The locker room at One Buccaneer Place was somber and quiet for the most part Monday morning as players trickled in and out preparing to watch film and get treatment. Cornerback Aqib Talib hobbled through the room, noticeably limping and feeling the effects of a hamstring injury that was re-aggravated on the first series in Sunday's 38-19 loss to Carolina.
The hip-hop music normally blaring from a number of lockers was noticeably absent, and even the daily card game near the linebackers’ corner of the room was unusually subdued. A six-game losing streak tends to have that effect.
To their credit a few players stood up and answered questions about a season that has obviously slipped away.
Linebacker Geno Hayes, who has felt the brunt of Raheem Morris’ example-setting after being benched earlier this season, said the mood is no brighter 24 hours later.
“You know, it's a loss,” Hayes said. “For the big picture it’s even harder. I haven’t looked at the film yet [and] haven’t had time to evaluate it. Hopefully it looks a lot better than what you feel like it is on film.
“We got plenty of confidence. We've just got to go out and work hard every day. Day in and day out at work. Come in with a great mindset [and] don’t have any negative thoughts toward each other and just go out and work every day.”
During the third quarter of Sunday’s game Raheem Morris made an example out of Brian Price after committing an unnecessary roughness penalty by not only taking him out of the game but actually sending him home. Hayes agreed an example needed to be made.
“Yes, exactly. Exactly, that’s all I can say. [Morris] has been talking about it all year. At the same time you have to learn how to turn your anger into the next play, not on that particular play. In between the whistles is where you really get it on. After the whistle, it's very obvious what's going on because [play's] stopped. [There's] a certain way to handle your anger.”
Cornerback Elbert Mack was another player who was willing to talk to PewterReport.com about yesterday’s game. Mack was asked about comments Ronde Barber made Sunday following the game that the Buccaneers had a good week of preparation coming into the matchup with Carolina.
“As far as some of the plays that they did, we practiced on [them] all week,” Mack said. “We executed [the plays] well like Ronde said. We knew basically what they wanted to come in and do. We knew they wanted to try to come in and establish the run game, which they did. It's frustrating, like Ronde said, when you practice something all week and you do well on it. Then you get in the game and you just kind of freeze up and forget about all the [other things].”
When asked about how Price being sent home might affect the locker room, Mack said he didn’t even know it happened initially.
“I didn’t even know that he sent him. I thought that he actually was ejected,” Mack said. “I didn’t even know that he actually sent him in. So as far as that, I don’t know. It’s frustrating to have a couple games where we've had costly penalties in big time points in the game.”
Offensive captain center Jeff Faine was torn on his position but said it ultimately was something that needed to be done.
“I stick behind what my head coach's decisions are,” Faine said. “It’s difficult because he's also one of my teammates. I wish the best out of him. It's an example of some things we can do better at as a team and players. It's unfortunate the spotlight is on Brian Price. But it's an example of things we need to start doing better around here for us to have a chance to be successful.”
Mack agreed with Faine that attitudes and preparation must improve if Tampa Bay is going to break the losing streak.
“We've just got to prepare like we always [have] been preparing around here. Got to just try not to think about the five or six in a row game skid. You've just got to look at this last quarter as being totally different.
“[If we knew for sure] it would be one of those type of things you just fix on the sideline. This is preparation. We've just got to take it for what it is and just build on it. [We've] just got to look at these last four games as a new season [and] try to build on something for next year and try to get it going around here.”
With just four games left to right the sinking ship there is no room for error. When asked if the players inside the locker room still believe in Morris and the message he preaches, Hayes was quick and to the point with his answer.
“No doubt. He's a great coach,” Hayes said. “He deserves to have great players playing great for him the whole time, so of course we've got his back. We've got to go out and win these last four games.”