Michael Casey 3
Another 'Big Breakfast', and then a lift from John Zinkus and three friends to Wembley. A bit of a warm up and then Brad Johnson, Jimmie Giles and Shelton Quarles stroll in. Paul announcing their arrival. Wow!
As with the current players, these past legends of the team were more than happy, to sign anything and everything and pose for loads of photos. Shelton Quarles was more than happy to take off his 2002 Super Bowl ring and let us try it on. I wear a ring on my right ring finger, I left this on and slipped Shelton's ring over the top of mine and it comfortably fitted over that as well with room to spare!.
Paul gave Brad a number 14 Bucs jersey to wear with his name on the back and he loosened up his golden arm, as the Chicago Bear drum team beat away on their snare and bass drums. The velocity was still there as he threw the ball to members of the Bucs UK who I'm sure will forever be telling of the day Brad Johnson threw them a pass.
Neil Reynolds from Sky, and Captain Fear caught passes for the filming TV crews, Captain Fear being jumped on by at least seven members of the Bears touch football team as he gamely held on to the ball. Jimmie Giles was also persuaded to catch a pass from Paul, all done in slow motion as Jimmie has 'lost a step' since his playing days.
The 'keen' players then took over and the Bucs UK supporters took on the Bears UK supporters in a touch fooball game. I'm not to sure of the final result, but it did appear that the Bears scored more to ruin Coach Papworth's record.
However regardless of the result everyone had a fantastic time with the Bears players taking it in the right spirit unlike the Patriot UK supporters team! It was then time for a team photo taken by Brian Ford's wife. Someone shouted something about taking some clothes off, and to her relief we remained fully clothed, (including our very own streaker Steve Ford). It then took at least four people to hoist Jimmie Giles up from the floor where he had been sitting for the photo.
I then had a surreal moment in the changing room toilets in which I had a great discussion with Jimmie Giles. I was washing my hands and he came in to comb his hair. After saying how handsome he was (I'm married with two kids, and yes before anyone comments I know Elton was once married to a woman).
After that ice-breaker, I asked him if any other tight end had matched his record of four TDs in a single game. (As it so happens I had been discussing this with Tim Lewis at the Mexican meal and we thought Kellen Winslow Sr would be the only person who could match Jimmie's record). Jimmie told me we were indeed correct that he had matched his record.
We chatted about his record day, Jimmie had caught seven passes and four of those went for touchdowns, we then chatted about current tight ends and even though the ball is thrown more today how, Gonzalez, Gates etc were unlikely to score four TDs in a game. What a lovely moment and I'm really pleased that his contribution to the Buccaneer team has been recognised with being inducted into the 2011 Buccaneer Ring of Honour. Come on Canton get Jimmie in with Lee Roy!
I headed to the tail-gate and joined the thousands already there. Fair play, whoever puts this together does wonders as there is so much to see and do. Went into the Bucs Zone which had classic jerseys from past and present players. Paul Gruber's number 74 was there and got me wondering if he was on the shortlist for the next ring of honour inductee. He certainly deserves to be anchoring that O line for 183 games.
Managed to get a few Buccaneer goodies from the merchandise tent where they must of taken thousands of pounds off NFL fans supporting all teams. They even sold all the fridge magnets by the time I got served, so there's a gap on my fridge where I planned on putting one!.
Arranged to meet my Brother in Law (a Redskins supporter). We meet up and have a few beers and head to the stadium to find our seats and watch the warm ups. I'm in the front row and surrounded by Bucs UK members. I had a quick look of the programme and Raheem gives Paul a mention which is brilliant and there is also an article written by Paul as well. Bucpower.com gets a good mention, so hopefully the publicity will result in more supporters joining our merry gang.
Game time, the Goo Goo Dolls come and go, the teams take to the field, and it was nice to see the offensive starters being introduced. Teams seem to have stopped doing this in favour of a 'team' introduction. Josh Freeman is last but one to be introduced and receives the biggest cheer, after Donald Penn!.
Kellen Winslow is last one out racing onto the field carrying a huge Union Jack flag. Anyone who likes the group Iron Maiden will have thought that their mascot "Eddie" was running out of the tunnel. Kathryn Jenkins sings the National anthem proving she has a fantastic pair of lungs as well.
Our pals Brad and Jimmie are decked out in red jackets and are honouree Captains for the Buccaneers (Richard Dent and Otis Wilson doing the honours for the Bears).
Bucs kickoff and thousands of cameras flash in unison. Not a great start as Koenen kick the ball out of bounds and the Bears get to start on their 40-yard line. Hopefully that's not a sign of things to come. We get the ball back but oh no! disaster happens right in front of me, Earnest Graham takes a pitch around left end, falls down and doesn't get up. The injury looks bad, he's helped off and were in a spot of bother.
Matt Forte runs in for a 32-yard touchdown and we barely lay a hand on him. Oh heck! Things go from bad to worse as we lose our center Jeremy Zuttah, and Erik Lorig to injury. We now only have one healthy back, and that totally changes the game plan. We manage to get a two point safety courtesy of Ronde Barber, and then Roy Williams who had hands of stone in Dallas snares a 25-yard pass for a touchdown. We reach half time 14-5 down and it could have been a lot worse as the Bears totally dominated the 2nd quarter.
Marion Barber runs through the porous run defense for a 12-yard score and were down 21-5. We have lost Mason Foster and Tannard Jackson to injury on defense and it's starting to show, as the Bears offense is dominating, running and passing the ball at will.
But never fear the Bucs always start slow and come back well, and yes it's happening again, Winslow two-yard TD catch, Briscoe 24-yard TD. It's 21-18, only down by three points and there's seven minutes left. Unfortunately the Bears have the ball and they chew up a fair bit of time before stalling on a 3rd and goal play where Ronde Barber stuffs Cutler for a 6 yard loss.
Unfortunately there is a personal foul penalty on Aqib Talib, which gives the Bears an automatic first down, and stops us in our tracks. Talib argues his case but it was a bone headed play from a player who should be a Buccaneer legend by the time he retires, but will I'm sure fall well short of being remembered as such.
The D step up and stop the Bears on three successive plays and hold them to a field goal. We have 1.50 left on the clock and we need a TD and extra point to win. What are the odds on the Bucs driving down the field and "Donald" catching the winning pass, surely it's written in the stars?
It must be on, I start getting sweaty palms in excitement, the Bucs UK look on, everyone has their fingers crossed for luck. Our hurry up offense take us to the Bear 39-yard line and then like a great gush of air coming out of a monster truck tyre, Josh is intercepted with 26 seconds left in the game, and the dream is over, and we've lost.
I feel crushed and I clap the players off the field and head out of the stadium to my car. As I have at least a half an hours walk I start pondering..........Where was Arrelious Benn?, Mike Williams had told Tim Lewis on the Friday practice Arrelious was fit and that he should start him in his fantasy football team.......
Why doesn't Josh Freeman run any more? We had Urlacher and the linebackers dropping back so deep expecting us to pass, he would have got some decent yardage......... Why does Trueblood jump offside so often, is he a bit 'mutton' or just a tad forgetful of the snap count...... Why can't I see the Bucs win, I'm now 0-5, am I a jinx?
I also wish Josh would stop throwing off his back foot as well, every time he does this it's just lobbed up and waiting to be picked off, four picks today, and a bit 'Cutler' like in that many of them are when we are deep into the opponent's territory.
As I head off back home to Newport, my final thoughts are of a magical weekend, memories which will last forever.....if only I had got to 1-4. Rats!