TAMPA — Follow the money.
The fines that are collected from players for breaking Bucs team rules typically go to a Tampa Bay area charity. But the penalty doesn't always end there.
Many players are directed to "follow the money" by becoming active in community service.
For example, when CB Aqib Talib was fined an undisclosed amount by the team in 2009 for assaulting a cab driver, that cash helped finance the purchase of a new car for a Hillsborough Community College student.
"Best thing we do is use that money when I fine them, take it, put it in our community relations budget and then make the players that had the fines go follow their money," coach Raheem Morris said. "A lot of times, you don't have to make them. You ask them to do it, and they do it.
"They all love to go to (All) Children's Hospital; they all love to see kids for Christmas. They all love to give out Thanksgiving turkeys, and you don't have to be fined to do this work. But when they do put an extensive amount of money into it, a la Aqib Talib buying a girl a car last year for a college degree … something good comes out of it."
The subject of discipline and fines was in the news last week with the arrest of LB Geno Hayes on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing at a Tampa nightclub. Hayes is the third Bucs player to be arrested in the past two months, joining TE Jerramy Stevens (released after an arrest on charges of marijuana possession) and WR Mike Williams (suspicion of driving under the influence).
Hayes will play today against the Lions and was contrite and apologetic when addressing the issue last week.
But ultimately, the conduct of a player rests with the individual. That was the message sent by several team captains, including CB Ronde Barber and QB Josh Freeman, who addressed the rest of the team last week.
"You never want family business to turn into public business," Morris said. "But we have leaders and people in place that are fairly respected in our building. They've handled their end of it; we've handled our end of it from a management standpoint. The kid is apologetic and has learned a lesson from this.
"We don't want anything that's going to take away … what we're trying to do positive in the community and definitely from a football standpoint."
Moving the chains: The Bucs have struggled recently in short-yardage situations, with RB LeGarrette Blount unable to hit the right hole in games against Atlanta and again last week at Washington.
The Bucs entered last week's game saying FB Earnest Graham or RB Cadillac Williams would replace Blount in the short-yardage set. But twice in the first half against the Redskins, when facing third and 1, the Bucs put Freeman in the shotgun. He responded with two incomplete passes.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said there was a communication breakdown in relaying to him the proper distance.
"The communication was that it was a third-and-2 call," Olson said. "Again, there's only 40 seconds to make a determination what the distance is and to get the personnel on the field. I've just got to do a better job within our own offensive staff in determining is it closer to 1 (yard) or is it closer to 2."
Of course, what the Bucs have learned this season is that their best short-yardage runner is Freeman, who bulled across for a two-point conversion that proved to be the difference in a 17-16 win over the Redskins.
"Again, the guy is 6-5, 260 pounds," Olson said. "I've told my offensive staff, 'You guys are free to punch me in the mouth here if we don't get Josh involved in these third-and-1s now.' "
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.