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29 April 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 Day 3 NFL Draft Media Availability (4/29/17)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
General Manager Jason Licht
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Running Back Jeremy McNichols
Defensive Tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
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(On what it is the Bucs like about DT Stevie Tu’Ikolovatu that the team traded up for and on the addition of RB Jeremy McNichols) “He’s a big guy, he plays really physical. He’s actually got good quickness for a big guy, you can see that in every game that you watch. But in the bowl game, it really stood out. He’s a 2-down player but he’s very powerful, plays with great technique. He’s got really good instincts and he’s got what we’ve been saying with all these guys, he’s a great guy. Great guy, great guy in the locker room. He’s one of my favorite stories in this year’s draft. He transferred from Utah and he’d already graduated, so he had a year left to play. So he goes with his wife to L.A., lives with his wife in a Suburban for a month and didn’t tell anybody there. None of his teammates knew, none of the coaches knew until he was able to get his stipend for his housing. Here’s a guy that, you’ve obviously got to love the game to do that. And then with Jeremy McNichols, we had him very high on our board. We think he’s obviously a very good receiver if you look at his stats, but on film he’s got excellent hands, just rare hands. He’s a really good pass protector, he’s one of the best pass protectors in the draft from that position. He’s a very well-rounded guy, runs well, he’s got 3-down value. In what role? We’ll see, but we just felt like it was a guy that we couldn’t pass on. So we’re excited about the two guys that we got today.”
(On if he could see McNichols developing into a ‘workhorse back’)
“We’ll see in time. We do think that he does have value as a first-and-second down player, or a ball carrier. What strikes us the most or what jumps out at you the most, is his ability on third down and in the receiving game. But he is a good runner, too. Any time you’ve got a guy that is well-rounded like that at that position, you’re going to have him higher on your board.”
(On how he feels the Buccaneers did in the draft overall)
“I talked about the speed last night being something that we were going to really look into this year to improve our football team, and so was physicality on defense. With Kendell [Beckwith] and with Stevie [Tu’Ikolovatu] we’ve got big, physical guys. Nobody is guaranteed a spot right now on this roster, but right now we like the competition they’re going to bring and those assets that they bring. Overall, obviously starting with O.J. [Howard], that was great. We’re still coming off that high, hopefully we don’t come off that for another decade. We were really happy with all the picks that we got. I don’t think you’ll ever find a general manager say, ‘Oh, you know, we had a crappy draft.’ We’re really happy with the picks that we got. We weren’t necessarily going after guys that we know are going to be great locker room guys-we want that, and we want it also with a good player, and we felt that we got that.”
(On if he pays attention to who divisional opponents are taking during the draft)
“We set the board early in the process and then we set my top 120 board in the order that we’re going to take the guys. Sometimes you’ll go off of it a little bit if you’ve taken a tight end early and you may not take a tight end with your second pick. But for the most part, we stick to that board and we’re not going to go away from it just because we saw what Atlanta picked or New Orleans picked. We’re going to stay focused on what our plan was with that top 120 board.”
(On competing in tough divisional matchups this season with the NFC South collectively improving through the draft) “Yeah, it sure will. It was pretty impressive what Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina did. So, we were impressed with their drafts.”
(On how hard it was to be patient and not surrender future picks in attempt to move up in this year’s draft)
“You obviously always get the itch. You look at players that you are hoping that come to you. In the case of Jeremy [McNichols] and Stevie [Tu’Ikolovatu] it really – well, Jeremy came to us and Stevie [we] moved up a few spots there in the seventh. You get anxious, you get excited. I get just as excited with a guy like Jeremy and Stevie as I do with O.J. [Howard]. It’s the same feeling in the moment and you’re competitive. You want to get the best value that you can over your colleagues. That’s why it’s the greatest three days in my professional career during the year, it’s fun. Besides opening day, besides going to the Super Bowl, but it’s a big rush.”
(On what positions he’s looking to target in undrafted free agency)
“We have it set right now, the numbers at each position that we want ideally want for our 90-man roster. Then we also have the rookie mini-camp coming up, so we can bring in tryout guys for that. We stress certain positions that we need more help than others in terms of depth, or where there’s actually opportunity to make the team, best opportunity. So we’ll go after guys at those positions a little bit harder, little bit more money involved. And then, you know, you can never get every guy that you want because there’s 32 teams calling him. [The players are] saying that they want to go to the best opportunity place but really it comes down to money. So, a lot of the times it’s funny how it works. You’re targeting guys just like in the draft. The guy that you want, another team is paying him more money, you get upset. And then you bring in Adam Humphries on a tryout deal, and he works out to be the best. So, it’s really a crapshoot when it comes down to it. But, it still doesn’t stop us from targeting certain guys.”
(On if it becomes more difficult to sign free agents as a team improves overall since the players know it will be harder to make the roster)
“The better you get at certain positions, yeah.”
(On what positions the Bucs are targeting in free agency)
“I’ll probably keep that close to the vest right now.”
(On if the high number of undrafted free agents on the current Bucs roster helps in signing potential undrafted free agents)
“It definitely helps. It definitely helps, especially with a head coach like Dirk [Koetter] who’s a straight shooter and that word has – agents understand that. And for the most part, all agents know that about Dirk. Word travels pretty quick even if they don’t have a player on this roster, but if they do, they understand it. Dirk is going to give every player, and myself, but Dirk as the head coach is going to give every player the opportunity to make it. [He] doesn’t care what status you are in terms of your money or your draft selection, or if you’re an undrafted free agent. It’s kind of a feather in everybody’s cap when one of those guys makes your team.”
(On if he thinks the exposure Hard Knocks can offer will help attract undrafted free agents)
“It probably wouldn’t help me if I was in their shoes. I don’t know about that. I think it depends on the personality, depends on the person, the individual.”
(On how anxious Koetter is to get the players out on the field together)
“Oh my God, if I brought two guys in to work out today at a certain position they’d be out there for two hours working them out. That’s in their DNA, those coaches. They’re awesome, they love getting out there. They get giddy and they can’t sleep at night before that first day of practice going out there. So, it’s awesome. It’s fun just to watch them, it’s just as much fun to watch them as it is the players.”
(On if the coaches are already planning for ways to use tight end O.J. Howard)
“There’s been a lot of papers shuffling around in those offices, I can put it to you that way. They haven’t been bored.”
(On when the rookies will officially arrive at the facility)
“They’ll come next Thursday.”
(On what impressed him about linebacker Kendell Beckwith that prompted him to trade up yesterday)
“He’s a guy that – we’ve been watching a lot him for the last two years. [We] didn’t know if he was going to come out the year before, we had reports dating back two years on him and we had big grades on him. He got hurt so he slid a little bit because of it. We’re anticipating – I mean, we haven’t got our hands on him besides physicals during this process – you want to be around a guy everyday to know exactly what his – where he is exactly. We’re very confident he’s going to be ready this season, could be July that he’s ready to go. Same with Jeremy (McNichols). But, he slid because of that a little bit. I could foresee, my staff does an incredible job, I’ve got to give them all the credit – they can see a trend starting, or stopping. He was a linebacker that we really coveted. If we didn’t get him there, we felt like we were going to have a hard time getting him there in the fourth. So, that’s why we moved up for him. He’s physical, he’s smart, he’s called defenses there. I’ve got intel from Kwon [Alexander], Kwon was very excited. He was on cloud nine. He sent me a text message with a picture of a goat, I wouldn’t go that far. He’s really happy to have his buddy here and he’s going to compete for a starting role at SAM. Obviously he’s not – not going to say he’s going to compete with Lavonte [David] or Kwon. But, he’s going to compete for a starting role. We’ve got to get our best three out there.”
(On SAM being an adjustment for Beckwith who played inside during college)
“[Yes]. But he has played actually with his hand down, he’s rushed, he’s played on line of scrimmage. So, those are all things that you look for in a SAM, being able to butt heads and play physical.”
(On if he feels the team is on the right path following his fourth draft as the Bucs general manager)
“Well, it’s never as easy as the plan that you outline. It goes about a million different directions, you try to bring it back together. It’s going to sound like a simple answer, but you want to bring good football players in. You want to bring playmakers, you want to bring in some good guys in the trenches. You want a great leader in the quarterback, which I feel we hit a windfall with. You want to give that quarterback, a young quarterback weapons to throw to. At some point it’ll turn a little bit where we need to really build up this defense with young players, more young players too. We feel like we’ve got some good, young players on that side of the ball. It’s about where we thought. Especially where Dirk and I, when he was first hired as a head coach, I think we’ve done a good job of staying the course with our plan.”
(On what he wants the identity of the Buccaneers to be)
“Focused. We’re doing this together, we need everybody to stay together and stay focused on the plan. I think that that message has really taken in from what Dirk is telling the team. We want obviously, very competitive guys, that want to win and want to win at all costs. That’s the identity that I want every player to have and Dirk as the head coach wants every player to have on this roster. We’re building a great, great, special locker room right now. Both literally and figuratively, the one at the stadium looks like it’s going to be pretty nice.”
(On what he wants opponents to think when they prepare to play the Bucs)
“That they know that they’re going to have their hands full. That they know that this is a team that they can’t take lightly and I think we’re at that point already.”
(On running back Jeremy McNichols)
“Jeremy’s a guy that – a three-down guy, he can do a little bit of everything. He’s [had] really good production, scored a lot of touchdowns. Started off his career as a wide receiver. They moved him around a lot. Really good pass blocker. Every running back in college, that’s their Achilles heel. Good pass blocker, good chipper, can catch, just a solid, three-down player.”
(On if Tampa Bay thinks they can move McNichols around the offensive formation)
“Well, sure, but I mean, we’re going to have pretty good competition at running back. You guys know that we like the group that we have in place. When it came to our pick, Jeremy was sitting there and we had good grades on him, so Jason [Licht] took him. That’s just going to be a good competition because there’s other guys in the mix there too. How we’re going to use him is – first of all, he’s going to have to make it.”
(On if the team was surprised that McNichols was still available, despite his productivity in college)
“Just numbers. I would just say numbers in the draft. There’s possibly – there was a handful of guys this year, John Ross was one, [McNichols] was one of a handful of guys that had to have labrum repairs and they decided to wait until after the Combine, which seems a little weird to me. If it would have been me, I would have done it right after the season, but that might have spooked some teams, because they’re going to bump up against training camp, possibly. I’m not sure.”
(On if McNichols had labrum surgery after the NFL Scouting Combine)
(On if the team expects McNichols to be ready for training camp)
“Yeah, hopefully. That’s a four-month [recovery], torn labrum is a four-month [recovery] is usually what they say. John Ross had it, there’s at least three or four guys at the combine.”
(On when the team expects linebacker Kendell Beckwith to be ready)
“Similar. He’s coming off an ACL [injury], but similar. Again, a guy that I think would have been a couple of rounds higher maybe, had he not been coming off of the injury, but we loved his production in college. A downhill hitter, he’s got some things he needs to work on, but LSU linebackers, especially in our division, have been really successful. A couple more [were] taken in this draft.”
(On how involved Koetter is in recruiting undrafted players to come to Tampa Bay)
“That’s getting ready to start here at the end of the seventh round. I will be involved. Everybody is involved. Everybody upstairs is ready to roll on that. You know, it’s funny because we try to say that, we try to use examples of the guys that have done it in the past, but for those young men that aren’t getting drafted and then all of a sudden it ends, usually there’s a flurry of teams calling them and I’m not sure if they’re hearing that. I think they might just be hearing dollars, how [many] dollars are you [offering]? A lot of guys will get spooked off by who you drafted already or who they perceive they have to beat out. When I call guys, I more try to focus on telling them, ‘Don’t worry about $5,000 on the front end. Worry about what you’re going to make on the back end. We’re calling you because think you’re going to have a chance to make our team. A chance to compete and talk about how many we’re going to keep at that position,’ or something like that.”
(On if the team is more explosive)
“Everybody’s thinking big right now, which is good. I mean, potential gets you beat. We added speed. Speed was – Jason had it written on his board. He had it written on the draft board. That started back in free agency, with DeSean [Jackson] of course. We got lucky and O.J. [Howard] fell to us. Somewhere in the draft, we were going to pick a wideout and in Chris Godwin’s case, I’ll be honest, when I watched his tape, I liked his tape, but I had already written my report before the combine and his 40 time was probably actually faster than I would have guessed, watching the tape, even though he did get behind the defense. I think he surprised a lot of people with that 40 time. You’re drafting good football players, you’re drafting good guys that are going to be a fit in the locker room and guys that we think can help move this team forward.”
(On what Koetter liked about wide receiver Chris Godwin)
“I thought he did a really good job on his releases. A lot of times bigger guys, when they go against press coverage, they struggle with their releases, they can’t get off the line. I thought he did a good job with that. The other thing is that he was definitely willing to do the dirty work. Like, it’s great to have all of these little fast guys, that’s all well and good, but at some point, you’ve got to have a wideout that will block the safety and he will do the dirty work. He will play special teams. You can’t have all – if you’re going to have five or six guys up on gameday at wideout, they can’t all be clones of each other. Somebody is going to have to play special teams and someone is going to have to block. [Godwin] wasn’t afraid to go inside and catch the ball over the middle and he played his best football in big games. “
(On defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu)
“Stevie, another guy that Jason had targeted early in the draft. It’s a great story. When we met him at the combine and talked to him and you watch his tape, he’s a productive player. He’s a run-stuffer. That’s one thing last year, during the season, we went through a patch there where we felt like we needed to get bigger inside. We’ve addressed that. We brought in Sealver Siliga last year. Obviously adding Chris Baker to the mix and now bringing Stevie in. You know, on first and second down, you’ve got to be able to stop the run. We got to third down, our defense led the league in third-down defense last year, but it all starts with stopping the run on first and second [down].”
(On what he wants the Buccaneers’ identity to be)
“A bad-ass football team [laughs]. Our whole thing is about competing. Just going out there and competing. Because we know we have a talented football team. There’s a lot of other talented football teams, starting right in our own division. When you talk to our players, I think our players have really good buy-in. Our guys are on-point about what we need to accomplish. Today’s not the day. This isn’t the time of the year where you need to give those guys a big pep talk about what we’re going to be. We’re a team that’s building, a team that’s getting better and we’re trying to chip away at it every day.”
(On how much attention is paid to what the other teams in the division do in the draft)
“Everybody gets better. It hurts you a lot when there’s guys that you like in the draft and you’re watching who gets them and of course you have friends that are coaches – I’m glad Marvin Lewis got this guy and I’m glad Andy Reid got this guy – but man, when guys in your division get guys that you like, that’s just like an extra knife, you go, ‘Oh, my gosh, we liked that guy a lot.’ The teams in our division, they drafted well. We feel great about our draft, but the division is going to be tough. But we don’t even play the first division game until eight weeks in, so we better be worried about the Dolphins right now.”
(On if he knows another Boise State running back on the Buccaneers roster)
“I think Doug [Martin] if I’m going to guess.”
(On if he’s met Martin)
“Yeah, I do know him. I know him pretty well, we got to meet each other during the spring. This is kind of ironic.”
(On if he’s been compared to Martin by scouts or former coaches)
“Yeah, I’ve heard that just because we’re similar sizes and went to Boise State. We’ve got a similar running style so just in that aspect I have heard that.”
(On where he thinks he’ll fit into the offense and depth chart)
“We haven’t really [gone] into depth on that. I mean, I’m just going to go in, work as hard as I can and see where it goes from there.”
(On if he’s met former Boise State head coach and current Bucs Head Coach Dirk Koetter before)
“Yeah, I actually got to meet all of the staff and everything at the combine when I had a meeting with them. It was just really comforting knowing that [he coached at Boise State]. He has some of our coaches that he coached as players. It was just really good, I think he’s a really good coach, really good guy and I think the Bucs are headed in the right direction.”
(On how comfortable he is catching passes out of the backfield)
“I’m very comfortable. I used to play receiver for three years in high school and then played a year of receiver in college. So, I’m really comfortable. I feel my hands are really natural.”
(On his ability as a kick returner)
“Early on I did a lot of kick returning, I was a starter for a while. I got a good feel for it as I got more reps and I also think I could do it at the next level. I do want to continue to work on that and get better at that, and get a chance to actually do it.”
(On if he takes pride in his pass protection)
“Oh yeah, I take huge pride in that. I just don’t ever want [anybody] to touch the quarterback, you know? I just take pride in knowing my assignment when it’s blocking because I want to be a player that knows how to play without the ball.”
(On his impressions of the Buccaneers offense)
“I feel like it’s explosive. They’ve got Mike [Evans], they’ve got ‘D-Jack’ (DeSean Jackson) there, they’ve got Doug [Martin], they’ve got Jameis [Winston], they’ve got a tight end. I feel like it’s just going to be a really explosive offense.”
(On what went through his mind when he received the phone call from the Buccaneers drafting him)
“Oh man, it was crazy. It was like the world got off of my shoulders, honestly. These last four or five months have been really stressful for me. Just getting that call, it’s like all my hard work and everything going into this is done now, but it’s not finished. It’s just a new beginning. I mean, I was super excited.”
(On his level of interaction with Tampa Bay leading up to the draft)
“The only time I met with them was – they were actually my only formal interview at the combine and the interview went pretty good. So, I kind of felt like we kind of got off on the right foot, so I knew they were interested when all that happened. So, that was it.”
(On whether or not the Buccaneers mentioned how they were planning on using him)
“They were just happy that I was still on the board when they had the opportunity to grab me. So, they didn’t really go into depth about anything about what they would use me in, but they were just happy to get me and to finally come out to Tampa.”
(On his experience living out of his car after transferring from Utah to USC)
“Yeah. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It was actually both my wife and I that were living in it. We were kind of finding different places to keep ourselves in shape for when camp started at USC. We were basically just touring all of southern California and it was probably the [most fun] time that we’ve had since we’ve been here. It contributed to the success that we had.”
(On how long he lived out of his car)
“A little over two months.”
(On what type of adventures he went on with his wife while living out of his car)
“Yeah, we went on a lot of adventures and saw all of the different types of beaches. We found some different hikes that we went on and just different cities that we’ve never been to. We just wanted to check out every tourist attraction here in L.A. So, that was fun.”
(On his favorite trip during that time period)
“My favorite one was going to Tijuana [Mexico]. We drove all the way down there too because we didn’t have anything to do.”
(On his reasoning for visiting Tijuana)
“Because it was different. It was our first time in Mexico. We were able to see how it was over there. It was interesting because it was our first time. It was both of our first times.”
(On how he believes his life experience and being older than most players being drafted will benefit him in the NFL)
“It’s been great. With all the stuff that I went through with transferring and everything, especially during the time serving the mission, it was able to teach me how to get through adversity and help others. It’s been a challenge, I guess you could say, figuring out how to get through your own problems or fight through adversity that you’re facing. That was probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned through all of this is being able to get through all of that.”
(On whether he worried about staying in shape and his diet while serving on a Mormon mission trip in the Philippines during the 2010-2012 seasons)
“For the two years that I was gone, I wasn’t really focused on that. I was just focusing on preaching the gospel and everything. I wasn’t worried about staying in shape or dieting or anything. I did lose a lot of weight over there because the Philippines didn’t have too much food. It wasn’t anything to worry about while you’re on your mission. It was just out serving the Lord for the two years that you have and we just believe that He will take care of the rest when we do our part for Him.”

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