Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Lovie Smith
Linebacker Lavonte David
HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
“With the games this weekend, reality kind of hit us hard, after yesterday’s game at least. When you start the season off you set goals to finish up playing for a Super Bowl each year, getting into the playoffs, winning the division. The division has been gone for us, but once that goal left, put us down a different path of missing the playoffs. That was disappointing for a football team that I feel like has gotten a lot better this year. It’s made a lot of strides, but we didn’t do exactly what we set out to accomplish this year, didn’t get that done. But with that, we have a couple football games left to go in our football season and we’re going to continue to build to eventually be a championship team. We have another NFC opponent coming in this week in the Chicago Bears. They had a tough day of it yesterday, but the last time we played we didn’t play our best football as a team. We have another opportunity to make that right. We’re going to put in a full week of practice this week. As I talk to our football team, we need to have our best practice this week. There’s not going to be any shutting it down for the season or anything like that. We’re going to work this week as hard as we work any week to make improvements and play our best ball. We still have a few injured players, hopefully we can get some of them back to put the best possible team on the field this week. We know we have Christmas coming up, so we adjusted our schedule knowing, of course, this day was coming up, so we’re going to move everything up a day this week and just be ready to go at the end of the week.”
(On his message to the team about being out of the playoff race but still having two games left in the season)
“That goal is gone. The message is for us to play our best ball this week. We have more games left to go in our football season. We want to finish strong. Getting this seventh win is important to us. Again, when you don’t play your best ball the previous game, you can’t wait to get back on the football field. That’s the message. The team knew what the message would be. I don’t think I had to give them the message, but that is the message.”
(On if it can be difficult to get players to play at a high level when the team is already eliminated from the playoffs)
“I can see why that would be the perception, that it would be hard, that guys would be checking [out], but no that isn’t what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen. One of my last teams, we were 5-9 going into the last two games, we were out of it and just like we’re playing our football team now, I’m saying our 2016 season has started. There’s a two-game part of the season, we’re going to take a long break, but we want to show everybody what we are going to be next year. That’s how we are handling this. For us, we’re also going to finish up the season with the best team in football playing right now, so there’s a lot for us to do these last couple [of games].”
(On the importance of the next two games in evaluating players for next season)
“Very important, that’s why I think guys get it on, ‘What I can get accomplish these last two games and if I want to be part of our program going forward, I want everybody to have that lasting impression that this is what you’re going to get from me next year. I think it’s very important. For the most part I think we’ve had everybody in position to prove what they can do this year. There are still a couple of guys that it would be to know a little bit more about them. Again, there’s a lot for us. Just talking offensively, I think it’s important to our offensive line to help Doug Martin be the leading rusher in the league. It’s important. It’s always about the team goals at the end, but there’s some individual things going on to be able to remember this season by. That’s pretty important. Offensively, we’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of areas, individually and as a football team. Defensively, some of the things we haven’t accomplished the last couple of games like what we are in our DNA – taking the ball away – we haven’t been able to do that. You are going to remember these last couple of games, lasting impression on what we do at the end of the year. That’s why the guys, everybody showed up today in meetings bright-eyed, ready to go and they know what the task at hand is.”
(On if he is surprised by immature play of some of the young players throughout the league)
“I think you look at society a little bit, you see some of the same things. A lot of it is about me, how I look, me and my respect and different things like that. I watched a lot of games yesterday and I think I know the direction you’re heading with it, but I kind of look at our football team and what we need to do going forward. We haven’t handled some situations as well as we need to, as much as anything. As a football player in general, it’s bigger than you. It’s a team sport and whenever you do something that’s hurting your football team it should get your attention. It should get the coach’s attention. It’s should get the teammates’ attention, all of our attention to not hurt the football team. You go out there, each play you are trying to help your team win. Some of the things we’re seeing nowadays aren’t actually doing that. Again, I’m not talking about for anybody else, I’m talking about for us. Sometimes when you’re dealing with young players you have to teach them, just like everything else, just like every other technique that you have, you have to teach them how to be a pro.”
(On playing players that haven’t had an opportunity to show their skills or sticking with the players that give the team the best chance of winning)
“In these situations I think first off, we’re going to do what we need to do to win the football game, but as I say the 2016 season has started for us, we do need to know if there’s a position where we haven’t seen a guy and it’s not going to hurt our football [team to play him and] we feel like we can win, yeah we’ll give him an opportunity. We want to finish up the season knowing about our roster and knowing what we have and even knowing about certain players in certain situations and if that comes up we’ll use it that way too.”
(On the situation at cornerback)
“It has been uneven based on, we feel like, the play we’ve gotten. That door at even position, it’s not just one position, you don’t have what I think we need at every position right now. To me, it’s each week. You look at what happened that week, even that play, that series, and if you don’t like what you’re getting, you look at another option. That will continue throughout. It would be that way at our quarterback position or our running back position – two positions that have been just as strong as you can possibly have them so that’s just a general philosophy that we have. Yes we haven’t been totally pleased, and I wouldn’t say just the cornerback positions, there are positions on our football team right now that we need to improve in order to become a championship team.”
(On wide receiver Adam Humphries)
“I can talk about quite a few players that have stepped up, especially a lot of our younger players that we didn’t know about. Adam Humphries came in and has earned everything that he got. He worked himself into a position to get a chance. Normally if you continue to do what you’re supposed to do and you keep making the coaches take notice you get an opportunity and when you get that opportunity what do you do with it? He earned himself a roster spot, patient and it’s also the more things you can do. He can return punts, he has been a solid, consistent player in the slot for us. I’ve liked everything that he has done for us from pretty much the day he got here on. I feel real good about Adam going forward and I know what we’re going to get from him on the practice field tomorrow and I think I know what we’re going to get form him this Sunday too. That’s about as good a compliment as I can give.”
(On quarterback Jameis Winston being a contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year)
“As a rookie coming into this league, top pick in the draft, quarterback. We made Jameis our starting quarterback right away. We saw that. He has been everything you want a franchise quarterback to be, so to say that there’s another rookie out there better than our rookie that we have – you could ask me that a million times and you’re going to get the same answer, probably explained the same way. What more can you look for in a franchise quarterback than Jameis Winston is how I would answer that. Are we there yet? No, but once we get there we’ll be holding up the Lombardi Trophy. We’re making progress. Again, what he’s done as a passer, as a runner, we talked about him as a leader, just everything I think check, check, check, check is what you do. For Jameis to have a good year and have everybody talking about you is one thing, now to be able to finish up strong too. Again, this lasting impression is what we’re going to have these last two weeks.”
LINEBACKER LAVONTE DAVID
(On the players' motivation for the last two games)
"We want to make each other proud. We all want to be successful in this program. We've got some fighters on this football team and everybody wants to turn this program into a winning program."
(On what it will take to make Tampa Bay a consistent winner)
"Basically, focus on things that we can focus on, being fundamentally sound, not shooting ourselves in the foot, not putting ourselves in bad situations that we've got to dig out of a hole."
(On how much higher Tampa Bay can set their expectations)
"A lot higher. Obviously, 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. 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."
(On knowing the team has a leader in Jameis Winston)
"It's great. His growth has been amazing on a week-to-week basis. The way he takes control of the offense, the way he understands defenses that he's going against – he's been nothing short of what we expected. The sky's the limit for Jameis and he's going to be a great leader."
(On getting to work today and knowing the playoffs can't happen)
"It's difficult, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We put ourselves in that situation. We had countless opportunities to set ourselves to be in the big dance this upcoming January. But the tables didn't turn our way, so now we have to take this lesson and learn from it because we know what we can be. Right now, we have to turn that mindset over to next year and make sure we can be in that big dance in January."
(On how much of a boost this year's rookie class has given the franchise)
"A big boost, a big boost. That's probably the most I've ever seen rookies play on the team and contribute in a big way. Start with Jameis and you've got Kwon [Alexander], you've got Jude [Adjei-Barimah], you've got the two offensive linemen, Ali [Marpet] and Donovan [Smith]. You've got the rookie receivers who stepped up in a big way, and Mike Evans is only in his second year. We've got a lot of young guys with a lot of potential, so this program has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year."
(On linebacker Kwon Alexander)
"Kwon is like my little brother. We played off each other. Our chemistry kept improving all year and we were just playing off each other. It was great, it was fun. Now we have a lot to look forward to coming into next year. We've got OTAs to go through, and he can go through a whole camp where he's playing fully at MIKE. There's a lot to look forward to and it's going to be a fun year."
(On the last two games being important for coaches to evaluate players)
"You're always being evaluated, especially at times like this when you don't make it to the playoffs and you just have to finish the season. This is where coaches really evaluate you the strongest because they want to know if you're going to go out there and play the way you need to play every week, week-in and week-out. These last two games are very important. Play for the organization and play for the name on the back of your jersey. Have some pride when you go out there."