"This decision was not – and I repeat, was not - a result of my unwillingness to restructure my contract. That scenario, which would have been my preference and was my instructions to my representative, David Dunn, was never an option.
"As a result, I will be playing football next year for a different team. It is not with great ease that my family and I take this next step, but it is with great excitement. I believe my best days as a player and as a person are ahead of me and not behind me. My years in Tampa and those of my family's have been full of wonderful memories and are filled with the satisfaction of growing a team to the pinnacle of success from the ashes of defeat. I just spoke with Warren Sapp on the telephone, and we took it from a third world country to the Taj Mahal. We take great pride in that.
"As for moving forward in my football future, we have entered into discussions with many teams and are very encouraged by the interest out there. For the first time in 11 years I'm a free agent. It's taken a long time, but we look forward to that. I look forward to ensuring that we have as much success and fun with my next team and city as I did with the Bucs over the last 11 years. I will be visiting with NFL teams in the near future and will look forward to talking to some old friends in the business. I know I can still captain a Super Bowl defense and will keep that at the top of my list - the ability to play for a world championship.
"In closing, would just like to say to the people in Tampa (sobbing) ... I'd like to say that ... I will always be a Buccaneer. I'll be playing someplace else next year, and I look forward to that ... but I'll always be a Buccaneer ... in my heart. These years have been special to me and my family. I thank everyone for it. Sure, I was saddened and shocked, but I'm very much excited, and my family is, for the opportunities. I believe wholeheartedly that the good Lord looks out for you. We're going to go to a great place and we look forward to that.
"I would like to say that I have always tried to play and will continue to play this game the way I think it's supposed to be played. That means a lot to me. The respect for the game that my idols like Ronnie Lott and a local guy, Junior Seau, taught me - the passion that you need to play this game. That means a lot to me. That means a lot to pass that down to younger players that are coming into this league. I truly believe my best years as a football player are ahead of me. I look forward to the coming days and opportunities with new teams. I wish everyone in Tampa all our best and all our love."
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