DeBerg avoiding any QB controversy
Steve DeBerg has seen and heard it all before - the dreaded Buccaneers Quarterback Controversy. He knows it returned with a vengeance Sunday at Tampa Stadium. And after the Bucs' 38-7 shellacking by Detroit, DeBerg sought to extinguish it before it rages out of control. "Vinny didn't play poorly," he said. "We didn't lose the game because of Vinny Testaverde. That's for sure. It seemed like all day we were going uphill and things were going against us. We seemed to be our own worst enemy. Vinny was the victim today. At times, so was I. There wasn't anything different between the way it went for either of us."

DeBerg acknowledged that by sundown there would be full-blown debates around town over whether he should start next week against the New Orleans Saints and whether Testaverde has finally worn out his welcome - but he sidestepped those topics gracefully. "I'm sure some people are going to say that," DeBerg said, "but Sam is the one to make that call. I won't be disappointed if I don't start. I understand my role. I'd love to be the starting quarterback, but I don't call the shots."

Testaverde got yanked by coach Sam Wyche after his 11th pass of the game went right into the hands of free safety Bennie Blades just 5:12 into the second quarter. DeBerg took over on the Bucs' next possession and stayed in until Craig Erickson mopped up in the final 10 minutes. "Things weren't going too well out there," Testaverde said. "You could sense the crowd getting frustrated. We needed to keep (the fans) in the game, and one way to do that was to bring Steve in. He's a pretty popular guy here with the fans and they seemed to react pretty well when he came in."

Wyche, like DeBerg, absolved Testaverde of much of the blame and deposited it on his receivers. "We know who takes the heat when (the ball's) not caught," the coach said. "But there's one end and there's another end and we've got to start doing a better job catching the ball." So Wyche benched Testaverde, trying, he said, to shake things up. Not that there was anything glaringly wrong. "I'd have to look at the films to see if he played some kind of off game. But I didn't sense that. He didn't get yanked because he wasn't playing well."

What Wyche also said was that he still has confidence in Testaverde. What Wyche didn't say was who would be his starter next Sunday in New Orleans. "It's a quarter after four the week before (the Saints game)," he said. "If we think our best chance to win next week is with Steve, then we'll go that way. Doesn't mean we've got less confidence in anybody else who's not in the lineup."

DeBerg, the master of the irregular cadence, said few things frustrated him as much Sunday as four false start or illegal-motion penalties against the Bucs - not that they contributed all that much to Tampa Bay's downfall. "That's just a lack of concentration," DeBerg said. "When your own football team can't handle the snap count, that's very discouraging because it's such a good weapon and it was backfiring against us."

But what bothers him more than anything, he said, is the "negative talk going on right now." Did he mean in the stands, in the media or in the locker room? He wouldn't say. But he complained that "people" act as though the team is winless, or close to it.

"We're not," DeBerg said. "We're almost .500. We're not out of the playoff picture by any means. We need to take a more positive approach. This is a lot better football team than the kind of Tampa Bay Bucs I was with previously. We got blown out, but it's wrong to say this is the old Bucs, although we did look bad. We're not in a bad situation. We're 3-4 and there are a lot of teams with the same kind of record we have. This team needs to believe in itself - and I believe in it."

Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1992