TAMPA — This is the Bucs hoping for a return to glory. Or maybe just a way to hide from all the gory.
When the team unveiled its new uniforms Tuesday, aside from the all-pewter color rush version, old was new all over again.
In fact, the Bucs intentionally brought back the key elements from their Super Bowl 37 championship era.
A deeper red jersey. A cleaner white one. Block letters replaced the digital alarm-clock numbers. What better way to turn back time?
“This new but familiar look is a direct result of the valuable feedback we received from our fans," co-chairman Ed Glazer said. “We are excited to return to our classic Super Bowl-era uniforms while also introducing a sleek color-rush uniform that showcases our signature pewter in a new and dramatic way. The refreshed classic design of our home and away combinations bridges our past with our exciting new future, and we are confident it will resonate with our fans."
You can’t blame them, really. The most recent uniforms were launched in 2014. Like so many wayward passes over the past six years, they weren’t well-received.
Mostly, the Bucs were undressed on the field, owning a .354 winning percentage in those uniforms and failing to reach even one postseason game.
“I kind of feel like it’s just different putting that uniform on," linebacker Lavonte David said. “It reminds me of the times in Tampa when everything was on the up and up. Now we’re trying to get back to that way. New uniforms, new team, new look and now we’ve just got to put it all on the field now."
David, linebacker Devin White and receiver Chris Godwin were summoned to the AdventHealth training center last month.
The Bucs not only gave them a sneak peek of the uniform redesign, they had them model for the promotional video used in their release on social media Tuesday.
“You know, people asked me, ‘How do the uniforms look?'" David said. “And I kept my mouth sealed. I was doing my part. I was telling them, ‘Wait until April 7.'"
In fact, in the video Godwin still is wearing No. 12, which has since been turned over to quarterback Tom Brady.
Many fans had been hopeful that the Bucs would return to the creamsicle uniforms last worn by the Bucs in 1996, aside from a throwback game or two.
But an NFL rule allowing players to wear only one helmet throughout the year has prevented Tampa Bay from donning any version of their original uniforms. If that rule is lifted as expected in 2021, you can bet there will be some games the Bucs will wear them.
Instead, the alternative uniform is the all-pewter, color-rush version, which the team said it will wear three times in 2020. However, Nike was unable to put the same high sheen on the pants, which appear to be more of a flat, dark gray than pewter.
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The flag-and-crossed swords logo was retained. But the side of the flag on the helmet is smaller to ensure the sword is visible on all helmet types. The new uniforms also feature the modern ship design on the sleeves.
The chrome facemask, worn by the Bucs since 2014, is gone and replaced by a black one because designers believe it looks better with the darker colors.
“I think they’re great," tight end Cameron Brate said. “I didn’t hate the old uniforms. I know some people did. But the new ones are awesome, I think. I’m a big fan of the white and pewter ones. I think they look great, and it’s obviously something the fans can get excited about, so it’s all good.
“I missed the creamsicles, and when I got here, it was the first year with the alarm (clock) ones. It’s what we call it, right? These look a lot better."
Will the Bucs play better in them? Well, when they changed from the creamsicle uniforms with the stiletto-chewing pirate logo, they reached the playoffs in four of the next five seasons and seven times over an 11-year stretch, including a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl 37 in San Diego.
They were good enough for players such as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott.
Of course, the Bucs’ biggest offseason reason for optimism is the player who was changing uniforms no matter what.
Brady left the Patriots after 20 seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances and six Lombardi trophies.
On Tuesday, there were no pictures of Brady wearing the Bucs’ new colors, although you can bet his uniform will probably be the league’s best-seller this season.
David is entering his ninth season, having never appeared in a playoff game. Brady has never failed to make the postseason in a year he wasn’t injured.
That’s why so much of this still seems surreal.
The only place Bucs fans could see the real TB12 jersey was when they went online to make a purchase Tuesday.
What David and the other Bucs players know, however, is this: regardless of what he is wearing, Brady will be a perfect fit.
“Ah, man, it’s going to hit. I feel like it’s going to hit. Reality is going to set in that we’ve got one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time,” David said . "One of the great dudes, one of the greatest guys to play the position. It’s going to bring that winning mentality to that position. And I know for a fact guys are going to have his back, and he’s going to have our back.
“It’s going to be a team thing. It’s not just going to be about him. It’s going to be about everybody out there in those uniforms and getting out there and going out there and putting in the work to get us to that level.”