TAMPA — Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood acknowledges there's a fine line between playing with an edge and going over it, especially with all the physical play on the line.
But Trueblood, 26, who has two personal-foul penalties in the past two weeks (and several more in his four-year career), says he has to get better at playing with "controlled intensity" so he doesn't hurt the team.
Not to mention the pain in his pocket.
The league announced Friday that it fined Trueblood $25,000 for his latest unnecessary roughness penalty, incurred Sunday at Carolina. Trueblood barreled into Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall after the whistle during a play in the second quarter. It is Trueblood's fourth infraction this season. He was previously fined twice for unnecessary roughness and once for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It's clear that his coaches are running out of patience. After Sunday's penalty, which caused the Bucs to settle for a long field goal, coach Raheem Morris benched Trueblood momentarily.
"You constantly have to talk to Jeremy about that. It's something we have to get over," Morris said. "It's been happening since he was a rookie around here, since he's been a starter. It has to stop.
"(Sunday), he just felt like he was hustling down the field, but you have to know better. (He's) a targeted guy. Foolish penalties won't be allowed, won't be tolerated. We have to move on from that, and we have to grow from that. If he doesn't grow from that, it'll be his own fault, and it'll be his demise."
Morris said the coaches don't want to discourage Trueblood's "aggressive nature."
Trueblood said things can blow up at any time during the physical battles in the trenches.
"It's always very close, especially between two physical teams," Trueblood said. "I think we're a pretty physical team. We like to be physical. You can't be physical without someone taking exception to it, really. To tell you the truth, you're walking a fine line most of the time, but part of being a professional is being able to do that."
Offensive line coach Pete Mangurian said he doesn't believe it's an aggression issue but one of awareness and that Trueblood wouldn't have to change his game to avoid penalties.
"There are plenty of players out there that are very aggressive and live right on the edge as far as their intensity level that don't get penalties," Mangurian said. "You've got to be smart.
"And having penalties that hurt the football team are just that — they hurt the football team. There's no tolerance for it. There's no excuses for it. It's something that obviously can't go on forever. It's got to be fixed, and I think (Trueblood) understands that."
Two weeks ago against Atlanta, Trueblood slammed his helmet to the turf in frustration during a scuffle, drawing a 15-yard penalty and a $7,500 fine from the NFL.
"Unfortunately it's happened two times in the last two games, but we've played 12," Trueblood said. "That's not to say it's okay, but you have to (walk the line). It's part of the game, and if I don't walk on the right side of that line, I'm hurting the team, and I want to be accountable to all my teammates. They back me, and I want to back them."
Morris said penalties such as the ones Trueblood has taken can give a player an unwanted reputation around the league with officials. So is Trueblood a marked man?
"I don't want to call him Ron Artest or (Dennis) Rodman or Rasheed Wallace," Morris said, citing former and current NBA players with volatile reputations. "But officials go watch the game tape every week. They have emphasis on what they're going to look for. You have to make sure you're playing within the rules."
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.