CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy won't allow himself to get overhyped when he lines up tonight against his former team, the Buccaneers – even though he has plenty of motivation.
After nine full seasons in the NFL, McCoy said he knows better.
“I've been on teams where guys are playing their former team and the night before the game they're losing their minds; day of the game they're losing their minds,” McCoy said. “It's like, 'Bro, relax. Just go play the game.'”
He said a lot of those players didn't play well because of their emotions clouded their ability to focus on making plays.
Still, McCoy admits he's eager to play the Buccaneers, a team that cut him in May after a nine-year stint where he was selected to six Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro and became the face of the franchise.
McCoy's departure from Tampa Bay did not come without some bad feelings.
There are still people at Buccaneers headquarters McCoy doesn't like, adding that they “know who they are.”
It all started when new Bucs coach Bruce Arians said during the offseason McCoy was “not as disruptive as he was four years ago.” Arians ultimately released McCoy and, a few days later, signed free agent Ndamukong Suh to replace him – and promptly gave him McCoy's No. 93.
McCoy let it be known publically he was disappointed over that decision, but McCoy, 31, still plans to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Buccaneers when he calls it quits. He said that has been prearranged with Bucs ownership.
Tampa Bay is bracing for a big dose of Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also had 10 receptions for 81 yards in the Panthers' opener.
Arians called McCaffrey the best dual back in the NFL.
“I used to think it was David Johnson, but Christian's passed him up,” Arians said. “As a receiver, he's a hell of a matchup problem, and as a runner, he's a great runner.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston became Tampa Bay's career passing leader last week. He also tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 loss to San Francisco. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich expects the fifth-year pro to respond with a sharper performance tonight.
“That's what this league's all about. You can't have any hangovers, no carry-overs, so he's just got to stay locked in,” Leftwich said. “The good thing is we had to (begin preparation) the next day and get to rolling with this game being so quick.”