There is a saying in football that's as old as the game itself. It claims the low man always wins in any physical encounter. Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano believes that phrase explains why the Bucs lost to the Titans on Friday.
Whether it was a result of fatigue or a lack of focus on details he's not quite sure, but Schiano said he's convinced the Bucs 30-7 setback at Raymond James Stadium was a result of their "sloppy'' fundamentals.
"Overall, I think if you look at our operation, we just need to trust our training more,'' Schiano said after the Titans outgained the Bucs 341 yards to 81 and handed Schiano his first NFL loss.
"We work very hard here when we work on fundamentals and so you can't get in the game and have some things go awry for whatever reason. We really just need to make sure we stick to the plan.''
The Bucs plan on Friday called for quarterback Josh Freeman to begin developing a game-day connection with receiver Vincent Jackson, and Schiano's desire to stick with that plan may have laid the foundation for the loss.
Schiano said the Titans threw defenses at the Bucs that limited the possibility of the Bucs succeeding in their endeavor but he chose to stick with the plan in the hopes it would allow Freeman and Jackson to develop some chemistry.
"There was a little bit of 'It's preseason and we're going to do this no matter what mentality,' but overall there were just a lot mistakes and we did not play physically enough on either side of the ball.
"If you could say (we did play well) anywhere, it would have been the early (play) of the defense but after that I didn't think we played as physical as we did the week before (against Miami).''
Schiano said all three defensive units were guilty at times of playing less aggressively than he expects. He was most concerned, however, with the play of his offensive line.
"I felt our whole offensive line played just a little bit too high, if that makes sense,'' he said. "We need to get our pad level down, because the low man wins and we need to do a better job of that.
"I wish I knew why (that happens), because I know there is not one player that goes out there and says "let me play high today so I can get my butt handed to me.' I haven't met one yet. We just need to trust our training.''
The Bucs will return to training on Monday, when they begin preparing for their joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday with the Patriots and for Friday's exhibition game against New England.
Running back LeGarrette Blount, who left the Titans game in the second quarter after he suffered what he said was a groin injury, may not be back at work by then but Schiano said he doesn't believe Blount will be out for long.
"I don't know how long (he'll be out) but I don't think it's going to be serious,'' he said. "Will it be this week? I don't know. But I don't think it will be an extended period of time.''
While Blount could miss some practice time as well as this week's game the Bucs are expected to welcome two others players back from injury on Monday. Starting left tackle Donald Penn is expected to return after missing the first four weeks of workouts with a calf injury and backup tight end Luke Stocker is expected to be back after missing most of last week with an unspecified ailment that Schiano said was not a concussion.
A report on the Bucs-Titans broadcast on Friday said Stocker had been dealing with concussion-like symptoms but Schiano said doctors never told him Stocker suffered a concussion.
"I don't know why that was said,'' Schiano said of the reference to a concussion. "I stay away from that C word unless the doctor tells me that's what it is.
"It is a physical game and we hit into each other. If a guy doesn't feel well, sometimes it is that, sometimes it isn't that. But we take that very, very seriously.
"So if a guy doesn't feel well, we're going to err on the side of caution. As an organization, we're committed to that. They are people first. You only got one (brain), so we're going to be extra careful with that.''