Penalties pile up for Bucs

Dashon Goldson's suspension won't help the Bucs contain a potent Tom Brady passing attack on Sunday.
Dashon Goldson's suspension won't help the Bucs contain a potent Tom Brady passing attack on Sunday.
Published Sept. 18, 2013

TAMPA — Penalties have played a huge role in the Bucs' 0-2 start, with more than 100 yards against them in each game. But Greg Schiano doesn't want players losing their aggressiveness just to avoid penalties.

"If something is going to be called, then we have to avoid it, because it's hurting the football team," the Bucs coach said Monday, a day after his club's 16-14 loss to the Saints. "(By) the same token, I want our guys to play hard, and I don't think anybody is trying to intentionally (draw flags), so we just have to be more and more aware of that situation and make sure we avoid that as much as we can."

A late-hit flag on linebacker Lavonte David set up the Jets' winning field goal in the season-opening loss on Sept. 8. Penalties were just as costly Sunday, with an illegal formation penalty negating a 73-yard touchdown.

The Bucs have topped 100 yards in penalties four times in 18 games under Schiano after doing so three times in the previous six seasons.

Those miscues already have had an impact on Sunday's game at New England, as a helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Dashon Goldson resulted in not only a 15-yard penalty but a one-game suspension. That won't help the Bucs contain a potent Tom Brady-led passing attack.

Schiano, who came to Tampa Bay with a reputation as a strict coach who demanded discipline, said he doesn't believe the recent penalties will be a long-term issue.

"I'm frustrated by 26 penalties called against the Bucs in two games," including three that were declined, Schiano said Monday. "We should go three to four games with 26 penalties. That hasn't been the case with us though. Because it is now, what's changed, that's what I have to get fixed.

"I don't think it's going to be an ongoing problem, I don't. It will get fixed."

Tampa Bay leads the NFL with 110 penalty yards per game and is tied for the league lead in flags. Of specific concern are the 15-yard penalties drawn by the defense — an NFL-high four unnecessary roughness calls, when only six other teams have more than one. In all, 15 Bucs have already drawn penalties, 10 on defense.

As officials continue to put a premium on protecting quarterbacks and defenseless receivers, Bucs defensive players say they need to be aware of what will draw a flag, even if it goes against the instincts they've always had.

"You're trying to lower your trajectory, but when you're playing fast, who's really thinking about, 'Ah, I've got to lower my pads to get him?' " defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Monday. "You're running full speed at a guy and it's like, 'All right, I'm going to hit him, but I need to make sure my pads are down when I hit him.' Nobody's thinking like that. Nobody's intentionally trying to hurt anybody."

The league office saw otherwise Sunday, writing a letter to Goldson arguing that he "unnecessarily rammed" his helmet into his opponent's head and "made no attempt whatsoever to wrap up your opponent or make a conventional tackle." Goldson and David were fined for preseason hits, and after the game Sunday, Goldson said the Bucs defense is known for being hard-hitting, which could make it a target for penalties, and clearly harsher sanctions.

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"That's who we are," Goldson said. "The NFL has its own rules, but we're just trying to play football. We're a football team."

If Schiano understands some flags are a function of aggressive play, he's less tolerant of other flags that have no such excuse. The Bucs are tied for third in the NFL in false starts (four) and delay of game penalties (three) and are second in illegal formation flags (two).

"It's frustrating for both the players and the coaches," Schiano said of presnap flags. "I'm certain we'll get it fixed, but unfortunately, it hurt us again (Sunday)."

Goodbye, Bucco Bruce

TAMPA — The Bucs announced Tuesday that they won't take the field this season in their popular throwback orange jerseys as scheduled on Sept. 29 against Arizona, citing an NFL safety requirement mandating the same helmets be used in all games.

"While we regret that our players won't be able to don the 'Bucco Bruce' helmet and traditional orange, red and white uniforms, there simply was no acceptable way to meet the requirements of the new policy while staying true to the spirit of our throwback theme," Brian Ford, the Bucs' chief operating officer, said in a statement released by the team. "We will continue to explore options with the league office for bringing back this fan favorite in future seasons."

The Bucs have had throwback games in each of the past four seasons, and the tradition has been popular with fans, bringing the team's early years together with its pewter-and-red present. The first game in 2009 drew an announced crowd of 62,994 and saw the first career start for quarterback Josh Freeman, who led the team to an upset win against the Packers. The first three throwback games coincided with the team's "Ring of Honor" ceremony, but that was a separate game last season and will be again this year.