TAMPA — The last time they played a home game, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans jeered the head coach as he left the field — and “jeered” is cleaning it up.
Speaking of cleaning, the last time the Bucs played, when they left the Georgia Dome a hazmat team — white suits, masks, the works — began sanitizing the locker room they'd used.
And now they go on national TV.
Tonight it's the 0-6 Bucs, in all their glory, against the Panthers, in all their Steve Smith expletives.
The whole world is watching.
OK, not the whole world, just NFL Network regulars, and even they'll flee this game if it's ugly. Updated programming options: World Series Game 2, Kentucky-Mississippi State college football, History Channel's "The Black Plague and Europe's 0-6 start in 1349" and, you know it, my favorite, MSNBC's "Lockup: San Quentin Cafeteria Food Fight."
But here's a big stage for the Bucs.
“First and foremost, we desperately need a win,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “So that's a good headline, right: Desperately In Need Of A Win.”
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Back to the head coach:
“... I think the guys recognize that every other NFL player watches this game. At least if they're a football fan, they do. The Thursday night game is part of their week. And coaches, not always, because some of them are still working, it's a big part of our league. So, yeah, when you get a chance to be the only show in the league, everybody understands that, sure they do.”
Here's another chance to change the narrative.
It's about winning one stinking football game.
“There's definitely added (motivation),” Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “You have the whole country watching you and we haven't won a game yet. All that is motivation to go out there and show what we can really do.”
Right now, the iconic image of this season might be those photos of the Atlanta hazmat guys in their white suits. I'll handle this headline myself.
Without a Trace: The 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here's a chance to change that for an evening.
Remember when we thought the Bucs were built to win now?
Win once. Now.
I've liked the Bucs in this game for weeks.
Granted, I am willing to listen to reason, such as when I noted that the 3-3 Panthers' only victories have come over the Giants, Vikings and Rams, who are a combined 5-15 this season. My friend Fred responded by saying that the teams the Bucs have defeated are a combined 0-0. Good point.
Then there are the problems of Cam Newton and a nasty Panthers defense. Also, the Bucs defense has started to crack. And Doug Martin had his arm in a sling. So will Mike Glennon at the rate of 43 passes per game.
But this might be the night.
It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be.
Not even Josh Freeman's stunningly stinky Monday night (he has since been diagnosed with a concussion) saves the day.
Only a win does that.
No one is saying it has to be like the old days, though, it should be noted, that NFL Network star and Hall of Famer Warren Sapp will at one point apparently be joined on the Raymond James Stadium set tonight by former teammates Derrick Brooks, Booger McFarland and, direct from his own astral plane, mighty and flighty sack master Simeon Rice.
It's night. It's national. The Bucs are the only show in the league.
"Desperately in Need of a Win."
That is a good headline.