Bucs not making bold predictions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Keyshawn Johnson, right, arrives at the Torrey Pines Hilton as Buccaneers fan Joe Capp, left, tries to get an autograph in San Diego.

AP Photo/Travis Lindquist
Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 2:51 a.m.

SAN DIEGO - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not making any bold predictions about the Super Bowl.

The NFC champions arrived in San Diego on Monday and began preparations for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders brimming with confidence, yet also humble.

"It's been a journey," general manager Rick McKay said. "It was not an overnight journey. It was a slow boat to China and the boat had holes. We're happy to be here."

The Bucs joined the NFL in 1976, lost their first 26 games, then made the playoffs three times in four years. But from 1983-96, they did not have a winning record and lost 10 or more games in 13 of those 14 seasons.

Tampa Bay began to turn it around under former coach Tony Dungy, who took the team to the NFC championship game three years ago.

Jon Gruden then took the Bucs one step further in his first year as coach. Tampa Bay gave the Raiders four high draft picks and $8 million to negotiate with Gruden, who spent four seasons in Oakland.

Gruden won't arrive in San Diego until Tuesday. He stayed behind to work on the game plan and will be on a charter flight at 5:30 a.m. EST Tuesday.

"The problem is in a one-week Super Bowl where you have to travel across the country," McKay said. "If you travel today, it kills your one big planning day."

The game will be a contrast of strengths. It's the first Super Bowl to pit the league's No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense.

"It's bigger than us. It's not going to be our defense and their offense," AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks said. "It's a team game. They found different ways to win this year and we found different ways to win this year."

First, the Bucs have a more important task at hand.

After winning 27-10 at Philadelphia on Sunday, the Bucs didn't arrive back in Tampa until 1 a.m. They were greeted by several thousand fans who have waited years for this kind of success.

The players then had to fly to San Diego to begin preparations for the game.

"I'm still fighting sleep," receiver Keyshawn Johnson. "I'm looking for a bed right about now."

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