Alan Dell

Commentary | Tampa Bay Bucs take cue from Jackie Robinson as they clean house

High character is hard to define, but easy to see.

It's especially true today when we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier.

He transcends all of sports.

Robinson succeeded for many reasons, but above all he put concern for others ahead of his needs.

Among his most famous words were "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. If you are going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."

If we could bring Jackie back for a few hours on this day, you would not need a dictionary.

People of high character in the sports world seem to be in short supply these days.

Everybody is looking, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have begun a house cleaning that likely will change many of the faces in the room.

With the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, the Bucs are hoping to fill their roster with as many high-character guys as possible.

"Youngry" has been replaced by discipline. It's not catchy, but it makes more sense.

The residents of Glazerville are ridding themselves of low-character guys, many of whom are drunk on themselves.

The task is daunting, and Bucs GM Mark Dominik, the team's Minister of Propaganda, should be commended.

It is a slippery slope. Mr. High Character is good to have on your team, but his presence doesn't guarantee your win-loss record will improve.

What he guarantees is hope and sanity and a willingness to work.

Two of the Bucs' most high-character guys are quarterback Josh Freeman and defensive back Ronde Barber. Last year on the field they both regressed, but it did not affect their demeanor.

It showed Father Time can beat down Mr. High Character any time he wants, which is what happened with the 15-year NFL vet Barber. But how you handle it is the important thing.

In Freeman's case, a less-than-stellar receiving corps and underachieving offensive line melted his value down to a grilled cheese sandwich on stale bread. But he never embarrassed himself or threw his teammates and coaches under the bus.

The worst thing is to have too many low-character individuals.

They whine and pout, seek out negativity and can blow up the team.

You can spot some on the Bucs roster. They have tweeted and used Facebook to embarrass themselves and their team despite warnings to stop.

Low-character guys multiply like ants on losing teams and see themselves as experts on everything that is wrong, which to them usually boils down to the coach.

If you are going to lose, it's better to lose with high-character guys. At least you don't mind coming to work.

So Tanard Jackson is gone and Aqib Talib probably would be on the next train out except there are contractual issues that have kept the team from punching his one-way ticket to Siberia.

A good person to take his seat is tight end Kellen Winslow.

He was coddled by former coach Raheem Morris and complained when he didn't get the ball.

He made his view public that he wasn't overjoyed when Schiano was hired. His best value is trade bait.

There have been quite a few reports that the low-character guys were among the most popular people in the Bucs locker room last year.

Schiano is trying to eradicate the cancer from his clubhouse.

So while Dominik might be swimming to stay above water and it will likely take Schiano time to grasp how to win in the NFL (if he ever does), give them credit.

They have taken on some in some overdue housecleaning chores.

Thank you, Jackie Robinson, for showing the way.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.

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