When players from any sport come into their contract season more often than not you see an increase in production. Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes came into the 2011 season in that specific position, but for a number of reasons his production hasn’t equaled past seasons. Whether it be scheme, the play of his teammates, Hayes himself or a combination of all of these, the drop in statistics are apparent.
Hayes’ defensive totals have dropped from a career high of 136 tackles (14 for loss), three sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 2009, to 104 tackles (15 for loss), four sacks, one interception for a touchdown and one forced fumble in 2010. This year, Hayes has produced 80 total tackles (seven for loss), one interception, two forced fumbles.
Tampa Bay’s management and coaching staff will have a decision to make after the season about whether Hayes is back. And if so, at what capacity. The former 'Nole said no contract talk has happened yet but hopes he will have a chance to keep wearing the Red and Pewter.
“No talks. That stuff right there [contract extensions] all goes in due time,” Hayes said. “That right there is for after the season right now.”
“No doubt I would love to be in Tampa, no doubt. Those kind of things can wait until after the season when we have time to talk about it.”
Fellow linebacker Quincy Black, who signed a new five-year, $29 million deal before this season, would like to see his teammate back.
“Geno is a professional and is going to handle his business either way,” Black said. “I know he's the type of guy that's going to go out and give 100 percent wherever he is.
“At the same time I think he wants to be here. I think he knows the type of situation that's here and I think he feels good about that. I can’t necessarily speak for him. I haven’t talked to him about it. But Geno knows we still have two games here and he's going to take advantage of these and put some good stuff on film.”
Another teammate and Geno Hayes fan is Adam Hayward. Hayward, like Black, was re-signed during training camp and said while the stats aren’t there, Hayes is still a playmaker.
“Geno's a character. He's smart, very football smart,” Hayward said. “He's able to teach me some of those things. He and I work well together. He's a really good athlete and makes a lot of splash plays. It's important to have somebody like that who is a game-changer.”
The fourth-year linebacker wasn’t happy when he was singled out and benched by head coach Raheem Morris earlier this season, but now, a month later, he sees it as a learning tool.
“I got a great perspective. Once I got back in there I took that in stride. It was actually a great opportunity for me to sit back and learn. "
Hayes also said he and Morris are still close and the benching didn’t affect their relationship at all.
“No strain at all. I have the utmost respect for Coach Raheem. He taught me a lesson – a great lesson. I sat back and observed from the back end and really saw the whole message he taught me. I respect him for it."
A 4-10 season coming off 10 wins the previous year has been frustrating for the orginaztion, the fans, coaches and the players. Hayes would love to put his finger on the issue but says he hopes if nothing else the defense will gain a lesson and come back better next season.
“It's tough going out there every week and working hard on the practice field and getting to the game, then it doesn’t come alive,” Hayes said. “Of course that is tough because you put in so much work and the end result isn’t what you want. This whole year has been a learning experience as it should be. I hope all the guys on the squad have taken a lesson from it as well.”
Hayward knows the linebackers had had their share of breakdowns this season but doesn’t buy the cristicism that the Buccaneers linebackers need to be replaced.
“People have said a lot of bad things about us,” Hayward said. “When you turn on the film we are still making plays but it is just hard with the way things are going. Whether linemen are getting up to us or we are missing tackles or busted coverages, people just start to pick apart things. But when you turn on the tape we are still good linebackers.
Hayes is uncertain of Morris' future –- and his own –- but is hoping for the best.
“Hopefully we can [keep the pieces together with Morris],” Hayes said. “But I’m not going to speak much on that right now. That's irrelevant right now. I don’t really pay that much attention to that. Right now I’m just focused on football.”