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20 December 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (12/20/17)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: Buccaneers rookies S Justin Evans and TE O.J. Howard were both put on Injured Reserve today. Evans is currently tied for third among rookies in interceptions (three), while tying for fourth in total tackles (66). Howard has six receiving touchdowns this season, tied for the NFL rookie lead and the fourth-most ever by a Buccaneers rookie (most ever by a Buccaneers rookie tight end).
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
(On if he is toning down practice on a short week after all of the injuries suffered against Atlanta)
“We actually still could have one more [padded practice], but you are not going to do that after a Monday Night game on a short week. In a normal week, this would be like a Tuesday for the players. We are a day ahead, so we definitely cut it down. We got our same number of reps, but we had to really slow the tempo down today, mainly just from a recovery standpoint. We will get back into a more normal tempo tomorrow.”
(On if the injuries to tight end O.J. Howard, safety Justin Evans or cornerback Vernon Hargreaves will require surgery)
“Not to my knowledge, no.”
(On what Howard and Evans were able to accomplish this season)
“Yeah, we are real happy with that whole rookie class – even throw Antony Auclair in there as a rookie free agent. It’s unfortunate when we lose any player due to injury. Knock on wood – we’ve been fortunate for the most part, but we had flurry in this game [for] whatever reason. You hate to lose anyone. We had to put five guys on IR (injured reserve) – four of them from the game and one of them from something that lingered. When you put players that are good football players down, it hurts your football team. But, at the same token, it gives the next man an opportunity to show what he can do.”
(On where he sees Hargreaves fitting in next season)
“Everyone will be evaluated at the end of the year and now is not the time for that. This week we are on a short week as it is and everything is focused on Carolina. We will address all that stuff at the appropriate time.”
(On how good Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly is at recognizing what the offense is trying to do)
“He is the best that we’ve gone against. We’ve gone against him many times and he is the best. I think there [are] probably other players in the league that know what is coming, but he also verbalizes it and tries to get everybody else on board. I think the thing for me, just studying him over the years, he’s off the charts but when he tries to get everyone else [on the same page], they don’t always get it. When you really look at the tape, sometimes they are all right [and] sometimes if just one guy is off – like any play – then it doesn’t always help. But, he knows your tendencies. There was a game a couple years ago when as soon as Jameis [Winston] made the check, he was calling out the play [and] what our check was. We do have to be constantly on guard about trying to give him different looks and trying to change it up, but the guy is sharp.”
(On if he has to change up the verbal signals in preparation for Kuechly)
“Yeah, we do. We have to change them. Usually you have to change things with division teams the second time you play them anyway, but even within the game if we are going to run something, maybe instead of doing it twice out of no-huddle we will do it once out of no-huddle and call it out of the huddle the second time.”
(On if Kuechly is one of the smartest middle linebackers he has faced)
“Yeah, he is. He is right there.”
(On what makes the Panthers defense successful despite not having high-profile cornerbacks)
“Their front seven is top notch. The other thing is, even though they play some man, they are what you call a vision-zone team, where they are playing zone but they are looking at the quarterback. I think that gives them confidence and they play what we call palms coverage where the corner knows that he has help from the safety and he is looking at the quarterback, so he has a little more freedom to jump routes. I think they made the decision a year or so ago to go with two young guys and I think they have both improved a lot. I think they both really compete hard and I think they both do a good job of fitting within what their system demands of them. I just don’t think they ask them to play a ton of man, but they can play man. I don’t look at Carolina at all and say that corners are the weak spot of their defense. That is not really how we look at them.”
(On if defense has been the reason for the success of the NFC South division this season)
“There [are] definitely some good defenses in this division. We don’t play everyone [in the NFL], so I don’t study everyone, but there are some teams playing really good defense – some teams that have added some players and hit on some free agent guys. The stats bare it out. We will see [how] it ends up at the end of the year, but the stats bare it out that there are some good defenses in this division.”
(On linebacker Lavonte David missing out on the Pro Bowl)
“I think Lavonte has had an excellent season. I think one of the hardest positions to make the Pro Bowl at is if you are a 4-3 outside linebacker just the way the ballot reads. They lump outside linebackers in a 3-4, outside linebackers in a 4-3 and like one middle linebacker. It’s just kind of a weird combination because statistically usually 4-3 outside linebackers are not going to get a ton of sacks. I don’t think that diminishes at all from the season that Lavonte has had. I think he is recognized by his peers as being a top-flight player at his position, but when you have something that is voted on by – I don’t know how it is all tallied – I think it is hard to say anyone was snubbed. It’s just set up to go a certain way.”
(On if the rain could be a big factor and changes the way they play)
“Possibly. When [we were] in Jacksonville, and we played there, it was like torrential right before halftime. There was literally two feet of water in the tunnel when we went back to the locker room and came out at halftime. It rained so hard there for 30 minutes. You just never know. You could get a little rain [or] a lot of rain. They are supposed to keep the balls dry. Can it affect the game? Sure, it can make the field harder to play on. It can make the ball harder to handle. It can force you to maybe go to more of a running game, but it’s no different than the snow game that Buffalo had a few weeks ago. If you get crazy weather then that’s what you get.”
(On if putting resources toward slowing down Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones opened up holes for Atlanta’s rushing attack)
“Well the first thing that we did not do very well in the run game, whether you’ve got resources where you’re rolling up or doubling or coning or whatever we were trying to do with Julio, everyone still has a gap that you have to be responsible for. We got out of our gaps, especially in the second half of the ball game and when the running back [got] to the second level, we didn’t tackle as well as we needed to. So, it was a gap-control issue. We made a commitment that we were going to not play a whole lot of eight-man spacing. We wanted to make sure that we were going to try to keep the pass game to a minimum [and] not have them throw over our head. I thought we got that accomplished. Unfortunately, we did not play the run very well and it was more about gap integrity in the first level. Then when it got to the second and third levels, we were not tackling as well as we needed to.”
(On why gap integrity remains an issue)
“We have not played the run consistently, just like we haven’t played the pass consistently all season. I can think of three games where we’ve had close to 200 yards run up on us. It comes down to everybody is responsible for a gap and when you’re not in your gap, the back is able to roll back and if he gets into that gap it’s into the second level. That’s been the story of what we’ve done this year in terms of the negative things. We haven’t been very consistent in anything that we’ve done. When you’re not holding your gap, good running teams are going to be able to run the football on you.”
(On if he thinks the changes in the lineup every week due to injuries is a major factor in gap-filling issue)
“There [are] all kinds of moving parts in a season and in a game. You can’t let who is playing and who is not playing be a crutch or an excuse. We all have a job to do and whoever we’ve got out there, we’ve got out there. We’ve got to make sure that we put them in the best place and try to get them to make sure that they are going to be responsible for what they need to do. I’m not going to throw darts at anybody in terms of why. We just haven’t been very consistent. We have a lot of changing parts, but every team in this league has changing parts. Like I’ve said many times, there is no excuse in this league. There is one way you’re judged and that is by how many times you get the W and how many times you get the loss.”
(On if he allows himself to think that the outcome of close games could be altered if some of the main defensive players were healthy)
“No, you can’t because it’s just speculative. The guys that you’ve got are the guys that you’ve got. You’ve got to go out there and play. They are not going to delay the game so a couple guys can get healthy, unfortunately. As a coach, you always sit back and you say, ‘Hey, we are going to stop them no matter who we’ve got out there.’ You’ve got to have that mentality. Unfortunately, we haven’t been consistent with whoever we’ve had out there.”
(On the Panthers getting tight end Greg Olsen back after missing the earlier matchup with the Buccaneers this season)
“He is an 11-year vet that has a savvy way of getting open. He reminds me of a guy that I coached in Atlanta a lot (Tony Gonzalez) in a lot of ways. He probably doesn’t run as fast as a lot of tight ends in this league, but every time he goes out there and plays, you look up and he’s got seven catches [or] eight catches. He’s got a real good understanding of zone defenses and he has a real good understanding of body control when you’re in man coverage. We were fortunate that he did not play when we played them earlier in the season. It is a completely different dynamic now that he is back. I anticipate that Cam [Newton] will be looking his way quite a bit. I know he’s a tough out for us.”
(On if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is taking it upon himself to utilize his running ability more in the past few games)
“I don’t think he is taking it upon himself. I think Mike Shula does a great job with their offense. He is arguably their best running back on the team. I don’t mean to take anything away from the guys that don’t receive the snap that do run the ball, but he is a big, strong guy and often time in defenses you aren’t always accounting for the quarterback. You have to do that when you are playing the Carolina Panthers. They are running him more. He is their leading rusher in terms of average, so he is a guy that we’ve got to make sure we can get him on the ground and have guys that are going to be shadowing him on certain defensive calls.”
(On the original thinking that the best way to defend Newton is to keep him in the pocket and if that thinking has changed throughout Newton’s career)
“He is such an athletic guy. When he is allowed to use his athleticism, that is where he truly is, I think, a step above everybody. When I mean everybody, there is not a quarterback that has the same type of skillset. He is a very good quarterback in the pocket. I think he has developed into a guy that can spin the ball if he has to, but I still think his strength is the things he can do when he has designed runs or he can ad lib and extend plays because he has a cannon for an arm. He can throw the ball 65 yards down the field.”
(On what the Panthers are doing with McCaffrey that is getting him more involved as a dual-threat back)
“They are doing a very good job of moving him around into different spots. They’ve got him lining up as a true running back. They’ve got him lining up as a wide receiver and then he motions back into the backfield, or he starts in the backfield and motions out. In the game last week against the Packers, in the first 15 plays he was probably targeted over 60 percent of the time where he was the primary target or was the ball carrier. He’s having a great year. I think he’s got 73 catches and he runs the ball. He is probably more effective as a runner when he is on the perimeter and the way they do things with their motions and different formations, he is an issue. He is a tough guy to defend because you don’t know where he is going to be. He can catch the ball and he’s got good vision when he gets out onto the perimeter.”
(On if Olsen, Newton and McCaffrey are the three guys to focus on in Carolina’s offense)
“Then you’ve got [Devin] Funchess that’s a match-up issue as well. He is a big guy that uses his body. He’s got a great catching radius. They’re a good team. It’s not a surprise with what their record is that they’ve got a lot of players that are playing well this year.”
(On linebacker Lavonte David not getting selected to the Pro Bowl roster and what he means to the team)
“I think that he has had an outstanding year. With the Pro Bowl, there is always going to be someone that is going to be left out, but in my mind he has had a Pro Bowl year. He has, without a doubt, had a year for us in terms of his productivity, in terms of attacking the ball and I think no one has ever in league history done what he has done in terms of taking the ball away and recovering it. Unfortunately, in this time of year there [are] going to be guys that are well-deserving and there is probably not anyone in my mind that is more deserving to be [in] the Pro Bowl than Lavonte David.”
(On what makes David so good at forcing and recovering fumbles)
“He works at it. In practice, he is always attacking the football. We do drills and I know that Coach [Mark] Duffner every day has some type of takeaway drill that we work on. There is a certain knack and he’s got a feel for it. He’s focused on it. The great thing is he is also able to bring the guy down. He is not just going haphazardly trying to force a fumble. He is going in there to secure the tackle and punch it out. He uses the techniques that Coach Duffner has been teaching him and they’ve been working on.”
(On if David is the best he has coached in terms of forcing and recovering fumbles)
“Absolutely. I know that there was a time [Charles] ‘Peanut’ Tillman had a knack for doing it there in Chicago, but to see five forced fumbles and five recoveries in one season -- that is off the charts. We are glad we’ve got him. When he is not in there, it is definitely not the same defense that we would have when he was out there playing.”
(On the difficulty of coaching when fans and media personnel are calling for your job)
“Don’t take this the wrong way – when you are a coach, you only focus on one thing. You focus on what is happening from day to day in football operations. You don’t have time to waste energy on anything but what you have to get done each week. Each week it’s a completely different set of issues and a completely different set of circumstances. If you for one minute take away time for your preparation then you’re not doing your team the best.”
(On the future of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves)
“I think Vernon has a great mindset. He has been working his tail off to get back out on the field. He took the position change very, very well and was a great teammate. He embraced it and he played well when he was inside. He did some really good things for us, not only in the pass game but in the run game. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to be out there to help us play at the level that we need to play at. I think the future is very bright for Vernon, both inside and outside. When you have flexibility at the corner position, I think it’s a positive thing. I think he is a guy that is going to be a really good player. We just, unfortunately, get a very good opportunity here in the second half of the season having him out there helping us play defense.”
(On if he feels Hargreaves still has a future as an outside corner)
“Absolutely, I do. I think that he’s got a good feel for playing the inside, but I think he can play outside [and] he has. He’s got a better understanding of what we are defending when [he] is outside. It’s a completely different game out there and he’s got the mental makeup to let things roll of his back. When you play corner, it’s like being the quarterback. Everybody sees your mistake. Someone that is not a football fan will easily say, ‘Oh, well that guy made the mistake there’ – most times.”
(On if there is higher priority than making elite quarterbacks, such as the ones in the NFC South division, uncomfortable)
“I’ve said this for years, I think this division from top to bottom has the best quarterback play in the NFL. There is not any division that is even close in my opinion. Every week you are going to go out and you are going to have your hands full when playing within the division and that’s six games out of the season. To allow a quarterback to have a comfort level that plays at the level that the guys in this division do, it’s hard. But you’ve got to work together in terms of front and back end and it’s all about having the quarterback uncomfortable. Those three that we play two times a year, if they are comfortable, they are going to slice you up – it doesn’t really matter what you are doing. You might catch them on a bad day and they are still going to have a good day by other people’s standards.”
(On getting selected to his sixth-consecutive Pro Bowl and it being a big honor)
“Absolutely, I don’t want to take anything away from being voted on by my peers. It’s very hard to do this consistently. It takes a lot of effort. People say, ‘Blood, sweat and tears,’ but literally it takes all of that. It’s more of a mental thing than physical. You’ve got to have a lot of mental toughness to know what everybody expects from you and just do it every year. I try to forget what I’ve done, so that I can just improve every year. More importantly, 54 (Lavonte David) – it’s happened to him again. He is the best in the league. Lavonte David is the best at what he does in the league. It’s just my personal opinion. I think it goes unrecognized a lot. It’s the system. I think the system needs to change. This is to take no credit away from the guys who made it – you have two different styles of defenses, 3-4 and 4-3. We play a 4-3 and he is an outside linebacker. He just gets put in the same category as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, which does a lot of pass rushing. They play the run too, but those guys’ sack numbers are incredible. Those guys are incredible players, but when I say there needs to be a change, you can take those guys who have definitely earned it and add like a 4-3 outside linebacker section where, if you’re worried about numbers, just make it like two people – two in the AFC and two in the NFC. I think that kind of evens it out. It gives guys like Lavonte [a chance]. There has been a lot of guys that [have] played 4-3 outside linebackers that have been deserving, but I’ve been with this guy since he got in the league and he is definitely the best at what he does.”
(On what he hopes to accomplish against Carolina this week)
“We can let this division know that we are still here. I think we get overlooked a lot, which that’s what comes with not winning, but we are still here and we can still make an impact on this division. They are on fire right now. Carolina is on fire. We’re going to have to bring it because they are at home and when they are at home, it’s a hard place to win at.”
(On if Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is establishing himself more in the run game over the latter part of the season)
“Yeah, they went from like 95 yards rushing a game to 130-plus. Cam is just being Cam. This time of year, the second half of the season, he takes over. He always does, always has [and I] believe he always will. We just have to know who he is. We respect him and he’s a very exciting player. I was watching the Detroit game … They showed a highlight of him versus Minnesota. He is about to get sacked and did basically a step back and then threw that bomb. The dude is incredible. We’ve just got to get around him. They want to run the ball. [Christian] McCaffrey is stepping it up big time, so we’ve got to get eyes on him as well.”
(On if he knows if he will be able to play in the Pro Bowl game)
“Well, the priority is to try and get back and play another game with my teammates before I even think about that. We’ve got Carolina coming up. I’m taking all the necessary steps. Everything is day to day, so we will see. I’m not really concerned about the Pro Bowl. I’m concerned about beating Carolina and then the Saints. So, the priority is to get back on the field now to be with my teammates.”
(On if he will practice in the next few days)
“I am planning on it. We will see. The doctors make decisions. The coaches make decisions. But, we will see what happens.”

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