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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Beat: Schiano already shaking things up

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:44 AM
TAMPA -

The parking lot for Buccaneer employees has been paved over since the 2011 season mercifully ended, part of a new beginning ushered in with the hiring of Greg Schiano.

Tampa Bay's first-year head coach immersed himself in game film after replacing Raheem Morris on Jan. 26, a date that may be viewed in hindsight as one of the most significant in franchise history.

Instead of evaluating game tape, Schiano's steely gaze is now firmly fixed ahead toward the draft and an opportunity to indulge in his favorite vocation.

Teaching.

Ronde Barber noticed a big change around the facility this week as players trickled in for conditioning drills and a chance to hear Schiano describe his vision for a club that hasn't won a postseason game since the 2002 Bucs trounced the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

"This is a different direction for this franchise, even more so than any other time I've been here,'' Barber said. "Sometimes, change is good.''

Barber has seen his share of change since arriving in Tampa in 1997 as a third-round pick out of Virginia.

The Bucs were still playing at Tampa Stadium in Barber's rookie season and he would go on to see Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Morris all removed from the sidelines by the Glazer ownership family.

Barber's decision to endure the rigors of a 16th NFL season didn't come easily for the five-time Pro Bowl cornerback.

Barber, who turned 37 on Saturday, knew he still had his health and his competitive desire. Tampa Bay's headlong plunge into free agency showed him a renewed organizational commitment toward winning, but Barber probably would have called it quits if he hadn't been won over by Schiano.

Morris was Barber's position coach before 2009 and they shared a powerful bond. It's doubtful Barber and Schiano will match that relationship in terms of closeness, but Barber ultimately became convinced Schiano was the right man at the right time in Tampa.

Since his arrival, Schiano has talked forcefully and often about restoring discipline to a young team craving direction.

"We've got the greatest game in the world and this is the greatest league,'' Schiano said. "We have a responsibility to the league and the community. I've got four kids and I know my boys and little girl look up to these players. It's important that we're good role models. I know we've had some issues, but as I said, everyone gets a fresh start with me.

"Hopefully, we won't have those situations. If we do, that's my job as a head coach to discipline the situation, correct it. It's no different than parenting. If you scream and yell, you lose credibility.''

All eyes in the locker room are on Schiano, and he knows it.

"It's all about relationships and trust,'' Schiano said. "I wouldn't expect them to trust me right out of the gate. …Why would they? They didn't pick me, I picked them.''

In some ways, Schiano could turn out to be a blend of Gruden's fire and Dungy's icy resolve. That might not be a bad thing for a franchise that appeared to lose its way last fall during a 10-game losing streak that had fans and coaches openly questioning effort.

Schiano knows what it's like to be humbled.

In 2001, Schiano's first year as Rutgers coach, the Scarlet Knights lost to West Virginia 80-7. Nine years later, Cincinnati dropped 69 points on Rutgers.

In both cases, Schiano tried to transform adversity into a teaching tool. It's already clear he'll accept no substitute among his passionate students.

"One of the things that will be evident pretty quickly is guys who love the game will be on our team,'' Schiano said. "Liking it isn't going to be enough at our place. There's nothing wrong with people who like it, but love-it guys lose track of time when they're doing it. Those are the guys we want.''


ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833

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