TAMPA — Hoping a change in brand can once again trigger a change in fortune, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiled a new helmet logo Thursday night.
The new design, featuring a chrome facemask and an enhanced Bucs flag along the side, was introduced by Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp and current Tampa Bay Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy during a live NFL Network broadcast.
“This is very unique to the Bucs,'' said McCoy. “Nobody else will have this chrome grill. We want everybody to know the Bucs are coming. Look how big this flag is.”
Thursday's changes are a prelude to a full uniform re-design that will be unveiled at a March 5 news conference at team headquarters.
Sapp and McCoy expressed their delight about a new helmet design that features a more vivid red flag and a pewter shade that appears more distinctive.
“This skull right here, it means business,'' Sapp said. “I love this helmet ... love it.''
New merchandise will be available to the general public in the coming weeks, following an exclusive pre-order window for Buccaneers season pass members. Additional details regarding merchandise availability will be provided during the March 5 announcement.
“This is an exciting day for the entire Buccaneers organization as we begin the process of introducing our new look by revealing an enhanced logo and new helmet design,” Buccaneers co-chairman Edward Glazer said in a statement. “The logo is much larger and portrays a more intimidating presence, while the chrome facemask is the first used by an NFL team. This is the first alteration to our logo and helmet since the previous re-design 17 years ago and we believe it sets the stage for our transition into this new, exciting era of Buccaneers football.”
The new logo still features the team's iconic, windswept red battle flag, while sporting a more menacing skull positioned over crossed swords and an orange football.
Bucs officials said the team worked in conjunction with the NFL on the franchise's first dramatic brand change since 1997, when Tampa Bay switched from orange uniforms to the current red and pewter colors.
In their first year under the new color scheme, the '97 Bucs finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, ending a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons that still remains a record for futility in the NFL's 94-year history.
The Bucs, who recently hired Lovie Smith as head coach and Jason Licht as general manager, took the field in the inaugural 1976 season wearing an orange, white and red uniform.
The outfit included a white helmet with an orange facemask, an orange center stripe outlined in red, and a winking, orange-faced, dagger-in-teeth pirate with a red-feathered hat and hair.
During a stretch of on-field despair during the 1980s and early 1990s, the logo, designed by then-Tampa Tribune cartoonist Lamar Sparkman, came to be known sarcastically as “Bucco Bruce” and the uniform's orange was identified as “Creamsicle,” for its resemblance to the orange-covered frozen treat.
Now, after landing in the NFC South basement in each of the past three seasons, the Bucs are welcoming a fresh identity.
“I like it and I think our fans will love it,'' Smith said of the new design.
Tampa Bay's shift to pewter came in Sapp's third season with the Bucs and coincided with Tampa Bay's emergence as an NFL power under head coach Tony Dungy and a staff that included Smith as linebackers coach.
A battered franchise is counting on a new logo to stir interest and serve as a springboard for success.
“It's impressive,'' Licht said. “My kids are going to love it.''
Staff writer Roy Cummings contributed to this report