TAMPA — After he emerged from the Bucs huddle following pregame warmups, Gerald McCoy jogged to the middle of the field at Raymond James Stadium and dropped to his knees in the middle of the Bucs logo, burying his head into the turf in a moment of reflection, before rising and extending his arms out wide.
There's no question McCoy realized this could be the end of his career with the Bucs, the only NFL franchise he's known. The $13 million he is due next season isn't guaranteed, though the team has until March to decide his future.
For nine seasons, McCoy has been the face of the Bucs defense. And after Tampa Bay's 34-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a game decided on Matt Bryant's game-winning field goal after the Bucs defense bent on the final play of the game, McCoy hid his emotion behind a pair of dark sunglasses.
"Extremely (emotional)," McCoy said, his eyes looking off to the side and biting his lip. "Very emotional, but that's the way it goes.
The Bucs' loss doomed them to a last-place finish for the seventh time in eight seasons.
"It's frustrating," McCoy said. "All you can do is keep fighting. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. You keep fighting until they tell you you can't play no more. It's just what I've always done and what I'll continue to do regardless of what the future holds."
The defense held the Falcons to just 67 offensive yards on their first five possessions, and the Bucs ran out to a 17-0 lead. McCoy led the Bucs' pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, getting three quarterback hits in the first half.
But Atlanta came back by picking apart a obliging Tampa Bay zone defense, scoring on five straight possessions to take the lead. Atlanta drove 56 yards on the final drive to give Bryant the opportunity to kick a 37-yard field goal to win it.
That's been the story of the Bucs defense during this losing season. The unit's play has been erratic from half-to-half and even series-to-series.
"I don't know," McCoy said. "I think we were playing with a different sense of urgency and then it switched somehow for some reason. I don't know."
McCoy didn't want to discuss the possibility of no longer being a Buc, saying "we'll talk about it when it comes," but said he thanks the Glazer family for the opportunity they provided him over the last nine years.
"I have a lot of thanks from my family to the Glazer family for the opportunity that gave a kid out of south-side Oklahoma City who had never lived outside of Oklahoma until he was 22," McCoy said. "They took me out of Oklahoma and gave me the opportunity to make a dream a reality.
"Regardless of what people say about me or whatever, I gave this organization everything I had, on the field and off the field. People don't have the slightest idea what I gave."