Return Fills Biggest Void In Team History
Micheal Spurlock was running into Buccaneer history at 1:29 p.m. Sunday and all eyes at Raymond James Stadium were on him. Well, not all. "I was jumping up and down, but one of my brothers was in the bathroom at the time," Bucs executive vice president Joel Glazer said after Spurlock raced 90 yards for the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the franchise's 32-year history. "Today was an example of what's been happening all season - contributions coming from all directions."
Tampa Bay's streak of futility covered six American presidents and all seven Buc head coaches before Spurlock ended the suspense early in a 37-3 rout of the Falcons.
Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, who took the blame for a 97-yard kickoff return by Houston's Andre Davis last week, scampered along the sidelines in step with Spurlock, who outraced safety Lewis Sanders into the end zone to put the Bucs ahead 14-3 in the opening quarter.
Bisaccia received a celebratory cup of water poured over his head before Ronde Barber came by to offer a heartfelt hug to mark the auspicious occasion. By the time Bisaccia shared an embrace with his son, Richie, it was time to make sure Tampa Bay's proper personnel were on the field to add Matt Bryant's extra point. "I'm so happy for Rich Bisaccia," Chris Hovan said. "I know I was out there trying to keep up with Spurlock on our sidelines ... but he's way too fast for me."
Bisaccia, who joined the Bucs in 2002, tried to keep his focus a few hours after Spurlock shook his world. "Everyone was smacking me around pretty good, which is a great feeling and I would take it anytime," Bisaccia said. "But don't forget about the guys that made big blocks in front of Spurlock. For every coach here who has been standing in my shoes, I thought of all of them today - and all the guys who have been part of the kickoff return teams through the years."
Even John Wade turned emotional when discussing the impact of Spurlock's historic return. "I've been hearing about it since I became a Buccaneer," Wade said. "Believe me, it's not like something we don't know about. Rich stays on top of us, so I'm happy for the special teams unit, for Rich and for Rich's family. It's going to be better at his house tonight."
It was a productive day overall for Tampa Bay's special teams, which limited Atlanta to zero return yards in Josh Bidwell's four punts and only 125 yards in six kickoff returns.
In erasing an enormous void in their franchise record book, the Bucs no longer will have to endure weekly questions about it. Spurlock's return now makes the Philadelphia Eagles the holders of the current longest drought without a touchdown on kickoff returns. The Eagles have gone 119 straight games without scoring on a kickoff return, dating to Brian Mitchell's 94-yarder on the opening kickoff of a 21-7 win against Arizona on Nov. 4, 2001.
That's 393 consecutive kickoff returns without a touchdown for the Eagles. "As I saw Micheal Spurlock running down that field today, I knew one thing," linebacker and special teams player Ryan Nece said, "a monkey was getting pulled off a lot of people's backs around here."
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 17 December 2007