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: August 27, 2009, 10:41:16 AM

Whoa... the sky is not falling? what the ...?

This is going to be the "...start of something fun..."

Go. Bucs. Damnit.  :)

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/aug/27/na-a-new-start-at-one-buc-place/


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their first home game of the season tonight - albeit, preseason - against Miami. Longtime fans will be forgiven if they do a double take to ensure they're really watching the Bucs.

Jon Gruden won't be scowling along the sidelines. The coach, who guided the Bucs to the 2002 NFL championship in his first season, was fired after an embarrassing collapse cost the team a trip to the playoffs last season.

Monte Kiffin won't be there to direct a defensive unit that, up until last year, had been one of the game's elite for a decade. The coordinator, who joined the Bucs in 1996, stepped down after last season to join his son's staff at the University of Tennessee.

And no longer will we see No. 55, All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks, roam the field. He was released in the offseason.

The owners, the Glazer family, have opted for a youthful makeover, one that was needed after so many see-saw, excuse-filled seasons under Gruden and former general manager Bruce Allen, who also was fired.

On the sidelines, it's hard to imagine a more enthusiastic head coach than Raheem Morris who, at age 32, jumps higher than some basketball players. The new coach's zeal is infectious.

Mark Dominik, the team's new general manager, joined the Bucs 14 years ago, has tackled a variety of tasks and deserved the job. And he hasn't even turned 40.

In a refreshing reversal from the Gruden-Allen regime, where veteran quarterbacks were preferred, Dominik used the team's first-round draft pick this year to select Josh Freeman, a promising quarterback from Kansas State.

There are other positives. For the first time since training camp in 2001, the Bucs returned home this summer to prepare for the season, instead of going to Disney World. They reconnected with fans, up close, at their training complex.

Even though there is much new about the team, the Glazers want fans to embrace the Bucs' history. And on Nov. 8 against Green Bay at Raymond James, the Bucs will go retro - wearing uniforms in their old creamsicle colors that debuted in 1976, their first year.

Still, fans probably will have their patience tested this season. Indeed, the four-game suspension the league handed down last week to starting free safety Tanard Jackson for violating the substance-abuse policy is disturbing. The arrest of another starting defensive back, Aqib Talib, on misdemeanor battery and resisting arrest charges is a major disappointment as well.

Our advice to fans is to be patient. Give Dominik, Morris and the other new faces a chance. Sure, change can be tough, and the Bucs need to make sure the makeover focuses on players' character as well as their athletic skill. But this new era could be the start of something fun.
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