See. Greg Schiano said he was going to bring a sensational team to Tampa Bay.
And there they were, on a sunny summer morning, spread across the fields of One Buc Place.
There was the star quarterback, a guy who has accomplished so much he could take up bank robbery as a hobby and still make it to the Hall of Fame. There was the elusive wide receiver who seems to know a shortcut to the first down marker. There was the wild and crazy tight end who drives a lot of coaches crazy, occasionally his own.
Alas, those are the Patriots.
As for the Bucs, you just hope they were paying attention.
How could they not be?
Here the Bucs were, trying to learn the careful steps of a team walking in the right direction again, and over there was the Belichick Bunch, a team that has become the standard of excellence in the NFL.
It's like being in a garage band and trying to master the C chord on your guitar and all of a sudden Jimi Hendrix walks into the room.
For the Bucs, this is the real advantage of the invasion of the Flying Elvises this week. Yeah, yeah, the Bucs get to work against a new team with a new scheme, and they get to break away from the monotony of August and all of that.
Mostly, though, the Bucs get to pay attention to the franchise that a lot of others wish they could be.
This one, especially.
Other teams rise, other teams fall, but the Patriots keep churning out winning seasons. That's 11 in a row, if you're counting, and in the NFL, everyone is counting. Granted, the grumpier Pats fans will point out it has been, literally, weeks since the team won a Super Bowl (actually, since February 2005) and the team has lost in its past two tries. Still, for a franchise such as the Bucs, which hasn't won a playoff game in a decade, that's still fairly impressive.
Remember back when the Bucs fired Tony Dungy? The Patriots won the Super Bowl that season.
Remember back when the Bucs gave Jon Gruden his last contract extension? The Patriots played in the Super Bowl that season, too.
Remember earlier this year when the Bucs fired Raheem Morris? The Patriots were in the Super Bowl again.
In other words, maybe the Bucs players should take a few notes.
Maybe the front office should, too.
If I was Schiano, this would be my advice to my players: Do what they do. Remember that stuff about playing Buccaneer football? Put that off until next week. For now, play Patriot football. After all, what's wrong with being Patriotic?
Yo, Josh Freeman. Why don't you follow Tom Brady around for a few days. If he studies film, you study film. If he shaves his head, you shave your head. If he juggles swords, you juggle swords.
Same with Mike Williams. If Wes Welker catches 100 balls after practice, you catch 100. If he lifts weights, you lift weights. If he puts ketchup on his Jell-O, well, sacrifices have to be made.
Gerald McCoy should pay attention to Vince Wilfork and Luke Stocker to Rob Gronkowski.
And Schiano? Like coach Bill Belichick, Schiano has a spring that seems to be wound extremely tight. Neither guy is exactly the type you sidle up to and say, "Hey, heard any good jokes lately?''
No wonder they get along. Belichick praised Schiano repeatedly Wednesday. He called him smart. He called him tough. He said he had "a good personality.''
Right. Schiano is the fun one of the two. Good to know. Belichick will have to settle for being the one with 175 wins and three Super Bowl rings. I suspect he will manage.
Odd because Belichick has won so many games, but there was a time when he was in a similar situation to Schiano.
Back in 2000, Belichick lost his first game with the Patriots to Tampa Bay, and New England finished his first season 5-11. It is safe to suggest no one called the jewelers and told them to stand by.
Since then, there has been a lot of winning. It never seems to matter who leaves the team — Randy Moss or Richard Seymour or Tedy Bruschi or Rodney Harrison — the Patriots always seem to win.
More than anything, that's why this week's practices are a great idea for the Bucs. There are things you can learn while playing against excellence. In some ways, these team-on-team sessions are more valuable than a preseason game because teams get to work in live, controllable situations. There is a little more of the unknown in working against another team.
For Schiano, it will also be a nice gauge to determine where his team is. If Freeman can handle the duress he will feel against the Patriots, it means good things. If the Bucs can run successfully, it means good things.
Oh, and Greg? If Belichick wants to listen to Bon Jovi, I'd suggest you go out and buy a CD or two yourself.
Who knows? Maybe you can wear your new hoodie as you listen.
Listen to Gary Shelton from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on 98.7-FM The Fan.