Schiano met with team before firing

TAMPA, Fla. -- Before he was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Greg Schiano addressed his players and gave no signs he was about to be dismissed.

Schiano and his assistants met with players at 10 a.m. Monday and the news of his firing came more than an hour later. The media got to talk to players shortly after the meeting ended and before the news of the firing came out.

“From how they talked, they went on with regular business as if nothing’s going to change,’’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We haven’t done anything different than we would do if we’re going to have the same everything.’’

As players cleaned out their lockers to begin the offseason, they went to bat for Schiano despite a 4-12 season that included lots of controversy and injuries.

“[Schiano] never let us hang our heads or feel sorry for ourselves,’’ middle linebacker Mason Foster said. “He’s a great coach and a great person. No matter what was going on, good or bad, he was there on an even keel and kept us going.’’

Players said they admired how Schiano kept the team together during the Josh Freeman saga, an MRSA outbreak and an 0-8 start.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,’’ McCoy said. “It was hard to get through. But I think our team showed a lot of character. You never saw guys in this locker room turn on each other. We didn’t turn on the coaches. This team didn’t turn on each other.’’