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08 December 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Media Availability (12/8/16)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: This season, the Buccaneers have 22 takeaways, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. The team has scored 71 points off of takeaways, the fifth-highest mark in the league.
 
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
 
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
 
HEAD COACH DIRK KOETTER
 
(On if wide receiver Adam Humphries is still in the league’s concussion protocol)
“Yup. Adam and ‘Dot’ (right tackle Demar Dotson) are both in the protocol. Adam was out there doing some stuff today, Dot was not.”
 
(On his confidence in offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus if he has to fill in for Dostson this week)
“Extreme confidence in ‘Gos,’ extreme. One of the best vets on our team, played a lot of ball for us. True pro, always prepared, whatever his role is. If it works out that Dot can’t go, Gos will step in there and he’ll do a great job.”
 
(On if Cherilus has done well in ‘jumbo’ packages this season)
“Yeah, we use jumbo more some games than other. Gos has done fine in that role. Kevin Pamphile was more in that role last year, but Gos has always been ready to go. And when we’ve used it more, he’s done fine in that role, but he’s an offensive tackle, that’s his position.”
 
(On if speed is the biggest thing wide receiver Josh Huff brings to the receiver group)
“If we did the 40 times or anything, I think it would be pretty close. He’s got a nice burst, some short area quickness, explosiveness, however you want to look at it. All these guys are the best athletes in the world, so the difference is a small amount. Sometimes you can tell more than others. The one thing is he’s done it in this league, he’s done it. It was with another team, but he’s made explosive returns and explosive plays in this league.”
 
(On the job the defensive staff has done this season)
“Well when things go well, everybody gets credit, everybody deserves credit. And sometimes it’s people that we don’t talk about, like the assistant coaches. Just the way everything is structured, I talk to you guys every day, the coordinators talk once a week, but Jay Hayes and Paul Spicer working with our D-line, Mark Duffner with our linebackers, Jon Hoke and Brett Maxie working with our secondary. Those guys, nobody knows all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes on what they’re doing – meeting with guys individually, our regular preparation, all the staff time they put in, the breakdown time to get guys ready. I think we’ve done – on both sides of the ball and in special teams – I think we’ve done a good job of continuing to develop players and that’s how we believe you have to do it in this league because injuries are going to be there, year-in and year-out. You just don’t know when and where they’re going to come, so you better develop your guys. And even guys that are here for a short time in training camp or in OTAs, look how many guys we’ve brought back because of the time invested in them and what we think about them. That’s all in our memory bank and then [General Manager] Jason [Licht] of course has final control over that, but we like to bring guys back that we’ve worked with before and we know how they are. The players do deserve the majority of the credit, but I think the coaches have done a really good job in that area as well.”
 
(On if the way the defensive staff has come together is more impressive because this is their first season with the team for a majority of them)
“Probably, yeah. Similar to what happened on offense a year ago because it’s new guys coming together under [Defensive Coordinator] Mike Smith’s leadership and vision and it’s the same thing we went through last year on offense. It’s a lot of extra meeting time. Those guys are locked up in that defensive staff meeting. From the time they got here in late January, those guys didn’t come up for air very often, they were locked in there putting the packages together. And when things weren’t going well for us earlier in the year, those guys had to go in that room again and figure out how we were going to dig ourselves out. We say all the time, no one’s coming to save us, we’ve got to save ourselves.”
 
(On if he wants the players to embrace that December games late in the season take on a ‘bigger feel’)
“Well I think whether I want them to or not, they will. So, I try not to worry about stuff I don’t have control over. I have messages and our staff has messages that it’s my job to get across to the team each week. But as we’ve said in here multiple times, these guys can all read, they can all listen – although sometimes I ask myself if they listen very good [laughter]. They know what’s going on. That’s why you play the game and you can’t help but know what’s going on. At the same time, we’ve got to just try to stay focused on what we need to do. We’ve been playing complementary football, we don’t need to try to change that all of a sudden. Your teams that you go against every week have different strength and weaknesses, different ways they’re going to attack us and we have to figure out the best ways to attack them and sell it to the players during the week and then try to get it done on Sunday.”
 
(On if he has ever been in a situation where he’s played the same team twice in three weeks and how he is going to approach it)
“I have not where it’s been three weeks apart. We’ve had it where maybe it’s five weeks apart. And I don’t know [how to approach it] and I’m not going to worry about it until the third week. We play the Saints this week in a game that’s real important for both sides, so I’m not a guy that worries about what’s going to happen in three weeks, that’s just not the way I look at it. Ask the question again the week of Christmas and I’ll give you a better answer.”
 
(On if the team talks about how important division and conference records are at this point in the season)
“Of course, of course because of the uniqueness of the schedule where the NFL wanted it this way where there’s division games at the end. They set it up this way on purpose. It makes it exciting within the division, the fact that New Orleans has us twice, plus Atlanta once. We have New Orleans twice, plus Carolina once. This division is tight right now. New Orleans is sitting there two games out, but they can still win the division. That’s why they did it this way, so at the end of the year, nobody’s got room to rest guys or tank. They’re in it, you’ve got a chance to win the division. When we all start off at the first of the year back in training camp, that’s what you want, that’s the easiest way into the tournament, win your division.”
 
(On if he has had much interaction for New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton and the respect he has for the New Orleans offense)
“No, not very much. And I have respect for both sides of their ball, but their offensive numbers speak for themselves, they’re off the charts. I’ve admired what they’ve done since they came into the league. When I first came in and went to Jacksonville from my college career, I studied a ton of New Orleans tape, found that conceptually we were similar and I’ve never really told anybody this, but I used a lot of New Orleans cutups to install our offense in Jacksonvile.”
 
(On what the thing is that New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees does better than most quarterbacks)
“His accuracy on downfield throws – there’s teams in this league that are based more around quick game. We’re not really like that, we’re more of a vertical passing team, as are the Saints. And in the vertical passing game, the seam throws, the whole-shot throws against two-deep, back-shoulder throws, those are a much bigger part of it and that to me is where he’s second to none, in that area.”
 
(On if he brings up last year’s struggles in the final month of the season to the team, with them being in a ‘kind of similar’ situation with four games remaining)
“No. Kind of similar for who? Not for me, not similar for me at all, so I don’t live in the past like that. We’ve got no reason to visit anything except what’s happening right now. We don’t have any reason to go – I’m not saying they might not, or they might. Some players might, but in my opinion, there’s no similarities [to last season].”
 
(On if he can take any lessons from having coached meaningful games late in the season and playoff games in the past)
“Well again, we’re not in the playoffs. We’re in the regular season and we’re playing an important game and you could say it’s a playoff-like game, I could understand that. It’s a very important game, all division games are and we’ve only played half our division games, it’s just the way it fell this year, we have [three] games left. So, could we do that? Of course, we can do anything we want to, but what we’re choosing to do is – just like we’ve done since the mini-bye – is what do we need to do this week? ‘Alright, this is what we need to do this week,’ that’s all we’re really focused on and if we do that and take care of our business that way, then the rest of it will play itself out over time. Getting too far ahead of yourself, I don’t see how that does us any good.”
 
(On safety Chris Conte’s injury and when he will be able to get back out on the field)
“Sooner rather than later. I’m not a doctor, he’s progressing good. You guys just don’t see him when he’s out there, he comes out there after [the media] is out there, he’s got a smile on his face. He’s missing football and we’re missing him. Keith Tandy stepped up, did a fantastic job last week. Again, for the most part, we’re a team that’s getting healthier here at the end of the year. We’ve got guys coming back, they’re all going to be on different schedules, but we’re getting healthier.” 
 
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE SMITH
 
(On what the team has seen from cornerback Javien Elliot to give them confidence to put him in a larger role)
“What he did in practice all season long gave us a lot of confidence. He’s going against our number one receivers and really competed well, has a knack for getting the ball in his hands, so we had a lot of confidence in putting him out there. And I thought for his significant playing time, he did a nice job.”
 
(On the job his defensive assistants have done this season, helping the players learn the new defense)
“Oh I think we have a fantastic staff and these guys have spent many, many hours working to get this thing going the way it’s supposed to be going. [Defensive Line coaches] Jay [Hayes] and Paul [Spicer] do a great job up front, [Linebackers] Coach Duffner, Mark does a good job with the linebacker and [Secondary coaches] Jon [Hoke] and Brett [Maxie], they do a super job with the back end. It’s a collaboration, when you’re putting it together and it’s your first year and the first time a lot of us working together, there’s going to be a lot of ‘what ifs’ and we’ve been working through those. Not only as a staff, but with our players. But the players have really done a really good job here over the last four or five weeks.”
 
(On the progress cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has made since the Oakland and Atlanta games)
“I think he’s made big steps because really, it was a learning opportunity for him to put a bad game behind you and I think he’s actually played with a lot more confidence. We had a talk and we’ve talked to him about being more aggressive and he’s played much more aggressively and he’s cut it loose. And that’s what you’ve got to do when you’re in the secondary. You’ve got to cut it loose and you’ve got to have a short memory because the quarterbacks that you’re going to face in the NFL, they’re going to have their days and they’re going to have their moments, but we’re going to have ours as well.” 
 
(On when he started to see Hargreaves play more aggressively)
“Right after the [second] Atlanta game. I think he spoke with some of the guys on the team, the veterans and the veteran leadership and the mentors I think had an influence on what he needs to do after having a bad game. It’s easy to handle the good games, it’s tough to handle the one where you don’t play up to your level or you coach to your level, believe me.”
 
(On if Hargreaves is more mature than most young players coming into the league)
“I think he understands the game of football at a level probably higher than a lot of guys coming into the league. He’s got really good football intelligence. Now, think about this: this young man was our nickel, he’s played our corner position and those are two difficult positions to play. We had a plan and right now he’s playing both of them, depending on what the situation is and he’s done it all season long. So, it gives us a lot of flexibility when you have a guy that you can put inside and you can put outside and I’ve really liked his progress. I think he’s very energetic, he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and you’ve got to have those two traits to be a good defensive back.”
 
(On the challenges of defending New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees)
“He’s a tough out, there’s no doubt about it. The thing that Drew has got is a very good understanding of how people play defense. [I have] not been around him, but I’ve tried to find out as much as I can. He spends a lot of time studying film, he knows what you’re going to be in, so this is a lot like last week. When you play these good quarterbacks, you’ve got to try to not tell them what you’re doing pre-snap. And he’s probably one of the toughest outs in all the league. Their numbers are just unbelievable right now, in terms of what they’re doing offensively. It’s going to be very important for us, we know that they’re going to get their completions. We’ve got to make sure that when the opportunity comes that we win it down here and we win it down there. They’re completing 70 percent of their passes, they’re very good in the red zone, so don’t want to give up explosive plays and when we get down in the red zone, we’ve got to either turn the ball over, or force them to kick a field goal.”
 
(On what kind of challenges are created when offenses use misdirection, as New Orleans frequently does)
“Well like I mentioned, [Brees] is as good as there is. He has a very good understanding and he’s going to work the defense. And what I mean by that is, he’s not going to tell you where he’s going with the football. He’s got a great understanding, he’s a guy that’s going to make quick decisions. Their running backs are an integral part, it’s deep shot to check-down and if it’s not there on the deep ball, he’s going to check it down and he’s going to let those running backs run underneath. So, the big thing for us is going to be how well we pursue the football and tackle because they get a lot of their yards from poor pursuit angles and poor tackling.”
 
(On if this is the best time to face Brees twice in three weeks, with the way the defense is currently playing)
“I don’t know if there’s a best time to face this guy [laughs]. I would like to not have to play him, but again, the schedule’s set and we’ve got to go out and compete against him. This is a great rivalry and I’ve said it many, many times: I believe that the NFC South has the best quarterbacks in all of the National Football League. So hey, we’re fortunate that six times a year we’ve got to play probably three of the top six or seven quarterbacks in the NFL, so it’s a big challenge for us.”
 
(On what has impressed him about linebacker Kwon Alexander and what his ceiling is)
“Kwon is a guy that really wants knowledge. He’s a great athlete and he seeks knowledge. He’s really wanting to learn as much as he can about playing the game of football and being a professional and that’s the thing that’s impressed me the most. Since training camp, it’s two days a week, early in the morning we have a little conversation and it’s just impressed me the knowledge that he wants to have and he wants to be the guy that has the best understanding. And when your middle linebacker wants to have the best understanding of your defense, it really helps you, in my experience.”
 
(On what the difference has been in the pass rush the past couple of weeks)
“Well, I think we’ve been able to get guys back, like you mentioned, and then when you get them back, then it helps you a little bit on the rotation as well. We’ve been able to put some pressure on with some four-man rushes, they’ve done a very good job. We’ve been able to do some things up front. Jay [Hayes] has a very good feel for pass rush gains, we’ve been doing a very good job with our four-man rushes and understanding how they’re going to turn their protection to get more one-on-ones and I think that’s helped us immensely. And then when we’ve been able to gas them up a little bit, we get more one-on-ones. And when these guys get one-on-ones, we’ve got an opportunity to affect the quarterback and that’s what we’re trying to do. And it’s not always about sacks, it’s about affecting the quarterback and giving them off a spot. Drew is going to be a guy that’s going to get off his spot, but he’s not going to take off and run, he’s getting off his spot to find the secondary and third receiver.”
 
(On defending Brees and the New Orleans offense)
“It becomes a match of what you’re doing and what they’re trying to get done. I think Drew does a very good job – he’s one of the few quarterbacks that still, he calls the fronts out, he does the points, he’s calling the protections, he’s getting them into the right protections, does a lot with hand signals. So they’re a lot like a lot of these really good offenses, they want to be in their best play possible and it’s going to be very important for us to give him a different look than what he’s seen because they’ve scouted us over the last five or six weeks and they know what we’ve done. So it’s going to be important for us to give him some different looks.”
 
(On the quarterback-head coach relationship)
“I think there’s no doubt the two guys that have their records tied to them are the starting quarterback and the head football coach. My dynamic that I can speak to is different because I was not the offensive coordinator, but you have to have a good relationship with the quarterback. When the play-caller is the head coach, I even think it’s a completely different dynamic, yes.”
 
DEFENSIVE TACKLE GERALD MCCOY
 
(On facing New Orleans)
“Been battling them twice a year since I’ve been in the league and it’s always a tough game. Always a fun game. Me and Drew [Brees] have a little personal rivalry because we train together, so we always do little competitions while we’re training and stuff, so when you get in-season to your true profession, it’s really like – me being a D-lineman, him being a quarterback, it’s always fun. I’ve got the utmost respect for him. Him being one of the best, year-in and year-out, that’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Everything runs through him. If we have any shot of winning, we’ve got to disrupt him. There’s no stopping Drew Brees. People have proven that.”
 
(On Brees’ training regimen)
“He’s ridiculously athletic and he trains so hard and never changes. In my seven years training with him, it hasn’t changed. He never slows down. He does a lot of media, commercials and all this. He’ll take a break from training and come back we’ll be tired and he just doesn’t get tired. It’s ridiculous. That’s what makes him him. He’s great. We’re going to have to disrupt him if we have any shot of winning.”
 
(On playing the Saints twice in three weeks and if he’s ever been in a similar situation)
“I can’t remember doing it, if we have. I’m not sure. You’ve just got to make adjustments. It’s almost like training camp. You’re going against the same guys in such a short period of time. You’ve got to switch things up on them. Whoever makes the best adjustments from the first one has got a pretty good shot of winning the second one. We’re focused on this first one.”
 
(On how difficult it is to pressure Brees, since he gets rid of the ball quickly)
“Yeah, he does, but Drew is not the biggest guy, so he’s got those big linemen in front of him. You don’t always have to hit Drew, you don’t always have to sack him. If you get those big guys in his face – if you notice, a lot of times he makes those throws downfield, he’s looking up. You get those big guys, get that pressure up the middle, it disrupts him. But it doesn’t matter man. You can’t stop him, I’m just going to say that. You can’t stop him, but you can try and disrupt him enough to limit the amount of time they’re on the field.”
 
(On if meaningful December games feel different for him)
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in this situation, so I don’t know [laughs]. I would assume so. This being November, December football, for us, very meaningful football. You look around the league in past years, you’re like, ‘Hey, they say well this game counts and this game counts and this team team’s in the hunt or that team is that number and that,’ that’s what this time is about. All our coaches and our players that have been there have said, you win in December, you get to play in January. Simple as that, so December has begun.”
 
(On if he feels preparations are different this week)
“No. Just do the same things man, the most consistent and the best teams in this league do the same things, regardless of the situation. A Seattle or a Patriots, you’ll see them have this – or take an Oakland. Oakland this year has been staying the course and you’ll see them in tough situations and they find a way to win. It’s because they’re not changing what they’re doing, they’re doing the same things and that’s that formula of winning. We’ve just got to keep doing that, we can’t get outside ourselves and try to do something different. Stay the course and let things fall where they may.”
 
(On if the losing seasons he has experienced in the past make him appreciate the success of this season even more)
“Success is success, anytime it comes you’re happy about it. I’m happy for everybody around me, I see how hard these guys work. Even when we have a bad day of practice, guys are still working hard and that’s the thing about this team, especially over the past four weeks, is we haven’t had perfect days at practice every day. We just haven’t. But the good thing is, we know how to get better every day. The object is to be better than the day before and that’s what guys are doing. Like Sunday, we didn’t play particularly well, but we won. So the object this week is to play better than we did last week and we’ve just got to keep doing that, day-to-day.
 
(On how a strong secondary has helped the pass rush the past four weeks and vice-versa)
“Well, it’s great. Rush and coverage have to work together. One thing Coach Koetter always talks about is complementary football. The front has to complement the back end, the back end has to complement the front and then defense has to complement the offense and vise-versa. But when rush and coverage is working together for any team, it’s always tough on the offense.”
 
(On cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III’s development)
“He’s maturing. He’s always had the skills and the talent, his maturity is what’s changing him, he’s starting to mature and develop into an NFL player. He’s always had the talent and the skill set of an NFL player, but mentally – if you’re not there mentally, I’ve seen so many players that have had just as much talent as the people who last in this league, but mentally if you don’t have it, that’s where you see guys like, ‘Man, what happened to that guy?’ He wasn’t there mentally. The thing about Vernon is mentally, he’s growing up, he’s maturing and it’s starting to show on film. And that’s what’s going to make him good for a long time.”
 
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