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30 April 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Day 3 NFL Draft Media Availability (4/30/16)

GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
 
(Opening statement)
“Just finished our last pick – I don’t see us moving back into the seventh [round], so fire away.”
 
(On quarterback Mike Glennon remaining with the team and if the team received calls during the draft inquiring about a trade)
“He sure is. No, I didn’t [receive calls]. Mike’s a Buc and I’m glad he’s a Buc. So is Dirk and everybody here. The value of that backup quarterback – we’re lucky to have him. Hopefully he can be here for a while, but we know we’ve got him for this year.”
 
(On if the team received offers for Glennon prior to the start of the draft)
“You know, we normally don’t talk about that, the calls that we get and things like that. Mike’s a Buc.”
 
(On if the team addressed needs in the draft over the weekend)
“Yeah, we did. Obviously yesterday with the kicker and pass rusher and then the secondary was an area that I think we needed to shore up – especially our depth – and I think we did that. Not necessarily shore it up, but added to it, so we feel pretty good about that.”
 
(On the players drafted on Day Three)
“Ryan Smith [out of] North Carolina Central, he’s fast. He’s a low 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy, we’ve had him timed as high as 4.3. He’s an aggressive guy. He’ll hit you. He’s got a great mentality. He’s a super kid. He’s played safety and corner there. We see him as possibly being a safety. That versatility is always good. We like the versatility here, there’s a theme of that. Same with Caleb [Benenoch], who we took out of UCLA. He’s played guard and center. It’s kind of rare that you get an underclassman coming out that’s started 35 games. He’s got a lot of experience, good versatility. He’s tough, he’s athletic – he’s got a chance.”
 
“Dan Vitale – people were ready for a joke, ‘Vitale,’ we could have had Dick [Vitale] announce him – but [Dan] Vitale [is a] tough, Chicago kid playing fullback. He’s been productive there, particularly as a receiver at Northwestern. [He’s] smart. We like him. And then Devante [Bond] – a SAM linebacker from Oklahoma, heavy-handed, athletic, great kid. They’re all really good kids. They’re all athletic. I think they all have got a really good chance of being Buccaneers for a while.”
 
(On if the team thinks defensive back Ryan Smith has a chance to return kickoffs)
“We do, yeah, but we drafted him for his ability there in the secondary. We didn’t draft a kick returner, so don’t worry, we weren’t going to draft a long snapper and a holder too – round out the special teams in this draft. But he’s got value back there in the secondary. He’s got a lot of upside.”
 
(On what attributes drew the team to Smith)
“He’s fast, he’s physical and he’s a smart kid.”
 
(On if the team will play offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch at guard or tackle)
“It will be determined. We think that he’s got value at both [positions]. I’ll let Dirk answer that. We’ve been talking about it. It’s a good thing when you’re fighting over where to play him – we’re not ‘fighting’ over it –but where you’re wrestling with that in your head, where to put him first. But we’ll put him somewhere.”
 
(On if the team considered drafting a receiver)
“There were a couple times that it started to get a little intriguing, then we kind of let the board come to us, where we were with the highest-rated guy. It fell perfectly to us today, where we took the guy that was rated at all of our picks and kind of filled a need too, so we were happy about that.”
 
(On the players that were waived yesterday and if that was done to help bring in additional college free agents)
“You know, it has something to do with that. They gave those guys opportunities and not to say that we wouldn’t sign any of them back again, but you know, as a scout and also Dirk feels this way and the coaches and our scouting department – it’s time for the fresh blood.”
 
(On how much the team has improved since the start of the draft)
“Obviously we feel very good right now. I have the same feeling right now that I did last year. All these guys, I think, for our needs and where we had them on the board and what we thought of them as players, I think they’ve all got an excellent chance of making this football team.”
 
(On fullback Danny Vitale’s versatility)
“He can catch the ball, he’s played tight end [at Northwestern]. He’s kind of a hybrid guy, where he can do that and I know he’s going to be a really good special teamer and that’s hard to find – a fullback that can play special teams.”
 
(On the risk vs. reward factor in drafting a player with off-field concerns, such as defensive end Noah Spence)
“Well first, you watch them as football players and then you identify the good ones and where you grade them as a player only, then you have to dig in to the background. You keep them on the board until you find something where you’re uncomfortable. We never got to the point where we were uncomfortable. In fact, the more and more that we did, the more we liked him.”
 
(On if he was surprised by the reaction to trading up and drafting kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round)
“Well I’ve been buried in a bunker here. I’m probably not surprised, but that will all go away once he’s winning games for us. It’s just so hard to find a great kicker. They come around once a decade, guys like this, in my opinion. We could do what we had to do or we could wait another decade. I would rather do it now.”
 
(On if the team not drafting a receiver speaks to confidence in the players already on the roster)
“It’s just kind of the way it fell. We are comfortable with our group, but we’re always looking to upgrade still. Just because the draft is over doesn’t mean that we’re not looking to upgrade certain spots, different positions. We’re always going to have our eye out for a solid receiver that we think can make our football team, just like we’re always going to look for a defensive tackle or a linebacker or a tight end. We’ll keep looking. We still have tonight. The scouts and the coaches, they’re going to be working their tails off. It’s like a trading floor on the undrafted free agents – while I’m drinking beer [laughs]. We’ll see what happens after that’s all said and done. I have full trust in them to get the good ones.”
 
(On if the team worked out Benenoch in person)
“We saw him work out in person at the combine. Coach George Warhop went out there and spent a lot of time with him. I wasn’t able to make that particular workout, but we really trust George and all of the things that he does with these guys. He puts them through a pretty grueling workout and different things in the classroom. He came back and we feel comfortable with him.”
 
(On not drafting a defensive tackle and if that was a sacrifice of selecting other players)
“I don’t know if we really sacrificed anything. It was a deep group and they fell pretty quickly. There was a big run on them, particularly in the first day. That’s just the way it is. You prepare for that too – that was a scenario that we came up with too. There were times that we thought maybe there would be an opportunity, but then the opportunity that we took we were happier with.”
 
HEAD COACH DIRK KOETTER
 
(Opening statement)
“How we doing? Happy Saturday.”
 
(On fullback Dan Vitale)
“We got a fullback, alright. Yeah, we got a guy – he’s actually kind of a slash player because there’s so few fullbacks how we want to use them, so Dan is kind of a slash, they call it an H-back. We’re going to use him as part-fullback, part-tight end, and excited to see what he looks like.”
 
(On offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch and if he is “a developmental kid”)
“Well, in Caleb’s case, he’s graduating early – young guy. But he’s [got] 35 starts, 31 of them as a right tackle. As Jason [Licht] said, [run game coordinator/offensive line coach] George [Warhop] went out there and spent a lot of time with him and we feel like he could be a guard or a tackle. That’ll sort itself out, whether he’ll be a down the line right tackle or if he’s an inside player, but swing guys, at this point, are crucial –  kind of in the role as how we used [offensive lineman] Kevin Pamphile last year. That’s how we’ll start him out and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
 
(On how happy he is to get through the draft and still have Mike Glennon on the team)
“If it would have been the best thing for the team, if the right situation was up where a trade that would’ve been in the best interest of the Bucs, of course, it would have had to go. We’ve been telling Mike that all along, but that opportunity wasn’t there and, as I’ve said multiple times, I believe Mike Glennon is an NFL starting quarterback. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to have to wait but fortunately for us, we’re going to have him as our No. 2. It’s a great position for us to be in. Hopefully nothing ever happens to [quarterback] Jameis [Winston] where we need it – Mike feels the same way – but if we did need to put a second quarterback in there, we’re capable of winning games with Mike Glennon at quarterback. We know we’re going to have that situation if no injuries come up for this one year and then Mike’s going to move on and hopefully have a chance to start somewhere else. But for now, that’s what it is. I can’t imagine there’s many teams that have a better one-two punch at quarterback than we do."
 
(On drafting four players on defense and if he’s happy for that side of the ball)
“Absolutely – I mean, we needed to. You guys know that. We needed to draft some defensive players. It’s been two years and only one pick [on the offensive side] in the prior two years. We needed to draft some players on defense so between a cover guy, a pass rusher, I think Jason mentioned we’re going to start Ryan Smith out as a safety – he’s played two years at safety and two years at corner. That was one of the things that, besides his speed and his aggressiveness, one of the things that we really liked was his versatility. And of course, getting Devante Bond as a linebacker – I mean, even though we added Daryl Smith in the offseason, our linebacker depth is thin and Devante has played a lot of football at Oklahoma and that’s another good guy. Those are the type of guys that also bolster your special teams at the same time. So to add those guys on defense is something that we needed to do.”
 
(On how hard can it be to win when relying on many young players)
“Experience is the best teacher and every young player is going to go through growing pains, but we also have some good vets to show them the way, guys like Vincent Jackson and Daryl Smith. We’re building this team but we’re not saying we’re building it for three years from now. I mean, heck, who knows what’s going to happen then. We’re trying to be the best team we can be this season and these are the guys we’ve got, we’re going to add some free agents here in the end of the seventh round and continue to build. There’s always changes. I mean, look at the two offensive linemen that we added in training camp last year. There’s a bunch of guys with their dreams coming true this weekend but then, when all these teams cut back again from 90 to 53 in the fall, do the math on how many guys are out there on the street and you’re going to have some more opportunities at some point down the line.”
 
(On if he has a preference on whether his team kicks touchbacks or “mortar” kicks on kickoffs)
“That’s a really good question and I think that’s the strategy part of that kickoff rule, is what you’re going to be seeing every team tinker with in the preseason. When the league put that rule in, they put that rule in thinking everybody was just going to kick it out and take the ball at the 25. The analytics say that the 20 to the 25 is a three percent difference in scoring, two percent touchdowns, one percent field goals. I mean, it’s all that stat stuff. But when you really think it through, who’s the return guy? How windy of a day is it? Are you playing in a dome? Are you outside? Do they have Devin Hester standing back there? Some teams don’t have as good a return guy standing back there. So, I think what you’re going to see is a lot of people experimenting in preseason, but when the season comes along, I bet you more teams are trying to kick it out. And the great thing is, we have a guy who can do both. I watched all of his kickoffs for the last two years plus all of kickoffs at the combine and this guy is impressive as a kickoff guy.”
 
(On if signing undrafted college free agents is something he gets involved with)
“As needed, yeah, but I mean, we’ve got an army of guys upstairs that have been working on this. This has been an ongoing process, it’s not something that just falls together. We’ve got a huge list up there. Usually the way it works is you’ve got a position coach paired up with a scout, they’re working, they have a certain number of guys they’re trying to get. Obviously, the final approval has to go through Jason, and all of us upstairs have different contacts throughout college football and we’re relying on those where we can, but you’ve got the players involved, the agents involved, it’s kind of a free-for-all here when free agency opens for the undrafted guys here in a little bit.”
 
(On if he sees Ryan Smith as an NFL-caliber returner)
“That’s an added bonus as well. He did have some nice returns at the level that he played at and since we don’t have a proven return guy coming back – we have an idea of the guys on our team that we’re going to try as returners – but he would certainly be a guy that we could add to that mix. Great opportunity to give him a chance in preseason.”
 
(On which players would also be in the mix for returner right now)
“We’re going to look at Adam Humphries as a punt returner, we’re going to look at Kenny Bell and Charles Sims as kickoff returners, and Donteea Dye will be in the mix there somewhere as well.”
 
(On if he has any regrets not being able to draft a receiver)
“I was listening when you were talking to Jason [Licht] and of course, we would have loved to add a wide receiver and we had some wide receivers sprinkled throughout our board, but you’ve got to remember, when you’re trying to stay true to your board, in the rounds where we had a wide receiver there it just didn’t work out. I mean, there was some that were relatively close, there was a couple where it was within one or two picks and Jason would’ve had to make a call between, ‘Are we taking this guy or that guy?’ There was multiple wide receivers that we liked, but we can’t take a wide receiver – and in my brain, I’m seeing ‘WR’ – you can’t just take a ‘WR’ to say we added one. You’ve got to add one that you think is better than the guys we have and can help us based on where you’re picking and who else is available and you’re other needs.”
 
(On if an example is when he has a player ranked six spots higher than a wide receiver on the board but he doesn’t play wide receiver)
“Exactly, exactly. And, at a position of need, so would I have liked it to fall a certain way in some rounds where a certain wide receiver fell that way? I think that would’ve been great but I would’ve been saying the same thing about that position as I am about these guys. Our team got better and I’m not nervous about the guys we have, but you’re trying to improve your team in the draft and I think we did that.”
 
(On if he looked particularly closely at or had a “special thing for” any of the players drafted by Tampa Bay on Saturday)
“A special thing for? Well, I can honestly say I put in my time on every one of these guys. I put in a lot of it – it’s just funny how it works out. A couple of these guys we actually had in the big room for the formal interviews going clear back to the combine. Every guy here was on our list, so every guy has been through the list of Jason’s order of guys that watched the tape, through the coaching staff, through the coordinators and through me. There’s nobody that just all of a sudden popped up today and [we] said, ‘We need to get on that guy.’ We spent our time on these guys and obviously, time will tell if we were right and some of it’s on them and we’ve got to coach them up.”
 
(On how many players he personally watched tape of)
“At least 100. Yeah, at least 100. More defensive guys than I’ve ever watched in my life. I can’t tell you about as many offensive guys, but my eyes are bleeding from watching D-linemen and DBs.”
 
DEFENSIVE BACK RYAN SMITH
 
(On having previously wanted to become a U.S. Marshall)
“That was the start. I majored in criminal justice and if football didn’t work out, I was going to take that route. Football was always number one. I don’t know if I’ll go back to that when my career is over – I might stay in the athletic field – but, yeah, that was my plan at first.”
 
(On wanting to ‘go after the bad guys’)
“Yeah, something like that. My mother, she’s worked with the DEA and she has a lot of friends in that department, so I knew that it wasn’t going to be as hard to start somewhere in that field.”
 
(On whether he feels that major college programs missed out on him)
“I do feel like a lot of schools missed out of me. Being that I only played one year of high school football, a lot of people doubted me, a lot of people didn’t want to take a chance on me. It still happens to this day, people doubting me just because of the school I played at and not [judging me] by my talent. But everything happens for a reason. I’m just blessed to be in this position and I thank [the Buccaneers] for this opportunity.”
 
(On how he can help the team on special teams and in the return game)
“I think I can help this team out a lot – or any team I would go to. When I’m out there, just the feeling is indescribable. I did special teams all my life in college and I made plays. I will continue to do the same thing at the next level. You’re going to get my all and then some; I know that for a fact. I’m going to be a major part for this team and I’m going to do everything I can to help them.”
 
(On why he only played one year of high school football)
“I played all sports all my life, but when I got to high school I decided to stop playing football and just continue to play basketball – that was my first love. Then, in my 11th grade year, going into my senior year, I realized I had a better chance playing football to get a scholarship to help my family out, so I went that route. I did my thing my senior year. NCCU was the only school that offered me a partial scholarship. I had a lot of bigger schools come and recruit me, but they didn’t offer me anything.”
 
TACKLE CALEB BENENOCH
 
(On what interaction he had with the Buccaneers during the pre-draft process)
“I met with them at the combine. I remember Coach [George] Warhop, he came up and worked me out, did board work with me during the pre-draft process. We had a good time. I’m happy I get to play for him.”
 
(On playing both tackle and guard and if he has an idea where the Buccaneers will play him)
“No, I don’t, but I’m just trying to go out there and compete for whatever spot they decide to put me in.”
 
(On if he feels best suited to play guard or tackle)
“I think I can be just as good at either one. I’ve played a lot of tackle in my career, so that’s where I have more experience, but they both come naturally to me, so I’m looking forward to going out there and playing football.”
 
(On how he originally got into playing football)
“My mom signed me up for football, thinking I was supposed to go play soccer. We got out there and it was a completely different game from what we thought it was. I fell in love with it really, really fast and I’ve been playing ever since.”
 
(On if he was a good soccer player)
“I was. I was not a bad soccer player. I actually started playing nose tackle and fullback when I started playing football because of that – for the feet and stuff. I didn’t start playing offensive line until I got to high school.”
 
(On if his mother was confused on whether football meant ‘soccer’ instead of American football when he was originally starting to play the game)
“Yes, she did. When I handed her the [form] to sign me up for football, I had all my friends playing it in school at elementary school. The first thing that comes to her mind is soccer because that’s all we called it. I never specified ‘American football.’ I just said, ‘Football,’ and she got excited and said, ‘Ok, I’ll sign you up.’ So I got her the paperwork and it was American football.”
 
(On if his mother had second thoughts when she discovered he wasn’t playing soccer)
“Not at all. I was always a big kid, so when I started playing, I just wanted to make friends, honestly. And that’s what my friends were doing and so it made me happy to be out there playing and having fun with my friends from school.”
 
LINEBACKER DEVANTE BOND
 
(On having had interaction with Tampa Bay during the pre-draft process)
“They were one of the teams that definitely I had the most interest from. Just starting with the combine, I had an interview with the GM, with everybody, and Coach Duffner, I had a good relationship with him. I was talking to him a few times, so it was definitely good.”
 
(On if the strongside linebacker spot is best for him)
“I’m an outside linebacker. Wherever they put me, I know I can play – inside, outside. But, definitely, strongside could be a position I could play.”
 
(On what he has done to prepare for the draft process)
“I started combine training, I was in South Florida training with a lot of guys, a lot of guys that got drafted this year that I was training with. The combine went pretty good, it went well, and then my pro day. And then after that, I came back down here to train at Elite Fitness with a coach named Coach Montrell Williams, with a couple of elite guys who are in the league now. So we’ve all just been getting better and I’ve been trying to work on anything I’m not really great at, so I’m just trying to get better as an all-around player.”
 
(On Tampa Bay players, other than fellow Sooner Gerald McCoy, that he has followed or is familiar with)
“I haven’t followed any of them at all, really. There are a few people I know that I kept watching, like Lavonte David I know because he was at Nebraska. I used to watch him coming out. He was JUCO, also, like I was, so he was a guy that I remember just watching him from Nebraska. But besides that, no.”
 
(On experience playing special teams)
“Yeah, I’ve played special teams. They didn’t put a lot of the starters on there, but I did play a few of them, some games. Any time they needed me, I was the next guy up.”
 
FULLBACK DANNY VITALE
 
(On if he had any feeling that Tampa Bay might be the team to draft him)
“I’d like to say I kind of knew, but honestly I was just waiting for my name the whole day [laughing]. To be honest with you, I kind of hoped it was Tampa Bay and that’s who it ended up being. I kind of built a relationship with some of the people on this staff, not only through the workout, but Senior Bowl, combine, and then even for our bowl game in Tampa as well. So I’m happy that I ended up there.”
 
(On having versatility)
“I think it’s a great fit; I think I’ll be able to do a lot for the team, which I’m excited about. That’s what I did in college: I played a little bit of slot, a little bit of tight end, a little bit of fullback. So I think an H-back is kind of what I’m looking at and I’m excited to contribute.”
 
(On his style of play)
“I would definitely say my athleticism is my biggest asset, and the versatility as well. But, at the same time, the reason I went to Northwestern – other than the great education – is Big 10 football. Hard-nosed football. So at the same time, I like to believe I’m a hard-nosed football player and I’m excited to go do that out in Tampa.”
 
(On having interacted with Tampa Bay when Northwestern came to Tampa for the Outback Bowl)
“They had some scouts at one of our practices and everything like that. One of our guys who used to work in our football office is on their scouting staff, so it was good to see a familiar face.”
 
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