It was lunchtime on Tuesday at One Buc Place and over in one corner of the Buccaneers locker room a card game had broken out among cornerback Myron Lewis and linebackers Geno Hayes, Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward.
In an opposite corner, defensive tackles Roy Miller and Fank Okam played a game of Monopoly on an iPad while in the middle of the room players took turns shooting baskets at a mini-basketball net.
The scene wasn't all that different from those near the end of the 2009 season that ended with a 3-13 record, or even last season, but the vibe in the room certainly was. Players throughout the room sensed it.
The Bucs' nine-game losing streak and the growing possibility head coach Raheem Morris will be fired as a result raised the angst in the room to a level usually reserved for hospital waiting rooms.
The Bucs (4-11) finish the season today at Atlanta (9-6) hoping to avoid a 10th straight loss.
"It's definitely a little disheartening," center Jeff Faine said. "In 2009 we didn't have too many expectations because we were a young team and we were rebuilding and we were playing well at the end of the year, so it was pretty positive then.
"But this year, we started off strong and then things started to go downhill on us, and when they went down hill they went fast. So now, no one really knows what the future holds – for anybody."
There were questions about Morris' future as coach at the end of the 2009 season as well, but most believed he would be retained because of the way his team continued to play hard. Even through a 1-12 start, the Bucs never showed signs of quitting on Morris and were relatively competitive.
This season, Morris has questioned his players' effort on three occasions and a discernable lack of competitiveness seemingly came to characterize the team as it piled up lopsided losses.
Six of Tampa Bay's 11 losses were by 16 points or more. The past four – against Carolina twice, Jacksonville and Dallas – were by an average 23.5 points.
That tailspin has all but shattered a confidence level that began to build late in the 2009 season, when the Bucs won two of their last three games, and grew steadily through their 10-6 run last season.
"It definitely doesn't feel as good this year,'' cornerback Ronde Barber said of the vibe around Bucs headquarters.
"We've definitely lost something along the way here. Whether it was players (lost through free agency or injury) or our attention to detail, I don't know. But whatever it was, the last 10 weeks we've lost what it was we showed the first five or six weeks of this year.''
The Bucs were 4-2 and tied for first place in the NFC South after a 26-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints in Week 6. What has happened since has left even young players confused and angry.
"I come to work angry every day now,'' rookie defensive end Da'Quan Bowers said. "And you know what? Everybody here should be angry. If they're not, we need to make some changes.''
Changes to personnel and within the coaching staff are likely after this season. That, too, has tainted the mood inside the locker room, where even some veterans have been left to wonder where they stand.
"The way we've been going this year, I am wondering whether some of our players are going to come back,'' said right guard Davin Joseph, the team's lone Pro Bowl representative.
"Things just haven't panned out for us this year. But I really believe the future here is bright and no one can convince me that it's not. We have a third-year quarterback, a bunch of second–year wide receivers and a second-year running back and even on the defensive side of the ball we have so many young guys, so many rookies.
"But they're all talented and sometimes it just takes time. We went through our growing pains on the offensive line, too. We had our highs and lows there, been through all that, so I know things will eventually pan out for us.''
Barber also sees a brighter future just ahead.
"You get into this game for one reason, and that's to win,'' the 36-year-old cornerback said. "All the other stuff aside, you play to give yourself a chance to get into the playoffs and make a run.
"But our youth here has to be our uptick. It has to be. It's how we've chosen to manufacture this football team. It's not like you've got a bunch of (old) guys like me out here. We've got a bunch of young guys that can and have to get better, and we've got to lean on that as a positive.''