When 2007 began most people expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve, but not to the extent that they did by the end of the year. A division championship was an unexpected gift to Buccaneers fans and the franchise. How did it happen?
In hindsight, there are signposts to a successful season. Here is No. 1 in our series of the most significant moments of the 2007 season and how they impacted Tampa Bay's run to a division championship.
7. PARIS WARREN'S INJURY GALVANIZES THE BUCS, AUG. 30
Paris Warren had waited for this moment for three years. And on Aug. 30, it appeared to be finally happening.
Warren was having the best game of his young career. Albeit a preseason game, but he was still having a great game. He was on his way to making the 53-man roster. More than that, he was on his way toward playing a vital role on the football team. He was playing that well.
Late in the game Warren caught a pass from Bruce Gradkowski over the middle and headed for the end zone. He split two defenders and made it, but he paid an awful cost. Soon, Warren was writhing on the ground in pain, his ankle severely broken and his season over.
Just like that. From factor to afterthough. Or so we thought.
What happened next was, well, unexpected. As team trainers tended to Warren, Bucs filtered onto the field, one by one. By the time the trainers had immobilized Warren's ankle and were preparing to load him onto the cart, the entire team had surrounded Warren.
This was an outpouring of compassion for a backup wide receiver. Stars don't receive that sort of treatment during regular-season games.
No one knew it at the time, but that was one of the most significant moments of the season. Yes, Warren was injured and out for the season. But as the Bucs started the season 3-1, we learned from other players that Warren's injury brought the team together in unexpected ways. The togetherness of that evening spilled over into the rest of the season.
"The reaction of this team, the spontaneous reaction of this team when Paris Warren gets injured (was incredible)," Bucs GM Bruce Allen said. "And it was not just 45 guys, because it was a regular season dress. It was a 75-man roster going out because one of their brothers is down to give him support puts a tingle down my back, and I am very proud of them."
Warren appears healthy now and is looking forward to being a part of team workouts again this spring.
But his impact on the 2007 season isn't lost. Athletes will tell you that a team is only as good as its chemistry. Sometimes that's not hyperbole.
Sometimes, that's just fact.
Next: The double whammy in Carolina.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.