TAMPA — With the Bucs out of contention for a playoff spot, some attention is likely to turn to the future of the team's young players.
Today, after a solid debut in his first career start, the Bucs have to feel better about what lies ahead for DE Da'Quan Bowers.
The rookie second-round pick from Clemson was credited with one tackle and one quarterback hit, and coaches were cautiously optimistic about his first full game.
"Bowers played well for his first time out there," coach Raheem Morris said. "His first time out the box. (There were) growing pains of course. He obviously had some bad plays but he had some really good plays. … We can get him to play better. We just keep seeing him grow throughout the season."
Clearly, Bowers has work to do, but his growth could be accelerated by opportunities like he had Sunday.
Having a full game on tape, he said, will help his self-evaluation.
"It's definitely something to build on," he said. "I can't wait to get in there and critique myself to see what I need to work on."
Bowers had played in a limited capacity until Sunday, when he replaced injured left end Michael Bennett (groin) as a starter. Bennett's solid play throughout the season resulted in only sporadic reps for Bowers, but coaches have seen him emerge in recent weeks and think he's ready for a bigger workload.
Meanwhile, Bennett, who didn't make the trip to Nashville, said Monday he feels better after a week off and might return Sunday against Carolina.
NO QUESTION: The Bucs' decision to have QB Josh Freeman spike the ball to stop the clock after converting a first down with 1:14 left was questioned by some, but Morris said his staff never wavered.
"We spike the ball on every first down you get (in a two-minute drill)," Morris said. "You pick up a first down, you have to go down and spike it. You have no timeouts left. You have to be ready to deal."
Had the Bucs had an extra down at the end of the game — spiking the ball made it second down — perhaps the outcome would have been different. But players pointed out that hurriedly running an unorganized play with the clock running could have resulted in a turnover or a loss of yardage.
CAM CAN: When DE Tim Crowder looks at Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton, he sees some similarities to his former University of Texas teammate, QB Vince Young. And Crowder said he feels Newton and the Panthers have a bright future.
"He's very unique," Crowder said of Newton. "I practiced against a guy everyday in college (Young) that has those talents. He's the same guy. He can throw, he can run, he's got a lot of confidence over there. And they're just one of those teams on cusp, too. They're probably one of those teams next year that'll be fighting for the division lead."
WAITING ON WORD: The Bucs didn't update the condition of DT Brian Price, who left Sunday's game with a sprained ankle. Price, who was at One Buc Place on Monday wearing a walking boot, did not speak with reporters but had further tests.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.