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28 April 2018

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Day 3 NFL Draft Media Availability (4/28/18)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
General Manager Jason Licht
Safety Jordan Whitehead (Fourth, 117th overall)
Wide Receiver Justin Watson (Fifth round, 144th overall)
Linebacker Jack Cichy (Sixth round, 202nd overall)
(On wide receiver Justin Watson)
“He’s big. He’s athletic. We saw him at the East-West [game] which was awesome to see him there. We obviously scouted him during the year. He’s one of those guys that, we talk about him a lot during the process just because of everything-the way he’s wired is just exactly how you want them. He just loves the game. He’s a blue-collar kid who-as you’ve probably ready by now, one of his major inspirations is his older brother with Cerebral Palsy. It’s just a great story. Before the draft, I like to sit down with the owners. I like to invite them into my office and kind of explain to them what I’m planning on doing. It’s one of the things I really enjoy. They never tell me what to do so I like to tell them what I’m planning on doing. I told them before the draft that Justin was one of my favorite sleepers in the draft. To be able to get him, it was a lot of fun.”
(On how he thinks this year’s draft went)
“Every year that kind of question comes up and I’ve yet to find a GM who says, ‘Oh it went like crap’ [laughs]. So, we feel great. I will say this. There is more of a better vibe-not that it was ever bad-but it just seems that there are more high-fives and more energy, positive energy, upstairs with all of the coaches and scouts this year than I can remember. So, everybody’s happy right now. I went back to the defensive coaches and I said, ‘I don’t want to hear any complaining now, all of you should be happy now.’ [I was] joking around, but everybody is very very happy.”
(On filling position needs)
“I think that has a lot to do with it. I think the majority of the reason we’re all excited is-and I would be ‘BS-ing’ if I told you we got every single person that we wanted. But, the guys that we did get were guys that we did want, if that makes sense to you. With all of the exhaustive research that we did this year, we try every year to do a better and better job. So this year of finding ‘that guy,’ that man that embodies what we’re looking for on this football team to complement the guys that are on this team that we feel are-the Kwon Alexanders, the Mike Evans’, the Jameis [Winston’s], Lavonte [David], that are wired the specific way that we want guys to be wired that are passionate and love football and it means everything to them. These guys that we picked, they certainly are in that category.”
(On safety Jordan Whitehead’s passion for football)
“I was just going to say, usually those guys from Aliquippa [Pennsylvania], it’s like those Miami guys, football means everything to them. He certainly is one of those guys. He’s a gym rat, he’s a film junkie. He was a really good high school football player too, very good. I think he was rated than Saquon [Barkley] coming out in his class that year. Just all of the things that I got done saying, he’s one of those guys. He is tough and he plays like he loves it.”
(On where Whitehead will play in the secondary)
“He’s going to play safety. He does have some versatility though. He played inside. He played nickel. We’re going to play him at safety. He’s not the biggest guy. He doesn’t know that though, he doesn’t play like that. So, we like him.”
(If he thinks Jack Cichy’s draft stock fell because of his injuries)
“I do. I won’t put a number on it but I certainly think he would have been drafted a lot higher. We feel good about it, where he’s at. [He’s] working out, moving around. He’s full speed. Once again, you can’t go wrong with him. He’s an alpha personality. His dad’s a football coach. He got the most votes on the team as a captain and he doesn’t take any ‘BS’ from anybody. He’s one of those all business type guys that just loves the game and he’s a good football player.”
(On if the value of edge-rushers is going up)
“They’re hard to find. The really, really good ones are hard to find just because if you need an edge-rusher, you can’t draft just anyone. You have to really like them and they have to be talented. We felt like we were ahead of the curve, knew what this draft was going to be like for edge rushers and how hard they were going to be to get. That’s why we pulled off the trade with JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul]. We feel good about what we gave up for him, considering what the draft was like. So, you have some guys giving up a future first [round pick] to move up and take one. I would consider the same thing if we were in that positon. Luckily we felt like JPP was good for our team.”
(On if position value changes each draft)
“Every draft is a little different. This draft in particular was a little light there [at defensive end].”
(On what qualities it takes for players to make it through an NFL season)
“Put the last play behind you, move forward. You’ve got to love it to be able to do that. Guys that don’t necessarily love it, if things aren’t going well, they’re not going to give their best effort I’ve found in the past. So we want guys, like I’ve mentioned, guys that are already on our team – and there are more than what I mentioned – and just want to kind of tie things up. When you tie it up and find the common threads, we wanted to find out what those common threads were and those are the qualities we’re looking for in our guys. They’ve got to be football guys though, too. They’ve got to be able to play, so you’ve got to try to combine the two. We felt like we were very successful with that with this class. Time will tell, but right now we feel really, really good about it.”
(On if he thinks the team fulfilled some of its needs in the secondary while waiting until Day Three to select a safety)
“Yeah, we do. I mean, time will tell but we do. I was just talking with Coach, with Dirk [Koetter], when we went into the first round we thought we were going to have a hell of a lot more needs than we do right now, holes on our roster than we do now and we were trying to put plans into place of how we were going to fill those after the draft. If we just came out with a first-round pick and a second-round pick, it was going to be tough to do that. Now, you can trade down a little bit and pick up a lot of sixth-round picks and things like that but that doesn’t necessarily always work. So we feel very good with the quality that we were able to get in the first two days and today.”
(On if things played out well that Buffalo wanted to trade up to draft a quarterback in the first round and Tampa Bay was in a position to add more draft picks)
“Yeah, sure was. Sure was. And that quarterback could end up being very good and at the end of the day that may look like it was a bargain for them, so it worked both ways for us and them.”
(On a parrot delivering the name of the team’s fourth-round draft pick)
“I wasn’t quite sure how they were going to be able to teach a parrot how to say a name and that’s the impression everybody had, but I quickly found out that it was just going to be what they did. You know, a parrot and pirate on a ship. I mean, it’s all right.”
(On Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin being drafted by Seattle and reuniting with his twin brother, Shaquill)
“Awesome. Man, love the kid. Had him here for the local day. That was an emotional moment. I thought that was just awesome. Very happy for him and his brother and it just pulls on your heartstrings there. That’s awesome.”
“I do want to say that our scouts do a fantastic job and I can’t leave here and feel good without – I can’t mention all their names right now but they do a fantastic job along with all of our coaches. They really worked their [butts] off this year. I’m very proud of the work that we all did this year. Thanks guys.”
(On his strengths as a safety)
“I definitely think I’m a versatile safety. I can play free safety, I can play strong safety. I can really play nickel[back]. I think I’ve got a lot of speed. I’m strong. I think I’ve just got to fit in. My closing speed definitely helps.”
(On his expectations going into the draft)
“Throughout the process and throughout the combine, you hear a lot of different things, a lot of different mocks. I was at the bottom, really, in all of the mocks. I wasn’t at the top. In the top-10 I was actually the last one, the 10th guy. I was expecting for the worst because I didn’t want to get too high or get too low. So right now, I was expecting to have my name called today but wasn’t [expecting] to hear it called this early. It was a lot of waiting and I’m just blessed to be in this position right now.”
(On facing NFC South quarterbacks)
“It definitely makes me really competitive right now. Thank you to the Bucs for picking me. Thirty-one teams passed up so it’s just a chip on my shoulder coming in already. I’m really ready to play, ready to do anything, special teams, to contribute to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming in and playing those great quarterbacks, it’s going to be a lot of different things. A lot of film studying I’m going to have to do, a lot of working with the older guys, following their lead.”
(On if his cousin and former Buccaneer Darrelle Revis gave him any advice throughout the draft process)
“Definitely. Growing up, I was at his draft party so I got to experience that. His mom was here today and she was excited. He gave me a lot of advice going through this process, throughout this thing. Stay humble, anything could happen throughout this weekend. So, coming up, he had a lot of camps I used to go to with him. He definitely taught me a lot of different things. At cornerback, actually just watching him play, I learned a lot. I really learned from him, how to play, from my cousin. You can learn from the best right there, he’s right there in front of me. I take everything from him.”
(On beating Clemson in Death Valley)
“That game, we were underdogs and we pretty much – we had nothing to lose. I think everybody on the team – especially [former Pittsburgh running back] James Conner that year – had something to prove to the world. Coming into that game, DeShaun Watson, the top-rated quarterback at Clemson, they were No.1 or No. 2 at that time. We came in and defeated them. I actually had an injury in that game. I remember after the game celebrating that. I had a picked up fumble [returned] 99 yards that got called back. It was a great feeling. Throughout that week of practice, we were just more focused in, I felt, with the whole team.”
(On his three-game suspension in 2017)
“Definitely some mistakes, young mistakes. It happened, but I’m mature. I know I’m mature. I’m going to prove it to all of the coaches coming in. I learned from it and I won’t let it happen again. I promise that won’t happen.”
(On where he will play for the Buccaneers)
“Right now they didn’t really say anything. I got to talk to a couple of coaches, but right now they were telling me, ‘Enjoy the moment.’ As soon as this dies down, I’m definitely going to get on the phone with them ASAP and try and establish something because I want to learn quick and get on that field quick.”
(On playing prep football in a prominent high school region in Pennsylvania)
“A great place to play football in. Coming from Aliquippa, being from Aliquippa, all you know is football. If you don’t win, the town’s against you. Growing up, playing [from] when I was five, all I really knew [was] grind all day about football. I had a lot of uncles, my cousins [that played], I had to just follow the lead. Up to this point, I’m a gym rat, I pay attention to all of the details. Coming from Aliquippa in this football town definitely prepared me and it’s going to keep preparing me for the next stage in my life.”
(On why he decided to go to Penn)
“Coming out, I didn’t have a lot of I-A offers. In fact, the only two offers I had at Division I-A level were Buffalo and Akron out of the MAC and for me, Penn was just the best fit for both football and academics. I knew that if football worked out or if it didn’t, I’d be able to provide for my family and support them either way. After I had a good freshman year and I knew I had a chance at the NFL, I put everything into it. I put the Ivy League career and that degree- that was plan two for me. Plan one was to get to the NFL and put everything I had into it. To be a Buc today and to get that call was just a dream come true. It made so much hard work worth it.”
(On when he will graduate from the Wharton School of Business at Penn)
“I’m about to graduate. I have one more final this Wednesday and then I’m home free.”
(On playing on Franklin Field while at Penn)
“That’s one of the things that I fell in love with at Penn. Just the tradition and the history in that building, you don’t really realize it until you experience it and feel it every Saturday. It’s like playing in a museum. There’s so many legends that have played there and so many stories that have come out of Franklin Field. I absolutely love playing there. It was my favorite place to play in the Ivy Leagues. There’s a lot of cool, ancient stadiums but nothing beats Franklin Field.”
(On if playing in the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl helped him)
“Tremendously. I think the last question mark I needed to answer coming out of the FCS was how would I do against bigger names and bigger school talent. It’s something that I had been waiting for for four years when I came out as a senior in high school and didn’t have any I-A offers. All I wanted to do was prove that I could play against those I-A defensive backs. To go down there and be able to do that, like you said, it was right in Tampa Bay. I got to work with Coach [Skyler] Fulton, who is the receivers coach, along with a lot of the other offensive staff down in Tampa. So, I think being able to work with them for a week, get their coaching and respond to. It helped me so much.”
(On his athleticism)
“I think the most important thing is receivers always catching the ball and getting open. One thing for me, my athletic ability definitely helps me. Especially those two weeks where I noticed when I used my speed and my power for releases and to get open and really just stuck to those strengths, I don’t think I was covered at all at the East-West Game or at the Senior Bowl when I was doing that. So, talking to Coach Fulton and Coach [Todd] Monken and the staff, they said the plan coming in is to work those strengths, use those strengths and continue to develop everything else as a receiver in the meantime.”
(On his brother Tommy, who has cerebral palsy)
“My brother, Tommy, he’s the oldest brother in my family, 28-years old. When I was growing up, he was just my older brother. I didn’t think any differently of him growing up. He was just my older brother. The one thing that I noticed – I always tell this story – I was going through high school football camp and we were going through two and three-a-days and my legs were sore and my feet were blistered and I was complaining about how tired I was and my feet hurt and I’m complaining down the hallway. Then I turn into a room and I see my brother and he’s just smiling, ear-to-ear, as if to say if he had one day in my shoes, he would run until he threw up and his feet were bleeding and as soon as he could, he’d get back up and start running again. From that moment on, he’s been my inspiration and the guy that, whenever it gets tough and whenever I have a bad day, I just realize my brother Tommy finds a way to smile every single day. If I can’t enjoy coming out and playing football and getting in the weight room, what am I doing?”
(On if growing up with his brother Tommy has influenced his perspective in life)
“Absolutely. I just saw any time someone could make my brother smile and just lift him up for a minute, just how much I appreciated it and what a wonder it did for my family. We were a Make-A-Wish family growing up and my brother was able to get an out-of-the-ground swimming pool from Make-A-Wish and he loved going into that swimming pool and it was one thing that loosened him up and put a smile on his face. Always it’s been my mission – I’ve seen people give to our family and how much it can lift someone up in a time of need. That’s what I want to live for in the NFL.”
(On which NFL receiver would most remind him of himself)
“I think one that I compare pretty closely to is Jordy Nelson, especially early on in his career. I think athletically we are a pretty similar profile, we are both just crisp route-runners, no wasted movements. I don’t think when you look at his game or my game there’s any fancy moves at the top of my routes, at the beginning of the routes. I just run good, clean, consistent routes. I find a way to get open using my athletic ability.”
(On how he feels after coming back from a knee injury)
“I feel great. I’m real close to 100 percent. I think by the time I get down to [rookie] mini-camp and OTAs, I’ll be 100 percent. I’m really excited about where I am. I think I definitely took my time and made sure it was an efficient and steady rehab process. But I’m right where I want to be right now and I’m confident going forward.”
(On if he will be celebrating at home or a local Somerset, Wisconsin establishment)
“We’re staying at my house for now, either The Rendezvous or the General Sam’s maybe later. But I’ve got family rolling in right now, so it’s definitely exciting to kind of get the gang together.”
(On which linebacker role he feels most comfortable in)
“I think an NFL WILL (weakside linebacker) is most like me, but from my talks with Coach [Mark] Duffner, I think they’re going to expect me to learn all three and hopefully be able to be a kind of plug-and-play guy. I’m ready to do whatever is asked of me.”
(On how helpful his father, a former Notre Dame player, was in selecting a college)
“It was helpful. He was very supportive of whatever I wanted to do and he knew that I would work hard wherever I went, so for him it was less about where I was going to go as much as if I was comfortable and if I really wanted to go to school there.”
(On if it was hard having to watch games from the sideline with his injury last season)
“In a lot of ways it [was]. A lot of good things were able to come out of it, I think, and I was able to really be a helpful teammate and be a student of the game again, but I would have much rather been on the field playing. There’s no doubt about that.”
(On what his strengths are as a linebacker)
“I’m really a relentless competitor and a relentless defender. I really try to have good instincts and when I diagnose a play, I like to try and make it 100 miles per hour. I think that that’s just one of the best things about my style of play, just being able to be relentless.”

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