TAMPA — It was the face of a losing season.
Gerald McCoy’s tearful, contorted face.
Up there on the video boards at Raymond James Stadium. On your TV screen. Everywhere.
"I’m not a quitter," McCoy said. "I don’t play to lose."
The Bucs lost their ninth game of this disastrous season Sunday, a game, but hapless 24-21 loss to the Detroit Lions.
McCoy was forced to watch with a shoulder/biceps he suffered on the first play of the game. He tried to stay in there, but by the second quarter, he was done. He walked to the sideline. His defensive mates and coaches gathered around him as he fought the tears.
He might be done for the season.
Is it serious?
"Semi," McCoy said.
He might be the lucky one.
The season is already done.
"I don’t know," McCoy said. "I’ll get an MRI and see what’s going on. I love what I do. I love my team. I never want to disappoint my family. People question my effort, how much I care. But I love being out there with my team."
It seems like it was just 10 minutes ago that we were watching McCoy lead his team into Hard Knocks, along with Jameis Winston. McCoy sported a kimono that first episode, as the Bucs arrived at training camp with all that potential.
Now the Bucs are at the corner of 4 and 9. Winston and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter are denying reports that there is tension between them. And McCoy looks done.
He is in his eighth season and has been to five consecutive Pro Bowls. That streak might be about to end. The simpler fact is that McCoy is about to go 0-for-8 at making the playoffs. That might be his legacy more than anything. He is trapped. Look at the big man’s tears.
"I didn’t want to be out there, playing on one arm," McCoy said. "Then you’re not helping your team. Then you’re being selfish. … I fight and I fight. I never quit."
McCoy’s teammates showed their share of fight Sunday, coming from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to tie it when offensive lineman Leonard Wester, bottled up all day, got loose and scored on a short touchdown pass from Winston.
It was a great two-minute drive from Koetter – except there were still two minutes left.
The hopeless Bucs defense let Detroit march to the winning field goal. The Lions were tied for 28th at sacks allowed. The Bucs didn’t get to Matthew Stafford once as he threw for 381 yards. McCoy wouldn’t have gotten to him, either.
What a lost season.
"It’s not what we expected," McCoy said. "So, just keep on fighting. They fought, man. This team is always going to fight. It’s just a matter of coming out on the right side of these things."
Will he ever be on a playoff team?
"I don’t care if we never make the postseason. I’m going to keep fighting until we get there."
Quitting, McCoy said, is not an option.
"No. That’s for punks. I ain’t no punk. I ain’t a wimp. I ain’t none of that. Punks give up. I’m always going to fight. That’s just how I go."
It’s a long way from kimono days. Gerald McCoy will have a very good career for the team and town he loves. But he might never make the playoffs. Seriously. Well, semi …
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly