Randall McDaniel said his two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were like playing for the Minnesota Vikings all over again.

He was still on top of his game. Yet despite making 170 consecutive starts and appearing in a record 11 straight Pro Bowls, Randall McDaniel found himself without a team.

Citing their strapped salary cap, the Minnesota Vikings released McDaniel in February 2000. Cutting a future Pro Football Hall of Fame guard seemed unthinkable. McDaniel later realized it was all business.

“They decided they wanted to move in another direction,” McDaniel said. “You take it for what it is and move on.

“Being a lineman, you have to have thick skin and can’t let anything bother you. They can release you and say whatever they want to say, but it’s what you know inside, how you play and how you feel.”

At 35, McDaniel told his agent he was not willing to start over with just any team. Soon, Tampa Bay emerged as an appealing destination because of the Buccaneers’ strong Vikings ties.

Head coach Tony Dungy spent four years as Minnesota’s defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin was the team’s linebackers coach. Chris Foerster was an assistant there.

The Bucs also signed free agent center Jeff Christy, who started next to McDaniel in Minnesota for six seasons.

“Jeff Christy called and said they’re looking to get a guard here,” McDaniel said. “A couple days later I talked to Tony.”

McDaniel signed with Tampa Bay a week after speaking with Dungy.

“Tampa Bay was like playing for the Vikings all over again,” he said.

McDaniel started all 16 games his first year at Tampa Bay. He helped the Bucs set single-season records for points with 338 and touchdowns with 43. He also caught his first touchdown pass — a 2-yard reception at Detroit.

The league’s players and coaches ultimately voted McDaniel to a 12th straight Pro Bowl. Christy was elected to his third in a row.

“He was like my big brother,” Christy said. “I felt like I could do anything as long as he was by my side, because he was the only guy I played next to my whole career starting. He was kind of like a security blanket for me, and he helped me a tremendous deal down there, stepping into a leadership role like he did.

“It was obviously great satisfaction to see him make his last Pro Bowl.”

McDaniel played two seasons with Tampa Bay before he retired. With the Bucs and Vikings in the same division, he also had two more chances to say good-bye to the Minnesota fans.

“Minnesota was still my home, and the people here were great,” McDaniel said. “When I came to play against them and was introduced, I wondered if they were going to boo or not. I got the biggest reception as if I was still there.”

Canton Repository