(Nov. 27)—Keenan McCardell will be making a triumphant return to Alltel Stadium this Sunday night. McCardell, one half of one of the most prolific pass-catching duos in NFL history during his years in Jacksonville, will no doubt be cheered by Jaguars fans.
"If I get an ovation, that means I left something there and that'll mean something to me," McCardell said.
It's a game being billed as a Jaguars 10th anniversary celebration, but McCardell will be in the spotlight as well. He'll return to Jacksonville as the number one receiver on the defending Super Bowl champions.
"Have you ever known me to think I'm the number two guy?" McCardell joked after taking umbrage to a reporter's suggestion that Keyshawn Johnson's departure has left McCardell as the Bucs' number one receiver.
The fact of the matter is McCardell was outplaying Johnson when the Bucs parted company with the troubled receiver. McCardell's numbers aren't up to his Jaguars standards, but with 58 catches for 831 yards and seven touchdowns he's the same super-productive player he was for six years in Jacksonville.
"I hated to leave, but you have to move on to greener pastures. They broke us up," he said of his pass-catching partnership with Jimmy Smith. "We hated to be broken up. It's what you make of your move. If you let your move get to you and not excel, then it's your fault. It was a new book for me and winning the Super Bowl helped."
McCardell was waived in a salary cap move in the spring of 2002. Signing with Tampa Bay brought McCardell the Super Bowl ring he wanted to win while with the Jaguars.
The issue now is whether or not the Bucs have enough left in the tank to take another run at the Super Bowl. At 5-6, they're coming off an emotional Monday night win over the Giants. The Bucs are flying high for this Sunday's game, which they hope will even their record and put them in position for a December playoffs push.
"Monday night got our ship a little bit corrected and we'll see if we can keep it going in Jacksonville," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "That's what we're fighting for; to get into the tournament. Once we get into the tournament, I don't see anyone wanting to play us."
McCardell likened the Bucs' situation to the Jaguars' Cinderella run to the 1996 playoffs. McCardell was in his first season with the Jaguars then, and he became the team's first-ever Pro-Bowl selection. He teamed with Smith and quarterback Mark Brunell to provide Jaguars fans with the most thrilling stretch of football in team history.
"It's kind of like the '96 Jaguars. We have to win-out to have any chance to make the playoffs," McCardell said of the challenge the Bucs are facing.
When Jaguars fans cheer McCardell's return this Sunday night, those cheers will be full of memories of that seven-game winning streak that carried the Jaguars to the 1996 AFC title game.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars made two roster moves today and announced one change and one addition to their injury report. Veteran linebacker Keith Mitchell has been released and safety Ray Perryman has been activated from the practice squad to the active roster. The condition of cornerback Fernando Bryant's back injury has caused him to be upgraded from "doubtful" to "questionable" for this Sunday night's game. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud was added to the injury report as "probable" with a hamstring strain.