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28 December 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Media Availability (12/28/16)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate & WR Mike Evans have combined to catch 19 touchdowns this season – the most ever by a pair of Buccaneers teammates.
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Todd Monken
Quarterback Jameis Winston
Wide Receiver Mike Evans
(On running back Doug Martin being excused from practice today)
“Yeah, let’s just – I’ll just make it easy on everybody. Doug was excused today. There’s going to be an announcement coming pretty quick from Doug and then you won’t have to ask me any questions about it. There will be a statement coming from him before too long here. So, it’s close to being ready.”
(On impact he believes the Doug Martin situation will have on his team both on and off the field Sunday)
(On how well equipped he believes running back Jacquizz Rodgers is to step up this weekend with Martin and also Charles Simms being moved to IR)
“Yeah, we’ll be fine. Again, it’s unfortunate that injuries happen. Running back is one of the positions that we’ve been hit with before this year and we’ve been able to win and nothing changes. We were hit at defensive end at one time this year. We were hit at running back at one time this year. We thought we were going to get everybody back and that just didn’t last very long. That’s just not the way it worked out, but we just have to move ahead. That’s all we can do. We have to finish out and finish strong against Carolina.”
(On whether Martin’s statement is related to his decision not to play him last Sunday)
“Let’s just wait and let Doug’s statement come out. I don’t think this is the last time you’re going to get a chance to ask me questions, but until then, I’m just going to say that Doug was excused today and we’ll let that stand on it’s own for right now.”
(On how impressed he is with improvement from quarterback Jameis Winston this season despite injuries on offense around him)
“I would expect that Jameis would continue to improve. In fact, when I was talking to the Carolina media earlier today, again, I was in this division when [Carolina quarterback] Cam Newton came into the league and I think it’s a similar ascent. I think young quarterbacks play and learn and the more they play, the more they learn. I think Jameis still has plenty of upside and is a huge talent. He’s already demonstrated that. He’s demonstrated what a great competitor and leader he is and I think the future is very bright. With all that said, we’re still focusing on Carolina this week. This isn’t the time to go back and reminisce about how the season is and how that stuff is going.”
(On if running back Charles Sims’ ‘lived up’ to expectations this season)
“I think live up is a term that’s made up by other people and injuries are a hard thing to overcome. Charles had two severe injuries this year, so health is a big part of this game. Charles and Doug played the whole season last year injury-free and I think they both played extremely well. This year, they didn’t have that opportunity to play the season injury-free. At any position, but running back especially, that’s tough. In Chuck’s [Charles Sims] case, his injuries were such that they were severe and that we had to put him on IR and then this is another one we have to put him on IR. They’re both significant injuries. We’re not talking about just bumps and brusies.”
(On what Charles Sims’ injury was)
“Yeah, he did get hurt in the New Orleans game and they originally thought it was shoulder, but it’s a pec. It’s a pec injury that’s going to require some time.”
(On whether Sims’ injury will require surgery)
“I’m not sure about that part, but it’s something that no matter how long we were playing right now, he wouldn’t be able to help us.”
(On whether he believes tight end Cameron Brate’s injury will require surgery)
“I do not believe Cam is. I believe again, it’s just a time situation.”
(On promotion of fullback Austin Johnson to the active roster)
“Austin will primarily be used as a special teams player this week. He would only be an emergency player on offense. We cross-train our tight ends and fullbacks. All those guys really know three positions and he is no different. He just hasn’t been here very long.”
(On what it says about running back Jacquizz Rodgers, having a large contribution this season after joining the team midseason)
“Well, it says he’s a solid veteran football player and that’s what veteran football players do. And that’s why when you do have injuries, coaches and GMs are more likely to go after guys that they have a history with and guys that know the system. I mean, we’ve brought some other guys in here that – [wide receiver] Josh Huff is an example who’s a very talented player, but he’s so far behind from missing all of training camp, OTAs, etc., all the nuances of what the breakoffs on the route are. Where ‘Quizz’, we were together for three years in Atlanta, he comes in and picks everything up just like he never left and has stepped in and done a nice job.”
(On if it is too simple to say that the team has to win the turnover battle in order to win games)
“Well, that’s almost every team in this league. I just put a slide up for our team today – just this season, I believe we’re 7-1 when we win the turnover battle and Carolina’s 5-1 when they win the turnover battle. I put it up every week and with the exception of the Cowboys, every other team we play, it’s like that. It’s close to 90 percent, when you win the turnover battle you’re going to win. The Cowboys [are] the one team that I think they were something like [even] when they won the turnover battle, going into our game. So, obviously they got that one and I don’t know how they did last week as far as the turnovers. It’s the number one stat in football, always has been, always will be. And then the second one that we go by is explosive plays and we haven’t done as well in that area as we did a year ago, offensively.”
(On if the number of Winston’s turnovers is a reflection of how he’s played)
“Well, as a team, we’ve turned it over too much. And not all interceptions are the quarterback’s fault, some are more than others. At least two of those, as you’ve mentioned, are ones where we’re instructing him to throw to the end zone on the last play of the game and it’s a Hail Mary situation. But in general, we’ve turned it over too much on offense. And every turnover has the ultimate culprit, sometimes that’s me. I think that’s one of the things when we were talking earlier about Jameis specifically and all young quarterbacks in this league. There’s two or three other rookies that started this year and of course Jameis and [Tennessee quarterback] Marcus Mariota last year. I think that’s one thing that the learning curve is steep for all those guys, on how much turnovers make your team suffer in that particular game. I just think that’s an ongoing lesson that they have to learn and that’s why I believe [New England quarterback] Tom Brady has two interceptions all year and still playing quarterback at 100 years old. So, that’s just an ongoing battle, the possession of the ball is the most important thing. But again, look at the flip side, is all the teams that don’t have that guy that they believe in at quarterback and every time they put in a new quarterback, they’ve got to learn that same lesson because they’re all guys that haven’t played. I mean, if guys aren’t good enough, guess what? They eventually aren’t playing.”
(On Winston playing in all 16 games in his first two seasons in the league)
“Again, that’s a good knock on wood. I know you guys always want me to take him out at the end, but other than the one time that I caved in, he’s played every snap for two years.”
(On why he thinks the offense hasn’t played as well as it did last season)
“Yeah, I’ve got some good theories on that, but if you guys don’t mind, I would really appreciate – I’ll talk about all that stuff at the end of the season. But, we’re not at the end of the season. Believe it or not, I do spend a lot of time thinking about that kind of stuff and what I will say, in my experience in the NFL, is very rarely are teams alike from one year to the next. You’re turning over about a third of your team and even though we had mostly the same coaches on offense, there’s a number of circumstances, but I do have some strong theories on that.”
(On what the team’s plan is on kickoff returns after Josh Huff’s struggles last week)
“Yeah, his issue hasn’t been when to bring it out. Both of those plays that you’re talking about, he had to bring out, those were both in the field of play. And those are just simple - he didn’t handle them right. And that’s not criticizing Josh, but if we were out watching a Pee Wee football game and they kicked it off and the ball’s spinning around back there, the first thing you’re taught is, put both hands on it, put your eyes on it and pick it up. And in both cases, we weren’t able to do that. The one bounced off his facemask, took a funny bounce, that’s why the ball’s shaped like that. And then last week he was looking up at the cover unit and just didn’t pick it up. So that has nothing to do with judgement, our judgement by both Josh and [cornerback] Ryan [Smith], as far as when to bring it out, has been fine. He just didn’t feel them.”
(On how difficult it has been for quarterback Jameis Winston this season, dealing with several injures and personnel changes on offense)
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think Jameis has improved greatly, from last year to this year. I think at a lot of positions we’ve added depth, so when you have a guy like ‘Quizz’ [running back Jacquizz Rodgers] that you can put in there at running back, I think that softens the blow a little bit. Or when you had guys like [wide receiver] Russell Shepard step up and [tight end] Cameron Brate and guys that have – you don’t want to say career years, but have shown why they’re the best in the world and you don’t pigeon-hole somebody, you just continue to coach them. So, there’s a number of things that we all look at and we’ll have a better opportunity to look at at the end of the year and figure out, ‘Hey, what do we need to do to move forward to continue to improve this offense and continue to get better?’ Starting with Jameis and then the pieces around him.”
(On how much of Winston’s improvements this season are due to big seasons by players like Shepard and Brate)
“The combination of it, I think it all goes hand-in-hand. I think as his improvement, his accuracy, his timing and those guys’ improvement, you start to see more of that. You have fewer errant throws and fewer drops. That’s what it should look like. If they defend you, they defend you. Obviously there’s still some areas that we need to continue to work on, like every individual and every offense, but it goes hand-in-hand. The better everybody around your quarterback plays, the better you’re going to function. And then the better he plays with ball placement and his ability to make plays on the move, it helps us all. So, it’s gone hand-in-hand.”
(On where Winston has improved specifically)
“This goes all the way back to the spring, I think physically he’s developed himself as a young man. You look at his body and you saw that part of it. I think he’s improved his overall understanding of the offense, so that allows him to think less and just react, which he’s done. I think he’s been more accurate. Sure, there are things with balls down the field. We’d like to be able to progress, but you see fewer and fewer, ‘Okay, what was that?’ Or a drop. You want it to look like you want it to look like. We ought to be able to walk out there and say, ‘That’s what that route looks like. That’s what the throw should look like.’ That’s what it should look like. Are we doing it better than they do it? That’s what this league is about, is getting a core nucleus of players and then, how do we do it better than they do it? Because the margin for error is so small. So, that’s the puzzle, that’s the puzzle we have to continue to figure out as we move forward.”
(On how the team keeps the tight end position a big part of the offense with Cameron Brate placed on Injured Reserve)
“Well, I think the other guys, it’s similar to when you lose a [wide receiver] Vincent Jackson or [wide receiver] Cecil Shorts. I thought [tight end] Brandon Myers did fine last week when afforded the opportunity. Obviously, there’s a reason why Cam’s a starter, he’s developed. And again, you talk about benefitting from the more we develop other weapons, the less we’ll get some of the coverages we’re getting on [wide receiver] Mike [Evans]. That’s one of the advantages of when you say, ‘How does it all fit together?’ Well okay, you get all this attention to get, that’s going to open up some other players in one-on-one opportunities, which it has. So, obviously it’s going to be a little bit more difficult because Cam’s a good football player. Cam is a weapon in the pass game and developing as a blocker, so we’re going to have to do it collectively as a group.”
(On what running back Doug Martin has not been doing to warrant his inactiveness last week against New Orleans)
“Well, I think [Head] Coach [Dirk Koetter] has already addressed it and I’d rather leave that for Coach and talk about the guys that were playing last weekend and then focus on Carolina.”
(On if there is a template to the offense having success)
“The better we’re able to run the ball, the more people they want to get in the box and that opens up lanes to throw it down the field and the better we throw it, the less people that want to come down. You have to pick a poison. So, we’re still developing in that part of it, like very team is. I do like where we’re headed because I do like our pieces and we are continuing to develop that part of it. And then being consistent. When we’ve struggled offensively, at times it’s we’ve gotten behind the chains, whether it’s a sack, it’s a penalty and then you’re fighting uphill. Bogging down in the red zone and kicking field goals, that’s the difference. Even last Sunday, we went into halftime, really hadn’t played very well offensively, but we held them to two field goals. And it was 13-7 and we get the ball to start the second half, well what happens? Get the ball pinned back, make a mistake, all of a sudden we’re fighting uphill the rest of the way. So it’s some of the things we haven’t been doing, we’ve got to continue to improve on.”
(On what running back Jacquizz Rodgers has done to earn more playing time)
“Well, he’s an experienced guy that I think gets north and south, that’s one of the things he does. Is he a guy that’s going to end up taking a play 50, 60 yards? Probably not, he doesn’t garner that long speed, but in terms of moving the chains, I think he has really good vision and I think he plays with a really good pad level and when he does get contact, he’s able to get another yard or two. I think that’s what he does. And again, from a protection standpoint, his maturity helps.”
(On what kind of a difference having more speed on the offense next year would make)
“I think first and foremost, it’s about not turning it over and getting explosive plays and then everything kind of falls from there. Touchdowns in the red zones, third down conversions, not having loss yardage plays, it all plays into that. So, obviously having players that have the ability – if you’re talking about explosives – to get the ball in your hands and make explosive plays, that’s an addition. By itself, it’s not everything because we have some other guys on our roster that have speed. [Wide receiver] Josh [Huff] has speed and [wide receiver] Bernard Reedy now on our roster, has speed. That’s not everything. Having a player like Mike Evans or Cameron Brate who have great range and can make plays down the field. Maybe not with the explosive speed, but you can still make explosive plays a part of that. Our ability to throw the ball better down the field will add to that, from an explosive standpoint, because probably over the last few weeks, we haven’t been as explosive as we’d like to be. So sure, it’s all a part of it. I don’t think you take a player per say just because they’re fast, but I do think that is a piece of our puzzle that we’d like to add in the offseason.”
(On Kansas City using wide receiver Tyreek Hill as a ‘game breaker’)
“Oh, without a doubt and they do a great job with him. They do a lot of things with him, so if you do get a player like that, you’ve got obviously – like getting a quarterback that runs with it, right? You’ve got to use their skillset , otherwise it shrinks their margin for being successful. So they’ve done a really good job with him because as you said, when he gets in the open field, he can create explosives.”
(On if Winston’s turnovers are on him)
“No, but I think that’s reasonable to ask. Stats are what they are, we’re 15 games in. Do I think that there was a good number of that that was early in the year? Do I think that there’s moments that his competitive spirit gets the best of him? Wanting to make every play, wanting to be competitive, that part of it is something that I think he’s even improved on and I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas, receiver-wise, with the drops and being in the right spots. So, what helps with that? Playing good football around him. Winning, so you’re not having to throw and be from behind, so you’re feeling like you’ve got to make certain plays. You have to analyze all of them, we’ve had two plays – we’ve had a Hail Mary at the end of two games that have led to two of them, so those, you know. So again, it’s a work in progress, we know that we’ve got to continue to work to run the football. When you can comfortably run the football than you’re not putting yourself as much at risk.”
(On how offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch has developed over the last month or so)
“He’s done fine. He got in a little bit the other day when Evan [Smith] went down. He’s done fine and we think he’s got a really bright future.”
(On what he likes about Benenoch’s skillset)
“Well, he’s athletic and he’s smart. I think that’s the biggest thing. He still needs to develop his strength and again, he’s played a number of positions at UCLA, so kind of hone in. He’s probably going to be a guard for us and a swing guy. Just again, with him missing the summer with school and then getting hurt, this offseason will be tremendous value for him.”
(On if a win in the final game of the season can carry over into next season)
“Do I think there’s a certain point where it doesn’t carry any longer? Of course. Do you want to win the last game? Without a doubt. It’s the same way, winning a bowl game [in college] and not winning a bowl game. And there’s so few teams in the NFL that will end the season on a win. Because if you make the playoffs, everybody but one ends on a loss and there’s disappointment and then half the teams that aren’t involved in that will lose. So, ending it on a win, stopping the bleeding. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we went to Dallas and lost by six and had a chance and we had a chance at New Orleans. So, we’re developing into a really good football team. If things don’t go our way this week, then we’ll look at it and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we need to improve.’ Obviously have got to play better at home early in the year and we weren’t playing our best football then, like a lot of teams were. But the difference between 9-7 and 8-8 in my mind is huge. To me, when you play in these games at the end of the year, to me it comes downs to, alright, which group from being a pro are they thinking about the team they’re playing? Are our players thinking about the Carolina Panthers and what they do, just like we were every other week. Are we thinking about, next week if we don’t make the playoffs, where I’m going, my offseason. Because if they’re doing that, they’re wrong. So what it is, it’s about being a pro, it’s about this week. When our season ends, I’ll be miserable because the most fun I have is being around our players and developing those guys. So for the next two and a half months [I won’t be around them]. So I don’t want it to end, I’m glad we get to play again. I don’t care what our record is. So, that’s got to continue with our players because we still have a lot of development to take place with all of our players. Every practice rep matters, everything we’ll do today in practice will matter for this week and our future.”
(O what has kept tight end Brandon Myers in this league for eight years)
“First of all, he’s really smart and – you hate to say that, that he’s smart and he’s dependable, that’s kind of – he got Mr. Hustle award at the camp [laughter]. That’s what I always got, Mr. Hustle at the camp. But he is, he does a lot of things well. He blocks pretty well and he catches the ball well, he’s usually in the right spot, he’s smart. I think that there’s a lot to that. At this point in his career, would you say he has a dominant trait? I don’t know that. But his dominant trait is that he brings it every day, he knows what he’s doing, he can catch it, he can do a lot of things in the run game that makes him invaluable.”
(On where he thinks he’s improved this season from last season)
“I have to wait until after the season to evaluate where I have improved dramatically. But I know my pocket presence has gotten a lot better. But I think as the season goes, my objective is to improve every week on something. I don’t just sit there and think about, how am I going to get better from last year to this year during the season. My main goal is to get my comments [from coaches] from a game and to build off that every single week.”
(On if he has improved in making plays outside of the pocket since he has entered the league)
“No, I think that’s just a part of football that I enjoy, extending the play. God blessed me with some ability to be able to extend the play and I take advantage of it.”
(On losing tight end Cameron Brate to injury for the rest of the season)
“Cam had an amazing year and I thank him so much, just for the work that he put in. And it’s really bad, I do not like it at all that he is going to miss this last game. The type of season that he’s been having, it was definitely a Pro Bowl-type year for him, but he’s going to make it next year off of this year. But it’s been next man up mentality all year with us. But the good thing is, we have Brandon Myers and Brandon Myers is a vet and when you have a vet stepping up, it’s just like a continuing the whole thing.”
(On if he ever thinks what this offense could’ve been this season without all of the injuries)
“Well you just think about all the different phases that this team has encountered. When you have an offense, you want the same pieces so you can build and you can gel. And for the most part, we had similar pieces. So, I’m not going to play the what-if game. I know if ‘V-Jack’ [wide receiver Vincent Jackson] would’ve been with us, I know he would’ve helped us. Everyone that got hurt, they definitely would’ve helped us, but can’t really judge.”
(On if he views the season as a success, no matter what happens this Sunday)
“I don’t view it as a success, just for me. For the organization, for fans, a lot of people are happy. But the mentality of this team, our ultimate goal is win playoff games, win Super Bowls. It’s exciting, it’s exciting that we have a chance to have a winning season, but that’s not something that we’re aiming for at the beginning of the season. We’re aiming for the highest and I think as long as we keep expecting the highest and raising our bar, that’s the better [team] we’re going to become.”
(On if he will put a lot of time into evaluating his season when it is over)
“Absolutely. I’ve got to because I’ve got to work this offseason. By no means, I haven’t arrived, at all. I’ve got to continue to get better, I’ve got to continue to tweak things, a part of my game, to help this team out.”
(On if he is driven by the fact he only needs 267 yards to pass Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck for most passing yards in a quarterback’s first two seasons in league history)
“What drives me is winning games with my team. But what’s going to drive me is to see us go out there against Carolina and play our tail off. Not giving up, but giving all we’ve got and bringing home a win for these home fans. Stats and stuff – the only stat that I really care about is a W in the win column. All the other stats, man, they can have them. I just want to win for my team and any way that I can help them do that – I love team stats.”
(On how much finishing the season 9-7 instead of 8-8 matters to him)
“It matters because we’ve got one more game that we know we’ve got to finish. We’ve got one more game that we know we’ve got to finish. That’s the game that they’ve given us in the regular season, the game that we have to play and we’ve got to finish that game. How we finish the game is going to mean more to me than the 9-7 and 8-8 scenario, alone. We’ve got to go 1-0 this week.”
(On if he thinks a team’s finish to the season carries over into next season)
“Absolutely. Just because you want to go off winning, you want to go off on top. That just gives everyone a good feeling going into the offseason. I don’t want to have to spend a week knowing that I don’t have another game to play. Just sulking in a loss, I don’t want to do that. No one wants to do that, we want to be happy and be able to take that step forward.”
(On running back Jacquizz Rodgers)
“He’s just what you call a competitor that is going to take advantage of his opportunities. He isn’t going to say much, is going to sit in the shadows, but when it’s his turn, he’s going to be the brightest star out there on the field and I thank him for his selflessness and just being ready at any given time. When you’ve got a high-caliber running back like we have in this franchise, like our main guy is our running back on the offensive side of the ball, and you’ve got another guy that has bounced from place to place and [Head] Coach [Dirk] Koetter gave him another opportunity to be here with him and he took advantage of it, man. So I just thank him, we owe a lot to Jacquizz Rodgers.”
(On if he was surprised or disappointed that running back Doug Martin was inactive last week against New Orleans)
“I can’t speak on that. Like I said with Vincent [Jackson], we’ve got a lot of players that weren’t able to play for us this year, whether it was injury or coach’s decision. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to make it happen, that’s what I’m concerned about. I know we’ve got a great franchise running back in Doug Martin, I’m not worried about his situation, I’m concerned about how can I get better, how can I help put this team in better situations to win football games when it’s time to win a playoff game. That’s what I’ve got to focus on.”
(On if he has any concerns that Martin will not be on the team next year)
“That’s not even a part of my mind. My main concern is winning against Carolina. That’s ifs, ands, and buts. We have to win against Carolina for me to feel good in my life.”
(On how Martin handled being inactive against New Orleans)
“It was just so late that I didn’t get a chance to sit there and look on his face. I mean, we had a job to do. I asked him, was he good, he said he was fine. I asked him was everything okay, he said he was fine. So, I can only do my part to Doug and be there and be his friend, be his teammate, be his quarterback and just check in on him. But everything that’s beyond my reach, I can’t control [any] of that.”
(On whether he has the possibility of quarterback Jameis Winston being able to break the record for most passing yards in a two-year period on his mind)
“Absolutely, I want to help him out. He is a great, young quarterback and he is going to have success throughout his career and this would be a good accomplishment, so hopefully we can get it for him.”
(On importance of winning the game this Sunday)
“Absolutely. We want to go out and win. We want to win the defending NFC Champs two times. That would be great because they had a way with us the past couple years, so it would be good to go out with a win.”
(On how tough it is to lose tight end Cameron Brate for the game this Sunday)
“It’s huge, but we are playing it safe. We don’t want to get him extra hurt or anything like that. I don’t know the severity of his injury. Our playoff chances are slim to none. I think we need a tie or something like that? So, I don’t think it would be smart for him to play even if he wasn’t too severe.”
(On importance of game this week)
“It’s important because well for me, I always want to win no matter what. I don’t care what it is. Even when we were 2-14, I wanted to win the last game against the Saints. We got Jameis out of it though, but I always want to win no matter what.”
(On how he believes a win this weekend could impact the team going into the off season)
“I think it would be good for our fans and leave a good taste in their mouths leaving off with a win and hopefully come back next year to start with a win.”
(On him being a tough critic of himself)
“I thought I played all right because people don’t see the film that we see. I thought I had an okay year. I thought I was maybe a top five wide-out. I wanted to be number one and maybe if I was number one, I could’ve helped us get to the playoffs.”
(On what he can improve on)
“Be more durable, block better. I think those two things for sure. I caught the ball well, ran good routes. I have to be more explosive, get more yards after the catch. I think that’s pretty much it.”
(On improvement he has seen in Winston)
“I think he can be one of the best to do it. He’s so young, he loves football, he wants to win, that’s all he wants to do and he cares about his teammates. I think he got much better at the deep ball this year and just recognizing coverages. They throw a lot at him. He was a rookie quarterback last year. He is a second-year player with a lot of weight on his shoulders. He handled it well, I thought. I wish I could’ve played better for him. As a team, I wish we could’ve played better.”

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