The numbers game
The days of a top draft pick walking out on to the podium in New York with their own specific number seem to have long gone. And even when the first round pick poses for the obligatory photographs a couple of days later at the team headquarters, they are pictured simply with a shirt stating "1" for first round pick.

When it comes to choosing numbers, rookies and even signed free agents are of course going to be limited by what is actually available. No Buc will ever wear 63 again as that has been retired for Lee Roy Selmon, and it is an unofficial rule that 42 is also going to be one day similarly honoured for the late Ricky Bell.

But what a player chooses right now and what officially becomes their number are two totally different things. Until a number is actually worn in a regular or post-season game, it can be anything. Players often change their numbers between the final pre-season game and the season opener if and when veterans with "better numbers" are released.

One such strange event happened in September 1983 when 11th round pick Mark Witte made the roster as a back-up tight end and special teams' ace. For the season opener against Detroit, he continued to wear the 93 shirt that he had worn in pre-season. The following week, he switched to the regular 85 shirt that he wore for the next three seasons, but he does go down as having had a pair of numbers for the Bucs.

Terdell Middeton was a nondescript running back in 1982 and 1983 who played less than 10 games over three separate spells with the franchise, but managed to wear a different number (45, 43 and 44) in the process. Recently released Jon Bradley wore a different number each season and long-time defensive lineman Chidi Ahanotu switched from 90 to 72 after his rookie season, but then took 95 when he came back in 2004.

For the 2007 top picks, Gaines Adams has 90 for now, Arron Sears 77 and Sabby Piscatelli 38. Kevin Carter took 93 and Luke Petitgout 79 amongst the free agent signings. Jeff Garcia took the 7 shirt and apparently did a deal with incumbent Bruce Gradkowski for the latter to switch to 5. And another such deal has gone on between David Boston and Mark Jones with them swopping 11 and 89.

So for now, all of the current numbers are shown on the roster and individual profile pages, but will not become official until the actual season starts in September. So hence the numbers being shown daily in our shirt feature, are only those that have been worn in the regular or post season for the Buccaneers.

Paul Stewart, January 2007