Have had countless conversations with former Buccaneers All-Pro center Tony Mayberry about the genesis of the team that eventually won the Super Bowl.
Time and again, Mayberry has brought up one name and that would be linebacker Hardy Nickerson.
"Hardy came in and he basically took over, he set the tone, he showed the young guys how it was done, coming from Pittsburgh, everyone knew about him," Mayberry has told me on more than one occasion when we discuss how winners are built.
Those "young guys" at the time were Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, who would later become the backbone of the great Tony Dungy defenses.
Fast forward to the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mark Dominik's first big plunge into the free-agency waters for this season was the signing of wide receiver Vincent Jackson. If there was a knock on the Buccaneer offense, it was the fact that the team had young, inexperienced receivers.
General manager Mark Dominik, keeping a close eye on these organized team activities which basically amount to learning the plays without pads or contact, is happy with what he sees out there on the field with Jackson.
Buccaneers.com had these initial reactions from Dominik:
"The thing about Jackson that he brings to the organization is not just what you saw last year or the big plays that he makes in practice and the way he really helps with the younger players, showing them the ropes and how to do everything the right way, Vincent Jackson has been the consummate professional from the first day he got here. I think you'll see that going forward."
Will Vincent Jackson make Josh Freeman a better QB?
Greg Schiano is equally impressed:
"I think one of the things that we looked forward to in signing Vincent Jackson is not only his play but his leadership. We had several connections to Vincent and we had really good reports on him as not only a game-player but a practice player and a true professional."
Good practice player, true professional. If you had to examine last year's team, those would likely show up as two main ingredients missing from the Raheem Morris era.
When you look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiving corps from last season, there was talent and potential, but no production, no consistency.
He already has Mike Williams' attention.
"Basically (he says) to keep working on my game. Don't ever think you've mastered it. If you catch a pass 1,000 times, he wants you to catch it 1,005." Williams said.
Ah, what a novel concept. Good practice habits, repetition of solid fundamentals, over and over. Do it again, catch another one.
Can you sense what's happening over there at One Buc?
With guys like Jackson and Carl Nicks, there's a new work ethic, there are guys who live what Schiano breathes. They say the key for team success is for everyone to "buy in" to the system.
Schiano's system is solid fundamentals, do it again and again and again until you get it right.
He won't have to preach much to the offense, he can simply point at a guy like Jackson and say "do it that way."