Their performances are measured by all manner of statistics, their heads filled with countless numbers from the playbook and their seasons defined by the final digits on the scoreboard. But these days, Bucs players also are focused on numerals of another variety — the kind that have been plunging on the Dow and S&P since September. The financial crisis besetting the country has hit home on many levels, including the investments of the guys who earn healthy paychecks wearing pewter and red when they go to work. No, they're not looking for sympathy. And, in fact, many stress how fortunate they are to work in a profession that allows them to make millions.
"We look at it as a time when we can be thankful and blessed that the financial crunch our nation is feeling isn't hurting us in the manner that it hurts a lot of people," 14-year defensive end Kevin Carter said. "But with that comes a responsibility for us not to be wasteful, to look to do charitable things and to help those around us in the community."
But the bottom line is this: The more money you have in the market, the more money you lose when the market tanks.
While they've been winning on the field, the Bucs — like everyone else in America — have been watching and wincing as their stock portfolios and 401(k) accounts plummet.
"The average NFL career is three or four years, so football players are no different than anybody else who is within five years of retirement," said Wilson Hoyle of Captrust Financial Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C., firm whose clients include about 80 pro athletes.
"They're wondering if they're going to outlive their money. And the ones who have planned well, saved well and invested well are going to be okay — and are okay. But they're feeling the same anxiety as the average investor."
Dana Hammonds, director of the NFL Players Association Financial Programs and Advisor Administration, says her department has written several articles to educate players.
"I think the one thing about this is that the players need good financial help because they do have these careers that are here today and gone tomorrow," she said. "In this type of economy, in one week you can watch your portfolio drop by 20, 30, 40 or even 50 percent depending on how aggressive you are."
Hammonds tells players to work closely with their financial advisers and make sure they have a viable plan in case something happens to their career.
"What's going on now is a money shock for everyone," she said. "The money shock for the players is that, 'I'm near the end of my career and I don't have the money I thought I did.' Fortunately, most advisers I've talked with have their guys in pretty low-risk investment vehicles."
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So how are Bucs players dealing with the turbulent economy?
"I don't even watch the news anymore," second-year defensive end Greg White said. "It's depressing. I have a couple of people handling investments for me. And I lost some money, whatever. It's just the nature of things, something we have to get past."
For reference, the S&P 500 stood at 1,468 on Jan. 1. Thursday, it was at 887 — a 40 percent drop. If a player had invested $10-million in a mutual fund, that's $4-million out the window.
"It doesn't matter how much money you make because you get accustomed to living a certain way, doing certain things, and you have to plan for that," said 12th-year tailback Warrick Dunn, well-known for his philanthropic efforts. "I'm hurting. We all are hurting. I think everybody's in the same boat. But you have to adjust some things."
That doesn't necessarily mean cutting back on going to the movies. But players are watching big purchases, fifth-year receiver Michael Clayton says.
"You definitely hold back on some things that are not necessities; expensive things, buying new cars, moving into a new house," he said. "You try to minimize that; hold onto your cash and spend it wisely."
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Clayton has an additional perspective on the money crunch as a budding businessman. This month, he celebrated the grand opening of his urban fashion store, 80 Stitches, in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.
"People are not spending as much money, so I just bring down the prices," he said. "I've reinvested in the African-American community, which had $845-million in purchasing power in 2007. It's not going to be as much this year, but your business can still be profitable.
"I encourage people with money to invest in the economy now and not be part of the problem. Once the market comes back up, you're already set to go."
Sixth-year center Jeff Faine has several restaurants and bars in Cleveland and a retail store, 47 Clothing, in downtown Orlando.
"My retail store is hurting because people don't have the extra money to spend," he said. "But my bars and restaurants have been doing surprisingly well. I don't know if people are drinking their problems away or what."
Third-year offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood has helped himself by being frugal: "I didn't have much money growing up, so I spend my money basically the same way I did when I had no money."
There is one other problem he and other Bucs face.
"We all have family members who aren't quite as fortunate as we are," Trueblood said. "We're in a position to help them out. That's good. But you can't help everybody."
While Trueblood waits to catch up on the latest money news on his weekly day off, sixth-year defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson watches the news constantly and talks with his financial adviser almost daily: "We don't want to keep having to see our money running out."
Then there's rookie cornerback Aqib Talib, who signed a five-year, $14-million deal.
"I just got in the working industry and started getting a paycheck, so I'm not too up on what's going on," he said. "Right now, I have enough going on trying to learn everything else."
Dave Scheiber can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8541.