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michael89156

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: October 12, 2010, 07:21:30 PM

Youthful Bucs aren't acting their age

Source:  USA Today
By Tom Pedulla



Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman looked like a high school senior dressing for the prom as a public relations staffer helped him adjust his shirt collar and tie.

It was a humorous reminder after Tampa Bay's last-second 24-21 road victory against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday about how young these Bucs are -- even if they are not acting their age.

Tampa Bay will take a 3-1 record into Sunday's home game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, equaling its victory total for all of last season. Cornerback Ronde Barber, a 14-year veteran, explains the surprising start by pointing to second-year man Freeman and other fresh-faced teammates who are just beginning to figure things out.

"We've grown a lot in a year," Barber says. "It's not about the veterans on this team, because we don't have many veterans. You have to give credit to the young guys.

"This team can go a long way if we play the kind of football we did (Sunday)."

The 53-man roster Tampa Bay brought to Cincinnati featured 22 players who are in their first or second year in the NFL. The Buccaneers rank as the third-youngest team in the league with an average age of 26 years, 8 days.

It is only fitting that so many newcomers to the pro game should be led by Raheem Morris. In his second year, he remains as the league's youngest coach at 34.

But there is increasing evidence that Morris and his players, who scored 10 points in the final 1:26 to shock the defending AFC North champions at Paul Brown Stadium, are wise beyond their years.

Tampa Bay has won its last four road games dating to last season. The Buccaneers have won five of their last seven overall.

"They're maturing every single snap," Morris says.

He emphasizes the need for resilience and to play with passion for the full 60 minutes. If there was ever a game to reinforce those lessons, it was the improbable comeback in Cincinnati.

*Third-year cornerback Aqib Talib, dusted by Terrell Owens for a 43-yard score in the first quarter, rebounded by outfighting Owens for the ball and producing a midfield interception with 2:18 left that led to the tying touchdown.

*Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, a fourth-round draft choice, was guilty of a costly fumble at the Bengals 4-yard line shortly before halftime. He made a spectacular leaping grab on the 20-yard tying score with 1:26 to play.

*Fourth-year safety Sabby Piscitelli, benched by Morris, made the most of another opportunity created by an injury and produced his team's third interception of Carson Palmer, leading to Connor Barth's winning 31-yard field goal.

"They've got to be able to stand up and be ready to go out there and play," Morris says. "That's the difference in our team this year and last year. We had down phases. We lost our cool in certain situations. This year, we're playing better. We're playing smarter. We're playing wiser, despite our age."

Despite his necktie woes, Freeman embodies that growth. He completed 20 of 33 for 280 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And he is developing into a leader.

"We all have a lot of faith in each other, and we all encourage each other," Freeman says. "I remember when Mike fumbled and he was in the tank a little bit. I was kind of like, 'We've got this, man. I mean, you made the catch. It was just one of those things. Things like that happen. Just get ready to go, and I'm going to come back to you.' "

While there are many tests ahead, Tampa Bay fans have to be encouraged.

"The way we hang in games, always playing hard, that's going to be the trademark of this football team," Barber says.

spartan

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#1 : October 12, 2010, 07:32:03 PM

Wise beyond their years? or too inexperienced to know when they are beaten and give up? Both produce the same results. Personally I prefer the latter, they can be slapped around all day but still come back.

Biggs3535

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#2 : October 12, 2010, 07:41:35 PM

Imagine what the team can do when they get 2 or 3 OL who are worth a crap.


Feel Real Good

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#3 : October 12, 2010, 07:56:52 PM

Ironic how everyone was concerned there weren't any veterans to teach the young players how to win.

FRG is the most logical poster on this board.  You guys just don\'t like where the logical conclusions take you.

CyberDilemma

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#4 : October 12, 2010, 10:38:56 PM

This team is like the mouthy redneck that gets the crap kicked out of him and bounces back up looking for more.
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