Monday, June 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite 0-8 start, Bucs keep up fight

TAMPA

It was just about this point that the 2011 Bucs surveyed their season, and pondered their fate, and then announced their conclusion to the world.

"Oh, waiter?

"Check, please."

And with that, those Bucs folded up and punched out, giving up on the season and the wreckage it involved. Mentally, they all went to someplace warm and safe, where quarterbacks didn't shred them and linebackers weren't quite so mean.

Sometimes, teams quit. Sometimes, a season turns so ugly that players apply for early withdrawal. Oh, no one wants to say it out loud because quitting is such a vulgar word. Still, packed bags speak for themselves, don't they?

Take those '11 Bucs, who joined coach Raheem Morris on the last ride to oblivion. Those players wanted a season over with so badly that parachutes became part of the standard uniform. The road got so rough that after a while, the players were looking for the nearest exit. And if an exit didn't come along, they would settle for a soft spot in the ditch.

To varying degrees, this happens all of the time. Yes, players still wear helmets; they just aren't crazy about sticking them into the pile. Winning a game seems less important than surviving it, and linebackers turn into matadors and running backs turn into ballerinas. In such times, players no longer worry about getting cut; the proper term is "paroled."

If there is a blessing to this season — and granted, it is a small one — it is that this Bucs team has not hit the ejector button. At least, not so far. Say what you will about Greg Schiano, and say what you will about the Bucs, and say what you will about 0-8. So far, however, the Bucs are playing hard if not well, determined if not dangerous.

Hey, it's better than the alternative.

Let's face it: In this state, professional football is a mess. The Bucs are winless, and the Jags are the only team left they can trash-talk. The Dolphins may not have the best scandal (the quarterback is still in place and MRSA hasn't been detected), but Miami has the most recent darkness. Heck, except for FSU and UCF, even college football is awful in this state.

Given all of this, you can say this for Schiano. The coach hasn't lost his locker room. At least not yet. Players are still showing up, and they still act as though winning is a fine goal.

"I think it's a couple of things, maybe a few things," Schiano said. "One, you have to have the right people in your locker room and in your coaches' offices. That, to me, is paramount. Character, integrity, all those things are present.

"The second thing is the leadership. It starts with the head coach. If I want to walk around with my dauber down and say, 'Woe is me,' then the organization will follow. In times of adversity, the leader has to be more upbeat than ever. I'm human, too. I get down like everyone else. But I can't; not outwardly at least. It doesn't work unless you have the right people. But we do have the right people, and they've worked extremely hard each week to prepare."

Again, this forgives nothing. We all know what Yoda said about trying and what Vince Lombardi said about losing. In the end, there isn't a lot of praise to offer for a team that is oh-and-half-a-season. There is more talent in the locker room than zero wins.

Around here, however, we have seen teams that turned football into a collective towel toss. We have seen Raheem's last season and Richard Williamson's season and Leeman Bennett's last season. We know about giving up. We know about giving in.

So yes, there is a tiny consolation to seeing a team at least putting up a fight.

"We're playing hard because we haven't gotten the result we want," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "We want to feel it so bad. We're going to keep fighting until we feel it.

"You have to fight your own will. You have to fight your own human nature. It would be easy to say, 'If we could just get through these last eight games.' That's what human nature says, but you have to fight against that. I think we're doing a magnificent job of that. Anyone can say, 'We've got to keep, we've got to keep, we've got to keep … ' But you go out on that field, and the sun is beating down. Do you keep fighting? I think we've done a great job of that. That's what we're trained to do."

On the other hand, other teams have been trained to do that, too, and then they have run onto the field and treated the fans to three hours of dodgeball. And at the first sign of trouble, they are done.

"There is no quit in the players," said safety Dashon Goldson. "At the end of the day, it's still our job. We have character, man. It's the kind of players they brought in: true fighters, true men, true competitors. A lot of people would fold in this situation, but it speaks volumes that the players who are here haven't."

Again, you have to ask how valuable it is for a winless team to keep fighting. Well, if they're going to remain winless, there isn't much.

If there is a hope of winning, however, it is there because of efforts such as last week's game the Bucs had against Seattle. That means there is a fighter's chance of eventually getting a win. Who knows? Maybe even two.

Dreams are still possible, aren't they?

 
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