Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs players deny quote about sending coaches 'back to college'
TAMPA - The foundation upon which rookie head coach Greg Schiano hopes to build the Buccaneers' second Super Bowl champion seemed to be settling rather nicely until last Sunday when, all of a sudden, cracks appeared. First, there was the dustup on the sideline in the middle of the Bucs' 41-0 loss to the Saints in which linebacker Adam Hayward and defensive front seven coach Bryan Cox got into a shoving match. Then, according to ProFootballTalk.com, an unnamed Bucs player reportedly took a postgame swipe at Schiano and his staff by asking during a private conversation if "We (can) send these coaches back to college.'' If that still-unidentified player was speaking for the team as a whole, his teammates weren't backing him on Wednesday, when at least one veteran reacted indignantly upon hearing of the comment."Somebody said what?'' safety Ronde Barber snapped when told of the comment by The Tampa Tribune. "That's a (expletive) made-up quote. No one in this locker room said that. I can promise you that.'' ProFootballTalk promises something else. In an e-mail to the Tribune, PFT founder and curator Mike Florio stood by his website's story, which was posted shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Monday. "If Ronde is aware of every private communication in which his 52 teammates engage, that's even more impressive than his Hall of Fame playing career," Florio wrote. Barber wasn't the only Bucs player doubting the validity of the comment. Defensive end Michael Bennett expressed the same sentiments while also questioning the supposed player's character. "Whoever said that, if they were man enough they would have said their name,'' Bennett said. "A real person is going say what they said. That's why I don't put too much into it. I don't believe anybody said that.'' Schiano has a staff of 22 assistant coaches, more than half of whom came directly from and have spent the majority of their careers working at the college level. One of those from the college ranks, receivers coach P.J. Fleck, is returning after being named Tuesday as the head coach at Western Michigan University, and of the players he's leaving behind says he's sorry to see him go. "It's been fun working with these coaches, and I can't wait to keep working with them,'' receiver Mike Williams said. "We have two more games with these guys this year and hopefully a long future with them as well.'' Williams went on to say that he believes Schiano and his staff have done a good job of changing the culture at One Buc Place for the better. Bennett was among those supporting his stance. "I really feel like these coaches have come out here and done good job,'' he said. "Yeah, we lost some games, but that happens in this league. We're a young team and we're learning.'' Schiano reacted to the comments on Monday by laughing them off, saying he didn't need to go back to college because he'd "already graduated.'' He also suggested that such a comment would be out of character for one of his players. "I feel like we have a group of men in that locker room that are together (and) understand where we are going with this thing and know that this is going to be a championship organization,'' he said. The Bucs all but confirmed that claim on Wednesday, according to Hayward, who said the Bucs' approach to practice on Wednesday was an indication of how they truly feel about their coaches. "If that were the case, the guys here would have shut it down already and not practiced hard, but today we had a great practice,'' Hayward said. "Everybody was flying around and hitting, getting to the ball. "You can see the guys are ready to play, ready to work. That other stuff, that can stay on the Internet where it belongs. But in this locker room, I can see it in the guys' eyes. They want to play football, that's why they're here.'' Running back D.J. Ware spent his first five years in the league with the Giants, so he knows a firestorm and he doesn't think one is brewing inside the Bucs' locker room now. "I hadn't heard that,'' he said of the comments on PFT. "I will say, though, that it's a little hard right now because we had a chance to be in the playoffs and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. "So, yeah, there's an overall feeling of disappointment right now, but if somebody really did say that I don't think they meant it. They were probably just having fun with it.''