tampabay.com

'Disgruntled employee' vents frustrations

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published December 27, 2004


TAMPA - Dwight Smith shook his head.

"You don't want to talk to me," the Bucs strong safety said as he dressed at his locker. "I am a disgruntled employee."

Smith was one of Tampa Bay's best players Sunday. He had a game-high 11 solo tackles, defensed a pass and caused the fumble he recovered during the second quarter that was nullified by a penalty.

Reminded of his day, Smith decided he had something to say after all.

"I don't give a damn," he said. "I don't care if I had any takeaways or plays. ... It's a frustrating season, period."

Smith kept talking.

Asked if Tampa Bay is more disciplined than its three turnovers and 10 penalties showed, he said, "That's what we claim to be, but actions speak louder than what you say. Penalties, missed assignments and all of that. That doesn't show a disciplined ballclub."

Asked if he believed the Bucs are a bad football team, as teammate Ronde Barber said after last week's loss to the Saints, Smith said, "I won't come out and say that. I just feel like other teams are making the plays we need to make right now."

Blame?

"The coaches aren't playing," he said. "We need to be held accountable. We're the ones on the field."

Whether Smith, 26, will be on the field for the Bucs next season remains to be seen. He is a potential unrestricted free agent who wants to play cornerback, something he hasn't done this season.

Smith didn't specifically address his future. But with Tampa Bay out of the playoffs for the second straight season, setting a tone for 2005 is, apparently, not part of the equation.

"I play for the name on the back of my jersey," Smith said. "I'm upholding my grandparents' name that they gave me. So playing for the playoffs, I don't get into that. I play for the pride that my family has. So you never see me not give everything I got."

SIMMS SITS, WAITS: Bucs coach Jon Gruden said quarterback Brian Griese will start against the Cardinals, but Chris Simms could play. Simms, limited to mop-up duty in one game since a shoulder injury sustained Oct.10, said he will take what comes.

"Whatever the coach decides to do is fine with me," he said. "He knows the best direction for this team. I'm just along for the ride. I'll be there when they need me."

Simms said gaining experience is not imperative.

"Of course you need it at some point to get better, but it's one game," he said. "Whether Coach wants to give me that experience or not, it's not the end of the world either way. I know it's good for me, but I'm still confident I can go out there and be successful."

A mistaken announcement Simms was entering the game for the final 59 seconds got cheers from the crowd. Simms was warming up, but Griese stayed in the game.

"I thought there might be an appropriate situation to get him some snaps, some throws," Gruden said. "I'm excited about him. I'm intrigued by him."

TIM'S TIME: Bucs receiver Tim Brown , 38, said his 24 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown this season do not indicate his career is waning.

"I plan on playing football next year," he said. "Certainly, I feel as if I can still play this game and be effective."

SAME OLD SONG: Stop us if you've heard this one before, or something like it, anyway. Two interceptions, two fumbles (one lost), a botched punt and 10 penalties for 77 yards.

"We work extremely hard throughout the week to eliminate mistakes, and we didn't do it (Sunday)," Bucs receiver Joey Galloway said. "We didn't play well."

"We just have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "I know it sounds like a broken record, but it's not a broken record because we keep doing it. We stopped ourselves. It's very disappointing to see that."

ODDS AND ENDS: Bucs cornerback Torrie Cox , inactive in three previous games after his Dec.4 DUI arrest, returned five kickoffs for 111 yards. His 50-yard return in the third quarter was his second longest of the season. ... Galloway caught a season-high nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. ... Joe Jurevicius had a season-high six catches for 66 yards. ... Defensive lineman Greg Spires got his career-high eighth sack. ... The Panthers have beaten the Bucs four straight and lead the series 5-4. ... The Bucs finished 4-4 at home, their second straight nonwinning season at Raymond James Stadium, where they are 37-19. ... Tampa Bay is 3-1 in games played on Dec.26. ... Tight end Dave Moore played his 161st game, third in franchise history.