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Taking the field in Dallas to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day will be special for each and every member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Take it from Bucs receiver Joey Galloway, who has been there and done that.

Before he arrived in Tampa during the 2004 offseason, Galloway spent four seasons(2000-03) with the Dallas Cowboys. He had his fair share of Thanksgiving Day games as Dallas and Detroit traditionally host those contests each year.

Although it’s not the Super Bowl, a game Galloway still hopes to play in before his career is over, there’s something special about playing on Thanksgiving Day in the NFL.

“It’s different from a standpoint that you’re playing on a Thursday,” said Galloway. “It’s also different because you’re the only show going. I mean, the Cowboys and Lions will be playing on Thanksgiving forever. Being a part of that is like being part of a huge tradition for the NFL. For me, I knew my family would be watching that football game before they sat down to eat dinner. It’s huge to know that your family and families around the country are sitting down to watch you play on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a huge tradition, and it’s special to be part of it.”

The Buccaneers might have a difficult time enjoying their first-ever game on Thanksgiving Day. That’s because their game in Dallas will be their third in a span of just 11 days, with the Bucs coming off a Monday night game vs. Carolina and a home game vs. Washington. But believe it or not, the Bucs are looking forward to the opportunity to take part in the tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s fun to be able to play football on Thanksgiving and play football in front of the entire country in Dallas,” said Galloway. “I’d bet that if you were to ask anybody on this team whether they’d rather play on Thursday or Sunday, they’d pick Thursday on Thanksgiving.”

But Galloway’s memories of playing on Thanksgiving Day probably will change this time around. That’s because Galloway will be playing against the Cowboys instead of playing for them.

Galloway joined Dallas during the 2000 offseason after Seattle traded him due to a long contract dispute. His tenure with the Cowboys got off to a rough start. In his first regular season game in Dallas, Galloway tore his ACL and underwent season-ending knee surgery that season. His next three seasons were productive, but not Pro Bowl-caliber. In fact, he didn’t have a single 1,000-yard receiving season during his four-year tenure in Dallas.

In 2003, the Cowboys hired head coach Bill Parcells, who struggled to find ways to use Galloway’s speed and playmaking ability, and eventually fazed him out of the offense. That ultimately led to Dallas’ decision to trade Galloway to Tampa Bay in exchange for disgruntled receiver Keyshawn Johnson during the 2004 offseason.

So, what was Galloway’s reaction in April when he saw Tampa Bay was scheduled to travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys on Nov. 23 on Thanksgiving Day?
 
“I didn’t really have a reaction with the exception of the fact that I was just excited to be playing on Thanksgiving,” said Galloway. “I’m excited to get to see some of my old friends. I didn’t leave Dallas with any ill feelings toward anybody. It’s a great organization, and Jerry Jones is a terrific owner and a good friend.”

After an injury-plagued debut with Tampa Bay in 2004, Galloway proved to be quite valuable in ‘05 when he caught a career-high 83 passes for 1,287 yards and 10 TDs. Galloway, who turns 35 three days before the Thanksgiving Day game and his return to Dallas, is excited to compete against the Cowboys.

“It’s not a situation where I want to come back and rub something in someone’s face,” said Galloway. “I will be happy to see Jerry Jones on Thanksgiving and go see him and give him a hug. After that, it’s business as usual.”

There’s plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. That’s a sentiment shared by many people, including Galloway, who has no regrets when it comes to how things ended for him in Dallas.  

“Looking back on it, I think everybody won in that situation,” said Galloway. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. To have a chance to come to Tampa to play with a great organization, a great head coach and great players was truly a blessing. I’m extremely happy and thankful that it worked out that way.”


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