OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Jon Gruden returns to the Bay Area on Sunday.
will be waiting.
Gruden and the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
face the Oakland Raiders Sunday in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII. But the cast of characters is quite different than it was just 20 months ago when the Bucs rolled to a 48-21 victory in San Diego.
Then the plot line revolved around Gruden, who was acquired by Tampa Bay from the Raiders for a king's ransom - four draft picks and $8 million. The payoff for the Buccaneers was the first Super Bowl title in the 27-year history of the franchise.
Gruden's familiarity with Raiders quarterback
and his former assistant Bill Callahan, then Oakland's coach, was a major factor in Tampa Bay's win. The Bucs set a Super Bowl record with five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns, and sacked Gannon five times.
But after winning the Super Bowl, the Bucs stumbled to 7-9 last season while the Raiders crashed to 4-12, costing Callahan his job. Bruce Allen even left the Raiders, where he spent nine years as a front office executive, to replace Rich McKay as Bucs general manager.
Gruden and Allen then went about the business of remodeling the Bucs, bringing in more than 20 new players and jettisoning the likes of defensive tackle Sapp, safety
Sapp made the Pro Bowl seven times in his nine years with the Buccaneers. But Tampa Bay never made a serious bid to re-sign Sapp, who had only five sacks last season, his lowest total since his rookie year in 1995.
Sapp and linebacker
were the cornerstones of a Tampa Bay defense which turned the team from a laughingstock to a perennial playoff contender. The Bucs made the postseason five times between 1997-2002 before winning the Super Bowl.
In Oakland, the 31-year-old Sapp is paired up with fellow free agent signee
to help the NFL's worst run defense. And last week, Sapp and Washington led a defense that held Buffalo to 67 rushing yards on 24 carries in a 13-10 win.
and running back
went the opposite way from Oakland to Tampa Bay.
"It will be a great experience for me and certainly for
and some of these ex-Raider guys and some of these ex-employees of the Silver and Black," Gruden said.
Third all-time in catches and second in receiving yards, the 38-year-old Brown was cut in training camp by the Raiders. He showed signs of slowing down last season, catching 52 passes for 567 yards and two touchdowns.
Desperate for receivers with
holding out due to a contract dispute and
sidelined with a back injury, the Bucs signed Brown. In two games with Tampa Bay, Brown has 11 catches for 72 yards. Brown has 1,081 receptions for 14,806 yards and 99 touchdowns.
Selected to nine Pro Bowls, Brown had more than 1,000 yards receiving from 1993-2001 for Oakland.
But new Raiders coach Norv Turner decided to go with younger receivers like
, who had five catches for 89 yards in the win over Buffalo, instead of Brown.
also is getting less playing time because of the presence of the young receivers. Rice's streak of catching a pass in 274 consecutive games was snapped last week.
Garner spent the last three years with Oakland before signing with the Bucs. Garner rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries and caught six passes in the Bucs' 10-6 loss to Seattle last week.
Tampa Bay is the only NFL team that has failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first two weeks.
was benched in the second quarter of last week's loss and replaced by
, but will start on Sunday.
Matchup to watch: Bucs left tackle
faces Sapp, who lines up at right end in Oakland's 3-4 alignment.
Series: Oakland leads, 4-2, winning the last regular season meeting here in 1999, 45-0, before losing in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Next week: Tampa Bay hosts Denver, October 3 Oakland visits Houston, October 3