After a game in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were penalized for taunting and excessive celebrating, head coach Jon Gruden did not have an explanation for why the Bucs were penalized during the team's 27-3 win over the Carolina Panthers. The Bucs sideline was also flagged on Sunday. However, Gruden was not upset with his players for playing the division battle with a lot of enthusiasm.
"We try not to temper enthusiasm. I try to coach enthusiasm," said Gruden. "Our coaches try to stimulate the players to be enthusiastic. You only live once. There is no sense in walking around like a dull boy. We want guys that are excited about being alive and playing. We got these airplanes flying over your head right before kickoff. We got the fans going crazy. What are you supposed to do, stand there like a dull boy? I don't know how you do that. Our guys are naturally fired up, and they are excited about the win yesterday. I'll do my best to talk them about what rules there are."
Safety Jermaine Phillips was flagged for taunting, and defensive tackle Jovan Haye incurred a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct due to doing a cartwheel in celebration. In a few NFL games on Sunday, there were some celebration and taunting penalties that some believed were discretionary calls. Gruden was asked if he understands what constitutes taunting in the NFL.
"No not really," answered Gruden. "There was a very controversial call at the end of the Rams-Washington game. You just have to trust that officials will officiate what they see, and what they hear. There are premeditated acts of celebration that are prohibited. There are no group celebrations, I'm on top of those, but whether you're spinning the ball after a catch, you're not supposed to do that. There were various things that were shown to me on a training wheel of what you cannot do, those are some examples. Doing a back flip three yards from the sideline is obviously illegal. We'll have to add that to our chart. I don't know about karaoke, or pounding your fist like Tiger Woods. I don't know what exactly we can do. We have to use better judgment and hopefully we get some response from the [Bucs front office] in terms of what we got to do better."
The emotion that the Bucs play with is a good thing according to Gruden. The love of playing the game and winning is contagious on the team. The atmosphere in the locker room and the camaraderie among the players is one of the most important themes of the 2008 Buccaneers for their head coach.
"I hope that is one of the storylines here today, at least through six weeks of the season, this is a team that cares about the team," Gruden said. "It is a group of guys that want to win first and foremost, they'll put their egos at the door. Whatever they feel is going to help us win they are all for that. I've seen Kevin Carter and all our defensive linemen rotating. The receiving corps has picked it up in Joey [Galloway]'s absence, we've moved those guys around. We've had some guys inactive, I'm sure there has been some disappointment. But the guys have really hung together and they are a really enthusiastic bunch. They love to play. You saw that yesterday, extremely so at times." GARCIA AND ZUTTAH STEP UP FOR BUCS A 38-year-old veteran and a 22-year-old rookie stepped up big for Tampa Bay in leading the team to a win against Carolina. Quarterback Jeff Garcia returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Week 1 at New Orleans. Garcia led the Bucs offense to 20 points, and did not turn the ball over.
"Yeah, he is a good quarterback," said Gruden. "Mobility is big in anybody's offense given the fact that the pocket is never going to be perfect. Blitzes you might have the numbers to pick up but they are never going to be flush pickups. You have to be able to slide. He made a key first down with his legs running for it on our final touchdown drive. That's his game. His legs are a weapon, and his creativity is his ally. He does a great job of playing the game. I think what you saw yesterday is what our fans are accustomed to seeing. It was vintage Jeff Garcia. He finds a way to get a first down. He finds a way to get a completion. We get some good looks down the field we'll hit him."
Gruden responded very vehemently about the Bucs guard Jeremy Zuttah and his contributions to the team. Right guard Davin Joseph returned to the lineup in Denver after breaking his foot in the preseason. Zuttah started in his place for the first four games of the season. In the first half against Carolina, starting left guard Arron Sears came out of the game with a sprained knee. Zuttah replaced Sears and finished the game against Carolina. The Bucs rushed for 142 yards on the Panthers, and running back Warrick Dunn ran for 115 yards on 22 carries. Gruden was asked if he was happy with the play of the rookie.
"Absolutely, he's been active, honestly, as a swing tackle," said Gruden. "He's the backup if anything were to happen to [Jeremy Trueblood], he's the backup if anything were to happen to Donald [Penn]. [Sean] Mahan has been a swing backup at guard and center. But we feel like Zuttah, as we said in training camp, has a rare ability to play a lot of positions. For him to go in there yesterday against the likes of those guys, and play as well as he did. It is a real credit to him as a rookie to play well at right guard and left guard. He is big reason why we are running the ball well and pass protecting well."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on possibly coaching against Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren for the last time on Sunday night.
"He means a lot to me, and he knows that. He has a lot to do with the opportunity that I've been given, and the philosophies that I've had things of that nature that come from him. He is a great role model, not just for me but for a lot of people in the league. He is as well respected a man that there is in football. I believe he'll be back. I believe he'll finish strong with Seattle, and hopefully he gets out of the NFC. That's all I can say."