CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Long after the Bucs were handed their second bitter and bruising mauling this season at the claws of the Panthers, Kenyatta Walker sat alone on a chair in the visitors' locker room.
He stared through glazed eyes. He rubbed bruised arms and legs. He shook his head and looked vacantly toward the front of the room.
The Bucs left tackle, turned right tackle, turned left tackle again, looked like a man on the verge of a breakdown.
For good reason.
In a game the Bucs needed desperately, Walker melted down.
With the duty of containing the Panthers furious pass rush, principally defensive end Mike Rucker, Walker was flagged for two personal foul penalties, one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a holding penalty that was declined.
All told, three flags, 41 yards, hours and hours of grief.
"We knew there were going to be penalties," Walker said, clearly shaken from the day's events. "We knew (the Panthers) were going to be after me. I didn't care. It was an ugly game. We fought.
"I'm not going to say that (the officials were after me). We'll see them next year. I'm not going anywhere, and they're not going anywhere, and it's like that."
Granted, the Carolina defensive front is one of the best in the NFL.
Granted, the broken right hand of starting left tackle Roman Oben has forced the Bucs to be creative with their lineup.
Granted, the Bucs were able to move the ball in the second half and took the lead with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.
But Walker's low moments were very noticeable.
"We had some penalties, some crucial penalties in key situations," coach Jon Gruden said. "We had some inexcusable penalties that killed us and stymied some pretty good-looking drives. ... We're going to address it. Again, we're running out of men to make changes (in the offensive line). I'm not making any excuses about the injuries. But those penalties must be avoided."
Twice in the first half, Walker was flagged for grabbing the face mask or shoving his hands in the face of a defender. Both 15-yard penalties helped shut down drives.
"Those are big infractions," Gruden said. "I do realize that Kenyatta is playing a new position against an outstanding player, but those penalties certainly were drive-killers. What can I say?"
Although offensive line coach Bill Muir declined to talk to the media after the game, some of Walker's teammates said the game was ripe with trash talk.
"You grab the guy and take him back to the huddle," center John Wade said. "We're trying to get yards. He might have been in the right, who knows. But the second guy is the one who gets caught. I don't know what was happening. I was in there fighting my own battle.
"But, it is an emotional game and in the heart of the battle, your emotions take over. It's a physical game with a lot of emotions and words are said. Sometimes you need to walk away from what a man said in a particular situation, but it's tough."
It is equally tough for Walker to keep switching positions. A right tackle at the University of Florida, Walker was drafted by the Bucs three years ago to play left tackle. He struggled as a rookie on the left and in Gruden's first year was moved to right tackle, where he played all of last season.
When Oben went down, the Bucs moved Walker to left tackle and reshuffled the rest of the lineup. Left guard Cosey Coleman has had to move to right guard for the injured Jason Whittle.
"It's the NFL and that's the way the ball goes," Coleman said. "Whether it's right to left or left to right, that's what you have to do. I had to do it. When they call your name, even though it's an adverse situation, you really have to get in there and do your best."
The officials seemed to be watching the interaction between Walker and Rucker and Panthers left end Julius Peppers closely. But that, Gruden said, is largely irrelevant.
"I don't want to talk about the officials," Gruden said. "They call it as they see it."
Help could be on the way. Oben says he's optimistic about playing Sunday against the Packers.
"I was in uniform (Sunday)," Oben said. "I was closer than last week and hopefully this week I'll have the opportunity to help the team win. I'm going to prepare to start against Green Bay (Sunday). That's the only approach I have at this point."
And how do you avoid the trash talk?
"Win," Wade said. "Gain yards. Do your job. Shut them up. Some people talk, some people don't. I don't talk because it takes away from my energy. Try screaming for five minutes: you're exhausted after."