Bucs viewers got a new announcing team as former Southern Cal All-American defensive lineman Tim Ryan joined play-by-play man Curt Menafee at the RayJay. Trust us, they were new; you've never heard them.
Was it hard to tell?
And if so, is that the idea?
The pair avoided huge gaffes and were respectable at their tasks, but they quickly faded away as the game played out. And again, is that the idea? Are announcing teams supposed to sound like all the others, in a vanilla-bland way that Fox seems to master when you get away from the Nos. 1-3 teams?
Depends on whom you ask, probably. But where's the flavor?
Other than vanilla, we mean.
Some other thoughts and observations from Sunday's Bucs telecast on Fox:
THE ROOKIE: Ryan is in his first season as a Fox analyst, and he isn't half bad. He seemed to have a grasp on what was going on and broke down plays in a clear and incisive manner.
Ryan described the importance of a defensive back "re-routing" a receiver he's covering. Good word, and more descriptive than the usual "bumping" and "jamming."
As for Menafee, he was, well, okay.
TOP CALL: Ryan immediately pointed out that Shane Burton may have re-directed Martin Gramatica's first field goal through the uprights by saying it was going left. The replays showed that Ryan was right on the money.
FUNNY OR NOT? Menafee tried on a few occasions to be funny and his success was debatable, but not when Rod Smart tried to down a punt and Menafee said, "We won't even tell you he was He Hate Me from the XFL; He Hates That."
Surely, every announcer who does Carolina games gets one chance with a He Hate Me joke, and Menafee's was better than most.
Unfortunately, he used it later in the game, violating the first rule of being funny.
JINX: Announcers always talk about jinxing, say, by pointing out a player has fumbled a lot, and then a play later he fumbles. Fox did a good job of that with the first graphic, showing that Carolina had failed to score on any of its first possessions through nine games.
Naturally, the Panthers drove for their only touchdown the first time they got the ball.
PLEASE, STOP: The streak might be at 10 weeks now in which an announcer doing the Bucs game talks about speaking with Keyshawn Johnson early in the week and being told about Brad Johnson, "If you give No. 14 time he'll dice you up."
Or slice, or cut, or pick you apart. We get the idea.
BRETT FAVRE JR.: Ryan is a former teammate of Rodney Peete's at Southern Cal, and maybe that had something to do with him saying that a finger injury meant "he has not been able to have the accuracy Rodney Peete is known for."
Is Rodney Peete known for his accuracy? He has been over 60 percent once, and that season he threw 14 interceptions and six scores.
Otherwise, Peete has been a model of mediocrity in his career.
Ryan also praised Peete's touch on long balls, but he consistently overthrew receivers, including one play that would have been a sure touchdown. Ryan explained this later by blaming the finger injury, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
WHAT ABOUT BRENTSON? In passing, Ryan casually pointed out that the only reason Burton was in the game was because regular starter Brentson Buckner was suspended for ephedrine use. But when the subject of Julius Peppers possibly missing the next four games for the same thing came up later, Ryan expressed his disgust at the league's drug policy, saying it "allows players who use coke or crack or heroin (to) still be playing and getting tested. A guy who takes Sudafed can be out for four weeks."
BEST SHOT: Keenan McCardell catching a pass and turning quickly to make his move only to find that the defenders had run up to the concession stands for a hot dog.
WHO'S ON FIRST: Menafee and Ryan seemed confused on the apparent fumble return for a score by Ronde Barber. First, they agreed it was a touchdown, and when it was overruled they disagreed with each other on why it wasn't. And what did Jon Gruden think of the call? Well, in another classic Gruden lip-reading moment, that was fairly obvious.
_ JOHN C. COTEY