The Replacement Buccaneers
It is now over three decades since the NFL went on strike during 1987. There was no nine-week suspension of games as there had been in 1982, but instead the owners put together "scab" teams of fringe replacement players and the three games they played counted towards NFL standings.
But all around the NFL these days, the players who appeared in those games are treated still with disdain. Their statistics appear with an asterisk, or in the Bucs' own all-time roster, listed separately at the end. But as far as BUCPOWER.COM is concerned, everyone of these players is regarded as a Buccaneer - they have their own profile page on the site, all their statistics are shown where available, and now they have this new feature to fully remember them by.
The replacement Buccaneers went 2-1, half of the overall 4-11 mark posted by Ray Perkins' first team. They were not an overly-talented team and won both their games more on account of opponents' mistakes, but they will always be shown as a winning team.
So where did they come from? The largest proportion of the 53-man squad came from the Tampa Bay Bandits that had played in the USFL from 1983 to 1985. The rival league had folded early in 1986 so those 17 players had not seen a football field in two years, but they became Buccaneers all the same. Most were defensive players but QB John Reaves had led Steve Spurrier's team throughout its existence.
The Bucs also brought back 12 players who had been in training camp that year but who had not made the final cut. They knew the system and hence the likes of WR Eric Streater, LB Brian Gant and CB Paul Tripoli became some of the most influential players involved.
12 other players had NFL experience with other teams but had been late cuts in camp that year. Most were Florida natives thereby explaining their Tampa connection, but former Seattle QB Jim Zorn came across country to play the final of the three games.
Former Bucs CB Kevin Walker (1986) and WR Dwayne Dixon (1984) also joined the roster, as did other locally connected players, K Van Tiffin (kicked for Ray Perkins at Alabama) and QB Mike Hold (played in the Arena League).
And so they came to Tampa and posted a 2-1 mark in those three games that will be in the record books forever. Three of the players, Gant, Tripoli and TE Steve Holloway, stayed with the team after the strike ended. Another four were invited back to the 1988 training camp but didn't make the roster.
P Ray Criswell did make the 1988 team and played all that season in Tampa. K John Carney was re-signed in both 1988 and 1989 to cover Donald Igwebuike's injuiries and made enough of an impression to win a job in San Diego in 1990 and begin an NFL career that continues today. And RB Dan Land made the Raiders' roster in 1989 and played seven more seasons as one of their special teams' headhunters.
QB Jim Zorn returned to Seattle where he remains a local fan favourite and is now the head coach of the Washington Redskins. And WR Dwayne Dixon returned to Florida where he is became the WRs coach of the Florida Gators.