Denver safety John Lynch will face his former team Sunday when the Buccaneers and Broncos clash in Raymond James Stadium.

The Buccaneers used their 1993 third-round draft pick to select 6-foot-2, 220-pound safety out of Stanford University.. Lynch earned five trips to the Pro Bowl and notched 973 career tackles, 23 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and 74 passes defensed during his 11-year tenure with the Bucs.

In March, the Bucs tried to rework number 47’s contract but were ultimately forced to make the difficult decision to release Lynch, who was scheduled to have a $6 million salary cap value in 2004. That controversial roster move freed up approximately $4.5 million in cap room and allowed the Bucs to move third-year S Jermaine Phillips into the starting lineup. has Lynch’s thoughts on returning to Tampa to play the Bucs, the only team he knew for the first 11 seasons of his career before signing a three-year, $9 million deal with the Broncos last spring.

Obviously this is a big game for you coming back to Tampa:
“You know, there’s a little unknown to it. I’ve never been through this before. I’ve played in my hometown, played against my brother-in-law, but never played against my old team in the NFL. It’s going to be different. I don’t know what to expect. Obviously, it’s important that I focus on playing football and approach this like any other game. But the emotions will not be like any other game. We’re trying to get to 3-1 and the Bucs are trying to get their first win and they’ll be fighting hard to do that.”

When you saw the schedule, this was obviously going to be a game you pointed to:
“It’s something I looked forward to because it’s always fun to play against people you love. When I was being recruited, (Denver coach) Mike Shanahan kept pointing to the fourth game on the schedule. I’m looking forward to it.”

Does the Bucs 0-3 start surprise you:
“Yes. I think it’s still a good football team. It’s a long season, and in the end I think things will balance themselves. From being there, I know a lot of guys in that locker room, and they are guys who take a tremendous pride in the way they playt the game. They will give it their best shot.”

What do you see in Jermaine Phillips:
“Besides his ability, which is outstanding, he loves football and wants to be great. He’s like a lot of players that love what they are doing. I saw that in Jermaine in the beginning, and I think he will become one of the better safeties in this league.”

It’s been a long time since the Bucs were 0-3. You were here. What was it like?:
“In that situation, you know it can’t get any worse. I’m sure Coach Gruden has been using a it’s-us-against-the-world mentality. Often times, teams will thrive in that situation and feed off each other. There is a feeling of urgency to get one (victory) under your belt. That’s why we expect the Bucs to give us their best shot.”

You realize that the Bucs have not won since you and Warren left?:
“Those things happen. I think they are playing good defense as a whole. It’s the NFL and that’s the way things are — teams are constantly changing. But you still take pride into that because you helped build the standard.”

You and Brad (Johnson) used to drive to games. Are you going to do that Sunday?:
We haven’t talked yet, but it would certainly make me feel at home.

What kind of reception are you expecting from the fans, many of whom will be wearing No. 47 Lynch jerseys?:
“I know there were a lot of clearance sales when I left. I don’t know what to expect, I really don’t. I know the special feeling I have for the community of Tampa and the way they treated me. I’ve told my teammates, ‘You’ll love playing football there. It’s going to be loud. Their fans come and really support their team.'”

They (the Bucs) still seem to take pride in their defense with you and Warren gone:
“This is the league and what it is. You have to move on. You have to believe in the guys you play with. In both situations, they had tremendous players who have stepped in. We lost (defensive end) Trevor Price, but we expect other guys to step in and play at his level. That’s the mindset you have to have in this league.”

Physically, how are you feeling? Any effects after the hit on Dante Hall?:
“Physically, I feel great. I feel blessed. I was told by everyone I would be fine, but until you go out there, regardless what you do in the preseason or practice, until you go full speed in a game, you don’t know. I’m pleased after three games. I feel excellent. That’s something you value — having your health. Other than the newness of playing here and the challenge, I’m having a ball playing football again.”

Do you think the Bucs will revert to Buc Ball and try to grind it out and get a win?:
“Oh, sure, and that’s not an old style of Buc Ball. Most games in the NFL come down to close games. We played the Chargers last week and people probably grumbled that we beat them only 23-13. But you take wins like those when they happen.

How did you get No. 47 to begin with?:
“It goes back to (former Bucs equipment manager) Frankie Pupello. I wore No. 7 in high school and No. 17 at Stanford, so I told him I wanted something with a 7 in it and he put me in No. 47. As far as someone else wearing it (with the Bucs), I’m sure that day will come. I see a lot of 47s around the league, and I’m kind of humbled that people want to wear the number.

Talk about some of your memories with Brad as a roommate:
“We’re both very much routine-oriented people. He left me a message prior to game one, ‘Roomie, I have to read the media bio to myself.’ I’ve got great memories. We’d watch a lot of college football, talk a lot of trash. We drove the games each week. Those are the things you miss, but the friendships you never forget.”

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