Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes unleashing his inner beast

All summer long, Geno Hayes had it pounded into his helmet that he needed to calm down. Drink some decaf. Listen to some Sinatra. Take a chill pill. Hayes, who turned 23 last month, might be the Bucs' most excitable and electric player on defense. But the Bucs believed their weakside linebacker needed to go unplugged to rely more on discipline, less on instincts. So in the first half of the Bucs' 17-14 victory over the Browns last week, Hayes went stealth. He clammed up like a mime. And he made a funny discovery: His game — and the Bucs defense, for that matter — didn't make much noise. "I want to say I was just more calm. Not as excited in the game," Hayes said. "I was just really kind of just trying to conserve energy. It's something I can't do; I've got to go out there and play ball. "So the second half, I came out and let loose and played how I am. I played my game, played my ball and just started going back to what I did and stopped trying to play like a quiet playmaker. That's not me."

Hayes led the Bucs with 12 tackles, two for losses — including a stop of Browns running back Jerome Harrison for a 4-yard loss in the fourth quarter on second and 9 from the Browns 8-yard line.

That play was significant for two reasons. Not only did the field position help set up the Bucs' winning touchdown, but Hayes had blown the same play twice in the game.

"Geno is kind of Ronde Barber-ish," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "What I mean by that is they're a little vigilante at times. They make plays outside of the box, but part of that is what makes those guys great.

"He has some skills I can't teach. I don't think any of us can. Giving him surface, taking his body away, wiggling around blocks and he's always going to have two tackles for loss. He's also going to have a possible splash play or blitz; that's just the nature of his beast. So you try to contain him, so to speak. And in the second half, he let it go. But he did communicate. So I made a step."

If the Bucs are going to continue moving forward, Hayes will have to step his game up against strong rushing teams such as the Panthers, today's opponent.

The former Florida State star is playing one of the pre-eminent positions in the Bucs defense and would have to stuff wads of paper around his feet to fill the shoes of Derrick Brooks.

But none of that bothers Hayes, who is putting his own spin on the position. As a first-year starter, Hayes was the only Bucs player to record a stat in every defensive category. He was second to Barrett Ruud on the club in tackles with 136 and had three sacks, two interceptions, seven passes defensed with one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

"I feel no pressure at all," Hayes said. "God made me who I am, and I know it. My confidence level is there, and I know my team believes in me. I just go out there and put it on tape."

A year ago, Hayes drew fire from Morris and others for being undisciplined and basically freelancing at times or guessing wrong. But he has learned to prepare better and watches an extra two or three hours of film every night at home. The extra work began to pay off in the preseason.

"It will get to the point where you're taking chances within the defense," Ruud said. "You have this gap and you say, 'I'm going to hit this faster than I normally hit it because I see this coming or I expect it to come, as opposed to I'm going to hit this gap that's wrong.

"I think the big step is when you make your natural, instinctive plays but within the defense. The play that he made in the red zone, that was within the defense. That was what he was supposed to do. He saw it real fast and shot the gap. So that was a great play."

There are bound to be more.

For Hayes, finding the right formula between guile and guts is his mission. His personal search has just begun, but Hayes already recognizes what he wants when he sees it.

He watched Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis walk the line of controlled rage in Baltimore's 10-9 win over the Jets on Monday night. Lewis was fundamentally perfect but played with sound and fury from the coin toss to the final whistle.

"You've got to find a spark. And I've got to be that spark the whole game," Hayes said. "(Lewis) is excited the whole game, and teams feed off that kind of stuff. That's what I was thinking.

"That's what I want to be. Hot as fire. And cool as ice."

Bucs (1-0) at Panthers (0-1)

1 p.m., Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM. Line: Panthers by 3 ½

GAMEDAY

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes unleashing his inner beast 09/18/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 18, 2010 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct'

    College

    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip

    Blogs

    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  5. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games

    Blogs

    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.