John Lynch is healthy, happy and headed to Tampa.
One week after facing Warren Sapp in Oakland, the Bucs will line up against another former favorite Sunday in Lynch, who spent 11 years in Tampa Bay before signing with the Broncos this season.
It likely will be an odd reunion.
"There's a little bit of unknown to it. I've never been through this before," Lynch said Wednesday during a conference call with Tampa Bay media. "I've played in my hometown, played against my brother-in-law, but never played against my old team in the NFL. It's going to be different."
Lynch, a five-time Pro Bowl selection at strong safety for the Bucs, grew up in San Diego, but became an active member of the community and a beloved player in Tampa Bay. He helped turn the franchise from laughingstock into Super Bowl XXXVII champion. Many Bucs fans were outraged when Lynch was released in March with two years remaining on his contract.
Lynch, who hoped to finish his career in Tampa Bay, will try to put all that out of his mind Sunday.
"The most important thing is for me to focus on approaching it like any other game," he said. "I don't think it would be honest to say my emotions are going to be like any other game, but in terms of my focus, we're trying to get to 3-1. The Bucs are trying to get their first win and they'll be fighting hard to do that. That's ultimately what this game is all about."
Respected as one of the game's hardest hitters, he was limited last season by recurring shoulder stingers. He had offseason neck surgery to remove bone spurs, but the procedure left the Bucs with questions about his health.
In three games with Denver, where he is a cog in a rebuilt secondary, Lynch has 18 tackles, 13 solo. His bone-jarring hit on Kansas City receiver Dante Hall in the opener, which drew a $7,500 fine from the league, served notice that Lynch is indeed healthy.
"You can be told by everybody that you're going to be fine, but until you go out there and go full speed in a game and have hit after hit, and big hits, you don't know quite what to expect," said Lynch, 33. "I feel excellent.
"That's something you really come to value, just having your health and having the ability to play the way you like to play football. Other than the newness of being here and the challenge that presents, I'm just having a ball playing football again the way I like to play it."
During his search for a new team, Lynch could not help but notice Tampa Bay on the Denver schedule. He has looked forward to this week's trip to Raymond James Stadium.
"It's always fun to play against people you know and love," he said. "It's certainly something that Mike Shanahan sold to me when he was courting me here at the Broncos. He kept pointing to that fourth game on the schedule. I'm looking forward to it and just really can't wait for Sunday to come."
John Lynch has a team-leading 18 tackles, including seven in a 7-6 loss to the Jaguars Sept. 19. The Broncos are 2-1, tied for first place, and the defense has allowed just 14.6 points per game in his three starts.