"I don't care what's at stake. I love to play this game. Any team I'm on, I love this team. I love this city."
Those were the words of Bucs' defensive tackle Gerald McCoy regarding Tampa Bay's last game of the season this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. He was responding to the notion that given his current injury status and the fact that the Bucs are out of playoff contention, he should sit instead of try to play in the last couple games of the year.
"The city has really embraced me and they deserve a winner," McCoy went on. "I play and I give my all for this city and this team and the guys around me. It's always going to be that way regardless of what we are playing for or what people think we are playing for. I don't care. I'm going to give it everything I got."
"We live to compete and we are going to try to win," wide receiver Mike Evans said, echoing the sentiment of McCoy. "We have been competing well the past few weeks and hopefully we can finish with a win."
Competing hasn't been the issue for the Bucs down the stretch. Since being eliminated from playoff contention in Week 14, the Bucs have not lost a game by more than three points.
"Fantastic – we haven't gotten beat because of lack of effort," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said when asked about the team's effort level. "Hats off to our guys for how they have hung in there and how they have competed. We know ultimately we are judged on wins and losses. We all understand that, but as far as working at it [and] competing on game day and giving us what they have – fantastic."
"Let's make one thing perfectly clear – these guys have played their asses off in terms of going out and giving the effort that you need to win," Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith said to the same tune of Coach Koetter. "Unfortunately, there [have] been a handful of plays that have not allowed us to do that. We've got to find a way to make those plays or coach those guys better […] These guys have played their tails off and I'm not going to have anybody ever say anything different to this group of guys because that's what they've done. We haven't won, but they have played hard."
There are still motivational factors at play as the season concludes. Going into the offseason with a win definitely beats the alternative as far as the players in the locker room are concerned.
"It's the same in college or the NFL," wide receiver Adam Humphries said. "Going into the offseason, you want a good taste in your mouth. You win that bowl game, that's always a good feeling regardless of what bowl game it is. It's momentum going into the offseason and showing your fans you have a lot of stuff to build on and the positives and things going forward.
"Going into the last game, I think the best feeling ever is getting a win. Being in the locker room after a win in the NFL no matter what the implications are, just being in that locker room with a bunch of guys you've worked hard with and care about is going to be rewarding for us."
The opportunity to finish the season at home against a good New Orleans Saints team is one the Bucs are excited about. They're competitors and as a result, they relish challenges such as a division-rival on a hot streak coming to town.
"We have a tough division this year," Humphries said. "Everyone in the division is really solid. Saints are playing with a lot of confidence, they've done really well this year. But it's the NFL. It's a huge challenge for us and we are excited to step up and show them what we got and put up a good fight."
Above all else, being at Raymond James Stadium in front of the home crowd is the focus going into Week 17.
"We have an opportunity to go out and get a win at home," McCoy said. "Regardless of what the record is, Sunday at 7:30 or 8 o'clock, whatever it is, when we walk out of that stadium, if we walk out with a 'W' everybody is going to feel good going into the offseason.
"We go out and win Sunday, people are going to be smiling and that's the ultimate goal."