The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reported to training camp at One Buccaneer Place Friday, and four of the team's players were put to work early.
With the help of defensive end Gaines Adams, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, running back Earnest Graham and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, the Buccaneers unveiled their 1976 throwback uniforms at a press conference held shortly before the players were required report to the team's facility.
Tampa Bay hasn't worn its old orange and white uniforms since the 1996 season, but the Bucs will bring back Bucco Bruce for their home game vs. the Green Bay Packers in honor of the 1979 NFC Championship team on Nov. 8.
"This is a very exciting day for us," said Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer. "Any time you get to introduce a jersey, or in this case reintroduce a jersey, these days don't come along very often in sports. We want to do something today we haven't done in 12 years – welcome back Bucco Bruce and the original Buccaneers."
Glazer, whose family purchased the Buccaneers in 1995 and unveiled Tampa Bay's red and pewter uniforms during the 1997 offseason, said ownership has spent the past few years working on recognizing Tampa Bay's history, which has been embraced by a lot of fans.
"We started to see over the last couple of years that more and more people were wearing orange," said Glazer. "Now it's kind of cool to wear. That hasn't always been the case. I think it's pretty cool, and so do a lot of other people."
The process took longer than the Glazers would have preferred, mostly because the Bucs ran into problems trying to match the exact color of the 1976 orange Bucs jerseys.
"When the NFL sent us a box with the old orange jersey from the 1990s I realized this process wasn't going to be as easy as we originally thought," said Glazer.
Ownership's long search for an original 1976 orange Bucs jersey that was still in mint condition finally ended thanks to an advertisement the Glazers found on Craigslist, which was posted by the son of the original owner of Bay Sporting Goods, which supplied the Bucs with their jerseys and helmets in 1976.
The 1976 Bucs only wore their orange jerseys one time, which was for a preseason game. The '76 Bucs are forever known as the only team to go winless before the 2008 Detroit Lions.
However, Glazer said ownership wanted to recognize Tampa Bay's history from where it all began.
"This is our history. This is the beginning of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said Glazer. "Like anything, sometimes the history is good and sometimes it's not so good. But a lot of people forget that the 1977 Bucs team won the franchise's first game, and only two years later the Bucs nearly made the Super Bowl.
"It's kind of like your first car. Your first car isn't your best car, but you always remember it fondly. If you're going to reintroduce the orange jerseys there's no better place to start than the beginning."
The home game vs. the Packers won't be the only time the Bucs sport their throwback uniforms. Now that it has officially gone through the process and had it approved by the league, Tampa Bay is required by the NFL to wear its throwback uniforms at least one time over the next five years.
"Yes, the NFL says that if you elect to change your uniform or wear a throwback, you have to wear them for five years," said Glazer. "You can wear them up to two regular season games and one preseason game. This year we are going to wear them for one regular season game, and next we will probably wear them for two. We'll see, but they will be here for at least five years."
None of the players on Tampa Bay's current roster played for the Buccaneers when the team wore orange and white uniforms. But some of the current players remember how important the Bucco Bruce days were to former players like linebacker Derrick Brooks and fullback Mike Alstott, who helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl XXXVII.
"There weren't a lot of guys that wore this while I've been a Buc," said Ruud. "I think Derrick and Mike were the only ones. I'm really excited to be part of a throwback game. I think these look cool and I think it will be fun."
Bryant and Graham grew up watching the Buccaneers in Florida. In fact, both of them were fans of the team then and are looking forward to wearing the uniforms they remember the team playing in.
"It feels good to be part of the first game where we're wearing the old uniforms," said Graham. "They look good.
"I do remember watching guys like Derrick and Mike play in these uniforms while football was real influential to me. Now I get to live it a little bit."
The players appeared to be enjoying themselves while modeling the throwback uniforms and answering questions from the media, but Bryant acknowledged that there were a few perks included for the four players that arrived to camp a little early to participate in the fashion show.
"I've played in a throwback game before with Dallas when we played San Francisco. I've been preparing for this," said Bryant. "I have the cleats, the mouth piece, I have a lot of things. These feel lighter.
"I think they've done a good job with the [red and pewter] uniforms, but these are some of the most unique colors in the league. We get to keep these jerseys after the game. This will be my third one. Hopefully it's a great game to remember and we come out with a victory."
To view pictures from Tampa Bay's throwback uniform press conference, click here.