Bucs embrace national TV exposure vs. Colts

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Colts coach Jim Caldwell and defensive end Dwight Freeney also were part of that game and remember what it meant for Indianapolis, as well as former coach, Tony Dungy, who was returning to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since being fired by the Bucs following the 2001 season.

It was played on Dungy’s birthday, although Freeney doesn’t recall learning that until the game was over.

“That’s one I always will remember, just based on the fact that everybody in the building thought we were going to lose,” said Freeney, who remembers receiving messages from people who called his telephone while the Bucs were building a 35-14 lead.

“We ended up winning the game, and that kind of became a staple for us as an organization and team that we never say quit, never say die,” Freeney added. “You never give up because you never know what might happen. That was an example of that.”

The Bucs were one of the league’s biggest surprises a year ago, winning 10 games but narrowly missed the playoffs. They lost this season’s opener to Detroit, but rebounded with wins over Minnesota and Atlanta.

Freeney understands why they might feel their success is going unnoticed.

“They are definitely a team to be reckoned with and not to take lightly. … But I do understand how this league is,” the Colts‘ star said. “It’s like a rookie who has a good year: Can you make it two years? … I can definitely see how they could be underappreciated, but I definitely respect them.”

Morris said the Bucs won’t underestimate Indianapolis, either.

The Colts are winless without Manning, who’s recovering from neck surgery. With Kerry Collins (concussion-like symptoms) status in doubt for Monday night, Curtis Painter could make his first NFL start.

“They’re running their system, they’re playing hard defense, they’re playing their style of offense, which is high tempo, run the football, do all the correct things, and they just haven’t been fortunate enough to win,” Morris said.

“We’ve got to go out there and not let anything creep into our head that we’re any bigger than what we are. We’re 2-1. We’re tied for the NFC South’s best team,” Morris added. “If we want to remain that we’ve got to play our best game. … Right now they’re struggling as far as wins and losses, but that could change any day.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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