Let's play a melody for the unsung heroes of the Bucs this season.
LT Donald Penn
Admit it. You were nervous about the left tackle when he took over for veteran Luke Petitgout after three games last season, weren't you?
Turns out, Penn was mightier. The third-year player out of Utah State spent some time on the Vikings practice squad as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Now he's a fixture on a Bucs offensive line that features a No. 1 draft pick, two No. 2 draft picks and the highest-paid center in NFL history.
All Penn has done to earn his keep this season is stare down a murderer's row of defensive ends that include John Abraham, Julius Peppers and Jared Allen, to name a few. And he was part of a unit that did not allow a sack in 67 pass attempts by Brian Griese at Chicago.
"I knew what I could do," Penn said. "I like being an unknown. It's like Donald who? I just come out there and fight them. I hope I can play the rest of my career like that. (Allen) threw everything he had at me. He's a great player. He's going to bounce back. But I've got to make sure I keep playing the way I've been playing.
"I love those challenges. You wouldn't be an athlete if you didn't love challenges like that. Like I said, it's not going to get easier. The rest of my career won't be easy."
DE Kevin Carter
At 35, Carter shows no real signs of slowing down. If anything, his production has picked up during his second year in the defense.
Carter's leadership role is invaluable. And he has proved to be a stout run-stopper and can still rush the quarterback, as evidenced by his three sacks despite being replaced on most nickel rush situations.
"The appeal for me to come here, obviously, was the defense that has been so legendary here for a long time," Carter said. "Monte Kiffin has a great scheme. You can be a great player and it really tests your versatility when you have to do something that's not quite what you've been doing over the years."
G Jeremy Zuttah
The third-round pick from Rutgers was a member of several midseason All-Rookie teams.
With good reason.
Zuttah was mostly a tackle for the Scarlet Knights, but he was moved to guard by the Bucs and thrust into a starting role at right guard Week 1 when Davin Joseph broke his right foot in the preseason. He played the first four games there and started at left guard at Kansas City when Arron Sears was out with an ankle sprain.
S Will Allen
Some forget that Allen has started 24 games at safety. But he lost his job last season to Tanard Jackson.
Even so, Allen has never stopped contributing. He is the special teams captain and is tied for first on the team for the most special teams tackles with 12. Last week, he forced a key fumble against the Vikings during kickoff coverage.
With the injury to Jermaine Phillips, Allen is now in the safety rotation with Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli.