TAMPA — A familiar sight unfolded on the Raymond James Stadium turf early in the third quarter Sunday night. Old No. 47, John Lynch, was putting his head down and making one more hit in his heralded 16-year career.
It was the kind of play the safety contributed countless times from 1993-2003 with his first team, the Bucs, establishing himself as one of the most popular players in franchise history.
Now, after four seasons with the Broncos, the hard-hitting 36-year-old was back in town as the newest member of the Patriots secondary.
Concerned about the prospect of reduced playing time, Lynch asked for and was granted his release from the Broncos less than a week into training camp. And the Patriots were more than happy to hire the nine-time Pro Bowl player, who nearly signed with New England in 2004 after fading from the Bucs plans.
Three days after signing a one-year, $1.5-million deal, Lynch saw limited duty and watched Tampa Bay cruise to a 27-10 victory in the second contest of the preseason. After the game, he stood on a podium outside the visitor's locker room and reflected on things both old and new.
On the crowd's reaction when he assisted on an early tackle: "It's always nice. Anytime we come back here, people treat us wonderfully. We were here for 11 years and it seems like a long time ago now, but this place will always be a part of my family's heart. It's nice to get a warm welcome when you come home."
On feeling extra emotion in playing in Tampa again: "It's preseason. To be honest, I'm just trying to learn my place. I was literally in New England early in the week, went home, talked about it with my family, got on a plane and have been meeting with coaches nonstop, trying to get up to speed. The plan was to go in for five or 10 plays. I was a little rusty but it felt good."
On the feeling of not wearing Buccaneer pewter and red: "Not wearing red, not wearing whatever those Bronco colors were. It's new and different. But I'm excited about it."
On feelings about the Bucs: "This obviously was a huge part of my career. I grew up here as a football player, won a Super Bowl, (and am) real proud about what we did for this organization. You move on, but this will always be in my heart."
On having left the Bucs on less than ideal terms, and whether he has patched things up with GM Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden: "You know, the day I left here, you understand there's a business and you move forward. And the answer is yes."
On how he expects to be used by the Patriots: "We'll see. I'm learning a lot of different roles. And I think a lot of that is controlled by how you go and play. We're feeling each other out. I think they're excited about having me and using me in a number of different roles, and I'm excited about the opportunity, and now I've got to go earn it."