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29 November 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (11/29/17)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: This season, the Buccaneers have 20 takeaways, the fourth-highest mark in the NFL. Eleven of those takeaways are fumble recoveries, tied for the most in the league (also Chicago and Jacksonville).
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
(On how quarterback Jameis Winston looked throwing the football)
“We are still taking it day-to-day, but he took the majority of the reps out there today. [He] threw the football fine. His arm strength was fine. I don’t think any guy that plays a skill position like that where timing is involved is going to take three weeks off and going to be perfect on the first day, but we will see how the week goes.”
(On if the team will continue to evaluate his health throughout the week)
“No, he’s healthy. Jameis [Winston] is healthy. He is cleared to go.”
(On the depth at offensive line)
“You’re tested at different positions on your depth at different times of the year. We have not been tested on the offensive line. We felt like we do have some depth. It just hasn’t been tested yet. As you just mentioned, Evan Smith [and] Joe Hawley have been starters before. Caleb Benenoch started a game or two last year. You’re taking out two guys that are playing good for us and our depth will certainly be tested.”
(On the decision to waive tight end Luke Stocker)
“When you have to make roster moves, there is almost always other issues based on who is hurt at other positions, who you have to get up [and] who you can get on the practice squad. One thing triggers another. We’ve got a couple guys in concussion protocol. We had to put a couple guys on IR and you have to make some hard decisions. It’s never fun to let go of a guy like Luke Stocker. He is a glue guy. He is an excellent person and he’s been a good player for us. Those aren’t fun days, but that’s the business side of the NFL. When you only have 53 and you’ve played 11-straight weeks and you’ve got some guys that are going to be out or some guys that are in concussion protocol or on IR, you’ve got to make some roster moves and you have to have certain depth at every position. Those type of things are the result of that.”
(On who will start against Green Bay on Sunday)
“Jameis is going to start on Sunday. Any player that is ever back practicing, when have we ever not done that? When does a player not come back and [return to being] a starter that week.”
(On fans that don’t believe that Winston should start over quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick)
“In my call-in poll – when I talked to all 70,000 of them – it was 45,000 to 38,995 in favor [of Winston].”
(On if he is surprised that some fans think that Fitzpatrick should start)
“I’m not surprised by anything.”
(On if it is a league where if a player is healthy, he will play)
“It’s a league where if you are healthy, you will play. It’s all around the league. The risk factor – that’s there every week at every position. When your medical staff clears any player for any injury to play, they are not going to clear him [if he isn’t healthy] – the players health is always the number one thing for every football team. If a player is at no more risk than what the normal risk is – and in the NFL, that’s substantial – then they are going to play. That is what they’re paid to do.”
(On how he thinks the team is doing in terms of yards after catch)
“Not good enough. We are not where we need to be.”
(On the growth of wide receiver Bobo Wilson since his appearance on ‘Hard Knocks’ in the preseason)
“First of all, remember, ‘Hard Knocks’ is a TV show – not all based on fact. I think that might have been a little over dramatized all that thing you are talking about. The bottom line is Bobo Wilson might be the most improved guy on our football team right now from when he came here in training camp to where he is right now, so he’s been moved up.”
(On if Wilson is more likely to be used as a receiver or a returner)
“He can do both. If he is on the 46, he could do both.”
(On the performances of center Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson this season)
“As far as Ali goes, I think he played his best football the last two weeks of the season. As far as Demar Dotson goes, I think Dot – in my three seasons here – had his best season overall. I think Dot was holding down the right tackle spot well, especially in pass protection. It’s disappointing that you take two guys that are playing well on a team that needs more consistent play and they are out, but that is the worst part of this game and something that is uncontrollable [are] injuries.”
(On if the injuries to Marpet or Dotson could carry over into offseason preparations for next season)
“To my knowledge, those are both in the six-to-eight-week category injuries that would not require surgery. I am not a doctor, but that is what I’ve been led to believe.”
(On the return of cornerback Maurice Fleming to the practice squad)
“What happened to him in the Jacksonville game and then he continued to play on a fairly-serious injury. He has been back in Chicago rehabbing. We were impressed with the toughness that he showed when he was here [and] the competitiveness that he showed. When he was healthy enough to return to practice, if we had a chance to get him back, we were going to give him a chance to come back and get back on the practice squad. That happened to open up this week.”
(On what defensive end Patrick O’Connor has showed him in order to get moved up to the active roster)
“He has been a quick study since he’s been here. He’s been on other teams, at least in camp, so he has been around a little bit of pro football. I would say his best attribute in practice is his motor. The guy runs hard and he has given us some problems in practice. Those 10 guys that you are carrying on your practice squad – that’s ultimately what you’re trying to do is develop those guys so that when you do have injuries and need to move them up, [you can]. It’s going to be tough to go to street free agents at this time of year and bring in guys that are going to help your football team, so that’s when your practice squad is really needed.”
(On getting to see the players take part in the ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative and show off the charities of their choice)
“Yeah, very nice. I think that initiative, ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative by the NFL, is a very positive initiative that allows the players to draw attention to their various causes. I think our CR department did a great job – they got in front of it early. They spoke to our players at multiple team meetings. I think they said today that we had [45] guys participating. I know some of the guys were breaking their shoes in today. It’s a cool deal and it is one of the positive things the league is allowing the players to do.”
(On if play-calling has gotten easier for him in his second season as both the head coach and a play caller as it seems to have for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy)
“I think any play caller – offense, defense, special teams – in the NFL you’ve got your hands full every week because you’re going against the best players and the best coaches in the world and you have a small role in that as a play caller. Coach McCarthy has been doing it for a long time and I’d say he is one of the best at it in the league. There [are] other guys like Sean Payton and Andy Reid – there [are] various guys doing it. I have no way to base it on how hard it is for him. I only know about my own situation. All coaching jobs are difficult just like playing jobs are difficult.”
(On if running back Doug Martin is still in concussion protocol)
“He is.”
(On if he has any sense of Martin’s availability for Sunday’s game)
“Once they are in the protocol, that is 100 percent controlled by the protocol – another positive thing that the league has done. It’s a five-step process and I think that has been a positive thing in dealing with concussions. Unfortunately for us, we have four guys in concussion protocol right now.”
(On if the Atlanta game was one of tackle Donovan Smith’s better games)
“It was. In fact, from a pass-protection standpoint, our entire offensive line. I mean, that defensive line had been giving teams fits and from a protection standpoint we did a really good job.”
(On if Winston is at risk for further injuring his shoulder if he takes a big hit again)
“No more so than he would’ve been before he hurt it, according to the medical professionals.”
(On if there were any cleats that he liked in particular)
“I didn’t get a chance to look at all of them. I will more as the week goes on. I only probably saw a handful. I like them all.”
(On the decision not to have cornerback Brent Grimes matched up with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones for the entire game)
“We felt like they were going to move him around into different places. He wasn’t always at the same spot. You could possibly do that in man coverage, but you can’t do that in zone coverages because your corners always lineup outside on number one. That is a theory that works very, very well when you know where the guy is going to line up and where he is going to be. For the most part he was lined up at number one, but they did move him around in terms of where his alignments were. They would hide it by motion as well.”
(On if the theory of matching Grimes on Jones fit in the scheme he had set for the Atlanta game)
“No, it did not. We can all look to put blame on why Julio had the game that he had. He had a great game. The great thing is, for us, is we get to learn from the mistakes that we made. That was a freaking terrible game plan, obviously. The reason it was terrible is because it didn’t work. The great thing [is] we get to play again this week. In two weeks, we get an opportunity to play the Falcons again. I can assure you I’m looking forward to it and everybody else is, but that is down the road. We need to figure out – not try to put blame in any one area – we need to figure out, as a group, how we can get better. If you want to put blame on somebody, like I’ve said many times, ultimately, it’s on me. But let’s not try to put blame on the players. It’s not the players’ fault.”
(On cornerback Ryan Smith slipping on multiple different surfaces in the past few weeks and if it is due to his cleats)
“I don’t know if it’s cleats. Usually that is body positioning and [not] getting his weight over his feet – they’re outside of his feet and outside the frame of his body. It’s something that a young guy will have issues with at times. We’ve got to be able to stay on our feet when we are out there on the field.”
(On if the team found success on third down defensively when it blitzed the quarterback)
“Yeah, it was. We did a nice job blitzing.”
(On if blitzing on third down is something he plans to implement into the game plan more often)
“We went into the game plan – that didn’t pan out like we wanted to – to blitz more. We did. We had some efficiency, but we didn’t get the pressure on the quarterback like we needed to when we were sending not a full-out blitz at them. You’ve got to be able to work together in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback and being able to cover. I’ve been on the other side of this as well. I’ve seen Julio [Jones] go off and have a great game. It’s on me. There is no way about it. I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys in the position to play. Statistically, we are not very good. The great thing is these guys have a great work ethic, they don’t quit, they come and give you everything they’ve got and we’re looking forward to getting back out there on the field. When you have an outing like that, the taste in your mouth is terrible and you can’t wait. Sunday can’t get here fast enough. I don’t care if it’s minus 10 [degrees] in Green Bay. We’re going to go get an opportunity to play again and hopefully fix some of the issues that we’ve had.”
(On if it is possible that playing 14 different coverages in one game is too much)
“Absolutely. When you don’t have success as a coach, you evaluate everything, including what you ate for breakfast or what you’ve done in your preparation. We’ve got to look at everything each week, especially when you don’t have success. You want to try to get it fixed as quickly as possible. It’s been a trying season. Statistically you can see where we are at – not even close to where we want to be. I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. I think everybody in that locker room has that same mindset and I think we can get it turned around over these last five weeks of the season.”
(On if there is a reason the team was able to turn the things around in the second half of last season and can’t seem to find its rhythm this year)
“I wish I did. If I did, we would fix it. It would be an easy fix. It’s not an easy fix this year. Sometimes it’s who you’re playing, when you’re playing them [and] who the matchups are. I think that we all know that you’ve got to play complementary football. We’re not doing that on the defensive side. There [are] times that we have a guy running free [and] the quarterback gets the ball off because we are not covering. There [are] other times that we are covering them, but the play extends to four, four and a half, five seconds [and] the guy runs all the way across the field and we have issues. All of the things are on the table in terms of the volume [and] what we have to do to get better. We have some young guys that I think are progressing. They are going to have their ‘oops’ moments in the football games. You mentioned one already earlier, but we’ve got to go out and play more consistent football and be complementary in terms of being able to put pressure on the quarterback when we are sending extra resources towards the quarterback. We’ve got to get home and win some one-on-ones.”
(On how facing Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor earlier in the season will help the defense prepare for Packers quarterback Brett Hundley)
“We did not play Tyrod very well in terms of his scrambles. He really hurt us in the scramble, so we’ve got to be very disciplined in our rush lanes. You want to keep that guy in the pocket. You don’t want to give him an opportunity to step up and slide because he had a 20-plus yard run in the game against Pittsburgh. I think he is averaging over seven yards per carry when he carries the football, so it’s going to be important. We didn’t do a good job up in Buffalo and we’ve got to do a much better job. We’ve got to be balanced with our rush lanes. We can’t give the quarterback an opportunity to step up because when he steps up, he is going to step up to run and not throw the football.”
(On if it is fair to say that the success of the defense relies on consistent pressure week to week)
“The most important thing that you have to be able to do, I believe, first and foremost in any game of football is you’ve got to win the line of scrimmage. By winning the line of scrimmage, you’ve got to win on first and second down and then that allows you to be in those situations where you can rush the passer on third down. When you get that opportunity to rush the passer, you have to be able to have consistent pass rush. Quarterbacks are too good. This guy that we played last week, Matt [Ryan], is [the] reigning MVP. You give him time [and] he’s going to have answer and he is going to be able to get the ball into an open receiver. You can’t cover forever. Then there [are] also times when we had pressure [and] we weren’t covering. It goes hand-in-hand. Some of it has to go on my shoulders. I don’t like playing the blame game. We don’t play that here. We are all responsible. We all understand what we’ve got to get done. It’s our job to keep people out of the end zone. It’s our job to keep people off the field by getting the ball back to our offense. We haven’t done that.”
(On if committing extra resources to the pass rush makes it tougher on the coverage unit)
“Absolutely. You are robbing Peter to pay Paul in some situations. It has to work hand-in-hand. You’ve got to be able to put pressure on the quarterback and you’ve got to be able to cover the quarterback. Whether it’s by scheme where you put your guys in the best situation that we have to look at – maybe there are some things that we can do better in that area, as well. Obviously, there is.”
(On the challenge of playing at Lambeau Field for the first time)
“Well, we are going to be fortunate. From what I understand, it’s not going to be too cold. The weather is going to be nice, but it’s probably one of the best venues to play a football game at. You’re driving up and coming in and seeing where the actual stadium sits and then you get an opportunity to get into the locker room. It’s got a lot of history there. Our guys, I’m sure they are excited if it’s their first time to see it. But guess what, when they kick it off it is still 100 yards long and 53-and-a-third yards wide. We’re going to have to go out and play a Green Bay team that played very well this past week on [Sunday] night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a heck of a game. They had an opportunity to win that ball game.”
(On if the coaches have to pay attention to the players’ demeanors this week coming off a loss to the Falcons)
“This is a group of guys, like I’ve said – we’ve had a couple of times where we felt like we didn’t play and have the effort that we needed to. But these guys, they have done what we’ve asked them to do, so no I do not. I think there [are] enough guys in that locker room that know what our job is and our job is to go out and perform at the highest level that we possibly can each week. We’ve got leaders in our locker room. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
(On if the national spotlight from ‘Hard Knocks’ makes it more frustrating to go through this 4-7 season)
“When you go through these challenges it doesn’t matter what happened in the previous weeks. We live week to week in the NFL. Everything revolves around that result on Sunday. I don’t think it has anything to do with what happens five weeks ago. It’s all going to be about what happens this week when we get ready to play. Each week it’s a different dynamic. It’s a different matchup. It’s a complete different football team that we are playing with and it’s a completely different football team that we are playing against, even the ones that you are watching on tape when you watch tape. That is not going to be the same team that we are going to play that played against Pittsburgh because there’s going to be injuries, the matchups are going to change [and] that’s what makes it fun. Unfortunately, we haven’t done a very good job of finishing games consistently.”
(On the lift of getting starting quarterback Jameis Winston back)
“It’s a big lift in terms of having your starting quarterback back on the field. You’re always going to have your best players out there. Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) did a great job and we won two games and had that nice little run there. Unfortunately, we didn’t help them this past week. But it’s going to be a big boost to get our starting quarterback back. Our focus on defense is we’ve got to stop their quarterback and we’ve got to stop their passing game and running game.”
(On what he thought of Mercedes Benz Stadium)
“It was a pretty impressive venue – there is no doubt about it. I think the acoustics are probably about the same. I don’t know, you can ask the guys that do the concerts. I think they had an issue or something, but I thought it was a beautiful venue and a great setting to play football.”
(On Atlanta’s turf)
“The turf was fine. It was a little different composite than what we have most of the time when we play on artificial fields. It was a little different. I think that has something to do with the soccer team that they have playing there as well. It was just a little different composite underneath in the carpet.”
(On if he is glad the NFL is putting on the ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative)
“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity to be able to represent a cause first and foremost and not only represent it, but be able to show appreciation to the cause that you’re showing on the national [stage] like playing in a game and being able to represent something. I think first and foremost it’s an honor to be able to do that. A lot of the times during the year if you put anything on your cleats the NFL will fine you for it. This is one good time we are able to do it and not get fined for it.”
(On why he picked the Brotherhood Crusade Los Angeles as his cause)
“[It has] a personal connection to my hometown – South-Central California/Los Angeles. The Brotherhood Crusade is something I was connected to at an early age growing up with the obstacles I had to face on an everyday basis. I just really wanted to shine light [and] give hope to kids and the youth coming from that area.”
(On quarterback Jameis Winston returning to the field)
“It’s going to be great. I missed that guy the past couple games. He is healthy finally now, so it’s a great addition to have back. All we can do is take it one game at a time and try to finish as strong as we can. It’s a great thing to have him.”
(On what is different about playing in Green Bay)
“I just think the atmosphere up there. They have a lot of history being the Packers and a playoff team, a Super Bowl team and a lot of great players that will probably go down in the books one day. Any time you are able to get an opportunity to go out there, you’ve definitely got to put your best foot forward and hopefully everyone is ready to go.”
(On how tough it is to stay mentally motivated and to stick together as a team)
“It’s tough, honestly, as far as playoff hopes. We all do this to make it into the tournament towards the end of the season, so right now it’s not looking too good. The best thing we can do is just go out there, take it one game at a time and try to win out. That’s all we can really ask for. If we do that, we will probably set ourselves up for at least hope.”
(On his cleats for ‘My Cause, My Cleats’)
“My cause is single parent homes (The Life of a Single Mom). I kind of went with this theme because, me personally, I believe that all the single parents are the real superheroes. It’s not easy. I grew up seeing it my entire life. I’ve seen the struggle and I’ve seen how hard it is for these parents. I just wanted to raise some awareness and show them that I care and think about them – not just myself, but my wife and my entire family. I’m excited to wear these cleats. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be cold, but it’s going to be fun.”
(On his thoughts on the ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative)
“It’s great. This is a special time of the year, always. That’s why they have so many songs saying, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’ It is and it’s the season of giving. I think guys can raise a lot of awareness and I just appreciate the NFL for giving us this opportunity. The NFL is really stepping it up in raising awareness to a lot of different things and giving guys platforms. We’ve always had this platform of playing football. Now, the world can really see what means a lot to us and what is in our hearts. I just once again thank the NFL for giving us this opportunity.”
(On if Lambeau Field is a special place to play)
“It is. I’ve never played there. I’ve never even played against the Packers and I say it all the time, Aaron Rodgers is my favorite player. Every time I have an opportunity to play against him something happens. Either I’m injured or now he’s injured. I was really looking forward to getting to play against him, but I’m a historian and the Packers are just one of those teams. When you say the Packers, it’s like, ‘Man, this is the Green Bay Packers. I’s Lambeau Field.’ I’m so excited. I was a fan of the NFL before I became a player in the NFL, so this was one of those ones where I am really excited as a fan to just go see it and be a part of it. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
(On getting to see quarterback Jameis Winston back on the field)
“He is our leader and Jameis doesn’t like to not be on the field and not be playing, so he is back in his element. He never wavered though. He was always giving us a lot of energy and staying positive, still leading. Now, he’s got the ball in his hand I’m excited to see how he feels and how he looks. Like I said, he is our leader so it’s always great to have your leaders lead.”

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