Martin Fennelly Columns
Frustrations show as losses mount for Bucs
TAMPA - TAMPA Hi, this is the 2011 Bucs. We're not home right now, but please leave a message after the bleep. Raheem Morris apologized Monday for his undeleted expletive after Sunday's debacle against Carolina. It was a nice thing to do, though not surprising, since Raheem is a nice guy. But it wasn't the word that had us wondering – it was the frustration behind it.We're coming up on the witching hour of this Bucs disaster, where all signs point to doom. If this team goes up to Jacksonville and loses to the Los Angeles Jaguars, a franchise without a head coach even, the flying coffin will go wheels up. The frustration that led Morris to send defensive tackle Brian Price packing after his numb scullery in the third quarter is ripe for analysis, or even over-analysis, which is my favorite kind. There's growing frustration, and maybe a little resignation, creeping into his team's situation. Morris is up against it right now. He praised Price on Monday, saying he wants him to be more of a leader, partly because Morris sees he is one of the better defensive lineman, but partly because "It's got to start with somebody …" Brian Price is 22. Also: It's got to start with somebody 12 games into a season? This is a rough stretch for the 35-year-old Morris. Even when he was 3-13 in his first season, you detected an up-tick near the end. There's no ticking right now except on the clock. Like we said, it's easy to overanalyze, but it's the witching hour, where all signs point to talking about signs. Take the Price thing. On one hand, it might have showed that Morris seized the moment and tried to set a burning example to his impossibly young football team. Kind of like in Bull Durham, when Crash Davis tells the manager to throw the bats in the shower after a loss. "They're kids – scare 'em." Or was singling out a guy who plays on twanging, surgically remade hamstrings, who was in a boot all last week after an injury at Tennessee, something that could backfire? I mean, where was that tough love on Aqib Talib after his stupid, selfish penalty in London? I have sympathy for the head coach. The Price deal, that word-bomb, it wasn't premeditated. It was a blown fuse, a cry in the night, eyes toward the sky. Can I get some help here? Morris has made mistakes. But he wasn't the only one making this bed. This youth movement beyond all reason couldn't have been all his idea. As much as Morris loves Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers and Mason Foster, really, what defensive coordinator in his right mind would say, "Could I please make a defense out of two rookie defensive ends and a rookie middle linebacker?" Where is GM Mark Dominik's news conference right about now? Where are the Glazers? This was their plan, too, probably more than it belongs to Morris. That's neither here nor there. What is here, there, everywhere is that some Bucs are fighting for more than their own jobs at this point. Morris is hip to that. "It's the nature of our beast," he said. He went on: "I'm not up here telling you that these players don't care," he said. "I couldn't say that to you guys. These guys care. I'm not going to tell you these coaches don't care. I know the work that they put into it and I know the work that we put into it. "Every once in a while you need a little ball bounce. We didn't get that ball bounce this year. But I've got a lot of confidence in this group. I've got a lot of confidence in what this organization is doing. I have a lot of confidence in what can happen." Only it just isn't happening at the moment. This might get a little more bloody – or bleepy.