On the sideline for much of the game because it used the field as if it were a treadmill, the Tampa Bay offense had to stand there and watch a former Buccaneer hammer away at his old teammates. John Carney, who played parts of the past two seasons in Tampa Bay, lined up as the Chargers placekicker seven times, and seven times Carney nailed his attempts _ five for extra points and two for field goals of 28 and 27 yards.
Yes, this was a San Diego rout, 41-10.
But Carney kicking his former teammates when they were down wasn't the worst part of the Bucs' afternoon. The worst part came when the Chris Chandler-led offense faced a psyched-up Chargers defense led by two other ex-Bucs.
Much of the reason for Tampa Bay's standstill offense that garnered only 157 yards in 44 plays was linebacker Henry Rolling and defensive back Donnie Elder.
Rolling finished the game with six tackles, including a stop of Reggie Cobb on a third-and-one late in the third quarter.
The Bucs' hopes deflated right there. The score was 24-10 and San Diego had not put points on the board in its previous four possessions. Here's the momentum, the Chargers were offering; all you have to do is sustain a drive.
The Bucs could not. Instead, they had to punt from their own end zone.
On a day when little went right, Mark Royals got off his worst punt of the day. It traveled only 34 yards to Nate Lewis at the 44. Lewis returned it to the 33 and San Diego found the end zone three plays later to make it 31-10.
Rolling would not talk specifically of that tackle or of getting to Chandler for a 5-yard loss in the second quarter, but instead chose to discuss his play in general.
"I've come to expect myself to do good things," he said. "I'm going to make those plays and I feel I'm only going to get better. I'm going to keep going until until I reach the top, wherever that is."
The thing is, though, Rolling would have preferred to strive for his pinnacle with the team that drafted him in the fifth round of the 1987 draft _ Tampa Bay.
"I was a little disappointed (upon being cut)," Rolling said. "You always like to end your career with the same team you started it."
Rolling blames his release on the pressure he was under to play through a hamstring injury last year.
"I never really got a chance to heal," he said. "I felt pressured to constantly be out there and maybe that was my mistake to play hurt, but I wanted them to know that I would do whatever it took to play. Maybe the pressure was coming from me personally, but there's always a lot of pressure in this league. The NFL is a very competitive business."
Ruthless, too. Rolling isn't the only ex-Buc who can say a pulled hamstring played a part in his move to San Diego. Cornerback Elder, who intercepted a Chandler pass two plays after Rolling got to Chandler for that 5-yard loss, also hoped to maintain employment in Florida.
But the Bucs failed to protect him at the end of last season. He latched on with Miami for a while, pulled a hamstring, went on the disabled list and asked for his release when the injury healed.
He got it four weeks ago and signed three weeks ago with the Chargers. He harbors no ill will toward Tampa Bay.
"Not at all," he said. "I have a good relationship with the head coach (Perkins). I respect him, and I respect his judgment."
In fact, all three former Bucs voiced the same sentiment.
"They had to make a decision," Rolling said of his release. "And it was a decision they had to make. In fact, they had to let a lot of good people go."
One good person they did not want to let go was Carney, but they also did not want to keep him from an opportunity to be an NFL team's No. 1 kicker.
"I talked with Coach Perkins during the summer and he showed a lot of interest in my kicking skills," Carney said. "But we both agreed that this opportunity was too good to pass up."