"You've got to look at the whole team, you've got to look at the coaches, you've got to look at everybody," said Nicks. "To point your finger at Josh, you might as well point it at me, because I'm just as responsible, if not more, than he is."
Having overcome a toe injury and a foot infection, Nicks made his 2013 debut on Sunday in New England, playing the whole game in what would prove to be a 23-3 loss that dropped Tampa Bay to 0-3. His return did not immediately fix what has been ailing the Buccaneers' offense, but he intends to be part of the solution moving forward
"I'm going to try my hardest. We need something, and whatever I can do to help this team, I'll do it," said Nicks. "Josh is our guy. We're going to ride-or-die with Josh. He's the starter, he's always been the starter…he's the starter. We support him 110 percent."
Nicks' comments followed similar thoughts expressed by Head Coach Greg Schiano a little earlier on Monday afternoon. While acknowledging that Freeman has had his ups and downs early in his fifth NFL season, Schiano made it clear that the team's offensive woes are not the responsibility of any one specific player. He also stated clearly that the team is not contemplating a lineup change under center.
“Josh [Freeman] is our starter," said Schiano. "He’s done some good things and he’s done some things that he’d like to change and we’d like to. But it’s the whole offensive unit – we need to be more precise. We need to coach more precisely; it’s everybody involved.”
Some of the offensive problems are obvious to any observers, as penalties plagued the team through the first two weeks and dropped passes were conspicuous on Sunday in New England. However, Schiano pointed more towards the sort of procedural and execution issues that are more evident in a coach-player film session, breakdowns that aren't necessarily obvious to the casual viewer but that lead to the overall failure of a play.
"Again, when you have variables where we’re not sharp enough on the details, it’s hard to be the trigger-man when some things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to," said Schiano. "There are 10 other guys out there, without getting into specifics, and certainly everybody has some of the responsibility for us not scoring points right now, starting with me. But it wouldn’t be right to [blame Freeman]; obviously it does happen because he touches the ball 73 times on Sunday, but there’s a whole bunch of us that have got to get our stuff straight.”
Added Nicks: "I agree with that a hundred percent. I don't know if you can emphasize that enough – it's the details, the little things that we're not doing. I don't want to get into specifics, but we really need to fine-tune our craft and make sure that everybody's doing what they're supposed to do, me included.
"We have flashes and sparks of greatness, but we've just got to be more consistent. We'll make a play and everybody will be like, 'Wow,' then the next play will be a minus play. We've just got to be more consistent."
Nicks can certainly provide more to the offense, and almost surely will. Both he and Schiano noted that Nicks had only three real practices before taking the field for the first time in 10 months, and that affected his overall level of play.
“He looked like a guy who practiced for a week, as far as all the little details, but he’s just so big and strong that you can feel his physical presence in there," said Schiano. "I just look forward to him getting more practice and fine-tuning his game.”
The good news is that Nicks' foot felt fine during the game and even the next day.
"It felt good," said Nicks of his foot. "I didn't really have too much pain. I was more fatigued than anything but it felt good to be out there with my teammates. "I'm just sore. My shoulders and my neck are more sore than my foot."
I don't know if you can emphasize that enough – it's the details, the little things that we're not doing.
Nicks also wasn't feeling any long-term despondency over the Bucs' 0-3 start, though it obviously raises the level of difficulty quite a bit on the team's expected playoff chase. In addition to what he provides to the Buccaneers' offensive front, Nicks should also be an experienced and calming presence in the weeks ahead as the team attempts to rebound.
"You know, I don't think we're at a point where we're panicking," he said. "It's a long season. Losing three games is a lot, but if you do it early enough you can still pull off a six, seven-game winning streak and you're back in it. It's a little too early to be panicking, in my opinion. As a team, no one's panicking."