By Leo Haggerty


The Buccaneers, as well as the rest of the National Football League, have a self imposed bye week before the season kicks off on September 9th. Tampa Bay begins defense of their Super Bowl LV crown by hosting Dallas at Raymond James Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 8:20 PM EDT.

That allowed the Pewter Pirates to adjust their practice schedule and give the players a few more days off to prepare for the marathon that is the NFL regular season that has now been extended to 18 weeks.  It also gave me a chance to attend the revealing of the new options for fans both at Raymond James Stadium this season and beyond.

From different food options that you see below to the new Bucs Florida license plate that Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford is holding, the Pewter Pirates are enhancing the fan experience not just inside the RayJay but outside as well.  Plus, a new area aptly named Champions Lounge, which is pictured above, was opened for the first time for the press to view.

Had a chance to ask the Tampa Bay CEO a couple of questions at this event.  Below are Brian Ford’s responses.

LH : Just when you think the Bucs have moved the bar as high as it can go for the game day experience for fans, they raise it higher.  Who’s responsible for that.

BF : I credit the Glazer family.  Their passion to be fans first and they look at it through the lens of a fan.  You know, the culture that they instilled in me, that carries throughout our organization, is one of how can we exceed our fan experience and not just meet it.  If you just do what you did last year and you just do what you did last week, it’s not good enough.  So, I credit the Glazer family and their vision for bringing in, number one, on an off the field,  and that’s a commitment you don’t find throughout sports and that’s why I’m humbled to be a part of this organization for as many years because they give us the resources and they hold us accountable to do just that.

LH : Going back to last season, was there ever a scenario where you thought we just aren’t going to be able to play a full season or even have the season cancelled?

BF : You know, it was a week to week and I credit the league.  You know, we got a big binder and we had a lot of things thrown at us coming in right away in July.  We started getting tested every day from the middle of July to the week after the Super Bowl.  People within our bubble got tested every day and it was a learning experience.  It, actually, brought this team closer together.  As the country, and the community, was going through a pandemic, we were all joining together and there was something that just kept reminding us.  Coach Arians just kept reminding us, to Jason Light on his side and me on my side, that the team that was going to be there was the team that was going to stay healthy both on and off the field.  We had to protect each other.  We had to sacrifice.  As you guys know, I have kids that go to Florida State and they were coming home.  We didn’t want to be the family that brought it back, something that would be detrimental, to the organization.  Together, as an organization, everyone pulled together to support each other and to protect each other.  The league did a phenomenal job of giving us protocols.  They hit us with things that I didn’t even know like what an ICO was.  I had to look to see that was an Infection Control Officer and he is joining us here today.  He didn’t know he was going to be an Infection Control Officer until I called him up and said you’re our guy.  We needed to come up with a plan.  We joined forces with the county and the city and that’s Team Tampa and everybody pulled together.  I would kind of joke because it seemed that every Friday at 6 pm, I would get the next update of protocol changes because it was a moving target and we wanted to adapt.  I kept asking for the red line.  I would ask for the red line so I could see where it was different but that didn’t exist.  So many people were putting in those improvements and we had to adapt together.  At the end of the day, the 2020 season was played in its fulness.  We didn’t miss any games and, as you know, Super Bowl LV was played right here at Raymond James Stadium on February 7th.  The date it was suppose to.  So, when you kind of look back, as a league and as a community and as a team, everyone was just remarkable.  To get through that pandemic, together with our fan base, and then to top it off with a championship win and a boat parade and not to see a spike in our community, is unparalleled.

Below are the pictures taken by photo journalist Matt Crisp of the new culinary delights that will now be available at Raymond James Stadium this season.  I guarantee that this will whet your appetite.  Enjoy.