TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter admitted Tuesday that the rumors surrounding his job status have been a distraction, but he said he has not had any talks with ownership about his future.
"Of course," Koetter said when asked if rumors have been a distraction. "It's your life, it's your life. It's what you do. So just flip it around. Of course it is. But we all as players and coaches, we're paid to do a job, and you try to do it to the best of our ability. That's all you can do."
The Bucs went 9-7 last season, Koetter's first as head coach, but have fallen to 4-11 in his second season and are showing signs of disarray.
Koetter acknowledged that a screaming match broke out in the locker room after the team's 22-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Christmas Eve. It was loud enough to be picked up by the Bucs' radio broadcast.
Baker was slapped with a neutral zone infraction penalty on fourth-and-3 at the Tampa Bay 5-yard line, setting up Cam Newton's game-winning touchdown, and Baker didn't appear to show any remorse.
According to the website JoeBucsFan, the broadcast had to delay linebacker Lavonte David's scheduled postgame interview so David could intervene. The Times also reported that Winston and Alexander were swearing at Baker.
"I just think that when you lose a hard-fought game like that, that's why they call it a 'cooling off period,'" Koetter said. "Emotions [were] running, and that game -- we had a lot of nice opportunities to win, [but] we didn't do it. No one's happy about that. A shouting match ... I don't think that would be the first or last time that's ever happened."
Koetter declined to discuss Baker's effort, which has come under scrutiny this year, instead deferring all player evaluations for after the season ends. However, sources familiar with Baker's time with the Washington Redskins said effort was an issue for him there too. The Bucs gave him a three-year deal worth $15.75 million (maximum $18.75 million with incentives) with $9 million guaranteed to start next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy. Baker currently has 0.5 sacks this season.
Koetter was asked if it is up to the players to police each other or if it is on the coaching staff to hold them accountable in that type of situation. He opted not to comment directly because he said he wasn't in the locker room at the time.
The Baker incident wasn't the only skirmish of the game, however. On the possession immediately following Newton's touchdown, Winston was sacked and stripped of the football by Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. Winston grew irate. He began shouting and had to be restrained by teammates when addressing an official.
At one point, he came running full bore and nearly knocked over the Bucs' director of football operations, Shelton Quarles, as stunned teammates looked on. Had Quarles, who played 10 years in the NFL as a linebacker, fallen, he could have taken backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick down with him.
Koetter chalked it up to frustration for Winston.
"Any time your emotion leads to 15-yard penalty, that's getting too emotional. Jameis is a fighter, and he's a great competitor. He felt like he recovered the fumble all the way," Koetter said. "But the fact that we got a penalty on it -- the game was over at that point so it didn't matter -- but obviously, you don't want unsportsmanlike penalties."
Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans were also involved in a sideline altercation with New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore in Week 9. Winston was fined for his involvement in the incident, and Evans received a one-game suspension.
Koetter was asked if outbursts such as Winston's in Carolina, the confrontation with Baker and the situation in New Orleans were symptoms of a coach who had lost his locker room and if he fears he has lost control of the team.
Koetter chuckled, smiled and said, "That's not a fear of mine."