year for the 49ers. They had won a Super Bowl with him there. Like they told me, they felt comfortable, they felt better with him (Stubblefield) and (Bryant Young) as a tandem than me and B.Y. So, you know, I was surprised, but it's a business. It worked out for the best for both of us.

Q: Have you ever thought what it would be like to be a tandem with B.Y. rather than Stubblefield and BY?

Buckner: Yeah, I think about it a lot because that last year, me and B.Y. I thought complemented each other well. I thought we had a good chemistry going. He's a guy that I always admired when I was playing with him. His work ethic. He did a lot for my career by showing me stuff that I didn't know coming from a 3-4 defense going to a 4-3. He helped me. When you find a guy on the same page, you want to know where it could have went, but that is water under the bridge now.

Q: Did you leave 49ers with bad feelings against organization?

Buckner: No, because it is a business. It's a business. That what it is. I have no ill feelings towards them. Like I said, that organization was a great organization that allowed me to come in and resurrect my career there. So, I can't have no hard feelings. I was upset a little bit because I wanted to play. I enjoyed playing with B.Y. and Julian Peterson was just a rookie and I had a chance to play with him. Ahmed Plummer and all those guys. I would have loved to been there when those guys got to the point where they were All-Star players like they are now. But, it just (didn't)happen.

Q: Were those thoughts way in the past by the time you were in the Super Bowl last year?

Buckner: Yeah, it was in the past, but I still have friends out there. You know, you still think about it. The Super Bowl was a good thing, but my time in San Fran was great. It was priceless. I met a lot of good people out there. I played with future Hall of Famers. I played for a great organization. So, it was still there, but I have a home now. North Carolina is mine.

Q: Talk about the evolution of your multi-media personality

Buckner: I just got a personality. I just be myself. That is what TV is missing. There's a lot of fake stuff out there with people trying to be themselves one way then they got on there. They need to have people that know fake from real. I'm a down south Georgia boy. I'm going to be real whether I'm on TV or on the field and that is what people like. They like just me. It's a matter being alright. I really have to give thanks to Ken Norton because when he was on NFL Network, we always got on TV and had fun and people saw that. They saw that it was true, it was not fake and it just ran from there.

Q: Do you like yourself on NFL Network's ‘Big-man dance challenge' or in the other commercials?

Buckner: The dance contest was good because we went out there knowing that we were going to shoot a commercial, but we didn't know the concept until we got there. It was fun and I liked that because that shows my Motown skills. So, if anybody out there is looking for a backup dancer on concert tours or on videos, I'd be OK doing that. But, I like the Visa commercial because that shows a little acting skills.

Q: Do you really kiss your shoes?

Buckner: I've been doing it since college.

Q: What do you actually do?

Buckner: Well, I come from a big family and they always couldn't make it to the game, so I just sat back and thought what can I do because my family is not here. So, I was like alright, I'll start kissing my shoes for all my family members and for people that are close to me that I wish could be here. It was just something dealt with.

Q: How many times to you kiss your shoes before a game?

Buckner: It started out at first being like 13, now it is like 26.

Q: Any more commercials or anything like that in the works?

Buckner: Really, I'm just trying to get my career started as a sports (broadcaster) — I want to be an anchorman for either CBS, FOX, ESPN or even NFL Network because it is growing. I got a couple of business ventures going out here. Me, Mike Rucker and Stephen Davis are working on opening up, it's called the ‘Ruckers House Learning Center.' It's like a day care slash learning after school program that we are trying to get started. You know, I'm just trying to live.

Q: What are your thoughts on Terrell Owens and his exposure?

Buckner: I love it. When T.O. is your teammate, you know you are going to get everything from it. He's going to do stuff that makes the game exciting to me personally. You know, the dances and all that. If he's doing it, then he's in the end zone. But, I think he gets a bad rap for some of the things he's done, but you got to realize that the NFL built that because when I first got to San Francisco, T.O. was quiet. Then everybody was telling him to be like Jerry (Rice). You all being in the media know what kind of person Jerry Rice really is. But, T.O. is just a fun-loving guy and you love that. You love that and I think he gets a bad rap because everybody wants him to be this bad guy, but look at the guy. The guy is never getting in trouble off the field, he's not drinking, he's not beating women, he's not doing this. He's just a football player having fun.

Q: How do you account for the Panthers season so far and how difficult is it?

Buckner: It's real difficult because my first year here we went 1-15 and then we built ourselves up to the Super Bowl last year. The thing is here is that when there is a lot expected from you, you get everybody's best every week. You get everybody's best every weekend. The most heartening thing for me and for the team is not that teams are going out here and we just can't play well. We're doing stuff that we didn't do in the past. We've been making a lot of mental mistakes. We make a lot of technique errors. Stuff that we can control. That is the most disheartening thing about it because we pride ourselves around here in years past of being a hard-nosed, technique-sound, smart football team. But, we're doing a lot of what we call dumb stuff that is hurting us now. In the NFL, there is too much parity in the NFL now. You almost have to be perfect to win games. Anybody can beat anybody.

Q: What do you see as the problem with 49ers?

Buckner: I just think they are going through that stage again where the salary cap is hitting them. They got a lot of dead money out there and it is money owed to players that aren't even on the team and some of them aren't even playing anymore. You also have to account for injuries. When you lose key players such as your Derrick Deeses, your T.Os, your Garrison Hearsts, and their backups are not ready to play, you're going to go through this transition stage. That is what they are going through right now. They're not a bad team. It is just growing pains. But, when they come out of it, they will return to be one of the dominant teams.

Q: The Panthers have been hit by injuries, but you did not mention that as why the Panthers are struggling. Is that one of the reasons?

Buckner: No, we don't claim injuries because from the time you walk in this league, the first thing a coach always tells you is that a depth chart is just a depth chart. You are always one injury away from being a starter. We don't claim injuries because guys that are out there — when you go to practice, everybody prepares like they are going to play. So, we don't count injuries. Guys just have to step in. That is a cop-out for me personally to say injuries. Football is played with 11 people on the field. I don't care who is in that helmet. You got to have 11 on the field or you can't play, so the 11 on the field got to get the job done.

Q: Would you like to throw a touchdown pass or catch one?

Buckner: I would rather catch one because the cameras stay on you longer when you catch it.

Q: Do you have a dance ready to go?

Buckner: Yeah, I've got one. I've been waiting to use it. If I get a couple of sacks this weekend, I'll give you the whole contest.


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