Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs regather with tales of Hurricane Irma

TAMPA —So here's what happened when the Hard Knocks cameras were turned off. The lost sixth episode that HBO did not get the chance tell about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What was it Liev Schreiber said before the closing credits? A talented team ready to launch. They have leadership and likability. The roster was set. Time to play the games.

That was before Hurricane Irma forced the NFL to postpone the season opener at Miami until Nov. 19. Players scattered for the bye week. Here's how they rode out the storm.

Off to Pittsburgh

Safety Chris Conte was going to remain in Tampa with his girlfriend, Stephanie. But she is 34 weeks pregnant with a girl. They decided it was safer to get out of town, any place that had room on a flight for them and their two dogs. Conte settled on Pittsburgh.

"It definitely was stressful," Conte said. "We were just happy to get out of here. … Definitely not ideal, but we made the best out of it."

Getting back was hectic but the couple got a flight through Atlanta. "(You're) wondering if your house is going to be there when you get back. We were just praying — we set up her whole room, have all this baby stuff. The last thing you want is the room to get destroyed. Everything was fine. We got really lucky," he said.

A One Buc setup

Even though long snapper Garrison Sanborn was born and raised in Tampa, he decided the safest place to keep his family as Irma approached was at One Buc Place, where they stayed Sunday night as the storm passed.

He set up his 7-month-old son's Pack 'n Play in the receivers meeting room. His 7-year-old daughter was in the linebackers room while Sanborn and his wife, Tara, stayed in the defensive line room.

"Being from here, you're used to the threat of it, and you don't want to take it lightly," said Sanborn, who lives on Harbour Island.

Eventful evacuation

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy drove nine hours north with his wife and three kids. On Sunday, he went to church and prayed for everyone's safety. But he couldn't watch football.

"As soon as I got in the house, where I was at, I turned the TV on, looked at the game and immediately got upset because I wasn't playing," McCoy said. "My wife was like, 'Where are you going?' I said, 'I'm going to run right now.' I got up and left from watching the game and went to work out because I said, 'I need some of this.' "

McCoy nearly ran out of gas in Central Florida driving home Tuesday.

"It was like Independence Day or something, stuff you see in the movies," McCoy said. "It took me about an hour to find (gas). Once I found it, I sat in line for two hours. And I thought I got a jump on traffic getting back."

Pacing at Twin Peaks

General manager Jason Licht drove his family to Atlanta to get out of the path of Irma. On Sunday, they went to Twin Peaks, a sports bar where you can watch all the NFL games.

"I had to get them out of the hotel," Licht said. "We went to a restaurant that had all the games on. We got a table and just kind of parked there. I didn't watch one single game. I was walking out. Pacing. Just getting updates.

"At the table next to us was a group of Eagles fans who lived in Marco Island. They're watching the Eagles and at the same time their watching their phones and watching Marco Island just getting swallowed. It was surreal."

Reedy pitches in

Receiver Bernard Reedy got a call from his old job at Care Ride saying they could use his help. He worked six hours Saturday and shuttled four people and a family to shelters.

"It was a no-brainer for me," Reedy said. "My mom and my sister, they weren't going anywhere. When he hit me up and said they needed help, I was like 'Yeah, I'm going to go in.'

"I felt like I needed to get them in a safe place. I'm putting them first. I'm able to run. They were thanking me. I wasn't speeding, but I was getting me from Point A to Point B kind of quick."

Major relocation

Bucs co-chairmen Bryan, Joel and Ed Glazer provided the resources to charter five planes and relocated 130 football, business staff, players, coaches and pets to Charlotte, N.C. Chief operating officer Brian Ford coordinated with Licht, Tim Jarocki, the senior manager of team operations, and director of player development Duke Preston.

Not knowing the exact path of Irma, or whether they could practice or play in Tampa, the Bucs arranged to move their entire football operations to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis

When the storm passed, the challenge was getting 64 players back in town by the Tuesday evening walk-through.

"I felt like a stock broker, like being on the phone saying, 'Sell! Buy!' " Preston said. "It ended up being pretty seamless. You've got (64) guys or whatever it is and just keeping track of them. You've got lots of phone calls and texts messages. I think by the end of it, these guys were tired of hearing from me. But we got everybody back."

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

 
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