Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs, Panthers renew heated NFC South rivalry Sunday
TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to win every game, but just mentioning the Carolina Panthers provokes a different passion. "They don't like us and we don't like them," Bucs left tackle Donald Penn said. "We don't like each other. There's no doubt about it," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "I don't care for them," Bucs defensive end Stylez G. White said.Tampa Bay (1-0) will travel this weekend to renew its annual hate fest against Carolina (0-1), a team that has routinely smacked around the Bucs. "I played at Auburn and it reminds me a lot of the Alabama-Auburn game where no matter what's the record, no matter who's hurt, who's up or who's down, it's going to be a physical game," Bucs running back Cadillac Williams said. "They don't like us and we don't like them. We definitely respect each other by the way we play, but it's going to be a blood fight." Tampa Bay hopes this meeting will not mirror the usual one-sided fights against Carolina. The Panthers have won 11 of the past 14 meetings. They showed their dominance last season during a 16-play, 80-yard fourth-quarter drive that last 8:04 and sealed a 28-21 victory. Carolina followed up that victory by harassing Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman into throwing five interceptions in a 16-6 victory in December. However, few followers of this rivalry will forget Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart shredding Tampa Bay's defense for 186 and 115 yards, respectively, and two touchdowns each during the Panthers' 38-23 victory on "Monday Night Football" in 2008. The Bucs were 9-3 and the loss started a four- game slide, resulting in Tampa Bay missing the playoffs and the eventual dismissal of former coach Jon Gruden. "We're a run team and we don't try to hide that," Panthers coach John Fox said. "Typically, you're a little more physical when you run the ball than you are retreating when you're pass protecting." Tampa Bay has been unable to avoid severe injuries against Carolina. Over the past four seasons, five Bucs players have been placed on injured reserve after facing Carolina. Bucs quarterback Chris Simms sustained a spleen injury in 2006. Williams and offensive lineman Luke Petitgout suffered severe knee injuries in 2007. Fullback Byron Storer tore his ACL in 2008. Last year, Carolina defensive back Dante Wesley was suspended by the NFL for one game after a cheap-shot hit against former Bucs returner Clifton Smith. Not only did Smith sustain a concussion from that hit, but suffered another concussion during Tampa Bay's second game against Carolina and was placed on injured reserve. "Once we play the Carolina Panthers, we know we have to buckle up and go," Williams said. "They don't like us and we don't like them. "It's a physical game and body parts are flying. Everybody gets a little extra 'umph.' Injuries are part of the game, but there is nothing you can do about it." There is little Tampa Bay has been able to do against Carolina. It is a trend the Bucs hope to end on Sunday. Tampa Bay drafted defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price this offseason to help its defense, which was ranked last against the run in 2010. McCoy might be a rookie, but echoes the sentiments of every Bucs player. You must not like Carolina. "(Teammates) asked me who did I think the Bucs' rival was, and I said, 'It's definitely Carolina,' " McCoy said. "They (asked), 'How did you know that? You can tell when they play each other it's like, 'I want to kill you so bad.' The thing about Carolina and Tampa is after the game there is still no respect. In OU-Texas, before the game it's like, 'I hate you,' and then after the game it's like, 'Good game.' "In this game it's, 'I hate you, I hate you and when the game is over, I still hate you. I got to play y'all again and I'm going to hate you. Then in the offseason I'm going to hate you.' "
Reporter Anwar S. Richardson can be reached at (813) 259-8425.