The Buccaneers who never played a game
When you look down the listing of the all-time Buccaneers, there are a lot of them, 51 to be exact, who have zeroes in the games played and games started columns. So just how do you get to officially be a Buccaneer player, without ever playing a game?
The original rules for eligibility used to be that you had to have played in at least one game, actually taken the field for at least one snap. This is the rule still held by the NFL Encyclopedia, hence those 51 players not appearing under the Buccaneer name in their listings.
But in the mid-1990s, the Buccaneers and many other NFL teams, changed their rules to allow players who were suited up for a game, to be classified as eligible. This was later extended to include those players who were named as game-day inactives when the NFL went to naming 45 of the 53-man roster as being eligible to play in a game (plus the designated third quarterback).
This rule change actually has serious implications for the sort of people who run incredibly-detailed Buccaneer websites. Suddenly someone who even the most ardent of fans had never heard of, became eligible for a profile page and an attempt to track down a head picture and a picture of them actually in action.
There are only 26 non-strike game players that I do not have head shots for and five of them are early-year no-game players. And of the 63 that I have no action shots for, 18 of them are no-gamers. I mean, how do you find a picture of a Buccaneer player who never played a game?
Actually this is not as difficult as you might think. Many of the no-gamers are quarterbacks who were on the roster, in uniform for games, but who never actually saw the field in a regular season game. And if you have the game DVD, you can usually get a clip of them on the sideline standing next to the coach wearing their caps backward.
Of other quarterbacks who never played, Jason Garrett (2004) is now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Mike Shula (1987) who went on to become the Bucs' offensive co-ordinator under Tony Dungy and Rick Neuheisel (1987) who held the same role with the Baltimore Ravens.
Third-stringers who looked good in a baseball cap and holding a clipboard included Kerwin Bell (1989), Mike Pawlawski (1992), Pat O'Hara (1991), Mark Vlasic (1993) and Todd Philcox (1995).
The backdated rule suddenly made three players from the expansion season eligible, future NFL veteran LB Mike Kearney and a pair of WRs, Rick Jennings and Curtis Leak qualify. Jennings is the subject of an investigation into 1977 records as we believe he may have been a "Did not play" in the season opener in Philadelphia. We believe he is on the sideline in the game DVD but does not appear on some of the official records. Curtis Leak is the father of former Gator QB Chris Leak and remains the only player we have no individual details for at present.
Greg Davis scored over 1,000 points in his career and was a Buc draft pick in 1987 and was on the special "taxi squad" established after the 1987 replacement games, so makes the all-time Buc roster. And other notables include former 1st round picks at the end of their NFL careers, WR Shawn Collins (1992) and DE Reinard Wilson (2003) or future starters caught up in a numbers game such as CB Jerry Wilson (1995).
And then we have the four possible additions to the 51. Ken Blackman was signed from the Bengals but never played for the Bucs because of injury. But we have found he was inactive for the final six games in 1999 which would add him to the all-time roster. Similarly an offensive lineman named David Johnson appears as "Did not play" in the three replacement games and we are currently investigating his potential eligiblity for that part of the roster.
Two other players, were only ever on the Buccaneer roster during post-season games, and did not play in any of them as it turned out. But it seems as if they too will become eligible for the all-time roster, so look to see the names of TE Ricky Brady (1997) and TE Anthony Jordan (1999) appearing in Buccaneer media guides in the future.
Of course it is only the likes of myself, Scott Smith at One Buc Place, and Joey Johnson of The Tampa Tribune who have any real interest in statistical anomolies such as this. Which is why the three of us also hope one day to get a life!