Normally when practice concludes at One Buc Place the Bucs players don’t waste much time working their way off of the field and into the locker room to hit the showers.
But Thursday was different. When the afternoon practice concluded, the players congregated on the field after word had spread regarding the special guest that was on his way to their facility.
About 20 minutes after practice ended, several stretch limos with American flags on the sides of the hood pulled up to the back of One Buc Place. With several security and secret service members working their way around the facility, it was no surprise when President George W. Bush exited the limo.
“There were a bunch of limos, there were like six or seven limos. It was chilling,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “That is the best way I can put it. It was a chilling operation to see the organization, the security and the precision in which they move around. It was awesome.”
President Bush, who was in town campaigning for Republican Congressional candidate Gus Bilirakis at Raymond James Stadium, was greeted by Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen and team captains Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Ryan Nece, cornerback Ronde Barber and quarterback Chris Simms.
Not only did President Bush visit the facility, he spent several minutes at midfield addressing the Bucs players and coaches. His message to the 0-2 Bucs?
“Just have faith in your coach and faith in each other,” Barber recalled of President Bush’s message. “Be resilient. It’s never easy. He just had a solid message: You’ve got to stick together.”
Gruden felt President Bush’s message was well received by his players and coaches.
“He knows a lot of people in this country who are 0-2, not on the scoreboard, but he knows a lot of guys who work hard that things haven’t really worked out for, and his message to us was very prudent, very good and we’re real thankful and appreciative of it,” Gruden said.
Added Allen: “He’s everyone’s leader. It’s inspiring. It’s tremendous that he took time out to come here and talk to us. He’s just rooting for everybody, really. It was a great message for our team.”
For some of the Bucs, Thursday’s visit by President Bush wasn’t the first time they had met him. Several people, including Allen and Simms, had received that opportunity before, but they still were thrilled to meet President Bush again Thursday.
“It was exciting for me,” said Simms. “I have met him many times because he was the Governor of Texas when I was at the University of Texas. He is a great guy, he really is. He is a good person, but there is nothing like meeting the President and watching him roll up in his limo. It’s pretty cool.”
Each Super Bowl winner typically gets an invitation to the White House months after they hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but the Buccaneers did not receive that opportunity in 2003 since the United States went to war with Iraq during the time the Bucs would have visited.
“The president had a lot to do,” said Gruden. “What can you say? Jiminy Christmas. And for him to show up here with the SWAT team on the roof and the secret service guys – that’s awesome. That puts things in a real perspective. This is such a great country, and just to be in this country is a great accomplishment, indeed.”
RICE ADDED TO INJURY REPORT Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice was added to the injury report Thursday after he injured his knee in the latter part of practice. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the Carolina Panthers.
Guard Davin Joseph (knee) and tight end/long snapper Dave Moore (rib) are out. Defensive tackles Chris Hovan (ankle) and Anthony McFarland (hip), linebacker Ryan Nece (knee) and cornerback Brian Kelly (foot) are questionable for the upcoming game.
Joseph, Kelly, Moore, Nece, Rice missed practice.
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