In overtime Capece missed a chip-shot field goal that would have won the game and gotten me off the hook. Minnesota didn't flub its chance and won 19-16. I was swamped by reporters asking questions about the botched extra point. I didn't mention my knee once. I figured that if I was on the field, it was to do a job, hurt or not.
That night was one of the lowest points of my athletic career. The fact that I had played at all puzzled my family and friends. My parents, who watched the game on TV, didn't think I was even going to dress for the game. As for myself, I was not only disgusted at what had happened, I was worried about what they might discover in the operating room the next day.
The surgeon found strained ligaments in my knee, but no major damage. I was excited and encouraged, and anxious to get on with rehabilitation so that I could save as much of the season as possible. It hurt whenever I put pressure on the knee, but I kept doing my exercises, hoping the knee would come around and knowing that if it didn't, I would be placed on the injured reserve list.
Three weeks later the Bucs did put me on injured reserve. Financially, the injured reserve isn't bad because you receive your full salary, but otherwise it's boring.
At least the off-season turned out to be fun, and doing promotions for the Bucs kept extra cash coming in. Talk about easy money: I got paid for judging bikini contests, riding in parades, picking dates for a dating game and greeting every girl who came into a Tampa nightclub with a Hawaiian lei.
My buddy Collinsworth was also back in town for the off-season. One night during Super Bowl week—the Redskins were playing the Raiders in Tampa—Cris and I ran into Joe Theismann in a club called Confetti's. A lot of girls were crowded around Joe's table getting autographs. Cris, being modest, threw his hand out to show them his AFC championship ring. Lots of ohhs. Joe raised the ante by slapping his hand on the table and saying "Check out this Super Bowl ring." Ooooooohh. What was I to do? I threw my hand on the table and proudly said, "Check out this Blue-bonnet Bowl ring!" Tee-hee.
The Bucs signed Steve DeBerg in April. During minicamp, I didn't see much action at quarterback. I could sense something was happening. A week before training camp opened in July. Dowler called me at my condominium and said Coach McKay wanted to see me. I knew that this wasn't a call to go to lunch.
McKay told me he thought I had a future in the NFL, but there wasn't going to be any room with DeBerg there. They put me on waivers. I knew that they had lost confidence in my knee, which in fact wasn't yet 100%.
The following months were hectic as I tried to catch on with another team.
GOODBYE, BUCS; HELLO, PHILADELPHIA