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Oops? NFL schedule-maker admits Bucs’ slate could be fairer

Tampa Bay does not play a game at Raymond James Stadium for seven weeks.
Linebacker Kevin Minter records the first of four Bucs sacks of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday. [Associated Press]
Published Apr. 18
Updated Apr. 18

TAMPA — To err is human, but to have the NFL admit it screwed up your schedule is not divine.

That’s essentially what happened when, upon further review as they like to say, the league confirmed that the Bucs got a raw deal by being asked to go 49 days without playing a game in Tampa Bay.

During that stretch, from Sept. 22 until Nov. 10, the Bucs will play in road games against the Rams, Saints, Panthers (in London), Titans and Seahawks. That’s a total of 20,378 miles traveled in seven weeks.

Not only does it mean Tampa Bay fans won’t see their team play at Raymond James Stadium from Week 3 until Week 10, they also had to forfeit a “home game” to play Carolina, a division opponent, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It was part of an agreement for reaching a successful bid for the Super Bowl in 2021.

In fact, it’s such a disadvantageous slate of games that Mike North, the NFL’s senior director of broadcast planning and scheduling, says he would have preferred to take another shot at making the Bucs schedule fair.

“If we had to do over, if we had a redo, I’d love to take another shot at that Tampa Bay schedule,” North said on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Late Hits. “I’m not sure that’s really fair to their fans. I’m hopeful that we didn’t do something to the Buccaneers that they feel like was really unfair.”

RELATED: A game-by-game guide to the Bucs’ 2019 schedule

So far, the Bucs have remained mum on their 2019 schedule. If new coach Bruce Arians isn’t happy about it, the first time he will speak on the topic will be on Tuesday.

But North took the rare, and perhaps unwise, step of acknowledging the unfairness to Bucs fans. In fact, he felt so bad that he says he is going to be rooting for Tampa Bay during their six weeks of not playing at RJS.

"I know we're not allowed to root for anybody," North said. "But I'm kind of rooting for the Buccaneers through October."

The only other team that will suffer a similar fate is the Raiders, who go 49 days without playing a game in Oakland. But the Raiders are partially to blame. They did not resolve where they would play their home games in 2019 until March 15.

The league used an algorithm on a computer that pumped out 64,713 different versions of the schedule before revealing it Wednesday, according to NFL.com.

What’s extraordinary is that one of the men most responsible for the schedule is willing to fall on the Bucs’ crossed swords.

The schedule-makers also did the Bucs no favors to start the season. They host the 49ers in Week 1, the first time they’ve had a home game to start the regular season since 2015. But four days later, they play at Carolina on Thursday Night Football.

Still, it’s the 49 days between games at RJS that’s at issue. And although it doesn’t help, it’s extraordinary the league would do a mea culpa.

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