HELLO, TAMPA BAY
The Buccaneers called the next morning and asked me to throw for John McKay and assistants Boyd Dowler and Chip Meyers. I forgot to bring a workout shirt with me when I drove to Tampa, so I wore a pink Lacoste shirt. McKay must have thought. "This kid has to be good if he has the guts to wear that shirt." I threw well, and they told me if I signed. I would be the only new quarterback they would bring in. They had Doug Williams, Jerry Golsteyn and Jeff Quinn returning from 1982. I would be competing for a backup spot. I couldn't resist. I became a Buccaneer.
During the summer, the Bucs picked up Jack Thompson in anticipation of Williams's bolting to Oklahoma of the USFL, which he did. I had a solid training camp and then a good preseason game against Atlanta. The Bucs cut Quinn. I had made the active roster. I was the third quarterback and also was the holder on kicks, and I would make $45,000, plus about $14,000 in bonuses.
The most disappointing day in my career came the third week of the season. During a midweek noncontact drill, my cleats caught in the grass while I was rolling out. My left knee twisted. I knew I was hurt. The next day they drained out 100cc of fluid. Blood was mixed in. a sign that there might be a cartilage tear.
On Saturday it didn't look as if I would be able to play the next day against Minnesota, so I got a pass for the press box in Tampa Stadium. The trainers told me to report to the locker room sometime on Sunday so I could make arrangements for an arthroscopic examination of my knee on Monday. It was up to me whether I saw the doctor before or after the game to set up the time for the operation. Because a locker room gets pretty crowded after a game, I decided to see the doctor before the game.
I arrived at Tampa Stadium at about 12:15, 45 minutes before kickoff. The special teams had already gone on the field for pregame warmups. While I was talking to the doctors, I was asked if I would hold for kicks. I couldn't believe it. They were playing me one day, and the next I was scheduled for an operation. Still, holding is about the least physically demanding job on the field and I didn't want to do anything that would make the Bucs start to wonder about their backup quarterback's dedication. I said I would try. It was then about 12:25, so I put on a knee brace and tried to loosen up my knee by jogging, even though it had swollen up again and I could barely walk. I realized that if I had gone straight to the press box, I would never have been put in this awkward situation.
I went onto the field to practice some holds with kicker Bill Capece. My knee hurt badly, but I was holding O.K. Right before the start of the game, I told Capece that if there was a bad snap, I wouldn't be able to go after the ball.
We scored with five minutes left in the first half. I walked, jogged, skipped and limped onto the field with the extra-point team, saying to myself, "Forget the knee, just get the ball down." The pain was almost unbearable now. The knee had stiffened. I kept improvising to get comfortable. Steve Wilson snapped the ball. It was a little high and went through my hands. Why now? I had been holding kicks since high school and had never dropped one.
The ball skipped behind us. I could barely get up. Capece picked up the ball and got drilled by the Vikings. The crowd booed.
I prayed that the missed extra point wouldn't have any effect on the game's outcome, but regulation time ended with the score 16-16. The extra point would have given us a 17-16 victory.