Why did the Buccaneers cross the road?
To get to the other side. And to play in the Super Bowl.
The Buccaneers will become the first team in the 55-year history of the Super Bowl to play for the championship on its home field when the Chiefs visit on Feb. 7. Raymond James Stadium is located across the street from the team’s practice complex in Tampa, Fla.
“We can dream about looking across the street for two weeks,” coach Bruce Arians said.
The timing of the first Super Bowl home team works perfectly for the NFL.
An emphasis of the COVID-19-impacted 2020 season has been limiting time spent on the road to mitigate risk and transmission. Nothing fits the bill better than a Super Bowl participant skipping the plane completely and limiting its hotel stay to one or two nights if required by the league for a testing quarantine.
“We stay in our own beds, sleep here and just do our normal routine,” Arians said. “Nothing is out of the ordinary until we hit the media sessions next week. I think it’s a huge advantage.”
The normal Super Bowl schedule — two teams arriving in the same destination one week before the game to practice and bus to obligations all over the city — was scrapped in December.
The Chiefs will remain in their own beds and facility in Kansas City until the day before kickoff — just like a typical road game — and any other NFC representative would’ve done the same. Staying home eliminates any nutrition concerns during the COVID-19 era, too.
Given the entire point of a neutral-site Super Bowl is to eliminate home-field advantage, are the Buccaneers gaining a competitive edge?
Coaches and players are creatures of habit, so using the same practice facility (applies to both teams) and game-day locker room (Buccaneers only) will breed comfort. The Buccaneers’ digs would’ve been available to any NFC team as the predetermined home team.
“It will probably play into the emotions of being first to win at home,” one NFL coach told The Post. “It will drastically limit the normal distractions of family and friends who come into town for the Super Bowl. The hometown may eliminate some of the partying during the week.”
In a year when Buccaneers fans could splurge on marked-up tickets without adding the cost of travel or a hotel stay and thus take over the majority of the 70,000-plus seats, crowd noise would be an X factor.
But the NFL is limiting capacity to 22,000, with 7,500 free tickets reserved for vaccinated health care professionals. It has not been determined exactly how the remaining 14,500 tickets will be divided up among the Buccaneers, Chiefs, non-participating teams and corporate sponsors, but already prices are skyrocketing.
There are fewer than 400 tickets available on the secondary market, with prices ranging between $11,173 and $75,460, according to TicketIQ. Supply-and-demand principles are in effect as the most expensive Super Bowl since TicketIQ began tracking data in 2010.
“It’s crazy that we’re the first team to do it — making history,” linebacker Shaq Barrett said. “That’s not where history has to end. We could be the first [home] team to win it, as well, and that’s the key. This has never been done before and we’re doing it. It’s an amazing feeling.”
The grass for the Super Bowl field is grown months in advance and installed two weeks before the game, so it won’t be exactly what the Buccaneers know. That would’ve changed if the NFC Championship were hosted by Tampa Bay and not Green Bay.
“Familiarity with field conditions is big,” the coach said. “It’s always a slightly different surface, but the home team may be more used to the field.”
How has this never happened before? A lot of factors have to line up perfectly. For starters, Super Bowl 2021 originally was scheduled for Los Angeles but moved to Tampa Bay three years ago because of construction delays on the West Coast and an NFL rule that a stadium must be open for at least two seasons before hosting a Super Bowl.
When that decision was made, the Buccaneers were nine years into what became a 12-year playoff drought. Tom Brady had just quarterbacked the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the seventh time. Nobody would’ve guessed then that Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance would be with the Buccaneers.
Only 15 different cities or their suburbs have hosted a Super Bowl. Two teams played Super Bowls close to home but not in their own stadium: The 1984 49ers at Stanford Stadium and the 1979 Rams at the Rose Bowl.