The initial 127 nominees for the 2013 NFL Hall of Fame were announced recently and on the list are nine former players who played for the Buccaneers at some point in their careers.
John Lynch and Warren Sapp who played the majority of their careers in Tampa Bay are the most notable on the list, but seven other players were members of the Buccaneer organization, though most of them for a brief time.
Three of them, Lomas Brown, Keyshawn Johnson, and Keenan McCardell have Super Bowl XXXVII rings from their time with the Bucs. Tim Brown, who will forever be known, rightfully so, as a Raider (1988-2003), was a member of the Bucs in 2004, his final year of football. Other one-and-done Buccaneers include defensive end Dexter Manley (1991), safety Joey Browner (1992), and punter Sean Landeta (1997).
Lynch was a dual-sport athlete at Stanford, initially being drafted in the second round of the 1992 MLB amateur draft as a pitcher by the Florida Marlins. Lynch threw the first pitch in the organization's history as a member of the Erie Sailors and his jersey is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played two seasons in the minor leagues before entering the NFL draft in 1993 and being selected in the third round by the Buccaneers.
Lynch remained a Buc until 2003 when, much to the surprise of fans, team mates, and even many around the league, the five-time Pro-Bowler and team captain was released in April 2004. Lynch had a strong and positive presence both on the field and in the community during his time as a Buc, and his charity, the John Lynch Foundation, continues to have a mainstay in Tampa.
Lynch would go on to flourish in Denver from 2004-2007, picking up four more Pro-Bowl nods and the Bart Starr Man of the Year award in 2006. He ended his career in New England after signing with the Patriots in August 2008, but his stint lasted only a couple of weeks before Lynch was released.
Lynch officially retired from football on November 17, 2008 after playing for 15 seasons and recording 13 sacks, 26 interceptions, and over 500 tackles. Six days later he joined NFL on Fox as a color commentator and also covers the Bucs’ preseason games. In 2009, Lynch landed at No. 10 on the NFL Network’s Top 10 Most Feared Hitters list.
The Bucs’ first of two opening round draft selections in April, Mark Barron, has gained praise from Lynch for his athleticism, tackling, and game-changing ability. The rookie strong safety is fond of Lynch as well.
“I used to watch him, No. 47.” Barron said. “There’s not anything in particular I took from his game. But I’d just watch the game, just sitting there; [I’d] wait on him to hit somebody, really. But yeah, I used to love to watch him play.”
Like Lynch, Sapp also had a long and illustrious career as a Buccaneer and also like his Super Bowl teammate, Sapp was released from the Bucs before many fans were ready to see him go. But unlike the situation with Lynch, Sapp’s departure was not as surprising.
Following the 2003 season, there were rumblings that Tampa Bay was not interested in re-signing the seven-time Pro-Bowl veteran due to a high asking price. Regardless of the reasons why, Sapp no longer a part of a defense he helped to build and become an NFL powerhouse was not readily acceptable by many people.
Sapp continued to play, signing shortly thereafter with the Raiders. The quintessential three-tech did not have the same success in Oakland as he did in Tampa Bay, where he made the Pro-Bowl in seven straight seasons from 1997-2003, until 2006 when Sapp recorded 47 tackles and 10 sacks. In his 13-year career the Apopka native registered over 300 tackles, 96.5 sacks, forced eight fumbles, and had four interceptions.
After he retired in 2008, Sapp joined the Inside the NFL on Showtime and is an analyst for the NFL Network.
The NFL has been looking for its “Baby Sapp” since the charismatic and outspoken Sapp retired. The Bucs felt in 2010 that they may have found him when they drafted Gerald McCoy with the third overall pick that year. Hampered by injuries his first two seasons, McCoy is having a breakout season so far, and was more than willing to speak to PewterReport.com about what Sapp getting on the initial ballot means to him.
“You can’t say enough about the guy. He was easily a first ballot guy; I think it’s almost inevitable he will get in. I’m excited for him. With the relationship that we have is kind of ‘dream come true’ to grow up and meet one of your inspirations for playing the game. Then him being as helpful as he is – you can’t beat it. I wish him all the best, I’m happy for him.”
Both Lynch and Sapp were instrumental in the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII run, along with a couple of other defensive players who are sure-fire bets to make the Hall of Fame one day. Linebacker Derrick Brooks will be eligible next year and defensive back Ronde Barber is in his 16th year with the Buccaneers.
PewterReport.com spoke with Barber in the locker room recently, and the often quiet, converted free safety opened up about his former teammates being on the ballot.
“It’s well deserved," Barber said. "They were both part of what was a dominant defense for a long time; they were key parts of it, certainly as was Derrick (Brooks) and a couple other guys. So, I don’t think anyone should be surprised by it. When you can revolutionize defenses somewhat the way we did back then, it takes some special players, and those guys were definitely that.”
Sapp’s charismatic personality has at times drawn criticism from the media and certain fans, and questions have arisen as to whether he will be able to win over the Hall of Fame voters on his first ballot. Barber believes Sapp’s play on the field is what matters most.
“That should have nothing to do with it. Warren was a unique player. I don’t know if you’ll find a guy before or after him that played the three-technique like he did. He’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen play in there, there’s no reason he had the wild success that he did. Our defense was as good as it was because guys couldn’t block him. They had to account for him and when they didn’t – how many players did you see come from that position, and he was one of those.
“He was a 300 pound guy that could have easily been 220 and played safety. He was a ridiculous athlete.”
Lynch and Sapp would definitely have Barber’s vote, and when the time comes, it’s very likely Barber would have theirs as well. Let’s hope we’re not asking them in five years. –Mark Cook contributed to this report
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