Remember in the third grade when one of your friends would walk up to you and say, "I know something you don't know."
It didn't matter which friend said it, whether it was your bestie or just that girl who ate the smelly egg salad sandwiches for lunch, or whether the secret promised to be a cool tidbit about Ginnie Meyer's crush on Zack Rudkowski or something lame about Friday's spelling quiz. Once those words were uttered, you had to know.
Well, as action-packed as this year has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- new coaches, new players, etc. -- a smaller story has been one of the most intriguing. Because when starting offensive lineman Arron Sears left mini-camp this spring, never to return to the field, we learned that the Bucs know something we don't know.
When the news first broke, stories said only that Sears was not attending training camp and Bucs officials didn't know when he would return. Then they didn't know if he would return, but that second-year lineman Jeremy Zuttah would be a great substitute if necessary. Then Zuttah was named the starter for the regular season.
After this series of events -- or non-events -- questions and concerns about what caused Sears' absence abounded, but Bucs officials said that they would not delve into the player's personal issues, that it was none of the public's business, and that we should let him be. So what did the public take from that? Well, that Sears had personal issues.
Local reporters started looking into the Sears story, but though it seemed some of them were aware of what was going on (the media know something we don't know, too), their reports were about as telling as those from team officials. Granted, the Bucs and the media were keeping Sears' personal well-being in mind, and there are medical privacy laws to consider, too, but so many of the reporters danced around the story, implying that bad things might be going on in Sears's life, while revealing only a few jarring details. Like how during mini-camp Sears had taken to writing notes in place of verbal communication and how he'd locked himself in a car to avoid speaking to a reporter who sought him out at his home in Alabama.
And those few details, of course, just made fans more curious. Was Sears suffering from depression? Was it a nervous breakdown? Was a concussion that he suffered last season to blame? (Reports say no to that one.)
Web bulletin boards and Bucs Q&A's filled with questions about the player and what was going on, yet the answers from reporters and the Bucs were always the same: This is a private matter. It's none of your business. You are being intrusive. Let it go.
But the fans' questions were not malicious; they just wanted in on the big secret. Of course everyone wishes for Sears' healthy and happy return to the team--not only because he is a fellow human being and a member of the community, but also because the Bucs' rushing game hasn't gotten off the ground this year, and there is a rookie QB to protect, and Sears is a darn-good lineman. But though it may be in Sears' best interest to work on his issues without the city of Tampa breathing down his neck, his role as a public figure makes the private situation hard to ignore.
That's particularly true now that Arron Sears is reportedly set to return to the team this week (though he likely won't play in any games this season). The Bucs say that they are not sure whether Sears will address the media about his return or not, which is only fair to him but leaves even more lingering questions about whether he is ready to play, ready to be part of the team, ready to take on the pressures of the NFL.
It is too bad for the guy, having to get back into football shape and life-shape with so many questions swirling. But in one small way he's in the power position, because he knows something we don't know.