Lynch will always be big part of Bucs' history

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- In the early to mid-1990s, being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was no fun. Covering them as a sports writer, where it's not supposed to matter if the team you cover wins or loses, was pure drudgery.

That's because the Bucs were beyond bad. Walking into the locker room in those days was miserable. First off, the locker room was in the old One Buc Place, where part of the weight room was outside on a porch and it wasn't uncommon to see rats in the hallways.

Coach Sam Wyche was coming apart at the seams and the players (we're talking the likes of Tyji Armstrong and Alvin Harper) were running the team. And double-digit losses in a season were the norm.

There weren't many smiles out at One Buc Place in those days, except from my co-worker and mentor at The Tampa Tribune, the great Nick Pugliese, who always was in a good mood.

And John Lynch.

Back in those days, Lynch was a breathe of fresh air in a place that desperately needed it. In a very bad situation, the young safety brought class and dignity. He didn't play a lot under Wyche and Lynch even admitted he was having doubts about his decision to give up a career in baseball.

Thank goodness he didn't. As it turns out, Lynch played a crucial role in revitalizing the Bucs. He's going to officially announce his retirement Monday at the new One Buc Place and that's appropriate.

Lynch is one of a handful of people (Tony Dungy, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Ronde Barber) who symbolize the transition of the Bucs from a doormat into a constant playoff contender. They helped save this franchise and keep it in Tampa.

Lynch's initial departure from the Bucs wasn't pretty with him ripping general manager Bruce Allen. The Bucs haven't always handled the departures of key personnel (dating all the way back to Doug Williams) well, but they've learned from that.

They did it right with Alstott, giving the retired fullback a special halftime ceremony a few weeks ago. Now, they're going to do it right with Lynch.

As a player, Lynch was very good, but not quite in the category of Brooks or Sapp. But throw in the person and what he did on the field and Lynch belongs in the top 10 of any list of the all-time-best Bucs.

It's only right that he goes out as one of them.