That deflated feeling is far-reaching.
It’s felt inside the locker room, throughout the front office and among the fan base once a team’s been officially eliminated from contention. A little bit of that motivation and excitement for game day fades when there’s nothing left to play for after Week 17.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“It’s difficult, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David said Monday. “We put ourselves in that situation.”
There are plenty of moments to single out that contributed to the derailment of this once-promising season: penalties galore, the blown lead in Washington, missed field goals in Houston, second-half disappearances of running back Doug Martin, not taking advantage of opponents starting backup quarterbacks.
“We had countless opportunities to set ourselves to be in the big dance this upcoming January,” David said, referencing his ultimate-goal mindset of reaching the Super Bowl. Since training camp players have been sporting t-shirts with the phrase “California Dreaming” across the back, because Super Bowl 50 is being played in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“But the tables didn’t turn our way, so now we have to take this lesson and learn from it because we know what we can be. Right now, we have to turn that mindset over to next year and make sure we can be in that big dance in January.”
Before the Bucs get to next year they have to get through final games against Chicago and Carolina. Those may be irrelevant to the standings but they shouldn’t be to the players strapping up on Sunday.
“We want to make each other proud,” David said. “We all want to be successful in this program. We’ve got some fighters on this football team and everybody wants to turn this program into a winning program.”
In addition to representing themselves, what they stand for as professionals and the organization, David said it’s important to finish out the season strong because it may very well affect where individual players are reporting to – if anywhere at all – come 2016 training camp.
“You’re always being evaluated, especially at times like this when you don’t make it to the playoffs and you just have to finish the season,” the fourth-year linebacker said. “This is where coaches really evaluate you the strongest because they want to know if you’re going to go out there and play the way you need to play every week, week-in and week-out. These last two games are very important. Play for the organization and play for the name on the back of your jersey. Have some pride when you go out there.”
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Yes I agree, this includes coaching too from the top-down. Go Bucs! Get this Chicago win!
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