TAMPA — Those who like to rubberneck at accidents will no doubt be tuning in Thursday night to see Team Turmoil when the Buccaneers host the Panthers.
Whether it's three players with MRSA, the Josh Freeman fiasco or the 0-6 record, there are probably several reasons why the hazmat suits are worn to clean up after the Bucs. With luck this bad, black cats won't cross their path.
Players and coaches would love to rewrite those dour headlines in front of a national TV audience.
"First and foremost, we desperately need a win, right?" coach Greg Schiano said. "That's a good headline: desperately need a win.
"What's most important is I think the guys recognize that every other NFL player watches this game, at least if they're a football fan they do. The Thursday night football game is part of their week. It's a big part of our league. Yeah, when you get a chance to be the only show in the league, everybody understands that. Sure they do."
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was rooting hard for the Vikings to beat the Giants on Monday night, to no avail. The Giants extricated themselves from the cellar where only the Jaguars and Bucs remain winless.
"Desperate, that's kind of like the last straw isn't it? If you don't have a win?" McCoy said. "The Giants won. I was like, 'C'mon now.' I was like, 'Dang it! Another team with a win.' We've got to get one. We don't want to be the last ones. We've got to get it."
The Bucs don't have to travel on a short week like Carolina. But the Panthers are hot, having won two straight. Quarterback Cam Newton has completed 81.3 percent (35 of 43) of his passes the past two weeks for 446 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Bucs are expected to be without running back Doug Martin, who suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in Sunday's loss to Atlanta.
McCoy said he's fine with the quick turnaround considering the winless start.
"I hate waiting a week to play another game," McCoy said. "To lose the way we did in Atlanta, or to lose the way we've lost games in the past, it (stinks) to sit and wait.
"I don't think we're going to play desperate if that makes sense. I think we've going to go out there and execute better. We do need a win because we don't have one, but I don't think it's going to be like, 'They're playing desperate.' "
Panthers coach Ron Rivera can relate a little to the Bucs' slow start under Schiano, who is in his second season. In Rivera's first two seasons, the Panthers were 13-19.
"I think what Coach Schiano has done is they're building the defense, trying to establish the offensive line," Rivera said. "They've had some unfortunate things with the offensive line right now, but I think the direction you had, you establish your defense, you establish the toughness or who you want to be, you go out and get big, physical offensive linemen, you put them in front of your unit and run the ball.
"It's just a matter of time. They're going through a tough time and a tough stretch, which we get and we understand because we've gone through it, too. Hopefully, it's a matter of time before things start to work."
Under Schiano, the Bucs are 3-8 at Raymond James Stadium. He would like to establish a homefield advantage. Add it to the list.
"One of the frustrating things, there (are) a few," Schiano said of establishing homefield advantage. "Do I think we're going to? I do. I've seen that stadium be an intense homefield advantage and I know we can get it back. Hopefully that starts Thursday night."