Bucs owner Joel Glazer opens up

NEW ORLEANS -- The Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, often gets labeled as reclusive by fans and the media.

That’s kind of strange, because the guy I just spent 20 minutes talking to might have been the most gregarious person I ran into all day. That would be Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer.

At an NFL owners meeting, where a lot of people are walking around looking worried or sad about the labor situation, Glazer was a notable exception. He spent time individually with reporters from the two main newspapers in the Tampa Bay area and with the NFC South Blog. In my portion, which was roughly 20 minutes, Glazer was almost effervescent.

He did most of the talking and was animated and happy almost the entire time. There’s a reason for that. Glazer, along with brothers Bryan and Ed, is presiding over a team that’s clearly in a good spot. Glazer didn’t want to talk much about the lockout but said he’s confident the labor situation will be resolved at some point and his team will be ready to jump out of the gate.

“I couldn’t be more excited about where this team is at,’’ Glazer said. “When we set out on this path two years ago, there was a plan in place. We said we’re going to be disciplined in that plan. We’re not going to deviate from that plan. The one thing we recognized was when you’re doing something like this, you have to have thick skin and endure the early part of the plan. There are a lot of people with opinions. Their opinions are immediate and reactionary. To see the plan to start unfolding and for last year to play out like it did was one of the most exciting, fun seasons I’ve ever experienced in football.

“What’s most exciting is the fact that we’re the youngest team in the National Football League and the exciting players we have and where we can go from here.’’

You know the story, so we’ll keep the recap very short. After a 9-7 season in 2008, the Buccaneers fired coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen and replaced them with Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik. Veteran players like Derrick Brooks were shown the door and, at times, Morris and Dominik looked like they didn’t know what they were doing.

The Bucs went 3-13 in 2009, but things turned in a big way last season, and the Bucs went 10-6.

The Glazers get labeled as detached owners because they’re not as visible as some others in the league. But I think that’s a huge misconception. Although you don’t see the Glazers on the sidelines like some others, they’re far from absentee owners. It’s not unusual to run into them at One Buccaneer Place or see them roaming Raymond James Stadium. Back when Malcolm Glazer, the father of Joel, Bryan and Ed, first bought the team, one of the reasons he cited for making the move was his sons’ love of the game.

“I love football,’’ Joel Glazer said. “I haven’t missed a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game since we’ve owned the team and gone all the way to Japan. I live for Sundays. I live for the wins and can’t stand the losses. Anybody who knows myself or knows my family knows this is a true love. To have a young team that you know is going to get better and to compete for the ultimate prize, that’s what you’re in this for and that’s why it’s so exciting.’’

Glazer even is excited about the one thing that wasn’t a positive last season -- attendance. The Bucs didn’t sell out a game at Raymond James Stadium, and none of their home games was shown on local television. Before last season, the Bucs had sold out every home game since their stadium opened in 1998.

“Our new sales in January, February and March have been stronger than I ever remember them being,’’ Glazer said. “Renewals are extremely high. The sense you get is that the community is reacting to what they saw last year. That excitement is starting to percolate throughout the community, and it is translating into ticket sales.’’

Glazer’s not ready to guarantee sellouts, but he’s optimistic things are headed in the right direction.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,’’ Glazer said. “Even before the season ended, we sat down and we started to change our pricing to reflect the economy and what’s going on and trying to find ways to make something available for everybody. The one thing that hasn’t been lost on us is Florida has been hit very hard. Unemployment is very high in Florida. You can’t just ignore that. You have to adapt to the situation.’’

By the way, you're going to hear a good bit more from Glazer in the coming days. He filled up my tape recorder, which is something reclusive people generally don't do. But, hey, maybe, as Glazer said, he and the Bucs are adapting to the situation.