Gerald McCoy may be cool with the Bucs, but Tre Boston will keep pushing button

Carolina Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy says Thursday’s game against the Buccaneers, his former team, isn’t the personal crusade it’s being billed as.

He also knows just about no one believes that.

“My family, my friends, you guys (the media), fans: Everybody is making this game a big deal, and I’m not,” said McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler in his nine seasons with Tampa Bay. “The only thing that’s big about this game is I know exactly who I’m facing; what they’re good at and what they’re not good at.”

Among the doubters; Panthers safety Tre Boston, who’s playfully reminding McCoy that the Bucs cut him, and “They said he just lost a step.”

After signing with the Panthers, McCoy was upset initially with the Bucs, particularly after they quickly gave his jersey number to his replacement, Ndamukong Suh. He has gotten over that, and doesn’t want to make himself the center off attention.

“Some people play their old team and say, ‘Oh, I’m not shaking their hands!’ and all that. I’m not going to be buddy-buddy, I’m going to keep everything moving, but ain’t no hard feelings,” McCoy said of ex-teammates. “There are some people in that building I don’t like. They know I don’t like them.”

The second game of the series will be in London, so McCoy won’t make a return to Tampa this season as a Panther.

“I would prefer it to be in Tampa, so I can get booed: Not because the fans are mad at me, but because when I come back, it’d be with a division rival,” McCoy said. “I don’t think the fans hate me. Well, some fans do.”

Olsen: I’ll play

Tight end Greg Olsen didn’t practice Tuesday due to a back injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. However, Olsen said repeatedly he’ll play Thursday.

“The short week obviously isn’t ideal,” Olsen said of recovering from injury, “but we’ll make it work.”

Pass-rusher Bruce Irvin, who missed the Rams game with a hamstring injury, sat out Tuesday’s practice. Offensive lineman Greg Little participated, but is not yet cleared from the concussion protocol, according to coach Ron Rivera. Safety Rashaun Gaulden (groin) was limited in practice.

Rivera said running back Christian McCaffrey had limited activity in practice Tuesday for rest. McCaffrey had 29 touches in the game against the Rams, either by carry or reception, and Rivera said resting him Tuesday reflected that and the shorter span between games.

Sit, sleep, lots of water

Discussing the short week before a Thursday-night game, Rivera sounded more concerned with maximizing his players’ physical recovery than the preparation time for the Bucs.

“Give them as much down time, as much recovery time” as possible, Rivera said. “We’ve got to encourage them to hydrate, to eat properly, eat early and stay off their legs as much” as feasible.

To that end, the Panthers had shade tents and benches out for Tuesday practice: “Basically, we told them if they’re not involved in a drill, sit down and get in the shade. And we’re trying to get through meetings as quickly as we can today to get them home.”

Boston, a six-year veteran, said with the normal NFL week pared down for a Thursday game, it’s better to focus on reviewing your own team’s principles, rather than cram for the opponent. Rivera concurred.

“I’m one to believe if you understand your base fundamentals, your base philosophies and rules — if you stick to those things — you can pretty much handle a lot of things thrown at you that you haven’t had a chance to really study the way you typically do,” Rivera said.

Burns self-grade: C-plus

Panthers first-round pick Brian Burns had four sacks in the preseason, but none in his regular-season debut against the Rams. Burns was credited with one tackle-for-loss and two quarterback hurries.

How would he grade himself?

“I gave myself a ‘C-plus,’ but my brother (former Panther Stanley McClover) gave me a ‘B.’ I made a couple of mistakes, but I played fast for my first game out,” Burns said. “I need to be more disciplined as far as pass-rush lanes and run responsibility. Always have a plan.”

Burns said he was tantalizingly close in a couple of rushes on Rams quarterback Jared Goff that could have changed that game.

“It’s aggravating, it kind of hurts, that you can get so close. My hand was literally four inches away from the ball,” Burns said. “A strip sack can change the game ultimately.”