TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to work Monday knowing that despite a playoff berth being out of the question, the final two games are meaningful.
"We want to set the momentum going into next year," cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah said Monday. "I feel like these last two games are like the first two games of next season, and that's a good thing in a way."
The Buccaneers (6-8) have a chance to avoid a losing season for the first time since 2010, when they went 10-6. Head coach Lovie Smith described the final two games, against Chicago and at Carolina, as "very important." He said it's a way for each player to say, "I want everybody to have that lasting impression that this is what you're going to get from me next year."
"For the most part, I think we've had everybody in position to prove what they can do this year," Smith said. "There are still a couple of guys that it would be nice to know a little bit more about them."
Adjei-Barimah will likely be one of those players being watched closely. An undrafted free agent, he started seven straight games for the Bucs, including last Thursday at St. Louis. But he didn't play after biting on a double-move by Kenny Britt which turned into a 60-yard touchdown.
Adjei-Barimah said he didn't know how that would affect the rest of the season.
"I'm just going to go back to practice (Tuesday), go back to work and let the chips fall as they may," he said. "I'm not really concerned. I'm concerned with what I can control and that's on the field."
While disappointed, linebacker Lavonte David said he expects the team to learn from this season.
"Our expectations have risen because we had a better year than last year, and now we have an opportunity to finish the season at .500 and then take off from there," David said. "Each year, we want to keep improving and keep improving. We know we're a good football team because where we were at the end of the year, fighting for a playoff spot. Next year we want to be that team that's guaranteed to be in the playoffs."