TAMPA — Jon Gruden sat in rented office at a local strip mall pouring over video as the founder of his Fired Football Coaches Association a few months ago.
His visitor on that day was former Bucs DT Warren Sapp, and soon the discussion turned to the 10th anniversary reunion of their Super Bowl XXXVII championship team at halftime of the Dec. 9 home game against Philadelphia.
Sapp said Gruden cocked an eyebrow and gave his famous Chucky scowl when asked about attending. His schedule called for him to be in Foxborough, Mass., to prepare to broadcast the Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and Texans for ESPN.
"I told Jon, 'I can't go without you,' " Sapp said. "'Me and you are going to be the only two missing? Really? That's what we're going to do? We'll have a Mexican stare down and the head coach and the captain aren't going to be there? That's what we're going to do?'
"Yeah, he's coming," Sapp said. "I'm telling you, I've never been back to that stadium. I'm not going back without the head of my ship. We've got to have him. I grinded on him for a good two months."
Sapp got his way. The Bucs announced Thursday that Gruden will attend the celebration.
The Bucs are expecting a contingent of 51 players and coaches from the 2002 team, including still-active Ronde Barber, Sapp, LB Derrick Brooks, S John Lynch (broadcasting the game for Fox), QB Brad Johnson, DT Simeon Rice, FB Mike Alstott, WR Keenan McCardell and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson.
Keyshawn Johnson, the former receiver who is now an analyst for ESPN, said he couldn't get out of his work commitment and won't attend.
For a list of players and coaches returning, see tampabay.com/blogs/bucs.
WITH HONORS: From the beginning, the Bucs haven't treat LB Lavonte David like a rookie. They have handed the second-round draft pick out of Nebraska a lot of responsibility by starting him at weakside linebacker and having him wear the helmet communicator to make all the defensive-scheme calls.
David has responded by playing like a veteran, and he was honored Thursday as the NFL's defensive rookie of the month for November. He had 47 tackles this month, most in the NFL.
RB Doug Martin was named the league's offensive rookie of the month for October.
"The veterans told me I'm not a rookie anymore," David said. "Once you get in the NFL, all that rookie junk is gone. You've got to handle your business. That's what I've been trying to do."
David said the award is a great honor and credited his teammates for their support and help.
He leads the team in total tackles (98) and tackles for loss (14), but defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said the most pleasant surprise is how he mentally has handled playing every down.
"We all thought he was going to be a fantastic player," Sheridan said. "But you never know until you get him into your system if he can handle it, making all the calls at the line of scrimmage and recognizing formations. I'm not shocked."
ON THE SPOT: LB Dekoda Watson takes pride in his role on special teams and was honored to be named November's NFC special teams player of the month.
Watson's biggest play was blocking a punt against San Diego that was returned for a touchdown by LB Adam Hayward. Watson thanked his teammates, saying he was just in the right place at the right time.
"It wasn't just me," Watson said. "They just made it open for me, and I took advantage of it."
MISCELLANY: DT Roy Miller and C Ted Larsen returned to full participation in practice after missing all or part of Wednesday due to illness.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.