TAMPA — Gerald McCoy is credited for being the first NFL draft pick to really get his hug on commissioner Roger Goodell when he was taken No. 3 overall by the Bucs in 2010.
But now, almost any outward display of emotion during games often results in a penalty and/or fine.
"We don't get a chance to express ourselves a lot. That's why so many fines are going on, a lot of flags going on. We've got handcuffs on," McCoy said Thursday. "I believe the NFL's put handcuffs on us and not letting us express ourselves. It's very hard to make a play in the NFL and to do it consistently. Doing it once, that emotion comes out."
That's why the Pro Bowl defensive tackle is grateful that the league is, at least for one week, allowing players to use their shoes as a way to express themselves with the "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative for Sunday's games. McCoy will be supporting single-parent families with his cleats when the Bucs play the Chargers.
"When I was a rookie coming in, Roger Goodell himself told my class, when we were in his office, to show emotion on draft day and to be able to express how you feel playing this game and to show the joy and excitement you get for having the opportunity to play in the NFL," McCoy said. "So when guys are doing that and they're getting flagged for it, what type of sense does that make? It's not like anybody is flipping the bird to fans or anything like that. Guys are dancing or whatever it may be, it's just exciting to make a play. … You don't know what you can and can't do anymore. So for them to give us an opportunity for us to express ourselves this week with our cleats are great."
SPENCE GETS AWARD: DE Noah Spence, who had 1½ sacks in Sunday's win over Seattle, was named the league's defensive rookie of the month for November. He had 2½ sacks and two forced fumbles in November in helping the Bucs to a 3-1 record. He has 5½ sacks on the season, second among rookies entering Thursday, trailing Jacksonville's Yannick Ngakoue.
There were 22 defensive players drafted higher than Spence, who went in the second round at No. 39 overall.
Spence is the first Buc to win the defensive honor since LB Lavonte David in November 2012.
"That's good for everybody," coach Dirk Koetter said. "When your team does well, there's plenty for everybody."
INJURIES: Two key starters, McCoy (foot) and S Chris Conte, missed practice again, increasing speculation they might not play Sunday. However, during a Tuesday radio interview, McCoy said he would play. TE Brandon Myers (hip) and S Ryan Smith (shoulder) were back at practice but were limited.
Time staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.