Bucs DT Clinton McDonald consoles CB Alterraun Verner - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
The cornerback lost someone dear to him.
The team gained something worth keeping.
And in between, in the moments when a team picked up a hurting comrade, the Tampa Bay Bucs gave them an afternoon to remember, beating Seattle 14-5.
They found strength in each other, the wounded cornerback and the team that picked him up. It seems like such a small thing, a football game, when you are talking about a loss of life. But we do what we can do, and so the Tampa Bay Bucs gathered around Alterraun Verner and shared their strength.
They were a team of relevance, a team of resiliency, a team of unity. And together, they were something to behold.
This was the Bucs as you have only imagined them, a fierce defensive team and an imaginative offensive one, a team with a winning record, a team that can suddenly play with anyone. This is a team of substance, a team of heart, a team of caring. It was a team finding strength in each other through its finest run in years.
In other words, it is the kind of team that Robert Lee Verner would have loved.
You probably didn’t know Verner, the father of Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner.
You should have. He was another proud father of an accomplished son who died of a heart attack just after Thanksgiving. And while he would have enjoyed the win, it wasn’t essential for his love of his son.
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
And so Verner played. Of course he did. He didn’t think his father would want to be the reason that he didn’t play.
Right before halftime with the Seahawks threatening to score, Verner intercepted a pass, and moments later, was on the sideline on his knees.
“My Dad was my biggest fan,” Verner said after the game, obviously filled with emotion. “He made so many sacrifices for me to get to where I am today and I just know he wouldn’t want him to be the cause for me not to play. That’s why I decided to play. I wanted to honor him knowing all he did to get me to where I am today.
“He was the most caring, loving person that you’ll ever know. I mean, he would talk to a stranger he who was standing next to him at a bus stop. He was so caring and loving. He was willing to take his shirt off and give it the person next to him. That’s the person I knew and the person I’m going to cherish. That love and support. That’s the type of man he was.”
Sure, it says volumes about Verner that he declined to take the day off to mourn. He wanted to be there for his teammates, there to honor his father, there to help make a difference. But it also says the world about the Bucs, and the way they felt another man’s pain, the way they were there to console, there to comfort, there to support.
This is the best of the Bucs. A year ago, Kwon Alexander lost his brother, and then, too, the Bucs family rallied around him. They had one of their biggest wins of last season against Atlanta that day.
And now this:
“That’s my brother, man,” said Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. “Before the game, when I broke it down, I asked the team, ‘Do we break it down to family just to do it? Is it just something we say or do we mean it?’ They said, ‘We mean it.’ Well when you have a family member down, what are you supposed to do for a family member? Everybody said, ‘Pick him up.’ I told them, ‘Don’t be selfish today. Play for the man next to you. We have a brother hurt. Go out there and show him that he does have a family and when he’s hurting he can lean on us. Guys when out there and played like that.”
“I’ve been there. I’ve lost a parent. I told him, ‘Hey, all you can do is play for your dad.’ And he did. He played his heart out and everybody around him played for him and we got a big win.”
Somewhere in the middle of loss, a team can find itself. The team has now given up three touchdowns in three games. It has beaten two teams in a row who are in the top 10 in the power rankings.
“This is a great team,” said Mike Evans. “Seattle has been one of the best teams in the league for the past four or five years. It’s just a good win overall for this team.”
For a football, it is often at the end of the season that things start to click, and the next year, that team is very, very good. Perhaps that is starting to happen to this team. Perhaps it is responding to Dirk Koetter, and to Mike Smith, and to Jameis Winston. The family is coming together.
Consider this: For six of the past seven weeks, Winston has had a quarterback rating of 93.6 or better.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
They suddenly have a running game. They have solid safety play. They have a pass rush. They have one of the finest young quarterbacks in the league. So is it time to take a different view of these Bucs?
“I don’t know,” McCoy said. “I’m going to let everybody decide what they want to do. We know who we are and we know what we’re working to be so we’re just going to keep showing up every day, taking it one meeting at a time, one walk-through at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time. If people want to believe in us, that’s on them. If they don’t, they don’t. But we know who we are and we’re just going to keep working to get better.”
Sounds fair. But for the rest of us, it wasn’t very long ago that some wondered if the Bears game was the Bucs’ last chance to win. Now, they chase a 7-5 record next week in San Diego. If they can get past that, they’ll be firmly in the playoff hunt. Considering this team was 1-3, that isn’t bad.
Regardless, say this about the Bucs. They have something deep inside. They take this talk of family seriously.
Soon, maybe you will take them seriously, too.
No one has won more awards, including two national Associated Press Sports Editors Best Columnist awards and eight top 10 finishes, than the legendary Gary Shelton, former sports columnist of the St. Petersburg Times. Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can.
Shelton just received his sixth Sportswriter of the Year award for Florida by the NSSA, and no one has seen more big events, including 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics and 11 Final Fours. Shelton still goes into the locker room to obtain his stories.
And no one has made you angrier, or laugh louder, or think harder about what he has written. Simply put, no one has covered Tampa Bay sports like Shelton has. Now you can read Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
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Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
This is not like any team I have seen in quite a few years; it’s nice to have that good feeling of hope. This is a team that is not thru with just 6 wins; this is a team that is starting to get hungry. We have turned the corner. We have a defense and an offense; most importantly we have leaders. Go Bucs! On to San Diego!
And Horse, we have a pass rush! Huh?
Yes 76Buc, I think we do which is a good thing as we can focus on other positions in the draft. Looks like I was wrong about Coach Smith and it was just the injuries, a new system, and the filling and replacing the DL until they found the fit. Also very happy alot of blitzing was going on and Spence at times dropped backed and covered his side where the blitz was coming.
This team is beginning to turn into something special. Whether it’s this year or next, the foundation for long terms success is in place here. Gosh losing those two winnable games earlier against the rams and Raiders will haunt us this year. But only positives coming from this team. It was great seeing them mob Verner after the interception.
You can’t fix the games lost earlier in the season, but you sure can win the games in front of you.
Great writing Gary as always. Quite the effort on all the Bucs today. I’m sure Alterauns dad is smiling somewhere.
But know this the Bucs are not sneaking up on anyone else this year.
This team seems up to the task.
What a great team effort. Our Defense really stepped up. DL played exceptionally. If we can stay healthy, for the remaining 5 games we have a chance. Evans is over 1000 yrds. and that is with every team focusing on him. Verner had a monster game. I am happy for him. He deserved it. Three wins in a row. The last two as sweet as ever.
What a pleasure to enjoy this Buc’s Major WIN. This team is capable of running the table this year. Did you notice how hot Jameis started this game. Somehow he has learned how to overcome his prior slow starts just at the right time! I have never seen a Buc’s team get after a top NFL Team any better than we did today, and I have watched them from the start. These players have all bonded into a family that cares for each other, and who have great team leaders and great Coaches. Now the defense has learned the new system and are playing it to perfection. Even newcomer DE, Ryan Russell, looked great chasing the QB as if he had been with the Bucs from the beginning this year!
Drove from Tampa back to my home of Tennessee after a great vacation in Miami with loved ones I won’t see for a long time. This was the first time I’d ever been to Raymond James and I witnessed a special, emotional win! Man, it lines up perfectly with what’s going on in my life and I feel so blessed to be a Bucs fan!
This team may not win another game, they may win out. As long as they fight together, and as long as it is real and not crafted in their minds to make them play better, we will succeed as a unit!
If they can make this type of play happen without the loss of a family member, it’s going to be a great finish to this season.
Go Bucs, Siege The Day!
With a brand new defensive coaching staff, a brand new defensive design, and quite a few new players on the roster, it should have been totally unsurprising that the defense would struggle in the early games this season. Those who’ve been around the world of NFL football, even just as fans, know that it takes awhile, actual games played, for a brand new defense to gel. The only question was, would this new defense gel by the end of the first half of the season, and then begin to produce results in the second half? Just as did Tony Dungy’s and Monte Kiffin’s D did in their inaugural season in 1996?
I think we have the answer now, and the answer is “yes”. For the last three games we’ve seen all parts of the defense – the interior line, the DEs, the linebackers, the safeties, and the corners all coming together and playing as a unified squad, a “defense in depth”, as the military would say. And other members of the team, on offense and special teams, have also stepped up their game – I’d say especially special teams, since the offense has been producing well a little longer this season.
And what we saw with the team coming together to support Alteraun Verner – who has had a very tough season fitting into the new defense – wasn’t the cause of our win yesterday. Both the coming together for Alteraun and the win were a result of the entire team, coaches and players, finding out who they are and what they can become throughout the course of a very tough season.
Obviously now it all depends upon how we finish. A year ago next weekend, this team was 6-6 and things were looking up, then the bottom dropped out in December as Lovie Smith buzz-killed his team. I don’t believe that is going to be the result this year …. but like children all hyped up by the holiday season, we’re just going to have to wait until a little after Christmas Day to see what Santa brung us this year. I’m certainly hyped up!
Ironic how two players who 1) Verner-was considered to be a bust and trade bait or on the verge of being cut and 2) Conte- a player many of us have bashed to include myself come up with big time plays these past two weeks against what was then two 7-2 teams. Almost looked like our 2002 defense when Verner made that pick ala “big play” Brian Kelley or Ronde. Personally, I think we can hang with any team, as long as our pass rush is hot and our run defense is stout. Many teams over the past years have went on massive runs to end the season, why not us? Why not now! The only real tough game on paper is the Cowboys IMO, if we play out the season like we have played the last 3 weeks, we will at the least win 4 of 5. Hope you have a happy holiday season brother.
Tampa Bay residents, now is the time to hop on the bandwagon. Fill that stadium. Embrace this team. The team still has a number of flaws. What family member doesn’t? Let’s start making this Bucs team, Tampa’s team…
Verner deserves to be the number 3 CB on this team I like him a lot and I was so glad to see him get that pick for his dad, go Bucs!
I agree Matthew, I hope we resign Verner to a new contract, for much less but I think he will probably want to stay here. My condolences to Verner and his family. I don’t know how he was able to play. Amazing!
This whole team and coaching staff is really gelling. Im SO EXCITED!!! DEFENSE!!!!! AMAZING!!!
Another Great Team Win!!!
Excellent read Gary, kudos. The young Buccaneers are definitely a close knit team and have each other’s backs. They are confidant, healthy and play to win. Smith’s defense has really come together in the last few weeks and the sky’s the limit.
My condolences to Verner and his family. We all felt his pain and honored his play yesterday. It was heartfelt from the fans too.
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