TAMPA — The braintrust of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and some key players looked downright comfortable Tuesday while sitting on plush chairs arranged in front of a Grand Hyatt ballroom stage at the annual Chamber of Commerce kickoff luncheon.
The grim remnants of a 1-3 preseason slate seemed like a fleeting memory as quarterback Josh Freeman, cornerback Darrelle Revis, running back Doug Martin, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and safety Dashon Goldson joined co-chairman Bryan Glazer, general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano to field questions from the audience.
With only five days remaining before the 2013 season opener against the Jets at Met Life Stadium, optimism was evident for a franchise trying to end a five-year playoff drought and sell enough tickets to lift a recent flurry of local TV blackouts.
“Everyone’s anticipating Sunday,’’ Dominik said as business and civic leaders in the Bay area lined up for a post-luncheon autograph session. “I feel a lot of excitement in the locker room and it’s time to go play.’’
Schiano confirmed rookie Akeem Spence won the starting nose tackle job next to McCoy and said second-round draft pick Johnthan Banks “keeps getting better and better.’’
Schiano also lauded the veteran leadership on the team, bolstered by the April trade that brought Revis from the Jets and the March signing of Goldson as a free agent from the 49ers, who reached the Super Bowl last season.
“Leadership is critical to everything we do and we have some of our leaders here today,’’ Schiano said. “The key to success is playing as a team. There will be moments of joy and happiness, but there will also be times when things don’t go our way. We have to stick together.’’
While other clubs suffered major injuries in the preseason, the Bucs remained relatively healthy.
“We’ve got some aches and pains, but this is the NFL,’’ Dominik said. “One of the most important things we wanted to do was get everyone to the starting line. We did that by working on how many snaps each guy played. (Guard) Davin Joseph going down last preseason (knee) was difficult for everybody to watch. We wanted to give ourselves the best chance to win during the regular season.’’