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28 April 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Day 1 NFL Draft Media Availability (4/27/17)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
 
General Manager Jason Licht
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
Tight End O.J. Howard
 
For the most up-to-date Buccaneers information, visit media.buccaneers.com.
 
GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
 
(Opening Statement)
“Obviously, we took O.J. [Howard], we’re beyond excited about him. It was a little bit of a pipe dream during the process that he would get there and then [we] got a little itchy and we decided to stay patient, which we did. We were getting some action at our pick, but I have a feeling a lot of teams were probably after him along with some other – there [were] still some good players on the board. That was the most excited I’ve seen the entire room since I’ve been here since we picked Jameis [Winston] with our first-round pick. [Howard] is a six-foot-six, 250-pound guy that can run. He’s a great kid, he’s one of the top character kids on the board, if not the top. So, for multiple reasons, we’re beyond excited.”
 
(On how excited Head Coach Dirk Koetter is to add Howard to the offense)
“We’re all pretty happy, but that’s the biggest hug I’ve ever gotten from Coach Koetter. He is beyond excited. I’ve already heard from Jameis, I’ve heard from other guys on our team – there’s a lot of excitement around here right now.”
 
(On adding Howard to the tight end group along with Cameron Brate)
“We love Cameron. Cameron is a heck of a player. In our offense and a lot of offenses in today’s day and age, you have two tight ends: one ‘Y,’ one ‘F.’ If you can establish that, then it really – you can dictate what you’re doing with the run and passing game. That’s one reason, or main reason, why Dirk and our offensive staff right now are probably doing cartwheels up there.”
 
(On how confident Tampa Bay was that Howard would be available at the 19th pick)
“No, I can’t. It was, like I said, getting a little itchy there. But sometimes great players fall to you. We’re excited about the future here. I know he’s got a long ways to go – he’s got to learn the offense. I’m not going to put too much pressure on him right now, early on, but I have no other words right now. I’m still kind of shaken.”
 
(On how much time Tampa Bay put into talking with Howard during the pre-draft process)
“We talked to him. We had multiple people talking with him at the Combine. We sent people to Alabama to spend time with him. We didn’t bring him in here for a visit. You only have 30 slots that you can do that with, but we were very, very confident and comfortable with his background, knowing him. Our scouts do an incredible job throughout the year – Brian Hudspeth, Byron Kiefer, along with obviously Mike Biehl and Jon Spytek. Just knowing [Howard] as a guy, he’s a really easy character assessment. We did our homework on him, but you’ll learn here quickly what a phenomenal kid he is. It’s about getting the right player, obviously, but it’s also about getting the right kind of guy. I’m not talking about humanitarians, I’m talking about the locker room, team-first, he checks all the boxes with that.”
 
(On if it was surprising that Howard was still available at the 19th pick)
“There was a point, before our pick, when we started doing our math and assessing the needs of other teams and who they’re linked to, we thought there was a chance at a certain point. Now, starting with pick one, we probably wouldn’t have bet on it. But it is what it is. We feel like we got a windfall right now.”
 
(On why Howard fell to Tampa Bay)
“You know, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. I know that he was linked to almost every team as being one of the best players on the board. You take need into consideration and I know that there were probably a lot of discussions, whether the team [needed] a tight end, but they had a bigger need somewhere else, I would have to ask those other teams once this dust settles. But we’re not going to worry about that, we’re just going to concentrate on bringing them in here.”
 
(On if Howard was a need or the most talented player)
“We always like to stick to the best player and where needs meet and we felt like we had a need at tight end. You can’t get through a season with just a couple – you’ve seen the injuries that we’ve had here in the past. Like I said, we feel like he’s going to be a guy that develops into a good line of scrimmage blocker and then he’s a 4.5 [second 40-yard dash] guy at six-foot-six, 250 [pounds] – he can stretch the field. I know Jameis, like I said before, I got a text from him with about a million smiley faces, so I know he’s happy.”
 
(On Howard’s biggest upside)
“He’s big, he’s a huge target, he makes contested catches, he’s athletic, he can run. I think he’s going to help [us] immediately in the passing game, but then he’s eventually going to develop into a really good blocker as well, with his length and his effort. He’s a tough guy. He’s a guy, a tight end prospect, they don’t come around very often, the multi-faceted, across-the-board type of guy.”
 
(On if Howard was underutilized in Alabama’s passing game)
“You know, Alabama’s got a great football team and Coach Saban does a great job with those guys, developing those players, so I’m not going to – I don’t know the reason behind that. They’ve been doing pretty good the last time I checked, so I’m not going to criticize their offense.”
 
(On how much Jameis Winston will improve with adding Howard and wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the team this offseason)
“Well it looks pretty good on paper right now. I think we’ve added some targets that I know he’s going to like. I’m going to venture to say that he got better. I don’t know how much better, we’ll see, we’ve got a long ways to go yet, but we’re excited about it.”
 
(On if Tampa Bay considered drafting Florida State running back Dalvin Cook)
“We like Dalvin, but we’re concentrating on O.J.”
 
(On if the team would be able to have Howard play out wide)
“There’s a lot of things you can do with a guy like that and I know that Dirk is probably in his office right now, drawing up plays.”
 
(On how a tight end like Howard impacts the offense)
“If you have a guy like O.J., who we feel like what he can do for us, it just puts a lot of stress on the defense. Then you can dictate what you’re doing and they have to figure out how they’re going to cover it. Hopefully once things get humming, it’s going to open up every area of the offense. It’s going to help your run game, help all of your outside receivers, help your slot, help everything.”
 
(On if the quarterbacks being drafted high impacted Howard being available)
“It certainly helped.”
 
(On how Howard having his two biggest games in both of the National Championship Games he played in impacted how the team viewed him)
“A lot. He’s a really competitive guy. He’s got the right mindset. Like I said before, he checks all of the boxes above the neck. He’s played big in big games and that’s huge.”
 
(On where Tampa Bay thought Howard would go when the NFL Draft started)
“It’s a guessing game. There’s a million mocks out there. We do our own mocks, but if you get six right, you’re doing pretty good. We don’t set our board based on the mocks. Before the draft, we have a lot of meetings where we say which players have to be there, you’re not even going to consider trading back, which players you would consider moving up for and so on and so on. He was obviously one guy that we weren’t going to trade back for.”
 
(On when they were sure they were going to have a chance to draft Howard)
“When Tennessee made their pick.”
 
(On if Tampa Bay was prepared to trade back if Howard was not on the board)
“We worked through every scenario that you can think of – every slot behind us. We’re always prepared to go back and we know what we want. We know what we’re going to ask for, we know what we’ll probably get offered – we go through every scenario. We’re prepared for all of that.”
 
(On where Tampa Bay had Howard mocked)
“Like I said, it’s a crapshoot. You do a million mocks and come up with a million different results. We’re just happy that we got him.”
 
(On if Tampa Bay considered trading up for Howard)
“We’re just happy that we got him.”
 
(On if there is an NFL comparison for Howard)
“Well, from an athletic standpoint, the size and speed, Jimmy Graham. But I don’t want to get too much into comparisons. He needs to come out here and he needs to practice. We need to see him in training camp and we need to get rolling with the entire team right now. I’m not putting everything on his shoulders right now.”
 
HEAD COACH DIRK KOETTER
 
(Opening statement)
“Yeah, that’s a nice late-night present we just got.”
 
(On if this is an example of Koetter’s phrase after a victory: ‘Good guys win’ “
“Haha, yeah. Well, maybe we’ll win some. That was a good guy to get right there, Really good.”
 
(On what he likes about Howard)
“First off, the true Y-tight ends are a dying breed in college football. There’s not that many teams left that utilize a player like O.J. while in the NFL, I think is still one of the best weapons that you can have. Here’s a guy that’s got the speed to run down the seam and the power to block a defensive end at the line of scrimmage. There’s not many of those guys around so we’re very fortunate that he was still there and excited for him to be joining the Bucs.”
 
(On the difference between O.J. Howard and tight end Cameron Brate)
“Yeah, well I think on first and second down, especially, most teams would prefer to be in a two tight end set or one tight end and a fullback – what we call 12 personnel – and Cam is an excellent pass-catching tight end. I actually talked to Cam right after the pick, had a phone conversation with him and I think this will help Cam. But a lot of these ‘F’ tight ends or these tight ends that are not quite as good a blocker at the point of attack makes it tougher to run the ball and that’s where O.J., especially coming out of the program he did – he’s a winner, he’s a great kid, and he can do everything we need a tight end to do.”
 
(On how important it was that Howard played well in the last two College Football National Championship Games)
“He definitely did that, he definitely did that and that is one thing that definitely jumped out. Going back to two years ago, we noticed him there. They had a lot of stars on his team, on the team he played on in college – there were a lot of stars – but you never heard any whining from him. When he was called on he came up big every time.”
 
(On how well the tight end position can thrive in his offense)
“I think that position can thrive in most NFL offenses and I’m the first to admit that I like tight ends. But a lot of other guys do, too, in the league. Yeah, I just think this guy’s a throwback to what tight ends – [there] used to be a lot more of them around the league and there’s just not as many anymore.”
 
(On how nervous he became when the pick was approaching and Howard remained available)
“We had multiple guys that we liked still on the board so we felt very fortunate and as it was getting closer and closer, again, we were shocked that O.J. was still there going way up into the top of the draft. Just didn’t seem like it was going to work out this way.”
 
(On if he’s willing to reveal where Howard was on the team’s board overall)
“He was high. He was pretty high.”
 
(On if he allowed himself to think about the realistic possibility that Howard would be available at their pick)
“I didn’t want to jinx it, I didn’t want to jinx it for anybody in the room. I actually had to go to the bathroom for about the last six picks but I was afraid to stand up. I didn’t want to jinx the mojo in there.”
 
(On if he envisions splitting Howard out against a base defense on early downs)
“Oh, I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves for tonight. We said we needed more explosive players and this is an explosive player, he just plays inside instead of playing outside and we were fortunate enough to add speed on the outside with DeSean Jackson to pair up with Mike [Evans] and now we’ve got two tight ends to pair side by side in Cam and O.J.”
 
(On the initial reaction to the selection by quarterback Jameis Winston)
“Jameis was excited. I’ll let him – I don’t want to speak for Jameis; you’ll get a chance to see him here in the next few days but yeah, Jameis knows good football players when he sees them. From his home state, too.”
 
(On how much better the offseason makes Winston)
“Well, we haven’t even been on the field, we’ve been in what’s called Phase One so we go on the field starting next week with the players, so that’s hard to say. But judging by the fact that when I get here at 5:45 in the morning, his car’s already in the parking lot and how hard I know he’s working, I’d say that he’s off to a good start.”
 
TIGHT END O.J. HOWARD
 
(On his reaction on being picked by the Buccaneer, who were surprised he was still available)
“Yeah, that’s what they told me, so I am just very happy I got a chance to go to – that’s a loaded offense, so I am very excited about that.”
 
(On thoughts of catching more passes in the NFL and playing in Raymond James Stadium after recently playing there in the National Championship)
“I’m just excited. I’ve been in that stadium before. I loved it, I loved the environment. Just to be able to go back and play in it again is truly a blessing and I am very excited about it.”
 
(On whether or not he has had a chance to meet quarterback Jameis Winston)
“Yeah, he texted me as soon as I got drafted. He told me, ‘Hey, man, welcome. Welcome to the boys, Bama boys.’ So, he texted me and told me that. He’s a great quarterback, good guy, so I’m just looking forward to playing with him.”
 
(On how long he believes it will take him to break in as a starter in the league)
“Hopefully not long. I’m trying to go in there right now and be an impact for the team, so I’m looking forward to that.”
 
(On what he believes stood out to teams when they were reviewing him before the draft)
“Just a guy that can be a three-down tight end; go in there and block, also stretch the field, make plays, so I think that’s what stands out the most.”
 
(On how he feels on dropping to the 19th pick when many analysts projected him getting drafted earlier on)
“The way the draft started off, I kind of could see it happening, but my range is from six to 20. That’s what my agent told me and it was right before that. So, it didn’t shock me because we knew we could go anywhere from six to 20 and that’s exactly what happened.”
 
(On the advantage the team will have with his size in addition to the size of wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cameron Brate)
“Huge. I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for tall guys. It gives us a chance to make plays. Jameis can throw it up, let us make plays. That sounds very exciting.”
 
(On his passion for being able to block efficiently)
“I have a lot of passion about it, I think that’s what it takes to be a dominant tight end. You have to be able to block, you have to be able to make plays in the run game to allow the passing game to open up. I really take a lot of pride in that.”
 
(On how he feels about playing with a quarterback like Winston who can make improvisational plays)
“I feel very confident in him with him being able to do that, move around, make plays, keep plays alive. I think that says a lot about him, his athletic ability. I just think that allows us to make more plays.”
 
(On if he welcomes the opportunity to have a quarterback who may cause him to make adjustments)
“Yeah, I do. I’m used to adjusting to whatever it may be to fit our offense. Whatever that may be, I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to the adjust.”
 
(On if he has a way of excelling in big game scenarios)
“Yeah, I really take a lot of pride in that. I love to be very good in every game, but especially on that stage, so many eyes on you and there’s so much at stake you have no room for error. That’s what happens to me.”
 
(On if he was glad to play at a school like Alabama where expectations of him were so high)
“Yeah, I do. I enjoyed going to ‘Bama’ because it made me become more than just a catcher. I learned how to block, I learned how to be a better all-around team player, football player in general. I’d rather do that than just go to a school and catch 100 balls a year.”
 
(On coming to an offense that attacks down the field and gets the tight end position involved)
“Oh man, it’s going to be amazing. I want to finally get a chance to see what I can do with an offense like that. I’m very excited to see how it plays out.”
 
(On what went through his mind when he found out he would be drafted by Tampa Bay)
“I was very, overwhelmed and excited about it. I told my parents, I was like, ‘Hey, I think I’m about to come up at 19.’ They said, You know, they called me,’ so I was like, ‘Yeah, pretty sweet.’”
 
(On if he was at home when he received his draft call)
“Yeah, I’m at home with my family right now enjoying the moment.”
(On how many people he has with him)
“150 people.”
 
(On where he held his draft party)
“Yeah, it’s down the road from my actual house. We rented out a house, it’s like a two-story cottage. Lot of room, 150 people.”
 
(On if that’s everyone in his hometown)
“Not everybody, almost though.”
 
-BUCCANEERS-
 

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