Injury-depleted Bucs begin preparation for Falcons
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have time to feel sorry for themselves.
Less than 24 hours after losing to the St. Louis Rams on a late field goal, the Bucs (0-2) were back in meeting rooms on what normally would have been a day off for players - preparing for Thursday night's game at Atlanta.
Injuries are mounting, with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and middle linebacker Mason Foster the latest additions to the injury report. Having just three days to get ready for the Falcons won't make the first road test of the season any easier.
McCoy has a broken left hand, suffered on the opening defensive series of Sunday's 19-17 loss. Foster left with a shoulder injury later in the first half, and he and McCoy were among five starters who weren't on the field when the Rams scored field goals on their last three possessions to come from behind and win.
''It's about getting a product good enough to win football games on the field, coach Lovie Smith said Monday, refusing to use injuries as an excuse for the team's third 0-2 start in the past six seasons.
The Bucs lost the first seven games in 2009, and dropped eight straight before winning for the first time a year ago.
''A lot is being said about the offense, and what we're doing in certain situations, but where we're really not performing well enough right now is on the defensive side,'' Smith added. ''From long drives to taking the ball away. Our first goal on the defensive side is to score. We haven't come close to doing any of those things at this stage. ... But we will.''
The coach had little to say about injuries other than to say that if the team had practiced Monday, then McCoy, Foster and rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who sat out Sunday's loss because of a sore ankle, would not have been able to participate.
Running back Doug Martin (knee) and defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) also were inactive against the Rams. In addition, the defense played without end Adrian Clayborn and cornerback Mike Jenkins, who were placed on injured reserve after getting hurt during a season-opening loss to Carolina.
''There's no excuse. Whoever's out there we believe in wholeheartedly,'' cornerback Alterraun Verner said. ''Obviously, Gerald going down was a big blow, and some of the other guys from previous weeks. I mean, that's the game. Everybody knows that this game is going to have injuries and people going down. People have to step up.''
The Bucs did get a big game out of Martin's backup, Bobby Rainey, who rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries and gained 30 more on three pass receptions.
Smith also said defensive linemen Da'Quan Bowers and William Gholston performed ''ok for the first time out'' in filling in for Johnson and Clayborn after missing significant time during the preseason, as well as the opener, because of injuries.
Still, the coach stressed the team has not played well enough as a whole to win.
''Our entire game right now, we're not pleased with,'' Smith said.
Rather than fret about not having much time to make adjustments and corrections before facing the Falcons (1-1), players say they're putting the disappointment of the past two weeks behind them.
''You definitely can't dwell on it. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves, we didn't get it done,'' Bowers said. ''It's time to move on, and we have to get going and prepare for Atlanta.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL