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14 April 2016

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 Offseason Program Media Availability (4/14/16)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
General Manager Jason Licht
Linebacker Kwon Alexander
Linebacker Daryl Smith
(Opening statement)
“Good afternoon. How are you guys doing? [‘And you?’] I’m doing great. This is the fun part of the year for us. I say it every year and I’ll say it again, as we get into the draft, this is the time for the scouts - scouting department. This is our heyday, this is what we get juiced up for and those guys do an incredible amount of work and they deserve a lot of credit for the past successes that we’ve had and their families are a big, vital part of that too. I just want to put that out there, a shout-out to those guys because they’re working incredibly hard. We just got out of a meeting right now.”
(On how he assesses having the ninth pick in the draft and whether it is too high or too low)
“No, the way I assess it is it is what it is and you have to work around it. There are a lot of good players in this draft. We have to prepare to take a player there, we have to prepare to – a situation of moving back, we have to prepare for situations that might come up where we’re enticed to move up. This is a very good draft, the more that we dig into it and the more meetings we have, the more tape we watch. It’s very deep at certain positions – a lot of positions. There’s a lot of good players to be picked and you know, here we are and we’re ready to do it.”
(On if he believes there is value to be found in the second and third rounds of the draft)
“I do. Second, third, fourth - there’s always the flashy players, the players that everybody knows about, but there’s a lot of deep tracks on an album that you don’t know about now that someday you’re going to know, like Kwon Alexander. We just want to hit the right ones, so we’re doing a lot of work on those guys.”
(On if the Buccaneers can improve their pass rush from anywhere on the defensive line)
“You can and the goal defensively is always to affect the quarterback. You usually think of the front four doing that, but there’s other ways of doing it. If you really like watching, I know it’s just one game, but if you watched the Super Bowl last year – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware had their share of success there, but really the interior pressure had a big, big effect on that game, so there are other ways to do it. We all want a great defensive end, or two, or three, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.”
(On his reaction to the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams trade)
“It seems like both teams got what they wanted. You can’t say right now – somebody just asked me, ‘Who do you think won on that trade?’ You can’t really say the answer to that right now, you have to let it play out. You know, it’s great to have a bunch of picks if you’re a team, with [Titans General Manager] Jon Robinson and the Titans – it’s great to have a bunch of picks – for any team. But if you’re L.A. and you have a player that you want, you know you have to pay for it, you go up, that player works out, they’re going to think they won too. Right now on the surface it looks like both teams got what they wanted.”
(On trading out of the first pick in the draft being a bold move by Jon Robinson)
“Yeah, its bold and that’s the way we grew up together – to be bold, if it makes sense. I was happy for him. I know we talk periodically, we’ve talked a lot over the last couple of months and I’ll keep those conversations private. It didn’t shock me that they did this, but I was happy for him. But at the same time, if it works out for L.A., they get the guy that they want – so far it’s worked out for them.”
(On if the trade benefited the Buccaneers with a team with similar needs in Tennessee moving behind them in the draft order)
“Yeah it could, but it’s all ifs, ands and buts still at this point. The draft never works out exactly – you could do a hundred mocks and it never works out the exact way you put it down, that you guess. You have to wait until the draft flows and that’s kind of like a play caller. You know, you have your script during a game and Dirk [Koetter] has things that he wants to do. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way and you have to revise your plan a little bit and kind of shoot from the hip, for the lack of a better term. Every draft is different.”
(On how the change in defensive coordinator affects this draft and scouting of players)
“There’s little modifications in every defense that some coordinators or defensive staffs, head coaches, maybe stress one position over another or a certain type of player whether it’s size, or whether it’s a certain skill set that a certain position has, that they stress over another. We’re still looking for really good football players at the end of the day. I know it sounds vanilla, but from my chair, from our scouts, we’re looking for great football players that have a great mindset and have what we call the ‘Buc Mentality.’ So, that’s what we’re looking for.”
(On the importance of knowing what the teams ahead of you will do in the draft)
Well, we pay janitors in the buildings of all those teams to empty the trash cans and – no [Laughs]. We evaluate every team and we try to look at every team from as if we were working there. Whether their contracts, their skill, their depth, what positions are stronger than others and we put together a book every year that outlines every single team and what we think their top needs are and so far we’ve done a – it’s been a very good book and assessment that [Pro Scouting Coordinator] Rob McCartney leads our pro department, he heads that up and does a great job with that and it gives us a great indication of what teams are going to take. Not just in the first round but also second, third, fourth and so on.”
(On if it’s all an educated guess)
“Yeah, it is. It’s still a guess. Like I said before, you can do it a hundred different ways and it’s never going to come out exactly the way you thought, but you get pretty good intel.”
(On if that research takes into account teams that may pick the best available player as opposed to filling a need)
“Right, you research the general manager and the head coach, too and what they’ve done in the past. You can kind of tell which teams pick the best available player and which teams go strictly by need.”
(On the vetting of players in the draft such as defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and Noah Spence)
“Well, I’m not going to talk about those two players in particular or any player in particular, but we have players that we say, ‘Hell yeah we’ll take him’ and we have players that we, you know, have some concerns over. So, they get adjusted accordingly on the board.”
(On if he evaluates character differently for different positions)
“No, it’s across the board, but there’s different – it depends on what you view as character. We’re not going to drop a guy down because he has ten jaywalking tickets. We’ve all made mistakes growing up. It gets back to – and I’ve probably said it too many times – but there’s a difference between a bad guy and an immature guy.”
(On the value he places on the psychological testing of players and if he’s ever backed away from a player because of one)
“My tenure here with the Bucs, no, because it just so turned out that the players we wanted we felt good with every tool that we use. In the past with other teams, we have run into those situations where a huge red flag goes up because of that, but it doesn’t necessarily stop you from taking the player, it just necessitates you and your staff to do a lot more work on the guy.”
(On if he is concerned about cornerback Vernon Hargreaves’ height)
“I like good football players, I like strong football players, I like playmakers. No, I’m not concerned.”
(On how comforting it is to have a franchise quarterback)
“It’s what every head coach, owner, general manager, staff member strives for, to have the franchise quarterback. It puts that to rest, hopefully. But you direct your focus on other things and you start – there is always something to – stress isn’t the right word, but concerns at other positions and then it just becomes hyper-focused on that. You strive to have the perfect team, you strive to have the best player at every position, even though that never works out, but you keep striving for it.”
(On Head Coach Dirk Koetter’s involvement in the pre-draft process and if it has been different than with Lovie Smith)
“Not necessarily different – you always want the head coach and his staff to feel good about the players that you’re about to select. You always want to hear their opinions. The more opinions, the better, as you go through the process. You don’t want to force a player on any coach, so his involvement is no different than Lovie. We watch a lot of tape. We’ve been having a lot of meetings. I want their input. They spent a lot of time – as well as the scouts – out this spring, working out a lot of players. That intel is very important. So the process stays the same. I’ve said at a press conference earlier, the ‘power’ thing – I don’t think of that. We’re making these decisions together. You want his input.”
(On if the team will address the defensive side of the ball in the draft)
“We’ve spent a lot of time on defensive players in this year’s draft, whether bringing them in or working them out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to pick a defensive player at nine, or wherever we are in the first round. We did some things in free agency that gave us some flexibility. We want to still strive to have – we have several needs on this team. We need to get better, there’s no getting around that. We still strive to have – pick players where ‘best available’ and ‘need’ intersect.”
(On if he would draft a player that Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith did not want)
“Well, he would have to plead his case and he would have to show me why, which he’s very good at. He’s a very intelligent guy and knows what he wants. If he was super adamant, probably not.”
(On trying to duplicate the success of the 2015 Draft)
“That’s a good question. We always strive for that. I want to do better than we did last year, so does my staff. Mike Biehl and John Spytek now, they do a great job leading these scouts, doing a lot of work, trying to unearth these guys that we think that maybe have some sort of arbitrage that they’ll be available later for one reason or another. We’re confident that we can do it. To get four starters out of a draft is pretty good, hats off to those guys for everything they did. We strive every year to do better than we did the year before.”
(On a player not having a positive pre-draft visit)
“It’s disappointing for any general manager. It hasn’t happened this year, but it’s happened. You want to make sure you have the right fit in the locker room, you have the right guys. It’s ok to have an edge. It’s ok to have an edgy guy, as long as he’s a good teammate.”
(On if the PAT and kickoff rules changes will impact how kickers are viewed in the draft)
“That’s a good question. A good kicker is a good kicker. It’s going to be interesting how it plays out this year. We don’t have much of a sample size yet – or any – to see. You still want a kicker that can make all the field goals and can kick it into the end zone. Right now, we still haven’t changed.”
(On how many people have access to the draft board)
“I really, really trust my staff. They have passed all the tests since I’ve been hired. I’ve got it to where I like it. Every single one of them are very valuable to me and I trust them. They have access to it on a daily basis. I want them to know that it’s not necessarily always exactly the way all of them want it, after we do more work – but for the most part it is, because they’re very talented at what they do. They see that board every day.”
(On what leads to a player being labeled a ‘bust’)
“Ninety percent of busts, in my opinion, are because of something above the neck. All those things that you just said: work ethic, passion for football, interests that aren’t good for a football player, bad teammate – those types of things. That’s where most of the busts come from. You need to make sure that you’re hitting on the player, but then you’re also hitting on the person.”
(On if his job requires him to determine who the ‘busts’ are)
“Yes. We have several players every year that we turn upside down on the draft board, that we wouldn’t take.”
(On if the spread offense in college football has made it harder to scout players)
“Well it’s even across the board. It is a little bit more challenging for every team. At the core, you want an athletic guy, a smart guy, a tough guy and a guy that can pick up what you’re teaching him, which is where the value of a personal workout is. You can learn a lot in two hours, three hours – hour on the field, three hours in the classroom with a guy. Some guys just can’t pick it up, some guys can. Some guys are playing without a playbook in college. Some guys don’t know protections. It makes it a little more challenging, but it makes it a little more fun too.”
(On if the evolution of the passing game has changed how linebackers are evaluated)
“You still want a productive – what it comes down to is: does he make tackles? Does he make plays in the passing game? Is he a two-down guy [or] is he a three-down guy? What is your defense, schematically, looking for? Are you looking for a thumper or are you looking for a guy who is one step ahead of the blocking scheme and can get to the ball-carrier before he has to go through the guard? You still want fast linebackers. You still want guys that have very good insticts. You want Lavonte Davids. You want Kwon Alexanders and you can make it work.”
(On if he is willing to take chances with undersized players)
“Yes, because Lavonte and Kwon have worked out pretty good for this franchise. We’d be willing to do it.”
(On how the success of Ali Marpet affects the team’s view of other small-school prospects)
“It gives you confidence that it can be done and that those guys are out there. It doesn’t always work out that way. I think he’s right now still kind of an outlier, but we felt very comfortable with the research that we did with him and everything that we did. It doesn’t mean that every small-school guy has an opportunity, but it means that they’re out there.”
(On his desire to interact with Buccaneers Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks)
“I haven’t gotten the chance yet, I’m trying to schedule a meeting next week. I’m just trying to pick his brain. He’s a Hall of Famer, so that’s where I want to be one day so I’m trying to get everything – whatever he gives me, I’m going to take it all in and help my teammates, too. So everything he gives me, I’m just going to go out there and use it against everybody else. Me and my teammates, too.”
(On if he has talked football with Brooks before)
“Well, I’ve said, ‘What’s up’ or ‘How you doing,’ but nothing football-wise. That’s why I’m trying to get with him and meet with him and hear what he has to say.”
(On working out in the evenings and if he’s ‘playing for so much more than just himself’)
“That’s just how I work, period. I’m really just kicking it in an extra gear this year. I’ve just been doing extra workouts. I’ve been trying to get my teammates involved, too. Most of them have been coming in working out with me, trying to get better. I’m trying to make this defense the No. 1 defense in the league, so I’ve got big expectations and how I work, everybody is going to work like me. I like to bring excitement, have fun, and that’s how it’s going to be around here.”
(On if he’s more comfortable this year because he’s no longer a rookie)
“Yeah, I mean, last year it was kind of tough. I had to learn all that new stuff, new terminology. I’m used to it now, so it’s getting easier and easier.”
(On the offseason addition of Daryl Smith)
“I’ve been learning a lot. We sit next to each other in the meeting room and I ask all the questions I can. He answers them all. He’s a great guy. He’s been in the league for a long time, so I’m picking his brain, too. I pick everybody’s brains. I’m just trying to be the best I can be.”
(On the differences between Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith’s defense and the scheme that was run last season)
“Very different – a lot of schemes. I love it though. I love it. We all love it. We’re going to have fun with the defense. I feel like everybody’s going to be out there flying around. I just can’t wait to get back on the field.”
(On what he learned from missing the final four games of last season due to suspension)
“You just have to be way smarter – you have to be very smart when you’re in the league. There are a lot of rules. In college, you don’t know that. It’s way different in college. So you just have to be way smart with what you do and just be a leader and always stay on top of your stuff.”
(On if he is confident that he’ll play middle linebacker this season)
“I’ll probably be middle backer. Wherever they put me, though, I just want to play ball. I don’t care where it’s at; I just want to touch the field again. I’m just blessed, man. Wherever you put me, I’ll play Mike, Will, Sam – it doesn’t matter. I just want to ball again.”
(On what parts of his game he has worked on this offseason)
“I’ve been working on everything. I don’t think my game is where it needs to be right now. I think I can get way better in every aspect. I’ve been working on coverage, hands, drops – everything. Catching, everything until I make my game just go out the roof.”
(On which teammates he’s spent the most time working out with this offseason)
“I really didn’t spend much time with my teammates – I was training in Miami. But when I came back, I was spending time with Lavonte when he came back. We were working out with each other for like two weeks. And some people that live in my apartment complex, we get it in late-night. They come down and work out with me late night. But a majority of the time, it was like Lavonte, Kourtnei Brown, most of the people who came back to Tampa to work out.”
(On if Mike Smith’s defense is more aggressive)
“It’s going to be more aggressive. You guys can just see it for yourselves. You just have to be ready for this season. It’s going to be fun. Y’all are going to enjoy it, for real.”
(On if he prefers blitzing over playing in coverage)
“It doesn’t matter. I love blitzing and I love playing in coverage. Either one is fine with me. I just love making plays on defense, that’s it.”
(On what it meant that the Buccaneers were 6-6 with him and 0-4 without him last year)
“It’s very important. I take all the heat for that. I was supposed to have been there; that’s my fault. But it won’t happen again, though. That’s one thing, it won’t happen again. I’ve never been in trouble [before] or anything, so that surprised me when that happened and it hurt me so bad, to the point like, every game I was still there, watching it and calling plays so I was making sure that I stayed on my game regardless. That’s why I just can’t wait to get back to the field and let everything out.”
(On his first impression of linebackers coach Mark Duffner)
“Love him. Great coach. He’s helping me in the way that I needed. We’re just starting now, so we know there’s going to be a lot more stuff added to the defense and stuff like that. But, for him, he’s a great coach and he’s teaching us well. Everybody is getting it pretty fast.”
(On why he thinks he fell to the fourth round in last year’s draft)
“I don’t know why I think I fell. I don’t even worry about the draft anymore. I’m way past that. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I fell that far down, but whoever missed me, that’s their fault and they’ve got to see me every game, so I can’t wait to play again.”
(On watching the Senior Bowl practices on TV)
“I watched the Senior Bowl practices because I still had teammates I came in with at LSU and I wanted to see them do well, too. I can’t wait for them to get drafted, too. I love when everybody succeeds. A lot of people come from bad homes, you know, and they don’t make it out, so I love when I see people succeed from bad places. I have friends that didn’t make it out that are great players, so I love to see people succeed.”
(On what it would feel like to see former LSU teammate Deion Jones get drafted by the Buccaneers)
“Love it, man. Deion is like my best friend. We’ve been cool since we both touched down in Louisiana. He’s a great player. You all have seen how fast he was – it’s crazy. I didn’t even think he was going to run a 4.3 and he didn’t either, and that’s the crazy part. But he’s a great player. He does the same things that I do, basically. Whatever team he gets on, he’s going to make a big impact.”
(On if he has a specific focus for his offseason conditioning and workouts)
“I’m just trying to get better, that’s it. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, it’s all about heart. That’s why I don’t get into all the how big [talk]. You can be 235, but you can be slow and not get to where you need to be. So it doesn’t matter. I’m an athletic guy and I might look small, but I’ll hit you [laughter].”
(On if the coaches or scouts have asked for his input on college players he shared the field with)
“Most of the time they just talk about my players, not who I played against, but who I played with. But other than that, nobody else.”
(On being a veteran leader and working with young linebackers like Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David)
“I’m excited. We watch a lot of film throughout the year, watching different teams, studying and stuff. They can play. I’m excited to come down here and join them.”
(On how he manages to play well after having been in the league for 12 seasons)
“Getting rest, eating and spending time with my family. That’s pretty much it. I don’t have a big secret or anything like that.”
(On how he fits in to his new strongside linebacker positon)
“Well, I mean, new in it being a few years since I’ve been in it. I came in under Mike Smith, he was my defensive coordinator in Jacksonville for four years and I played pretty much Mike, Sam and Will under him. I’m familiar with the defense and excited to get back here and feel comfortable with it.”
(On if Mike Smith’s scheme is similar to the one used when both were in Jacksonville)
“It seems to be. We’ve been meeting and just going through everything and just getting back familiar with everything. I think so.”
(On the evolution of the passing game impacting how linebackers are utilized)
“I mean, the game has definitely evolved and like I said, I see some things that I’m definitely familiar with and I know, [but] I’ve already seen some new things that [Mike Smith] has added. I’m pretty sure he’ll have a lot more stuff as we go along.”
(On who he knew in the locker room before joining the team)
“I didn’t really know anybody personally, but like I said, just watching film, you know, Gerald [McCoy] I’ve seen, Major [Wright], [Chris] Conte – just different guys that are here now. I think we’ve got a young roster that can play. We’ve got talent. [People] might not know it just yet, but hopefully we’ll prove that.”
(On how Mike Smith has changed since they were together in Jacksonville)
“I think he’s still the same – same guy. Likes to laugh and have fun, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work.”
(On if his familiarity with the coaching staff was a factor in signing with Tampa Bay)
“Yeah, knowing ‘Smitty’ (Mike Smith), Mark Duffner, Dirk Koetter, Nate Kaczor – all those guys were in Jacksonville with me, so there was definitely a comfort level. Then coming back to Florida, I had to take advantage of it.”
(On if he likes to use his field on the play to help lead the team)
“Most definitely. It’s just being a part of it. People will listen to you and better understand you if you’re actually doing it, instead of just talking about it. Like I said, I’m excited for the opportunity and just hoping that we can get off to a good start – which we have – and continue to work.”
(On what he has seen from Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David)
“They’re both young. Lavonte has been around for some years, an All-Pro, he knows what he’s doing. Kwon is young, but he’s knowledgeable about the game and so eager to learn. Already, they’re just asking so many questions. I think it’s a defense that they’ll thrive in.”
(On dealing with injuries last season)
“Just the normal wear-and-tear, banged up here and there. Can’t really recall, one or two or three, just small little bangs that [ypu] ice and you just keep trucking. I feel very well now. Got a little rest and been getting body work – massages, chiropractor – and I’m ready to come back to work.”
(On his impressions of Jameis Winston)
“Legit. From watching from afar and then coming in, the only thing I can say is he’s legit.”

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