FAB 4. SR’s Buc Shots
The year 2020 marks my 25th season covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for you, the loyal PewterReport.com reader. As I begin this milestone season, I’m going to spend the next 25 weeks telling some never-before-told Bucs stories and recalling some of my most memorable moments in my professional journey.
As promised, here is the story of my run-in with former Bucs backup quarterback Casey Weldon.
In 1996, my second year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I had my first dust-up with an NFL player when something I wrote upset Weldon. The Buccaneers had used their first round draft pick on Trent Dilfer in 1994, and I thought it was only fitting to give Dilfer as much time as possible to develop into the franchise quarterback the team hoped he would become.
Weldon, who was a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Florida State, had plenty of supporters in the Tampa Bay area, especially among Seminoles fans. Weldon was a scrappy, undersized quarterback that Sports Illustrated had compared to Joe Montana when he was back at FSU. The backup QB is usually the fan favorite, and Weldon was very confident that he was the best quarterback on the roster.
But it was clear that his skill set was limited and that his only real future in the NFL was as a backup quarterback. So in the pages of Buccaneer Magazine while supporting Dilfer, I wrote that Weldon was better suited to be in the Arena Football League. That really wasn’t meant as a slight, as the AFL was incredibly popular in the 1990s and the Tampa Bay Storm AFL team enjoyed sellout crowds and won championships with quarterback Jay Gruden, a hometown hero.
Buccaneer Magazine was distributed in the locker room back in the day and was widely read by the players. Hey, if I wrote about you, wouldn’t you want to read it, too?
So Weldon read what I wrote and he confronted me about it right when Dilfer was holding court with a gaggle of reporters around his locker on a Wednesday during the media session. Weldon’s locker was right next to Dilfer‘s and I happened to be standing in front of it when he approached me wearing nothing but a towel as he just came out of the shower.
Weldon was a bit of a hothead back then and even got into a fistfight with Dilfer on a golf course during his time in Tampa. Our exchange was R-rated and he began with some profanities directed towards me that I can’t really print, but the gist of what he said was hey, “Keep sucking up to your boy Trent.” As a 25-year-old reporter it was quite embarrassing for me to get called out by an NFL player in front of the rest of the media for the first time. Thankfully for me, Dilfer kept talking and all of the cameras stayed on him rather than focused on the brief exchange Weldon and I were having a few feet away.
Weldon was getting pretty angry and for a second I thought he was going to shove me or potentially slug me, especially when I opened my big mouth and said, “Casey, Trent Dilfer is the worst-rated quarterback in the NFL – and you’re behind him, so what does that say about you?” After that I turned and walked away thinking to myself, “What the hell did I just say?!”
My mouth was writing checks that my body was not prepared to cash!
In hindsight it was kind of funny, me getting into a verbal altercation with a 6-foot, 206-pound quarterback in a towel in the middle of the locker room, but me disparaging Weldon wasn’t really professional nor was it smart to do. I avoided Weldon like the plague for the rest of the season, and he didn’t come back to Tampa Bay in 1997, as the team wanted to fully commit to Dilfer without Weldon around as a distraction.
I didn’t see Weldon again until years later, right before I got married in 1999. Weldon signed with the Redskins that year and as I was at the airport picking up my father, who was flying in from Washington, D.C. for the wedding. To my surprise, I saw Weldon emerge from the jet way with a Redskins duffel bag over his shoulder.
I could feel my face turn pale as the blood rushed from it due to my shock and amazement. I must have been white as a ghost.
The first thing that popped into my mind was Weldon slugging me for old time’s sake and me having a black eye for my wedding. Luckily for me, Weldon didn’t see me and I quickly ducked away so he wouldn’t.
Crisis averted and lesson learned. Don’t disparage players and get into confrontations in the locker room.
Stay tuned for another Bucs story from yesteryear in next week’s SR’s Fab 5.