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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    For Tampa Bay Lightning right wing B.J. Crombeen, the good news coming out of this week's face-to-face meetings between players and owners to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement was that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was "good" and "reasonable" during talks.

    But Crombeen, a member of the Players' Association negotiating committee, said it is "mind-boggling" the league on Thursday angrily broke off negotiations, and said commissioner Gary Bettman's assertion that Thursday was all about a yes or no answer from the union on the league's latest off was a "bully tactic."

    "The deal is right there in front of them," Crombeen said Friday. "It's pretty simple for them if they want to make a deal, but they made it very clear to us that they don't. They're trying to squeeze five more cents out of a deal that can be done, and we can be back playing hockey sooner. It's very frustrating, but I wouldn't say I'm overly surprised because of the way they acted throughout the whole process."

    "If you lay their proposal, which they say is yes or no, and our proposal side-by-side, the difference is minimal," Crombeen continued. "They're just saying it's our way or the highway. It's the wrong way to go about it. They can say how much they're giving up and how much they're going beyond what they're supposed to, but you look at the deal we're giving up and the deal we're going to get and in every single aspect of it we're giving up."

    It is difficult to argue the players will not come out of this poorer.

    They have agreed to a 50-50 split in revenues after last season getting 57 percent. The league has offered to up the money it puts into the "make-whole" provision to $300 million from $211 million. But the union, while agreeing to the provision, contends that does not fully guarantee that current player contracts can be honored.

    The league has agreed to simply keep the status quo on entry-level contracts (three years), unrestricted free agency (27 years old or seven years in the league) and salary arbitration. It also proposed a five-year limit on contracts (though teams would be able to sign their own free agents to seven-year deals) with a yearly salary variance of just five percent in order to stop the cap-circumventing practice of back-loading contracts. It wants no limit on player escrow payments and does not want amnesty buyouts of player contracts, both of which deputy commissioner Bill Daly called "money outside the system."

    The league also wants a 10-year CBA with a re-open clause after eight years for either side. Players want an eight-year deal with a re-opener for the players after six years. It proposed an eight-year limit on contracts with the lowest salary year not less than 25 percent of the highest.

    The players did get a pension, though funded with their own money.

    "It's mind-boggling that the pension, which has no effect on them, they're going to return to us and we're expected to give them a very, very tight contract life with a variability that's going to squeeze the middle class out of the game," Crombeen said, adding about the league's proposed 10-year CBA length, "The average (career) for players is four to five years, which is essentially two groups of players that are going to go through the league and have no say in the agreement they're going to be part of. There's also a very high risk projecting what the economy and industry is going to look like in 10 years. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense for them to say we have to agree to all those things. How they can think a yes or no answer at that point is how you negotiate, they're not ready to get a deal done."

    It certainly will be harder now with emotions frayed and the league pulling off the table everything it has proposed. Of course, things can go back on the table pretty quickly, and it still is believed by many the league hopes to have games during the Christmas holiday. That said, if it is to play a 48-game schedule similar to the one used after the 1994-95 lockout, games should be started by early January, and as Bettman said Thursday, "I can't imagine we play fewer than that."

    Bottom line, Crombeen said: "We moved drastically in almost every area we had and their big gift was to give us back free agency and salary arbitration and entry-level contracts to what they are right now. It's mind-boggling that they expect us to think that's a fair and equitable deal."


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Four months ago, Florida coach Will Muschamp held his weekly news conference before the Texas A&M game and couldn't help but mention the Aggies' new starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel. He talked about his athleticism, his speed, his ability to run and throw, and said he'd already warned his players this was a guy they needed to focus on.

    At the time, it sounded like the usual coachspeak. Turns out, Muschamp knew what the rest of the country would learn as the season progressed: Manziel is one of the nation's top players.

    Tonight Manziel joins fellow finalists Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein at the 78th Heisman Trophy Award ceremony, hoping to become the first freshman to win the nation's most prestigious college football award.

    "It's something that you dream about as a kid," Manziel said. "When you're sitting there playing all these NCAA (video) games as a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers, it's something you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true."

    Klein is the poster child for how fickle the Heisman race can be throughout a season. With two games remaining in the regular season, K-State was No. 1 in the BCS standings and Klein was called the Heisman favorite, but a three-interception game and a loss to Baylor dropped him back in the pack with many voters.

    "I'm just honored with this opportunity that the Lord has provided me," Klein said. "I'm so proud to represent K-State in this, because I feel like my road is very synonymous and in line with the K-State way. It's been a process; it's been a journey. There have been a lot of ups and downs as well as a lot of hard times and growing pains through it."

    For Te'o, who at one point pondered whether to return to Notre Dame for his senior season, this week has been a whirlwind. He has won the Butkus and Bronko Nagurski awards, but the idea of being in New York as one of three Heisman finalists caps a season that has surpassed his expectations.

    "I definitely was surprised," Te'o said. "It's something that … I don't think anybody could anticipate or expect. It's always a goal to be the best, to be the best you can be, and I just didn't think that it would be to this magnitude, and I'm just very grateful to be in this situation and to represent my team."

    Te'o's teammates consider him a pillar of strength and leadership, particularly after he played through the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend this season.

    The Heisman race could be one of the closest on record — or a landslide in Manziel's favor — depending on whom you ask. The closest race was in 2009 when Alabama running back Mark Ingram won with 28 more points than Stanford's Toby Gerhart.

    If Te'o or Klein wins, he would be the first senior to win since Troy Smith at Ohio State in 2006. Te'o would be the first defensive player to win since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.

    "He's passionate about the game," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of Te'o. "He's 21 years old, and he acts like that. When he walks into a room, there's an energy and a passion for what he does, and that will (rub off) on everybody.

    "He raises the level of accountability amongst his teammates, and when you have that kind of energy and that kind of personality, it rubs off on everybody. He's a college football player that loves the game, and he elevates the play of others around him."


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    While contemplating when the 2012-13 NHL season might be canceled, it is useful to consider what happened in 1994-95, when a 48-game schedule was played after a 103-day lockout ended Jan. 11.

    And with commissioner Gary Bettman saying at a Thursday news conference, "I can't imagine we play fewer (games) than that," this season, in the 84th day of its lockout, is approaching a point of no return.

    "Am I unhappy about the prospect? You bet I am," Bettman said. "But I have to play the hand that I'm dealt."

    And that is where he loses B.J. Crombeen.

    The Lightning right wing said it is "mind-boggling" the league angrily broke off talks with the players association on a collective bargaining agreement and called it a "bully tactic" for Bettman to say owners wanted only a yes or no to their latest offer and no negotiations.

    "They're trying to squeeze 5 more cents out of a deal that can be done," Crombeen, a member of the union negotiating committee, said Friday. "It's very frustrating. They're just saying 'It's our way or the highway.' You look at the deal we had and the deal we're going to get, every single aspect (the players are) giving up a lot."

    Players have agreed to a 50-50 revenue split after getting 57 percent last season. The league has offered $300 million (up from $211 million) for the "make-whole" provision for guaranteeing current contracts. Though the union agreed to the amount, it does not believe it is enough to guarantee all contracts.

    The league wants a 10-year deal with a reopen clause for both sides after eight years. The union proposed an eight-year contract with a reopen clause for players after six.

    Owners agreed to keep the status quo on entry-level deals (three years), unrestricted free agency (27 years old or seven years in the league) and salary arbitration. But they want a five-year limit on contracts, though teams could sign their own free agents for seven years. Players proposed an eight-year limit.

    The league also balked on limiting escrow payments by players (those ensure players do not receive more revenue than they are entitled) and amnesty buyouts of player contracts that would not count against the cap. Both, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, are "money outside the system."

    "We moved drastically in almost every area," Crombeen said, "and their big gift was to give us back free agency and salary arbitration and entry-level contracts to what they are right now. It's mind-boggling that they expect us to think that's a fair and equitable deal. It's the wrong way to go about negotiations."

    But Toronto owner Larry Tanenbaum questioned in a statement whether the union really wants to make a deal. And the Denver Post's Adrian Dater said on Twitter he heard from a player he didn't name that union head Donald Fehr, when shown the owners' proposal, told players "we could get more" and to "hold out."

    "I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that is 100 percent false," Crombeen said.

    The good news, Crombeen said, is Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik, one of six owners in on face-to-face talks with players this week, was "good" and "reasonable."

    Still, he is part of a league that has taken everything it had offered off the bargaining table.

    "As difficult and as painful as this is," Bettman said, "having an agreement that doesn't work is something we're not prepared to do."

    "The deal is sitting at their finger­tips," Crombeen said. "They just refuse to sign it."

    The sides didn't talk Friday. They won't meet this weekend, but they may talk by phone, Canada's Sportsnet reported.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    LITHIA

    She hasn't been half bad for a girl who never expected to be in the starting lineup.

    Newsome's striker Lindsey Eaton has been on a whirlwind freshman tour through the county, but prior to the Wolves' season-opening match against Land O'Lakes, Eaton figured to be at best a late-match substitute.

    But just before the starting lineup was called to midfield, Eaton heard the news.

    "I found out probably a minute before the start of the game," she said. "I didn't really expect to play at all."

    But there she was, starting up top for one of the area's premier soccer powers as a freshman. Predictably, butterflies caromed around in Eaton's belly.

    "I was so nervous," she said. "Really, really, nervous."

    But almost as suddenly as she discovered she was playing, Eaton made her presence known. Just 10 minutes into the match, Eaton scored her first high school goal.

    "The kid," coach Kelly Townsend says, "is the real deal."

    And since that first strike in the opener, Eaton has been on a tear. She's tallied 14 goals (as of press time) through 10 games for the 7-1-2 Wolves.

    "Being a freshman, there is a lot of pressure on me," she said. "I have some big shoes to fill."

    Townsend, who first saw Eaton as a fifth-grader at a Newsome soccer camp, said she "was blown away" at tryouts.

    "Lindsey has unbelievable ball skills," Townsend said. "She's definitely fast without the ball. She's even faster with it."

    Eaton has a pair of hat tricks (Wharton, East Bay) and two goals each against Sun Lake and Strawberry Crest.

    "I still get nervous before each game," Eaton said. "It's a huge relief when I score. Like a giant weight lifted off my shoulders."

    Eaton has helped shoulder the scoring load while senior Taylor Decaire, a University of Tampa commit, recovers from June knee surgery. Decaire led the Wolves with 17 goals last year but when she returns, which should come after the holiday break, it won't be in place of Eaton.

    "I plan to have them both in the lineup," Townsend said. "Teams usually man-mark Taylor but I don't know how you'll be able to stop them both."

    Decaire's injury hasn't been the only ailment for the Wolves. Newsome lost Times first team All County defender Karli Gutsche, who injured her knee last week and starting outside back Brooke Dejong (knee).

    "Yeah, I've definitely been pleased that we've started out so well with all the injuries," Townsend said. "We just need to finish strong before the break and stay consistent."

    Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.


    CAROLINA HIDALGO   |   TimesCAROLINA HIDALGO | Times

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — James Loney wanted a chance to play regularly. And he wanted to do so for a contending team. Together, it made his decision to sign with the Rays even easier.

    "Those were the main factors," the first baseman said Friday on a conference call. "I'm excited. … I felt like this was the best opportunity and this is where I wanted to be also, so I didn't want to wait any longer."

    Loney, 28, is coming off a career-worst offensive season — .249 with six homers, 41 RBIs, a .630 on-base plus slugging percentage — as he was traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox. He said he has already been in the batting cage this winter trying to get better.

    "Sometimes I felt like my timing was off a little bit and it affected my swing," he said. "I've just been working really hard keeping the same timing device and staying with that and being comfortable in that position."

    Though Loney spent only five weeks with the Red Sox, he said he liked the experience of playing on the East Coast and in the American League. And he is excited about playing for manager Joe Maddon, saying, "I've heard nothing but great things."

    Loney, who signed for $2 million plus another $1 million in incentives (after making $6.375 million last year), said a few other teams were interested.

    Around the majors

    Yanks check on Hamilton: The Yankees are doing preliminary background checks on free agent slugger Josh Hamilton, but they are not close to starting negotiations, USA Today reported. … The Yankees avoided arbitration with outfielder Brett Gardner, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.85 million.

    Jays to Fete Delgado: The Blue Jays will honor former slugger Carlos Delgado, the franchise leader in homers (336) and RBIs (1,058), in a pregame ceremony July 21 by adding his name to the club's Level of Excellence.

    Average salary up: Baseball's average salary increased 3.8 percent this year to a record $3.2 million, according to figures released by the players association. The boost was helped by the minimum salary going from $414,000 to $480,000.

    D'backs, MCCarthy agree: Right-hander Brandon McCarthy, 29, reached agreement with the Diamondbacks on a $15.5 million, two-year contract, the Associated Press reported. The signing is contingent on a physical, as McCarthy, Oakland's opening day starter last season, was hit in the right side of the head by a line drive Sept. 5. He sustained an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture, then underwent a two-hour surgery. McCarthy said in November that his concussion symptoms had subsided, but he still has to use caution when exerting himself. McCarthy said he planned to begin playing catch this month, then throw bullpens starting in January if all continues to go well.

    Signings: Former Rays reliever Randy Choate, 37, and the Cardinals finalized a three-year, $7.5 million deal. … Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, finalized his two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Cubs, saying, "Facing better-quality hitters was one of my motivations" for leaving Japan after 12 seasons. … Right-hander Dan Haren, 32, agreed to a one-year deal with the Nationals.

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Damian Cristodero and Joe Smith, Times Staff Writers
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    BY JOE SMITH and DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writers

    Where are they now?

    Mike Alstott

    The bruising fullback and fan favorite made the last of his six Pro Bowls in 2002 and scored the Bucs' first touchdown in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Spent his entire 12-year career with the Bucs; retired in 2007.

    Now: Has strong ties to the Tampa Bay community. Set up charity, Mike Alstott Foundation. … Lives in St. Petersburg with his family. … Coach at St. Petersburg's Northside Christian School.

    Ronde Barber

    A stalwart at cornerback since getting drafted in 1997, his 92-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the NFC title game against the Eagles.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Has made four more Pro Bowls with the Bucs, for career total of five.

    Now: In his first season at free safety for the Bucs.

    Derrick Brooks

    One of the best linebackers of all time, Brooks had his best season in 2002. He was named the league's defensive player of the year, made the Pro Bowl and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Spent all 14 seasons of his career with the Bucs; was released in February 2009.

    Now: Active with philanthropic efforts in Tampa, including heading the founding of Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School. … Analyst for ESPN. … Co-owner and president of the Arena League's Storm.

    Jeff Christy

    The three-time Pro Bowl center started every game in 2002.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Retired in 2003 after 10 seasons with Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

    Now: Helps coach at Freeport (Pa.) High, his alma mater.

    Cosey Coleman

    A 2000 second-round draft pick, he started every game and was regarded as one of the league's most underrated guards.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Played two more seasons with the Bucs (starting all 63 games he played for them from 2001-04) and two seasons with the Browns before retiring after 2006.

    Now: Offensive line coach at Tampa's Alonso High. … Divorced with three children: daughter Kaylee, 12, and sons Chance, 10, and Cosey Jr., 7. … Lives in Westchase.

    Chartric Darby

    Signed after going undrafted in 2001, the nose tackle took over late in the season for injured Booger McFarland.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Left for the Seahawks in 2005, playing three seasons for them and two for the Lions.

    Now: Owns IMB Management, an athlete management company. … Lives in Land O'Lakes with wife Charlette; daughters Charquise, 18, and Charniya, 13; and son Chartric Jr., 5.

    Where are they now?

    Ken Dilger

    The tight end caught 32 passes for 329 yards in 2002, including a 12-yarder in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Played two more seasons for the Bucs before retiring.

    Now: Lives in Carmel, Ind. … Branch manager for a mortgage bank and getting a master's in business management and strategy. … Works on CBS affiliate's Colts pregame show.

    Martin Gramatica

    His 32 field goals, including 5-for-6 from 50-plus yards, tied for the league high, and he made two in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Released in 2004 after making 11 of 19 field goals. … Spent time with the Colts, Cowboys and Saints before retiring after 2008.

    Now: President and CEO of Gramatica SIPS International in Tampa, a construction company specializing in energy-efficient buildings. … Lives in Carrollwood with wife Ashlee; sons Nico, 6, and Gaston, 4; and daughter Emme, 10 months.

    Jon Gruden

    Acquired in the offseason from the Raiders for four draft picks and $8 million, he replaced Tony Dungy as coach and put the Bucs over the top.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Made the playoffs twice more with the Bucs, losing wild-card games in 2005 and 2007. … Fired in January 2009, finishing 57-55 over seven seasons.

    Now: ESPN analyst on Monday Night Football. … Volunteer assistant at Tampa's Carrollwood Day School. … Founded Fired Football Coaches Association.

    Dexter Jackson

    The safety had two interceptions in the first half to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Played one year with the Cardinals, two in a second stint with the Bucs and three with the Bengals before finishing in the United Football League.

    Now: Works for the children's crisis center of Mental Health Care, a nonprofit in Tampa.

    Kerry Jenkins

    Signed from the Jets, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound guard started all 15 regular-season games in which he played in 2002 and 26 of 31 in 2002-03.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Spent '03 with the Bucs, then retired.

    Now: Owns a yoga studio with wife Kate. … Teaches motor­cycle safety in Birmingham, Ala.

    Brad Johnson

    In his second season with the Bucs, Johnson made the Pro Bowl, becoming the first Tampa Bay quarterback to lead the NFC in passer rating (92.3) and leading them to the title.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Lost the starting job in 2004 and left after the season. … Spent two seasons with the Vikings, starting 23 games, and two as the Cowboys' backup before retiring after 2008.

    Now: Lives in Athens, Ga., with wife Nikki and two sons. … Coaches two sixth-grade football teams. … Helps with the JV and varsity teams at Prince Avenue Christian School in Bogart, Ga.

    Where are they now?

    Keyshawn Johnson

    Acquired from the Jets, Johnson was the Bucs' most prominent receiver — and one of their largest personalities — leading them with 76 catches in 2002 and getting six more in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: A dispute prompted coach Jon Gruden to deactivate him for the final six games of 2003. … Traded to Dallas, where he spent two seasons before playing one with Carolina and retiring after 2006.

    Now: Analyst on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.

    Joe Jurevicius

    Signed from the Giants, Jurevicius made some of the biggest plays in the postseason, including a 71-yard catch in the NFC title game and four catches for a team-high 78 yards in the Super Bowl before gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Left after 2004, playing one year for the Seahawks and three for his hometown Browns.

    Now: Lives in Cleveland with wife Meagan and daughters Caroline, 8, and Ava, 5. … Opened Laundromats in Ohio called Spins. … Avid hunter. … Owns corn and soybean farm in Iowa.

    Brian Kelly

    The starting cornerback had a team-high eight interceptions in 2002.

    Post-Super Bowl career: After eight years with the Bucs, wrapped up his career with one season in Detroit (2008).

    Now: Moved into TV production and formed a company with Keyshawn Johnson called 1925 Productions, which focuses on sports celebrities' lifestyles.

    Monte Kiffin

    The defensive coordinator and father of the much-imitated Tampa 2 defense, Kiffin helped make the Bucs one of the best units in the league.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Left after 2008 to join son Lane at the University of Tennessee. … Followed Lane to USC in 2010.

    Now: Announced he will resign from USC after its upcoming bowl game.

    John Lynch

    One of the most feared hitters in his era, the safety was a force on defense and made nine Pro Bowls during his career.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Released by the Bucs after 2003. … Made four straight Pro Bowls with the Broncos and spent the 2008 preseason with the Patriots before retiring.

    Now: Game analyst for Fox.

    Keenan McCardell

    Signed from the Jaguars, McCardell shined in his first year with the Bucs, getting 61 receptions and two touchdown passes in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Played one more season for the Bucs, making the Pro Bowl. … Spent three seasons with the Chargers and one with the Redskins. … Redskins receivers coach 2010-11.

    Now: Lives in Houston. … Analyst for Comcast Network.

    Anthony "Booger" McFarland

    A key cog in the middle, the defensive tackle fractured a foot against Detroit in Week 15 and missed the postseason.

    Post-Super Bowl career: After spending his first eight seasons with the Bucs, finished his career with two years with the Colts (2006-07), including winning Super Bowl XLI.

    Now: Hosts a show with Rich Herrera on Tampa's new sports radio station, 98.7-FM The Fan.

    Roman Oben

    Signed from the Browns, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive tackle started 29 of the 31 regular-season games in which he played for the Bucs in 2002 and '03, and was the blindside blocker for quarterback Brad Johnson.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Left for San Diego after 2003 and spent four seasons there before retiring.

    Now: Giants TV analyst. … Involved in charitable and civic activities. …Lives in Kinnelon, N.J., with wife Linda and sons Roman Jr., 11, and Andre, 8.

    Shelton Quarles

    Spent most of his 10 seasons with the Bucs, becoming one of their best linebackers and making the Pro Bowl after 2002.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Played with Tampa Bay until 2007, when he was hired by it as a scout.

    Now: Bucs' coordinator of pro scouting.

    Simeon Rice

    The defensive end racked up a career-high 151/2 sacks in 2002 as well as two in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: After six years with the Bucs, had short stints with the Broncos, Colts and United Football League before retiring in 2009. … Launched a line of performance undergarments, founded a recording label and studied filmmaking, directing the short comedy When I Was King.

    Now: Lives in Phoenix and works in real estate.

    Warren Sapp

    Ferocious and flamboyant, he was the prototype three-technique tackle and a cornerstone of the Bucs' dominant defenses, making seven Pro Bowls.

    Post-Super Bowl career: After nine years in Tampa Bay, played four with Oakland (2004-07) before retiring. … Runnerup in Dancing with the Stars in 2008. … Filed for bankruptcy.

    Now: NFL Network analyst.

    Dwight Smith

    The safety had four interceptions during the season and returned two for touchdowns of 44 and 50 yards in the Super Bowl.

    Post-Super Bowl career: Had eight interceptions over the next two seasons for the Bucs. … Played with the Saints (2005), Vikings (2006-07) and Lions (2008) before retiring.

    Now: Lives in Tampa and owns a financial planning firm. … Son Dwight Jr. is 13.

    Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Sept. 8, 2002

    Saints 26, Bucs 20 OT

    Punter Tom Tupa's desperation pass in overtime is intercepted in the end zone.

    0-1

    Sept. 15, 2002

    Bucs 25, Ravens 0

    LB Derrick Brooks' 97-yard interception return for a TD late preserves the shutout.

    1-1

    Sept. 23, 2002

    Bucs 26, Rams 14

    CB Brian Kelly sets up Mike Alstott's clinching TD with one of four Bucs interceptions.

    2-1

    Sept. 29, 2002

    Bucs 35, Bengals 7

    Brad Johnson has TD passes to Keenan McCar­dell, Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley.

    3-1

    Oct. 6, 2002

    Bucs 20, Falcons 6

    DE Simeon Rice's sack injures Michael Vick; Bucs get three Doug Johnson INTs.

    4-1

    Oct. 13, 2002

    Bucs 17, Browns 3

    Alstott has 126 yards and two TDs; defense's streak of not allowing a TD hits 12 quarters.

    5-1

    Oct. 20, 2002

    Eagles 20, Bucs 10

    For the third year in a row (twice in the playoffs), the Bucs lose at the Vet.

    5-2

    Oct. 27, 2002

    Bucs 12, Panthers 9

    Rob Johnson plays for a hurt Brad Johnson; Martin Gramatica makes four field goals.

    6-2

    Nov. 3, 2002

    Bucs 38, Vikings 24

    Brad Johnson plays with broken ribs and throws for 313 yards and five TDs.

    7-2

    Nov. 17, 2002

    Bucs 23, Panthers 10

    Dwight Smith's INT sets up a McCardell TD, John Lynch's INT a third Gramatica FG.

    8-2

    Nov. 24, 2002

    Bucs 21, Packers 7

    Kelly gets two of four Brett Favre INTs; Dilger, Joe Jurevicius catch TD passes.

    9-2

    Dec. 1, 2002

    Saints 23, Bucs 20

    Bucs fumble four times (losing two), are intercepted once and give up four sacks.

    9-3

    Dec. 8, 2002

    Bucs 34, Falcons 10

    Vick rushes for 15 yards and passes for 125, and Brad Johnson throws four TD passes.

    10-3

    Dec. 15, 2002

    Bucs 23, Lions 20

    Gramatica's 38-yard field goal with 3:08 remaining clinches a playoff spot.

    11-3

    Dec. 23, 2002

    Steelers 17, Bucs 7

    Shaun King starts for injured Brad Johnson and throws for just 73 yards.

    11-4

    Dec. 29, 2002

    Bucs 15, Bears 0

    Gramatica's five field goals help Bucs beat "cold weather" jinx and earn No. 2 seed.

    12-4

    NFC DIVISION ROUND Jan. 12, 2003, at tampa

    Bucs 31, 49ers 6

    Brad Johnson, playing for the first time in a month, throws TD passes to Jurevicius and Dudley, and Alstott scores on two 2-yard runs to end a streak of playoff quarters without a TD at 12. The defense gets three interceptions and two fumbles, and sacks Jeff Garcia four times. Terrell Owens, the NFC's second-leading receiver, catches four passes for 35 yards.

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP game Jan. 19, 2003, at Philadelphia

    Bucs 27, Eagles 10

    The Bucs overcome the cold and the Vet. Brian Mitchell's 70-yard kickoff return gives Philly an early TD. But a Jurevicius 71-yard catch sets up an Alstott 1-yard TD run, and Brad Johnson throws a 9-yard TD pass to Keyshawn Johnson. CB Ronde Barber, in the biggest play in franchise history, clinches the win with a 92-yard INT return for a TD with 3:12 left.

    SUPER BOWL Jan. 26, 2003, at San Diego

    Bucs 48, Raiders 21

    Once the NFL's most laughable franchise, the Bucs ascend to the top by dominating Jon Gruden's former team in San Diego. There are five INTs (three returned for TDs), two Johnson-to-McCardell TDs and 124 rushing yards from Michael Pittman as the Bucs build a 34-3 lead. Brooks seals the win with a 44-yard interception return for a TD with 1:27 to play.


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    Times staff
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    The poll

    Whom do you credit most for the Bucs' Super Bowl title for the 2002 season?

    Jon Gruden: 38 percent

    Tony Dungy: 35 percent

    Monte Kiffin: 9 percent

    Rich McKay: 5 percent

    Derrick Brooks: 4 percent

    Glazer family: 4 percent

    Brad Johnson: 2 percent

    Other: 2 percent

    Warren Sapp: 1 percent

    Total: 1,560 votes

    Inside the numbers

    7-8 Bucs' record against the Eagles, including 2-2 in the playoffs

    5-0 Bucs' record this season when rushing for 130 or more yards

    1-6 Bucs' record this season when rushing for 130 or fewer yards

    46.2 Completion percentage for Bucs' Josh Freeman last week against the Broncos, second worst of the season

    73 Rushing yards Doug Martin needs to pass Cadillac Williams for most by a Bucs rookie (1,178 in 2005)

    What they're saying

    Incredibly, the Eagles have won just one turnover battle all season (Week 4 vs. Giants). They are 31st in turnover differential (minus-18) and 31st in giveaways (28), including a league-high 16 fumbles. The Bucs, meanwhile, are sixth in the league in turnover differential (plus-11). Despite being last in the league in passing yards allowed, they are fourth in interceptions with 17.

    Paul Domowitch Philadelphia Daily News

    The question that must be asked is not will the Eagles win Sunday but … will they win again this season? It won't come on Sunday. Tampa Bay is far from an elite team, but they present a difficult matchup. The Eagles' inability to limit opposing quarterbacks does not bode well against Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who has experienced a bounce-back season in 2012. Most impressive is the propensity for big plays.

    Zach Berman Philadelphia Inquirer

    The picks

    Nick Foles good. Josh Freeman better. Bucs, 30-20.

    Peter King Sports Illustrated

    The Eagles are playing consecutive road games, which is tough. And they're doing so with Nick Foles the permanent starting quarterback for the first time. Tampa Bay is still alive in the playoff chase, but they have to win here. They will. It should be a high-scoring game. Bucs, 33-25.

    Pete Prisco CBSSports.com

    The Phillies have won more recently than the Eagles. That fact should hold for another week, or longer. Bucs, 27-17.

    Mike Florio ProFootballTalk.com

    Bucs vs. Eagles

    1 p.m., Raymond James Stadium

    TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM

    Line; over/under: Bucs by 7½; 47½


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Willie Taggart, who left the Tampa Bay area to play and coach at Western Kentucky, is coming home as the next coach of USF football.

    Taggart, 36, a Palmetto native who played against USF in the Bulls' first season and has coached the Hilltoppers this season to their first bowl game, told his players he is leaving his alma mater during a team meeting Friday night after practice.

    He arrived in Tampa Friday night.

    "I'm looking forward to getting to know all the Bull Nation and go from there," he told WFTS Ch. 28 at the airport.

    Taggart is likely to be introduced today as just the third coach in the Bulls' 16-year history, replacing Skip Holtz, who was fired Sunday after three seasons and a 5-16 record in Big East play.

    Taggart, who won a state title in 1992 as a player at Bradenton Manatee High, has come up through the Harbaugh coaching tree — Jim, now coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, recruited him to play for his father, Jack, at Western Kentucky, where he became an assistant coach the year after he finished playing. He helped coach WKU to a I-AA national title in 2002, then joined Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford for three years before returning to WKU as head coach when Jack Harbaugh retired.

    "I see a lot of similarities between coach Harbaugh and him," said Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, the 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up who had Taggart as his position coach for three years at Stanford. "They have similar philosophies when it comes to being relentless, being tough, running the ball. He takes such great pride in running the ball, and that's kind of gone by the wayside in college football."

    Taggart has engineered a USF-like growth at WKU, which had lost 20 in a row when he became head coach. After a 2-10 debut in 2010, he has turned the team around to 7-5 records in the past two seasons, with a win at Kentucky in September. With a 16-20 career record, he'll be one of the youngest head coaches in Big East football history — Bucs coach Greg Schiano was just 34 when he became head coach at Rutgers in 2000.

    Taggart will take over a USF program that has finished last in the Big East in each of the past two seasons, with 1-6 records in Big East play. The Bulls finished 5-7 in 2011, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004, and this year's team had a 3-9 record, the worst in the Bulls' 16 seasons.

    In the six days since Holtz's firing, the possibility of Taggart's hiring has brought considerable buzz in the Tampa area, with area coaches endorsing him as a young coach who would ramp up the Bulls' recruiting efforts. He'll need to quickly address glaring needs at quarterback and running back — QB Asiantii Woulard, a top-rated recruit from Winter Park who had backed out of a commitment to USF after Holtz was fired, seemed pleased with Taggart's hire. "Excited to see what Taggart has planned for #USF!" he tweeted Friday.

    Taggart's hiring should also be a homecoming for current WKU graduate assistant Marquel Blackwell, USF's all-time leading passer, who joined Taggart's staff this summer and is likely to be part of his USF staff. Ray Woodie, who coached at Palmetto before joining Taggart at WKU, has been a top Florida recruiter and would logically join Taggart in Tampa as well. He should be able to fill his staff with current USF assistants, as well as other promising coaches from the Harbaugh tree.

    His hiring will also make Taggart the only African-American head coach among Florida's seven I-A football programs, though Florida International is in the process of hiring a new coach. In the hours that followed news of his hiring, many Bulls fans announced their approval, including ESPN basketball personality Dick Vitale, who lives in Lakewood Ranch and has followed Taggart's career.

    "A great choice by USF — WILLIE TAGGART has the complete package — can coach -—can recruit — can motivate -—can communicate with media," Vitale tweeted.

    News of Taggart's decision was reported first by 620-AM WDAE.

    Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    You're from Lafayette, La., which, I think, is Cajun country, right?

    Absolutely. It's right in the middle. At Louisiana-Lafayette, they actually call themselves the Ragin' Cajuns.

    Most people probably don't have a real understanding of what Cajuns are really about other than food. It's more than that, right?

    Well, wait. The food is a big part of it, though. I didn't realize how much I liked Cajun cuisine and how much I missed it until I got out of the state. There's nothing like that anywhere else. Being away makes me really, really miss the food. But from growing up there, I think everybody has a misconception that we take pirogue (a small boat) to school and our houses float. It's actually nothing like that. It's a great place. Me and my wife will, when it's all said and done, go back and live there.

    I think (perceptions) probably come from TV shows, no?

    Yes. Everybody watches Swamp People (on the History Channel) and shows like that. But come on. Do I really look like that?

    So what qualifies as Cajun? It's not a nationality or race or anything. Can you answer that?

    Well, it's from the French. But they have their own little language. It's like butchered French. It's really hard to explain. If you've never been around it, you wouldn't be able to understand anything. But they are speaking English. It's unique, to say the least. But the people down there will do anything for you. But if you cross them, they will go out of their way to cross you back. But overall, it's a great place.

    We mentioned the food. What is, for you, the quintessential Cajun dish?

    Crawfish. Without a doubt. I could eat crawfish all day. It's by far my favorite food. I like crawfish etouffee. And I like boudin, if you've ever heard of that. It's like a sausage link, and it's got a casing with rice dressing inside it. You basically suck the meat out of the casing, and there's rice dressing in there. It's really good. It's got the Cajun spices in there, too. And cracklings, too (pork skins).

    Our weekly questions: What's playing most on your iPod right now?

    I would say a lot of country and a lot of rap. On game day I like to switch it up to rock to get me in the mood. It all depends on what I'm feeling. If I'm driving, it's mainly country.

    What artists do you lean toward?

    I'd say Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean. Those two are probably my two favorites.

    What website do you visit the most?

    Probably Yahoo.com. I get on there every day to see the news and what's going on in the world.

    And what reality show are you sure to never miss?

    My wife always watches The Real Housewives. So when she's watching it, I kind of get hooked on it a little bit. I find myself not wanting to turn it off.… As for me, I like Pawn Stars and Storage Wars.

    Mason Foster tells me your English bulldog is a big deal in the Cutrera household. Is that right?

    Definitely. Me, Dekoda (Watson) and Mason all have bulldogs. My dog is Mac. He's something else. We treat him like a human. He is spoiled rotten. He sleeps all day, and when he's not sleeping, he's getting some kind of treat. We love him. We have this big, huge, king-sized bed, and at night he has to be in the bed touching some part of me or my wife. And he has all this space. We try pushing him away, and he doesn't budge. He's got to be touching one of us. And then sometimes he'll get up and put his face on the pillow right next to us. He is really something.

    Good thing bulldogs don't drool (sarcasm).

    No, actually, he doesn't. And most bulldogs do. He's actually an Old English bulldog, so he's different. But he doesn't slobber, and we're real fortunate for that.

    So you went to LSU, and I'm guessing it doesn't get bigger than that in Louisiana.

    Absolutely not. They are die-hard fans at LSU. And here's a funny, related story. My wife is from just north of New Orleans, and they are huge Saints fans. I have to be the only player in the NFL who sleeps (at their house) in a decked-out Saints bedroom; I mean bobbleheads and everything. I wake up to Drew Brees' Fathead (poster) every morning. When I wake up in the morning, all I see is Drew Brees. I'm trying to convert them, but they've been season-ticket holders forever. It's really hilarious, when you think about it.

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


    SKIP O’ROURKE   |   TimesSKIP O’ROURKE | Times

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    Greg Auman, Times staff writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012


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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    117.5 (11th) 133.6 (9th)

    The Eagles are in disarray, having lost eight in a row, and coach Andy Reid is expected to be fired at season's end. The defense has allowed an average 31.7 points in its past six games. But changes at QB (Nick Foles) and running back (Bryce Brown) are intriguing.

    Eagles' top offensive player

    Of the uninjured (not many), tight end Brent Celek, right, is a top threat. He's second in team history among tight ends in catches (273) and receiving yards (3,390). He had eight catches for 157 yards Sept. 16 vs. Baltimore.

    Eagles' top defensive player

    End Trent Cole, left, is 11th among active players with 70 sacks. His 16 multisack games rank third in Eagles history behind Reggie White and Clyde Simmons.

    What the Eagles do best

    The Eagles have run the ball well. Running back Bryce Brown has 347 yards and four TDs in two starts for injured LeSean McCoy.

    How you beat the Eagles

    With rookie QB Nick Foles in the lineup, the Eagles lose the mobility of Michael Vick. Can the Bucs, 30th of 32 teams in the league in sacks with 18, finally pressure the passer and force some poor throws?

    The Bucs must avoid …

    Penalties. The 11 last week against Denver were the Bucs' second most this season. Penalties give a struggling opponent such as Philadelphia life.

    Projected starters

    BUCS

    OFFENSE

    WR: Vincent Jackson

    LT: Donald Penn

    LG: Jeremy Zuttah

    C: Ted Larsen

    RG: Jamon Meredith

    RT: Demar Dotson

    TE: Dallas Clark

    WR: Mike Williams

    QB: Josh Freeman

    RB: Doug Martin

    FB: Erik Lorig

    DEFENSE

    LDE: Michael Bennett

    DT: Gerald McCoy

    DT: Roy Miller

    RDE: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

    SLB: Adam Hayward

    MLB: Mason Foster

    WLB: Lavonte David

    CB: E.J. Biggers

    CB: Leonard Johnson

    SS: Mark Barron

    FS: Ronde Barber

    special teams

    PR: Roscoe Parrish

    KR: Michael Smith

    PK: Connor Barth

    P/KO: Michael Koenen

    eagles

    OFFENSE

    WR: Jeremy Maclin

    LT: King Dunlap

    LG: Evan Mathis

    C: Dallas Reynolds

    RG: Jake Scott

    RT: Dennis Kelly

    TE: Brent Celek

    WR: Riley Cooper

    QB: Nick Foles

    RB: Bryce Brown

    TE: Clay Harbor

    DEFENSE

    LDE: Brandon Graham

    DT: Cullen Jenkins

    DT: Fletcher Cox

    RDE: Trent Cole

    SLB: Mychal Kendricks

    MLB: DeMeco Ryans

    WLB: Akeem Jordan

    CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    CB: Nnamdi Asomugha

    SS: Nate Allen

    FS: Colt Anderson

    special teams

    PR: Damaris Johnson

    KR: Brandon Boykin

    PK/KO: Alex Henery

    P: Mat McBriar

    Stat pack



    1 p.m., Raymond James Stadium | TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM | Line; O/U: Bucs by 7½; 47½

    Rushing yards

    passing yards

    total yards

    Rushing yards allowed

    passing yards allowed

    total yards allowed

    Bucs

    eagles

    82.3 (1st) 117.9 (18th)

    242.9 (12th) 229.0 (17th)

    309.4 (32nd) 233.6 (16th)

    360.4 (13th) 362.6 (12th)

    391.7 (30th) 351.5 (17th)

    Injury report

    BUCS — Out: CB LeQuan Lewis (knee). Questionable: DT Roy Miller (head). Probable: WR Vincent Jackson (calf), RB D.J. Ware (illness).

    Eagles Out: S Kurt Coleman (chest), RB LeSean McCoy (concussion), T Nate Menkin (throat), DT Mike Patterson (illness), QB Michael Vick (concussion). Questionable: RB Chris Polk (toe). Probable: S Nate Allen (shoulder), DT Fletcher Cox (tailbone), RB Stanley Havili (ankle), LB Mychal Kendricks (shoulder), G Dallas Reynolds (ankle), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee).

    Prediction

    Bucs 29, Eagles 21


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    By Stephen F. Holder and Joe Smith, Times Staff Writers
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    TAMPA — When Greg Schiano cooked up a concept that would eliminate kickoffs in the NFL and shared the idea with commissioner Roger Goodell, it wasn't about trying to show how smart he is.

    Instead, the Bucs coach was inspired by his experience with his former Rutgers player, Eric LeGrand, who remains paralyzed after injuring his neck while covering a kickoff.

    "I understand traditionalists who don't agree," Schiano said. "But there used to not be the forward pass, too. And the game would be pretty boring without it. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. I'm saying you have to be able to think outside, and it's whatever's best for the player.

    "At the end of the day, these guys are the ones who are putting it on the line. … I know it's a violent game and that's one of the things that I love about it is the physical part of it. But there's areas that are more susceptible to injury."

    Schiano, in a conversation that occurred before he was hired by the Bucs in January, told Goodell about his idea: Teams would be given the ball at their own 30-yard line after they scored, rather than kicking off to the opponent. They would then have the option of punting the ball away or trying to convert a fourth down and 15. Attempting to convert the first down would be the equivalent of an onside kick, Schiano said, and could create intriguing situations.

    "I think you could have a lot of exciting stuff if you opened the game with a blocked punt," he said. "Who knows what could happen?"

    It's widely accepted that kickoffs are a dangerous aspect of the game. Schiano offered data that he says proves it, but he got all the evidence he needed on Oct. 16, 2010, the day LeGrand went down.

    "When I was researching this, one of the things (I learned) was in the old kickoff rules (when the ball was placed at the 30), 17 percent of the catastrophic injuries came on kickoffs. But (kickoffs) are only about 6 percent of the game. So, that's disproportionate. Things like that are reasons that led me to this. But obviously, with me, it's a personal thing because of Eric LeGrand."

    Schiano might have some convincing to do, even in his own locker room.

    "I think football is football, people can get hurt," said LB Dekoda Watson, one of the Bucs' special teams standouts. "But if they keep doing all these things for safety, we aren't going to be able to touch the quarterback. It'll be tag the quarterback after a while. I understand what they're saying. But at the same time, it's the nature of the beast."

    INJURY REPORT: DT Roy Miller (head) returned to practice Friday and hopes to play Sunday. Miller said he was injured in the second quarter of lat week's loss at Denver. He has been undergoing tests all week but was cleared to practice. "We're going to be cautious," Schiano said.

    CB LeQuan Lewis, also the kickoff returner, has been ruled out with a knee injury. Schiano would not specify who would take his place on special teams.

    WHERE'S RONDE? If you notice S Ronde Barber missing from Sunday's halftime celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the Super Bowl XXXVII championship, it'll be because he's a little busy. Asked this week whether Schiano would be okay with his participating, Barber had his doubts.

    "I don't think Coach is going to let that happen," Barber said. "If he does, it'll be a surprise to me. I don't know what I'm allowed to do. I've got to work.

    "Unfortunately, I won't be enjoying it as much as other guys. But it'll be a great moment."

    Schiano's position: "The thing I know is that when guys are done playing, they wish they could go play again, and Ronde is still playing. So, let's go win. Whatever helps us win the most is what we'll do."


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    Times wires
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    PHOENIX — Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett received a fine of at least $100,000 from the Cardinals for his behavior in the waning seconds of last week's 7-6 loss, according to multiple media reports Friday.

    USA Today reported the fine was $100,000, but nfl.com put the amount at $200,000. The team has not commented.

    "Thank God for the @nflpa that's all I got to say. … I ain't got no worries," Dockett, a former Florida State standout, posted on Twitter.

    Dockett, 31, refused to go along with defensive coordinator Ray Horton's directive to allow the Jets to score so the Cardinals could get the ball back and go for a touchdown. Dockett then argued with, and reportedly spit on, teammate Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes denied he was spit on and said Dockett apologized and they have moved on.

    Bucs won't face Eagles' Vick, McCoy

    PHILADELPHIA — Quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy will not play when the Eagles meet the Buccaneers on Sunday.

    Athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said neither has been cleared to return to football activity after suffering concussions last month.

    Burkholder sent McCoy to a concussion specialists because, "I didn't like how he was getting symptoms at night and not during the day."

    Burkholder said Vick is improving in his physical rehabilitation but is "in kind of a stagnant phase" with his testing.

    The Eagles, who have lost eight in a row, will start quarterback Nick Foles and running back Bryce Brown, who has 347 yards in his first two NFL starts, the most by an Eagle in a two-game span in 63 years.

    Hit on Buc brings fine: Broncos defensive end Von Miller was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his hit below the knee of Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman last week. Miller was penalized for roughing the passer in the second quarter of the Broncos' 31-23 win. Miller was fined $21,000 last month for a similar infraction against Panthers QB Cam Newton.

    Other fines from NFL: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, $21,000, horse-collar tackle; Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, $21,000, helmet-to-helmet hit; Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin, $21,000, helmet-to-helmet hit; Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley, $15,750, horse-collar tackle; Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, $15,750, late hit; 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, $10,000, kicking; Redskins center Will Montgomery, $10,000, kicking Giants defensive lineman Linval Joseph, who was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness.

    Tebow idle in hometown? Backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been nursing two broken ribs, will fly with the team to his hometown of Jacksonville, but coach Rex Ryan and team doctors likely will not determine if he will play until right before the game. He is listed as questionable.

    Fan fall: Police say a man fell from the upper deck at the Oakland Coliseum during Thursday's Raiders game and was in serious condition at a hospital. Oakland police said the man fell from the third deck onto the lower concourse. The man and his injuries have not been identified.

    AMERICAN CONFERENCE

    East W L T Pct PF PA

    zNew England 9 3 0 .750 430 260

    N.Y. Jets 5 7 0 .417 228 296

    Buffalo 5 7 0 .417 277 337

    Miami 5 7 0 .417 227 249

    South W L T Pct PF PA

    yHouston 11 1 0 .917 351 221

    Indianapolis 8 4 0 .667 265 306

    Tennessee 4 8 0 .333 248 359

    Jacksonville 2 10 0 .167 206 342

    North W L T Pct PF PA

    Baltimore 9 3 0 .750 303 242

    Pittsburgh 7 5 0 .583 254 230

    Cincinnati 7 5 0 .583 302 260

    Cleveland 4 8 0 .333 229 265

    West W L T Pct PF PA

    zDenver 10 3 0 .769 375 257

    San Diego 4 8 0 .333 258 257

    Oakland 3 10 0 .231 248 402

    Kansas City 2 10 0 .167 188 322

    NATIONAL CONFERENCE

    East W L T Pct PF PA

    N.Y. Giants 7 5 0 .583 321 243

    Washington 6 6 0 .500 312 301

    Dallas 6 6 0 .500 280 295

    Philadelphia 3 9 0 .250 217 320

    South W L T Pct PF PA

    zAtlanta 11 1 0 .917 317 229

    Tampa Bay 6 6 0 .500 333 285

    New Orleans 5 7 0 .417 321 327

    Carolina 3 9 0 .250 235 292

    North W L T Pct PF PA

    Green Bay 8 4 0 .667 296 259

    Chicago 8 4 0 .667 294 198

    Minnesota 6 6 0 .500 262 272

    Detroit 4 8 0 .333 300 315

    West W L T Pct PF PA

    San Francisco 8 3 1 .708 289 171

    Seattle 7 5 0 .583 242 202

    St. Louis 5 6 1 .458 221 267

    Arizona 4 8 0 .333 186 234

     y-clinched playoff spot; z-clinched division

    Sunday

    Chicago at Minnesota, 1

    Baltimore at Washington, 1

    Kansas City at Cleveland, 1

    San Diego at Pittsburgh, 1

    Tennessee at Indianapolis, 1

    N.Y. Jets at Jacksonville, 1

    Atlanta at Carolina, 1

    Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 1

    St. Louis at Buffalo, 1

    Dallas at Cincinnati, 1

    Miami at San Francisco, 4:05

    Arizona at Seattle, 4:25

    New Orleans at N.Y. Giants, 4:25

    Detroit at Green Bay, 8:20

    Monday

    Houston at New England, 8:30


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Don Jensen, Times Correspondent
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    OLDSMAR — From her second-level grandstand box seats at Tampa Bay Downs, Mary Jean Bonfili has a great view of the horses, the racing surfaces and the tote board. What she can't see is why her thoroughbreds are not allowed at her favorite track.

    Bonfili, a St. Petersburg businesswoman, is among the horse owners whose thoroughbreds at Hawthorne Race Course have been banned from the Downs because of an outbreak of equine herpes virus (EHV-1). The highly contagious, airborne disease was originally detected Oct. 14 at the Cicero/Stickney, Ill., facility. Five horses have died, the latest one Dec. 1. Most of the nearly 2,000 horses stabled at Hawthorne have not been allowed to leave for out-of-state quarantine facilities. Hawthorne continues racing with the horses on its grounds.

    "I am totally depressed," said Bonfili, whose horses don't have the virus. "I love (the Downs), and now I've got three nice horses that I can't run here because of the quarantine. Apparently, there's a 21-day gestation period on this disease. I don't understand why you should be banned if we have healthy horses."

    Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube announced Nov. 30 on the track website that Hawthorne horses would not be permitted on the Oldsmar grounds for the 2012-13 season.

    "Our priorities include the welfare of our locally based population and taking the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from entering our stable area," he said.

    Dr. Michael Short, veterinarian manager of the Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industry, said his office has received "hundreds of calls" over the Hawthorne situation.

    "We won't supersede anything (the Downs) is doing," Short said. "I think only one person, Christine Janks, has brought her horses home (to Florida)."

    He said while a virus generally runs its course, it remains in a horse's system for the rest of its life and can reactivate.

    "Until (Hawthorne) has subsided with the outbreak, we're going to stand firm (on the ban) for the entire meet," Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn said. "(The outbreak) has gone on much longer that it should have with live cases. We're protecting all the horsemen here and the horses that ship in as well."

    Trainer Derek Ryan supports the Downs stance.

    "You can't let (Hawthorne horses) in because they had another positive there last week," he said. "What happens if they come in and then later, a horse from Chicago comes up positive. It's March, people are looking to run in the (Tampa Bay) Derby here, and we're looking to go north. We're stuck."

    MORE HORSES: Defending champion Action Andy faces six rivals in the $60,000 Pelican Stakes (Race 6, 2:58 p.m.) at the Downs.

    DOGS: The $75,000 Holiday Distance Challenge resumes tonight in Races 6 and 10 at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.


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    Times wires
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    The Florida volleyball team fell in the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, losing 3-0 to host and No. 3 seed Texas. The Longhorns won 25-22, 26-24, 25-17.

    The Gators (27-5), the No. 14 seed, appeared in the region semifinals for the 21st time in the past 22 seasons. They had two set points in the second after holding a 24-22 lead, but Texas won four straight to close it out.

    Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann led Florida with 14 kills and junior setter Taylor Brauneis had 40 assists. But Florida had 23 errors and a .173 attack percentage to .290 for the Longhorns.

    TAMPA in final: Danielle Selkridge had 18 kills as Tampa swept Indianapolis in the Division II semifinals in Pensacola. The Spartans (32-3) face Concordia (Minn.) in tonight's final at 8.

    Basketball: UF women hand foe first defeat

    GAINESVILLE — Forward Jennifer George had 17 points, reaching 1,000 for her career, and 12 rebounds as the Florida women's team won 89-82 over visiting Pacific, which was 7-0 going in. Guard Jaterra Bonds led Florida (7-3) with 20 points.

    NO. 7 KENTUCKY 96, DEPAUL 64: DeNesha Stallworth had 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead the host Wildcats (7-1).

    PLAYER RECOVERING: A Utah State player who nearly died after collapsing during practice Tuesday said he should play again. Danny Berger fell into cardiac arrest, and the team's trainer revived him. Doctors inserted a tiny defibrillator in his chest and said he should be cleared to play in a few weeks. "If I everything goes right, it seems like I'll have a full recovery," said Berger, 22.

    FOUR IN ONE: There is a plan for Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to host four games next season simultaneously, Sports Illustrated reported. The starts would be staggered by 15 minutes.

    MAJERUS MEMORIAL: Hundreds turned out on the St. Louis campus to honor Rick Majerus, the former coach who died Dec. 1 of heart failure at 64. Interim coach Jim Crews, whose team is 5-3, said Majerus made a mark. "His finger­print is all over college basketball," Crews said. "Everywhere you go, there he is."

    LSU: Starting guard Anthony Hickey was suspended indefinitely because of unspecified violations, coach Johnny Jones said.

    MISSISSIPPI: Forward Jason Carter was dismissed from the team for an unspecified violation.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Many players helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl. Many moments led to that magical day the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21. Many things had to go right to make that day possible. But here are the 10 moments we selected as the most critical in the Bucs' drive to their first and (so far) only championship.

    The 1995 draft

    The 2002 Bucs were made up of a slew of great players. You can't win a title with just a couple of stars. But there is no question the strength of that team was the defense. And though it included Ronde Barber and John Lynch, its heart was tackle Warren Sapp, and its soul was linebacker Derrick Brooks. The 1995 draft landed the latter two in Tampa Bay. Sapp was expected to be a top-five pick, but false drug rumors the night before the draft led to several teams passing on the Miami star. He fell into the Bucs' lap at No. 12. That was the first of two first-round picks the Bucs had. With the second, No. 28, the Bucs took Brooks, a star at Florida State. The two players came into the league together, and someday their busts will share a room at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Acquisition of Keyshawn Johnson

    Did you know the Bucs ended up with the players who were the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks of the 1996 draft? The No. 3 pick was Simeon Rice (by the Cardinals), who went on to join the Bucs via free agency in 2001. The No. 1 pick was Keyshawn Johnson. Disgruntled with the Jets, the receiver was traded to the Bucs on April 12, 2000, for two first-round picks. Then the Bucs signed Johnson to a $56 million contract extension to make him the highest-paid receiver in football. He gave the Bucs a badly needed offensive weapon. Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns during the 2002 regular season. He added 14 catches for 194 yards in three playoff games, including a touchdown in the NFC title game.

    The Glazers buy the Bucs

    Funny how a lot of these things work out. Many Bucs fans don't like the Glazers, but there's no question the owners were essential to winning the Super Bowl title. After the death of former owner Hugh Culverhouse, the Glazers bought the team in 1995 for $192 million. Almost immediately they began developing a plan to build a new stadium. In addition, they were behind the decision to hire Tony Dungy as well as Jon Gruden. And they brought in expensive players, including Simeon Rice and Keyshawn Johnson, who were key components of the Super Bowl team.

    The acquisition of QB Brad Johnson

    The Bucs had a Super Bowl defense for several seasons leading up to 2002, but the offense wasn't good enough to get them to the championship. A prime example was 1999. The Bucs held the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" to a mere nine points in the NFC title game (two others came on a safety) but lost because the offense could muster only six. Tampa Bay signed quarterback Brad Johnson on March 6, 2001, as a free agent, and that season he set team records for completions and passing yards. A year later, he became the first Bucs quarterback to lead the NFC in passer rating, set franchise records for touchdown passes and completion percentage, and — also thanks partially to throwing only six interceptions — led the Bucs to a title.

    Naming Monte Kiffin defensive coordinator

    Sure, the Bucs had some of the greatest defensive players of their era — Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, John Lynch, Simeon Rice — but they needed a mastermind to move all those parts around. That turned out to be Monte Kiffin, a longtime college and NFL assistant who came aboard as Tony Dungy's defensive coordinator in 1996. Even after Dungy was fired, Kiffin stayed, at the request of new coach Jon Gruden. And he piloted one of the best defenses in NFL history to a championship. The scheme he designed was titled, appropriately, the Tampa 2.

    Ronde Barber's interception return for a TD

    This is our pick for the greatest play in Bucs history, and possibly the greatest play in Tampa Bay sports history. The Bucs led the Eagles 20-10 in the fourth quarter of the 2002 season's NFC title game, and the Eagles were driving to cut that lead to three with nearly four minutes left. That's when Ronde Barber stepped in front of a Donovan McNabb pass for an interception that turned into a 92-yard touchdown. "The greatest moment I have in my life,'' former Bucs coach Jon Gruden once said, "was seeing No. 20 hustling down their sidelines to send us to the Super Bowl.'' Even after the Super Bowl, this play stands out as the best moment in Bucs history.

    The building of Raymond James Stadium

    Let's face it. If Raymond James didn't get built, the Bucs wouldn't be here now, and they might not have been in Tampa Bay or Central Florida or Florida, period, for Super Bowl XXXVII. On Sept, 3, 1996, Hillsborough County voters approved a 30-year half-cent sales tax dedicated to schools, public safety, infrastructure and a football stadium that would cost about $162 million. Ground was broken for the stadium Oct. 15, 1996, and the stadium opened Sept. 20, 1998, with the Bucs beating the Bears 27-15. Maybe former Browns owner Art Modell is owed a tip of the cap, too. He moved his team to Baltimore after the 1995 season, essentially removing the possibility the Glazers would take the Bucs there.



    Hiring Tony Dungy

    The great sports debate in Tampa Bay: Which coach should get credit for the Bucs' Super Bowl victory, Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden? The answer is both. The franchise was a complete mess when Dungy was hired as a first-time head coach at the age of 40 on Jan. 22, 1996. The Bucs were coming off 13 consecutive losing seasons under forgettable coaches Leeman Bennett, Ray Perkins, Richard Williamson and Sam Wyche. After going 6-10 (but winning five of their final seven games) in Dungy's first season, the Bucs put together five consecutive nonlosing seasons, including four trips to the playoffs. No coach has taken the Bucs to the playoffs more often than Dungy.

    Firing Tony Dungy

    Despite turning the Bucs from a perennial loser into a solid playoff team, Tony Dungy could not get them over the hump and into a Super Bowl. The Bucs reached the NFC title game in 1999 but were blown out in wild-card games by the Eagles in 2000 and 2001. Despite posting a 54-42 regular-season record with the Bucs, Dungy was fired Jan. 14, 2002. Though to this day Dungy has his local supporters (and deservedly so), you cannot say firing him was a poor choice. After all, the Bucs won the Super Bowl the next season.

    Hiring Jon Gruden

    After firing Tony Dungy, the Bucs spent a month searching for a coach. It appeared the Bucs would land a big fish — well, the "Big Tuna," Bill Parcells. But Parcells backed out, and the Bucs scrambled. To save face, the Bucs had to get a name. That name turned out to be Jon Gruden, who had gone 38-26 (2-2 in the playoffs) over four seasons with the Raiders. But getting Gruden cost a lot: two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and $8 million. It turned out to be worth it. After retooling the offense, Gruden led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in his first season.


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  • 12/07/12--20:02: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    boxing

    pacquiao, marquez face high stakes

    LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez meet tonight for the fourth — and presumably last — time in a rivalry that has served both fighters well (pay-per-view, HBO, $59.95).

    Marquez, 39, will try once again to do what he hasn't been able to do in 36 evenly contested rounds against Pacquiao: get a decision from the ringside scorecards. "All I ask is for the judges to be objective," he said Friday. He has two losses and a draw in the previous fights.

    A loss to Marquez in the welterweight bout would not only confirm the whispers that Pacquiao, 34 on Dec. 17, is slipping after 17 years as a pro, but perhaps derail for good any talk of a fight against Floyd Mayweather that would be boxing's richest.

    "I have always been focused, but not like this fight," Pacquiao said. "There are no distractions in my mind."

    Pacquiao weighed in at the class limit of 147 pounds. Marquez was 143 pounds.

    winter sports

    Vonn stumbles as Cup leader wins

    Tina Maze of Slovenia won her third race of the season in an Alpine skiing World Cup super-combined event at St. Moritz, Switzerland, to extend her lead in the overall standings.

    Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn placed fourth in the super-G portion but lost control of a ski while turning early in her slalom run and failed to finish.

    Maze tops the standings with 497 points. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany is next with 369, followed by Kathrin Zettel of Austria with 320 and Vonn with 310.

    "I am so strong because I trained hard for the season," said Maze, the overall runnerup to Vonn last year without winning a race.

    figure skating: Japan's Mao Asada took the women's lead with an exuberant short program at the Grand Prix Final, edging American Ashley Wagner by a half point at Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympics. Japan's Daisuke Takahashi led the men's event over world champion Patrick Chan of Canada. In ice dancing, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White led ahead of world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov led in pairs. … Johnny Weir, a two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. champion, said he will end his season early and miss next year's national championships because of injury and other problems after not competing for two years.

    skeleton: Britain's Shelley Rudman set a track record to win a World Cup race at Winterberg, Germany. American Noelle Pikus-Pace was third, her first time on the podium in three years.

    golf

    Feng stays in control at Dubai tourney

    Shanshan Feng shot 5-under 67 to take a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Dubai Ladies Masters at 18-under 198.

    Dewi Claire Schreefel was second after a course-record 63 in the Ladies European Tour's season-ending event. Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (69) was 11 under.

    "I've done pretty well for three days," Feng said, "so I'm going to stick to the same game plan. I'm still confident."

    franklin templeton shootout: Davis Love and Brandt Snedeker shot 10-under 62 on in modified alternate-shot play to take the first-round lead in the Greg Norman-sponsored event at Naples. Sean O'Hair and Kenny Perry were two back.

    et cetera

    autos: IndyCar has released Lotus from its contract, leaving Chevrolet and Honda as the only engine suppliers for 20123. Lotus struggled tremendously in its debut season and was down to one team after the Indianapolis 500.

    Times wires


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    Times wires
    Friday, December 7, 2012

    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones was pondering whether to leave Cincinnati this week to coach Colorado when he received a text message that inadvertently foreshadowed his destination.

    It was from Denver Broncos quarterback and former Tennessee great Peyton Manning.

    "He was selling me on Colorado," Jones said. "He said it was hard for a person from the University of Tennessee to be selling somebody to come to the University of Colorado. I wanted to text him back, 'Come on, I want to go to Tennessee.' "

    That's where Jones ended up.

    Tennessee introduced Jones on Friday to succeed Derek Dooley, fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Jones called Tennessee his dream job and said he was taking over "the best college football program in America."

    It hardly mattered to Jones that he wasn't Tennessee's first choice. "I think I was my wife's third choice, and it's worked for 20 years," Jones said.

    Jones, 44, is 50-27 in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the past three years. He faces the task of rebuilding a former SEC power that has three consecutive losing seasons.

    Jones agreed to a six-year contract worth $18.2 million, ending a tumultuous couple of days for himself and his new school. Colorado had offered him a five-year deal worth at least $13.5 million.

    Tennessee went after at least two other candidates before hiring Jones.

    During the 19-day search, the Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said turned down their offer to stay at Louisville.

    "Rarely in life is anything exactly what it seems to be," said UT athletic director Dave Hart, a former AD at Florida State. "Life doesn't throw us all fastballs. It throws us curves, and then you've got some screwballs. … You've got to be able to adjust."

    On the day Strong made his announcement, Jones rejected Colorado's offer. He also was linked to the Purdue job before withdrawing.

    AUBURN: New coach Gus Malzahn hired his protege, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and defensive boss Ellis Johnson. Lashlee, 29, will make $350,000 a year, and Johnson, 60, received an $800,000 salary. No other terms were released.

    OHIO STATE: Thousands gathered to honor the No. 3 Buckeyes for their perfect season. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman unveiled a sign that read "12-0 Row" to be put at an undetermined street in the city. OSU is ineligible to play in a bowl but got the Big Ten Leaders Division trophy.

    I-AA PLAYOFFS: Brian Bell threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns as visiting Sam Houston State defeated Montana State 34-16 in the quarterfinals.

    Tradition, trophy on line in Army-Navy meeting

    PHILADELPHIA — Army's Jarrett Mackey hears the same order each day at West Point: Beat Navy and bring home the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

    "Every single time I pass them, it's, 'Army-Navy. CIC. Let's go,' " Mackey said. "I wouldn't say it puts more pressure on us, but it's time. … It's been way too long."

    Try 11 years. Navy has beaten Army 10 straight, the longest winning streak by either team in a series dating to 1890.

    The winner today at Lincoln Financial Field also leaves with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy as top service academy. Army and Navy each defeated Air Force. Army (2-9) hasn't hoisted the trophy since 1996. Navy (7-4) won it a school-record seven straight seasons through 2009 before giving way to Air Force the past two.

    "The 10 wins have been awesome," Navy linebacker Brye French said. "But this year is even bigger than all those because it actually means something with the CIC (trophy)."


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Four days before the biggest game of his life, quarterback Brad Johnson broke an NFL rule to help the Bucs win Super Bowl XXXVII. • At 34, Johnson had developed a few compulsions during his career. He changed his socks and shoes every quarter, and over the course of a game he replaced everything but his pants. Johnson always sweated profusely, and he liked the clean, dry feeling. • This was particularly true when it came to footballs. He had trouble gripping a wet ball, a cold ball or a new, out-of-the-box ball. It had been enough of a problem during the NFC title game in Philadelphia the week before — where it was 26 degrees at kickoff — that he was forced to wear a glove. "I wouldn't have been able to play without it," he said. • At the Super Bowl, the NFL had 100 footballs. They were new, slick and supposedly under the league's watchful eye. • But not leaving anything to chance, Johnson made sure the balls were scuffed and ready well before the Dixie Chicks sang the national anthem. • "I paid some guys off to get the balls right," Johnson now admits. "I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them." • How much did it cost Johnson? "Seventy-five hundred (dollars)," he said. • "They took care of them."

    As the majority of Tampa Bay's 2002 championship team returns to Raymond James Stadium today for a 10-year reunion, Johnson and his former teammates opened up about that season, that game and the aftermath.

    Some of the stories will surprise you.

    Such as how the starting quarterback got back to the team hotel after winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

    Johnson completed 18 of 34 passes for 215 yards, including two touchdowns to Keenan McCardell. As the postgame confetti fell, Johnson grabbed his son Max and stood beside his wife, Nikki, who was pregnant with their son Jake.

    "All of a sudden, there's the moment you've watched for 20 years on TV," Johnson said. "You realize you're the Super Bowl champions."

    After lengthy interviews and a shower, Johnson emerged from the dark of San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium to realize he and his marketing agent had missed the last bus to the party at the team hotel.

    Not a problem.

    "We hitchhiked a ride home with complete strangers," the former FSU standout said. "We stopped at a 7-Eleven and bought a 12-pack of beer. It was like going to Panama City on spring break."

    PHILADELPHIA story

    Cameras surrounded stoic linebacker Derrick Brooks as he exited the tunnel of Veterans Stadium and trudged toward the visiting locker room, the Bucs having lost 20-10 to the Eagles on Oct. 20.

    As Brooks departed, he looked up at two Eagles fans in Brian Dawkins jerseys and issued a warning: "We'll be back."

    "It must have been the way I was looking at them, but they just stared ahead and didn't say a word," Brooks said. "Going up the tunnel, I told (defensive tackle Warren) Sapp, 'We're going to see them again. We've got them.' "

    The Vet had been the Bucs' house of horrors. The previous two seasons ended with wild-card losses beneath the weight of a frozen offense that failed to score a touchdown: 21-3, then 31-9.

    Brooks' premonition came true. The Bucs returned for the NFC title game but were a 4-point underdog in what was supposed to be a coronation for the Eagles.

    Even worse, they were missing a key player when they arrived: receiver Joe Jurevicius.

    His first child, Michael, had been born prematurely two weeks earlier with sialidosis, a rare disease that affects the body's ability to break down fats and carbo­hydrates.

    Jurevicius spent the week with his family, and by the time he joined the team in Philadelphia late Saturday night — sleep-deprived and with little preparation — it was unclear if he would play.

    "I was unsure about making that trip out there because of the unknown of what happens when I land," said Jurevicius, who cre­dits a bear hug from Sapp upon his arrival for helping him cope. "It was tormenting."

    Jurevicius played and, with the Bucs down 7-3, provided the most inspirational play of the season.

    "The play was Triple Left, 83, Double Smash X Option," Johnson said. "A lot of times, we run that play in the red zone and you're looking for (a specific defense). You leave the linebacker one-on-one with the middle (receiver). I almost audibled out of the play."

    Instead, Johnson let it ride, hitting Jurevicius on a short crossing pattern that turned into a 71-yard gain down the left sideline. It was Jurevicius' only reception of the game and set up Mike Alstott's go-ahead touchdown run.

    "I remember my lungs catching on fire because I hadn't worked all week," he said. "I could feel the lactic acid building up in my legs. As I'm telling myself, 'Yes you can. Yes you can,' my legs start filling up and the lungs were saying, 'No you can't. No you can't.'

    "My fear was everything revolving around my son. If things took a turn for the worse, I (wouldn't be) there. But I think the story is that he held out for me. If he showed it, then I could do it, too."

    The catch was trumped only by what many still consider the biggest play in Bucs history. Leading 20-10 with 3:12 to play and the Eagles threatening to pull within a field goal, cornerback Ronde Barber stepped in front of a Donovan McNabb pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.

    Despite a sellout crowd of 66,713, there was an eerie — and unforgettable — silence as Barber ran the Bucs to their first Super Bowl appearance.

    "You want a picture of how it was? Get our highlight video," Brooks said. "And you'll see these two (Eagles) assistant coaches staring ahead as Ronde runs by them."

    Barber revealed he took home a souvenir from the Vet that day, the last game played there.

    "I have a piece of the turf," he said. "One of our guys got it and was cutting it up on the plane and said, 'Here, you need to have a piece of this.' It's taped to that ball in my trophy case."

    SUPER BOWL

    J on Gruden's experience as a third-string quarterback at the University of Dayton did not serve him particularly well when the Bucs coach sneaked under center during a two-minute drill at the Thursday practice prior to the Super Bowl.

    But his familiarity with the Raiders team he coached a year earlier and his spot-on impression of petulant quarterback Rich Gannon proved both hilarious and instructional.

    Simulating the tempo of the Raiders offense and imitating to a tee Gannon's rapid-fire audibles in their terminology, he demonstrated to the Bucs defense what they were in for.

    "That was more for him than for the team," Johnson said. "He took a two-minute drill and would take about 55 seconds for each play because he'd run through four audibles for each play. I don't know if he was really that successful or if the defense was letting him complete a few balls. It was fun. It was a light moment during the week. It lightened up the mood."

    It was no laughing matter for Gannon, the league's MVP in 2002.

    The Bucs intercepted him a Super Bowl-record five times, returning three for touchdowns, and sacked him five times in a 48-21 win that remains the franchise's only NFL championship.

    The extravagant victory party thrown by the team owner, the Glazer family, at the hotel in La Jolla, Calif., kicked off three days of celebration, starting in San Diego and ending with a parade in Tampa.

    "I'm still tired today from the after-party," then-Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. "I'm still officially tired."

    Brooks, the NFL's defensive player of the year that season who sealed the game with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:27 to play, had promised his wife, Carol, a Mercedes if the team won the Super Bowl.

    When he arrived at the team hotel after the game, the first person Brooks shook hands with was Jerry Glauser, owner of a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Sarasota.

    "I said, 'Do you mind if I pull you to the side?' " Brooks said. "He looked at me like I was crazy. I spent the first hour after winning the Super Bowl negotiating a price for a car."

    Johnson got about 90 minutes of sleep before heading to Disneyland, then joining Keyshawn Johnson for an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

    "I slept in my jersey that night," said Brad Johnson, who endured broken ribs and a fracture in his back that season, "and woke up smelling like a champ."

    When the team charter arrived in Tampa on Monday, it took a rare east-west approach to the airport, flying directly over a Raymond James Stadium packed with Bucs fans.

    The pilot told the players and coaches to move to the left side of the plane, then dipped the wing so they could get a better look.

    A day later, the quarterback joined his teammates for a parade through downtown Tampa with about 100,000 fans lining the streets.

    "I knew what it meant to me to win it," Johnson said. "There was a moment when everyone was kind of roaming the streets, high-fiving fans. And I remember Sapp and (safety John Lynch) just kind of hugging each other. And I realized how much it meant to them because they had been there from the beginning; wearing the orange uniforms and turning it all around.

    "Everybody has a story, but to see what it meant to them was pretty awesome."

    ONE AND DONE

    The confetti fell, Gruden hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and Jon Bon Jovi belted out It's My Life on the 50-yard line. But heavy was the head that wore the crown as Super Bowl XXXVII champions.

    McKay knew there was about to be a seismic power shift in Tampa Bay.

    Gruden wanted the Bucs to be more active in free agency; McKay still preferred to build through the draft.

    "There's no question that when a coach wins the Super Bowl, he is going to be given power that in some ways he deserves because winning one is so difficult to do," McKay said.

    "I knew philosophically the way we had approached the team prior to Jon getting there and post getting there, and it was going to change dramatically. I thought it was something that I could make work, and then I didn't. I thought it was in (the franchise's) best interest if I became the guy who didn't sit there and say no to everything."

    Having closed the Vet with the NFC title game win, the Bucs began the 2003 season by playing in the first game at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. This time, they were even more dominant, winning 17-0, and it appeared the defending champions were poised for another run.

    But the wheels fell off.

    On one play the next week against Carolina, Alstott and Jurevicius collided. Alstott fractured a vertebrae in his neck while Jurevicius tore a ligament in his right knee. Tampa Bay saw three of its kicks blocked — including the potential winning extra point with no time left in regulation — in a 12-9 overtime loss.

    Two weeks later, with cornerback Brian Kelly injured, they blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead en route to a 38-35 overtime loss to Tony Dungy — fired as Bucs coach after the 2001 season — and the Colts on Monday Night Football. It was the first time in NFL history a team had lost after leading by 21 or more with less than four minutes to play.

    "It just didn't happen," Johnson said. "We did fall apart. We had injuries, and it got split up."

    The season also included two divorces.

    First, Keyshawn Johnson fell out of favor with Gruden. Then McKay resigned with two games left in the season to become general manager of the division rival Falcons.

    Dissatisfied with his shrinking role, Johnson got in trouble for not taking the team charter home from San Francisco after catching only one pass in a loss to the 49ers. A resident of Los Angeles in the offseason, Johnson said he had his son's parent-teacher conference to attend the next day while in California.

    Johnson had one catch the next week, a win over Dallas, before a 10-catch, 123-yard game in a loss to New Orleans.

    Johnson revealed last week that he was in Dallas in mid November 2003 seeking advice from Cowboys coach Bill Parcells on how to mend fences with his Bucs boss when he learned he was deactivated for the final six games of the season.

    "I was sitting at Bill Parcells' couch at his house in Dallas trying to figure out how I could talk to Gruden and deal with the situation in Tampa because it was becoming frustrating," Johnson said. "I didn't want anybody to know I was down there. It was so stressful. I needed to seek advice from someone I trust on how to deal with the situation."

    McKay's first game as the Falcons GM was — coincidentally — at Raymond James Stadium. The 30-28 loss on Dec. 20 helped the Bucs finish 7-9 and become only the seventh team to post a losing record the season after winning a Super Bowl.

    Johnson was traded to the Cowboys for receiver Joey Galloway during the ensuing offseason.

    "The injuries mounted up, and we lost the essence of our chemistry," Brooks said. "The situation on offense was a distraction. We didn't get turnovers. I firmly believe that team should've been in the playoffs, but it fell apart at the seams, from the management all the way down.

    "When it comes apart at the seams from the top, it was hard to shield that locker room from that."

    Times staff writers Joe Smith and Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.


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