The Ghost of Hardy Nickerson - the MLB position and the Buccaneers

Barrett Ruud these days is the most controversial player on the Bucs' roster. There's no Sabby Piscitelli to rail against, and now Barrett Ruud gets all the heat. The criticism of Ruud's lack of physicality are absolutely justified and he isn't the punishing run stuffer other players are. We've discussed this plenty of times in the past, but I'd like to talk about the position from a different perspective. I'd like to go back to the player that started the MLB position for the Bucs: Hardy Nickerson. 

Hardy "The Dragon" Nickerson was a beast on the football field. He was the man who started changing the Bucs' culture of losing when he came to the Bucs out of Pittsburgh. He was the first truly succesful free agent acquisition the Buccaneers made, perhaps ever. Hardy mde 5 Pro Bowls with the Buccaneers and was elected to the 1990s All-Decade Team. Hardy Nickerson is the best player the Bucs have ever had at the position, and quite possibly the best player the Bucs will ever have at the position. He was a punishing run-stuffer, a hard hitter yet he was still good enough to drop deep in coverage in the Tampa 2. Despite that, every Bucs MLB is measured by Nickerson's memory, which creates two problems: first, the Bucs play a different style of defense now than they did then. Second, it's very hard to live up to a player like Nickerson. 

Barrett Ruud is now faced with that problem, as he is judged by Nickerson's standards. That's a shame because it detracts from a useful if flawed player. When Raheem Morris says things like  "He's a selfless player, he fits the Tampa Bay Buccaneer mold and he is what we're about. He's worked himself up and become the leader of our defense, a rallying cry for all the guys. When they step into the huddle with Barrett, they have a confidence about themselves. That's something you can't see like a splash play, but it's very important", he's not saying that to go out of his way to defend a poor player. After all, he never defended Sabby Piscitelli or even Stylez G. White to the press.

Raheem Morris has consistently been Ruud's biggest defender. Ruud isn't ever going to be Hardy Nickerson, but he's appreciated by the coaching staff and fits in their scheme. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have a hard time thinking this team will cut ties with a highly appreciated and homegrown player. 

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