TAMPA — Dashon Goldson literally found greener pastures while swapping one Bay area for another.
Nine months later, he'd do it all again.
Although the 49ers are 9-4 heading into Sunday's matchup against the 4-9 Buccaneers, Tampa Bay's veteran safety isn't questioning his judgment in signing a $41.25 million, five-year deal as an unrestricted free agent in March.
“I don't regret my decision to come here at all,'' the two-time Pro Bowler said Thursday. “I think I'm in a great place, and I'm happy to be here.''
After playing in a Super Bowl last year with the 49ers, Goldson has endured an intriguing first season in Tampa.
In addition to dealing with an 0-8 start, Goldson missed two games with a knee injury, and he didn't play at Detroit because he was serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit against Atlanta's Roddy White.
The Bucs have won four of five and are seeking their first four-game home winning streak since 2008 as Goldson prepares for a formidable challenge against his former teammates.
“I think Dashon brought a leadership, a sense of confidence, into our secondary, our defense and ultimately, our whole locker room,'' said Bucs coach Greg Schiano. “He really is a good guy, a good teammate and a guy who's fun to coach. In my opinion, he's definitely been worth the investment. I'd do it over again in a heartbeat.''
With the additions of Goldson and cornerback Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay's defense has vaulted from 29th to 13th this season. Goldson has 56 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and several memorable hits, while mentoring second-year safety Mark Barron.
“We want to get this win for Dashon,'' Revis said. “When I played for the Jets and he was with the 49ers, you'd hear about guys around the league, and he was a guy I always paid attention to, just being one of the top safeties in the league. Now, we're teammates. I'm sure he never thought this would happen. I never thought we'd be teammates, either, but the biggest thing is his leadership.''
Goldson, 29, has tried to play it cool this week.
“I'm sure my emotions will be flying come Sunday,'' he said, “but right now, I'm just trying to get the game plan down and focus on what I have to do.''
Teammates and coaches are trying to capitalize on Goldson's familiarity with San Francisco's personnel, but the Bucs don't need No. 38 to tell them Vernon Davis boasts unique speed for a tight end or that Patrick Willis is an elite linebacker.
During the week of his suspension, Goldson returned to the San Francisco area to see his chiropractor at the 49ers facility, where he ran into several former teammates for an impromptu reunion.
“Dashon and I came in together (in the 2007 draft),'' Willis said. “We kind of grew in this league together, so he'll always be close to me and dear to me as a teammate. I know him like a brother.''
The 49ers filled Goldson's departure with Eric Reid, a first-round draft pick out of LSU who has started every game as a rookie.
San Francisco's secondary also includes veteran corner Eric Wright, who flopped in Tampa after signing a $37.5 million, five-year deal as a free agent from Detroit in 2012.
Wright was suspended four games last year for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. A week after he was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge this summer, Wright was dealt to the 49ers, only to fail his physical.
When Tampa Bay released Wright, San Francisco picked him up and he secured last week's 19-17 victory against Seattle with an interception at the 49ers' 20-yard line in the final seconds.
“I know the guys there (in Tampa), and I'm familiar with the coaching staff, but it's a new year,'' Wright said. “They're a team that has talent across the board. I'm sure they're disappointed in the direction their season started, but I think they've done a great job of banding together and continuing to battle. You attribute that to the heart of the guys in that locker room. We know we're going to get their best shot.''
Especially from Goldson, who will be fighting the urge to do too much against the defending NFC champions.
“I'm trying to keep my composure,'' Goldson said. “I'm just looking at it as another football game. I understand that's where I spent the last six years, but it's just another team that we've got to play, and that's the way I'm trying to keep it.''