Guard Frank Middleton doesn't want to take it easy on anyone on the football field
Warren Sapp, that noted locker room quote-smith for the Buccaneers, always holds his afternoon interviews seated at his locker. Even though the surrounding media stands, it's a casual affair that often strays into non-football topics.
Across the locker room, Frank Middleton is just as accessible as Sapp, an every-day locker room presence, but Middleton stands for every interview, towering over his questioners. Middleton injects his talks with humor, too, but there's a confrontational edge to his answers that mirrors his playing style on the field.
That is to say, Middleton invites extra contact during a game, playing aggressively right up until the whistle. He also chooses not to dance around interviewers' questions with clichés, always answering directly, even if his answers are unpopular.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of Middleton's thoughts on Wednesday, midway between the team's crushing defeat in Chicago and its suddenly crucial game against Buffalo.
What's the team's mentality going into the Buffalo game.?
"I don't know, but my mentality is just 'kill everybody'," said Middleton. "Try to kill as many people as you can on Sunday, and hopefully that rubs off on a lot of other people and we just play physical, aggressive football. Whatever happens, happens."
How does the team feel about their 6-5 season at this point?
"For me, it's disappointment," said Middleton. "I was kind of hoping for homefield advantage, so we wouldn't have to go up to the Rams or Washington or whatever. So, right now, the season's kind of a disappointment for me…I don't know what anybody else thinks, but that's my opinion.
"Right now, the only thing I can do is talk about myself, and I'm frustrated. Everybody keeps saying, with the people we've got on this team, this is not a 6-5 team…but it is. Personnel-wise, we're not. We've just got to play better. Stop worrying about what people think about us and start playing football."
Are you feeling desperate?
"I've been desperate since my rookie year," he said. "I guess you stay desperate until you win a Super Bowl. We've got to be desperate for a win, because we need it. We got beat by Chicago, and now we've got a great team coming in, Buffalo, that was one game and one trick play away from being in the Super Bowl last year. So you've got to be a little desperate right now.
"We lost to some pretty good teams that are doing pretty decent right now, but losing to Chicago right now when you need to win all of them…that kind of hurts. It makes you take it kind of serious and lets you know that the NFL's not a joke. You have to play hard week in and week out."
Does that mean some players didn't play hard in Chicago?
"I wouldn't say that," said Middleton. "I don't think a lot of people played their best game on Sunday like Coach Dungy asked for. Right now, we've got to start playing our best games. No more excuses – young, old, short, small, whatever. We've got to play our best game now."
Why is the offense struggling?
"People are still trying to find themselves and I guess a lot of people are not on track right now – obviously, because we lost to Chicago," he said. "We've just got to get on track and stop trying to make excuses for each other."
What do you think about the Bills' run defense?
"They're real good," said Middleton. "They've got three guys that weigh about 400 pounds. That's going to hurt us a little bit. They way I feel right now, I don't need a 400-pounder. We've got a couple of guys at 280 or whatever, so, weight-wise, they've got us. But we're going to come out and play like madmen and hopefully get the job done."
What do the Bucs need to do to make the playoffs?
"A lot of people say you've got to win four out of five, but I really believe that you've got to win five out of five," he said. "It's one thing to get into the playoffs, and it's another thing to get at least one home game in the playoffs. Everybody says you don't win three road games in the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl. Maybe if we win all five, we can get one at home to start off the wild card, and that would give us confidence to go on."
Oh, by the way, what's your plan for Thanksgiving?
"Eating," said Middleton. "I'm going to eat. My mom's probably going to start cooking tonight and I'm going to start eating in the morning until I pass out at night time. I'll probably bring my plate to practice. I'm going to eat as much as I can. I've got about 50 pounds I need to gain by Sunday to catch up with their big guys."