1. Back to work. Is it easy? No way. Not after the cowardly terrorist attacks that rocked New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania over one week ago. After watching countless hours of television coverage over this malicious assault on America, it is hard to think, talk or write about football. It's hard to be creative. I'm having a hard time even recalling the Bucs - Cowboys game in my mind after seeing a national landmark such as the World Trade Center disappear before my eyes on live television. After a weekend without football - which was needed - it is time to reflect on some of the events that transpired last week and look ahead to the coming weeks.
One of the most appalling things I heard regarding the sports world and the terrorist attacks were the comments of Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly on the Jim Rome Show last week. Reilly, a popular columnist whom I have enjoyed reading in the past, said that America needs to move on by playing all sporting events during the weekend so that America could show the terrorists that they can't change our way of life and that we wouldn't be intimidated. He also told the American Ryder Cup golfers that they needed to "sac up" and not be afraid of travelling aboard for the Ryder Cup. Easy for Reilly to say. The Ryder Cup has been cancelled this year.
These stupid comments coming less than 72 hours after thousands of American lives were lost in the attack. Pardon me, but how could the New York Giants celebrate a touchdown less than 10 miles away from the largest and most tragic recovery and rescue mission the country has ever known? Is a touchdown important in the grand scheme of things? Just five days after the terrorist atrocities, is it right to celebrate some meaningless sports while America grieves?
Those people, like Reilly, who were "sick of the non-stop coverage" regarding the terrorist attacks just had to - oh my gosh! - find something else to do last weekend. For one weekend, America was forced to enjoy a public park, read a book, go to a library, spend time with children, etc. Poor Reilly, no football, baseball or golf. Poor, stupid Reilly, he doesn't understand the importance of what happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania and the focus of Americans all across the nation and the world.
2. One of the major reasons that all sporting events were cancelled during the weekend was that America's law enforcement agencies - the CIA, the FBI, the military, the National Guard, the police - were scrambling to find out if other terrorist attacks would occur, and if there were attacks planned, would they involve aircraft and would they attack public arenas such as stadiums were tens of thousands of Americans gather to watch various sporting events that represent our Western culture. Simply put, there were security risks regarding stadiums just days after the attack.
Would I have felt safe and comfortable sitting among the 66,000 fans in Raymond James Stadium last Sunday when the Buccaneers were scheduled to play the visiting Philadelphia Eagles? Honestly, no. Not last weekend, especially with reports of several of the terrorists being based out of Florida and RJS being just a couple of miles away from Tampa International Airport. Myself and Buccaneer Magazine managing editor Leo Haggerty even talked about watching the Bucs vs. Eagles game from home on television because we were so concerned.
But after a weekend without football, a scheduled bye week for the Buccaneers and a road trip to Minnesota, I will feel safe and comfortable at Raymond James Stadium for Tampa Bay's home opener on October 7 against the Green Bay Packers. Appropriate security measures will have been taken by that time.
Three quick notes - with the postponement of the Bucs vs. Eagles game, our next Buccaneer Magazine publication will be after the Bucs vs. Vikings game (Sept. 30). Secondly, I will be sharing my personal feelings on the assault on America in my Buccaneer Blitz column in the next issue. And third, after a two-week hiatus, the Buccaneer Blitz radio show on WDAE 620 AM will resume next Wednesday on September 26.
3. It will be a long haul for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they must play at least 15 straight football games with the rescheduling of the Philadelphia Eagles contest for the first weekend in January. The Bucs did essentially get two consecutive bye weeks - one from the postponements of last weekend's games and another that was scheduled - and that can help and hurt the team. At some point, physical and mental exhaustion might set in for the Bucs who are usually used to a bye week in October after 5-6 games have been played. That's where it hurts.
But on the flip side, these two weeks have been helpful for the team to recapture its focus after a week of national tragedy. The Bucs have been able to use the bye week to recover emotionally instead of having to jump directly into game preparation. The two-week layoff has also helped the team's rookies and first-year starters, notably left tackle Kenyatta Walker and right guard Cosey Coleman. Both young offensive linemen have benefitted from the extra practice time regarding technique, classroom work and the on-going development of chemistry along the offensive line.
The Bucs' injury situation is improving due to the two-week layoff. Center Jeff Christy is gaining strength and stability in his knee and should be able to dress and possibly start against Minnesota on September 30. Rookie cornerback Dwight Smith has also used the down time to rest and heal his foot sprain. He too, should be ready to go against Minnesota. Defensive tackle James Cannida is now going on three weeks worth of rest and rehab of his knee sprain (MCL), and although he was on crutches last week, he could be back for action as early as the Tennessee game on Oct. 14.
Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who suffered a deep thigh bruise against Dallas, should be healed sufficiently to play against Minnesota.
4. The postponement of the Bucs' game against Philadelphia to the first week in January could really help Tampa Bay, which will play four of its last five games of the season at home. Since 1996, the Bucs have been 12-7 against foes in the month of December, including going 3-1 against opponents in each of the last three years (9-3).
Here's how the last six weeks of the Bucs' 2001 schedule will look, factoring in the postponed Philadelphia game:
Dec. 2 - at Cincinnati
Dec. 9 - Detroit
Dec. 16 - at Chicago
Dec. 24 - New Orleans
Dec. 29 - Baltimore
Jan. 6 or 7 - Philadelphia
The Bucs' home record in December over the last three years is a remarkable 7-0. If the Bucs could win its last four home games - and they are against difficult foes such as the Eagles, Ravens and Saints - the Bucs could wind up with six straight wins heading into the playoffs if Tampa Bay can also muster cold-weather wins against lesser teams like the Bengals and the Bears. Couple those six possible wins to the Bucs' already earned win against Dallas and it's very optimistic that Tampa Bay could end up with yet another double-digit record and a playoff berth.
5. Finally, I think the one quote that sums up my feelings - and the feelings of other Americans after the terrorist attack - came from St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGuire: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that sporting events are absolutely meaningless compared to what happened in New York and Washington."
Pray for the victims, their families and the rescue workers, fly your flags, support "Operation Infinite Justice" and God Bless America.
For the latest news and inside information on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, subscribe to Buccaneer Magazine by calling 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) today.