The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted a Chalk Talk luncheon with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Friday. Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer was in attendance along with general manager Mark Dominik, head coach Raheem Morris, quarterback Josh Freeman, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, and wide receiver Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay’s second-round pick this year.
In years past, only the team’s head coach and general manager were present to represent the front office. This year as part of a renewed effort to reach out to the community, a member of the team’s ownership was in attendance.
In fact, it was Glazer, who typically only speaks publicly about the team once or twice per year and usually at NFL owners meetings, which produced the most newsworthy information. In front of a sold out Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce event, he talked candidly about the Bucs’ rebuilding process, how the local economy has impacted ticket sales and blackouts, which are likely due to lagging ticket sales.
“To give the honest answer to the fans, we have said that there is a very high risk of blackouts and I would expect that there would be some in the fall – I do,” Glazer said. “In the beginning of the season it is very possible. Hopefully the team comes together as we hope and people start seeing some winning football and they want to come more and more. We are understanding of the economy and we understand that fans and people in the economy need to make choices. They have to make the choices that are best for themselves. If they want to stay home and watch some games on TV and if they want to come out to free events like FanFest. We understand that. They are Bucs fans whether they come to our games or not.
“With our [lower] ticket prices we’ve had some increased ticket sales, obviously, but we’ve also lost some ticket sales. This is a very rough time in the economy for all the teams throughout the league. Statistics have shown in the last five years that of all NFL markets, this market has by far been the worst. It went from about four percent unemployment to 13 percent unemployment. That’s the biggest jump of any NFL city.”
Glazer was surprisingly candid regarding the team’s thought process about building through the draft and going with a youth movement.
“We’ve owned the team for 16 years and our stated philosophy was to build a team that was going to be good for the long haul – not a team that was one year good and one year bad,” Glazer said. “We sat down with Tony Dungy. It was his first year and our second year [as owners]. I remember the conversation. We were playing a young quarterback at the time in Trent Dilfer. We said, ‘Tony, we’re going to lose some games in order to win for the long term. You do what you need to do. He did that and built a team that was a winner for a long time. A couple years after that we lost our way, and I take responsibility for that. But when we brought [Morris and Dominik] in, they understood the plan and what we want to do. We’re not going to put band-aids on and win one year and then go back to losing. We are starting to rebuild a team for the long term that will be a successful, Super Bowl winning team. It’s painful at times, but the ride is fun. That’s what we’re doing right now, and we’re going to do it together. I promise you.”
Glazer showed some never seen before wit when discussing McCoy, who is one of five Buccaneers draft picks that remain unsigned.
“He’s got a million dollar smile, and it’s going to cost me a whole lot more than that,” Glazer said.
Glazer also took time to discuss the possibility of an 18-game regular season schedule, which is an idea that is gaining steam among other NFL owners, that would only feature two preseason games, which was well received by the fans in attendance.
“I think the league is looking at everything, but I don’t think that there is anybody that is against it,” Glazer said. “I think it’s something that everybody is in agreement on. There are a lot of moving pieces with the players and everything that is going on right now, but I think it’s something that’s very positive for everybody.”
Glazer did not give a timetable as to when the league may go to an 18-game season, but hinted that it wouldn’t be in 2011. Instead, moving to an 18-game season would certainly be an aspect of any new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association.
“It’s something that the NFL has to discuss with the union and everybody has to get on board with that,” Glazer said. “It’s not just as easy as saying, ‘We’re changing the schedule.’”
And when asked about the team’s financial status after the event by the local media, Glazer briefly stated, “The state of the team is just fine.”
The most anticipated part of the event was the question and answer session in which Chamber members and guests could submit questions to Glazer, Dominik, Morris and the players in attendance.
Freeman was asked if he was a dog or cat person, to which he replied, “Dog.”
McCoy said that his favorite thing to do outside of football was to dance, but declined to show off any moves. McCoy was asked by an anonymous female in attendance if he was single, which he is.
Another funny moment involving McCoy came when he was asked to simulate what he would do to New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees this fall. A female from the crowd was brought up to the stage where McCoy had his arms out wide like he was going to sack her, then proceeded to give her a big hug. That drew applause and laughter from the audience.
“It’s going to be a little bit harder than that [when I sack Brees],” McCoy shouted, as the audience laughed.
Morris said that the attendance during the offseason workouts this year was “95 percent,” which was an increase of about 20 percent from last year. When asked which Buccaneer was a sleeper heading into training camp, Morris, who also serves as the defensive coordinator, naturally picked a player from the defensive side of the ball.
“The guy that has stood out in my mind right now is Quincy Black,” Morris said. “He’s been one of the guys that has been in the building every day and he’s been a positive influence. He’s been making plays on the football field. He’s been a real force. His teammates can attest to that as well.”
Despite the challenge of a team that may not have any sold out home games in 2010 and is coming off a disappointing 3-13 campaign in 2009, Glazer remained upbeat about the rebuilding process and believes that the hardships the Buccaneers are going through right now will pay off in the end.
“We are excited about building a lasting contender for our fan base,” Glazer said. “We’ve done it before and we’re going to do it again. We have a commitment to you and we’re going to get there,” Glazer said. “I have nine more fingers that need rings. We’re going to get there one at a time.”
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