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November 10, 2010

Local knowledge: Tampa Bay Bucs

    Who better to talk about the next opponent than the guys in there with them every day. Long-time Tampa Tribune NFL writer Ira Kaufman was good enough to answer five questions about the Buccaneers in advance of the Panthers trip there this weekend.

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1. Do the Bucs believe they’re in this race, and did the loss at Atlanta show you any positives about that team?

At this point, the Bucs figure they're playing with house money. They have already passed last year's win total by two victories and the schedule appears soft down the stretch. Sunday's loss at Atlanta is further evidence the Bucs play hard to the final whistle. They could have been blown out early, but this club is resilient, although not overly talented.

2. Did the lumps Josh Freeman took last year set the stage for this year’s improvement, and has he talked about how a difficult rookie year helped him this year?

Freeman has come a long way from the rookie QB who kept making poor decisions in 2009. He had thrown only three interceptions this season until the Falcons picked him off twice and he has learned how to check it down or throw the ball out of bounds when the play breaks down. 

That rocky rookie year turned Freeman into a film freak in the offseason and it's evident all that time with offensive coordinator Greg Olson has paid off.

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3. Along those same lines, how much difference is Raheem Morris (above) as a coach this year? Seems like he was trying to keep his head down last year, but his “best team in the NFC” claim a few weeks ago drew some notice.

Morris appeared overwhelmed at times as a rookie coach, but he began asserting himself when he dumped Jim Bates and took over the defense for the final six games.

He is much more assured in 2010 and he has made a point of talking up his young team to show them he has confidence in them. Many of his motivational tactics come courtesy of Mike Tomlin, his mentor and confidante. They talk extensively every week. For the most part, Tomlin talks and Morris listens.

4. Is the local market there starting to warm to the Bucs yet? The Panthers keep selling out games with a 1-7 product, why do fans there seem chilly toward the Bucs?

Club officials have said all year that they expect all 8 home games to be blacked out.

The Bucs attribute the sparse crowds to the brutal Florida economy, and there's no doubt the Tampa area has been hit very hard in terms of plunging real estate values and unemployment. There is also some resentment toward the Glazers because the payroll is so low and many fans believe the quick start is a mirage.

Right now, fan interest is lagging well behind Tampa Bay's surprising early success.

1110rondebarber 5. How much longer can Ronde Barber (left) keep this up? Seems like his brother’s been gone forever, and he just keeps going.

Barber is a special cat, amazingly durable and blessed with keen football intelligence. 

With all due respect to Peyton Manning, I have lauded Barber as perhaps the smartest player in the league. His study habits are unique and he has compiled some special numbers, despite being an ordinary athlete by NFL standards.

He is exceedingly close with Morris and there's a decent chance this will be Ronde's final season, but it will likely be his call because the Bucs crave his work ethic to serve as an example for the league's youngest team.

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on November 10, 2010 at 11:23 AM | Permalink

Comments

lets go BUC'S... shut them haters up...

Posted by: tampa fan n panther land | Nov 10, 2010 11:40:43 AM

Come back when your fans care, Buc man.

Posted by: Andy | Nov 10, 2010 11:45:02 AM

Bank of America stadium sells out because the visiting team fans occupy half the seats. There are a lot of people that moved from the cold up north or escaped hurricanes that call Carolina home but still pull for their old team.

Posted by: Nosebleed fan | Nov 10, 2010 11:52:09 AM

The reason fans havent showed up is because high unemployement. people just dont have spending power to go to a game. unemployement is like 11.5%..3-4yrs ago and beyond were sellouts..we at raymond james are experiencing the 1st blackouts ever since they built raymond james

Posted by: Brandon j | Nov 10, 2010 12:24:41 PM

The Bucs are a decent team in the NFC. Not the best in the NFC for sure. There are several teams better in NFC...Giants, Saints, Falcons, Philly...to name a few. They are average in the NFL as a whole and I think their record will show that at the end of the season.

Posted by: Hooover45 | Nov 10, 2010 12:29:40 PM

Yet somehow we are only 6 1/2 point underdogs to this team. Take the Bucs and put the house on it! I have serious doubts that the Panthers could score 6 points on any team in the NFL unless Tampa has a turnover deep in their end. And by deep, I mean the two yard line. Anything outside that and Fox will run two draw plays for 1/2 a yard each and then a pass play that will get the QB sacked.

Posted by: JR-SUCKS!! | Nov 10, 2010 12:34:53 PM

"Barber is a special cat"

What?

Posted by: Tyler | Nov 10, 2010 2:02:19 PM

"Barber is a special cat"

What?

Posted by: Tyler | Nov 10, 2010 2:02:20 PM

The Bucs are very much average, but the Panthers will probably make them feel really good about themselves again. Also, the reason teams look mediocre one year and very good the next, then mediocre again (sounds familiar to Panthers fans right?) is because the NFL adjusts the schedules like that. Have a bad season one year and your opponents will be easier the next.

Posted by: Isitoveryet? | Nov 10, 2010 11:41:39 PM

... That, and the fact that when you suck you get a bunch of high draft choices, and probably a coaching change. So it takes a season for defenses (or offenses) to catch up to the "new scenery" of your team and you become less of a surprise. The only teams that are good every year are teams with great QBs, because they break game plans like no other position is cabable of doing.

Posted by: Gamble20 | Nov 11, 2010 1:06:45 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

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