The mood surrounding Bucs’ practice on Friday was as spirited and uplifting as it has been in quite some time.
The reason? One Buc Place opened its doors to the organization’s alumni as hand shakes and laughter among former players filled the brisk morning air with a much-needed shot of optimism.
Alumni were invited to watch the team practice prior to an afternoon luncheon. Following the morning session, several players jogged off the field and took an opportunity to embrace some of their not-so-distant former teammates.
Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Dave Moore may share a more nostalgic sense of connection than their cohorts as they represent the only current Bucs who have been around long enough to have worn the old orange and white uniforms.
In facct, Moore took the opportunity to dust off an ancient relic from the past in order to give Bucco Bruce his much-deserved props by sporting his old orange and white helmet during Friday’s practice.
“Yeah, I’ve had it and I decided since it was alumni weekend to break out the old throwback helmet,” Moore said. “I’m not sure how it went over, but I did wear it the whole practice.
Moore hadn’t worn the helmet since 1996, the Bucs’ last season in orange before going to red and pewter uniforms in 1997. Aside from a few scratches, it was in fairly good condition. He said some of the other players on the team threatened to steal it and keep it as a souvenir.
“It’s part of the tradition,” said Moore, whose 12 seasons with the Bucs are tied for most in team history with former tackle Paul Gruber. “There’s a lot of great players that played in it and a lot of guys that have come and gone that wore it, so it’s certainly worth recognizing.”
Moore wouldn’t be opposed to bringing the whole uniform back for one game, although he admits, when he was forced to play in it back in the day, he wasn’t a huge fan of the colors.
Bringing back some of the alumni appears to have been a long overdue concept and one well received by everybody, including Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.
“We’re very excited to have these guys back, some of them look very good,” Gruden said. “We’re very proud of these guys, it’s going to be a great, great weekend and hopefully we can reward them with a victory.”
Gruden could be seen after practice congregating with the alumni and sharing a genuine laugh or two.
The gap between past and present has existed in more ways than one. Whether it was losing versus winning, the old Tampa Stadium versus Raymond James Stadium or the creamsicle Bucco Bruce uniforms versus the new pewter and red skull and swords look, there was always a lack of connection that existed.
But if you listen to Buccaneer legends like former quarterback Doug Williams or defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, the olive branch extended to the alumni is an excellent start to bridging the generations and unifying the organization.
“Certainly, this new building here is exciting,” Lee Roy Selmon said earlier this week in a press conference. “I know a lot of the players who have not seen it yet will really be amazed, as I’ve been, with just the change in the game itself and certainly the facilities that surround the game as well, including the stadium.
“We’re excited about it and we’re happy for our team. We are alumni of the Buccaneers and we are excited about everything that happens in this organization.”
On Friday, Gruden echoed those sentiments.
“I was a fan of guys like Hugh Green, Lee Roy [Selmon], Neal Colzie, although he’s now passed on, Scot Brantley and Doug [Williams]. I liked Bat Man [Woods],” Gruden said. “I liked a lot of these guys.
“Hey, we’re all going to be alumni at some point. It’s good to know you can come back to where you came from an be treated with the respect that you deserve.”
INJURY REPORT There were no changes to the Bucs’ injury report on Friday. Cornerback Juran Bolden (quadricep), TE Alex Smith (ankle), LB Shelton Quarles (knee/ankle) and DT Ellis Wyms (ankle) all remain questionable for Sunday. Everybody practiced as well.
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