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21 December 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (12/21/17)

BUC BIT OF THE DAY: Over the past three weeks, QB Jameis Winston is tied for the most touchdown passes (7) in the NFL and ranks second in passer rating (109.0), while ranking in the top 10 in passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt during that time.
Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Dirk Koetter
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Todd Monken
Quarterback Jameis Winston
(On having to make a large number of roster moves on a short week due to injuries)
“I’m not involved in that, so that is Jason [Licht] and his staff doing that. It is a scramble. They definitely – I can attest to this – they were working hard at it. A couple guys we brought to work out were working out at other places because other teams are in the same boat with the travel arrangements and all that kind of stuff. It just comes with the territory at the end of the season. We just happen to have an abnormal number.”
(On the flexibility and depth of the offensive line)
“Caleb [Benenoch] has been out there the last three games. He is a draft pick from a couple years ago that we thought had nice upside. He has definitely flashed that at times. Another guy out of the same class – an undrafted guy – Leonard Wester has increased his role a little bit as the jumbo tight end. He is now the next man up in the six spot that has to be able to play a lot of spots. We had a play in the game the other night where Evan Smith’s knee brace broke and so Leonard went in at right tackle [and] Caleb kicked down to right guard, so for those two guys that is their first experience right in the middle of it. Now, we are changing again. When you have seven O-linemen up on game day, that is just what you have to do. That is why a lot of teams will have one or two veteran guys to go to. We were fortunate that we had Evan and Joe [Hawley].”
(On if he ever wishes he could have a do-over on this season)
“I think on a weekly basis after a game week is over, you always play over the what-ifs. What could we have done better? What should we have done different? Then once you are on to the next game, there is really no time for that anymore. Any reflection on the whole season will come at the end of the season, but there is definitely the night after the game and the 24-hour rule, so to speak, where you are definitely – not feeling sorry for yourself at all – but just thinking about what could we have done to make this go in a different direction.”
(On if he thinks when the season is over he can see himself imagining a lot of regrets for the way this season played out)
“Not because of that reason, but because that is what I think any competitive person does is they think about their role in it and how they could have done better. As a play-caller, I have done that my whole life – [thinking] about, ‘What could we have called here? Should this have been different?’ Not from a this season, ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ – that doesn’t get you anywhere.”
(On if he feels his players have stuck together through the ups and downs this season)
“I think any time you have this large of a group – when you put together all of the guys that, your 53, your practice squad [and] now you’ve got a dozen guys or so on IR, [plus] you throw the coaches in there [and] you throw in all of the people in this building working with them every day – if you are from a big family, there [are] good days and there [are] bad days. You can have a fight with your brother and still care a lot about him. There [are] always little things that come up, but for the most part I think our guys have hung in there. I think that is a credit to the leadership of the players. They’ve done a good job of that and that is a part of it. It’s not the only part, or maybe not even the biggest part, but they have done a good job in that area.”
(On what teams have been able to do to slow down Carolina quarterback Cam Newton)
“I think the thing those teams did a good job of is they focused on stopping Cam. They have other weapons, but Cam Newton is what makes it go. The things that Carolina is doing in their run game – they are more like what you see from college teams. They have all different kinds of read-options. I know for a fact in our first game, one of those was not a called read-option out of the shotgun and Cam just saw the end squeeze and pulled it and ran for a first down. I think those teams were just really disciplined on keeping Cam contained and saying we are going to make the other guys beat us. Now, they have other good guys too. But, when you just look at Carolina from afar, to me it’s not hard to see that Cam Newton is the guy that makes them go. We’ve got to remember, two years ago he was the MVP of the league. I know there have been some injuries or whatever, but it seems to me like he is playing at an extremely high level again. They’ve got a different cast around him. They’ve built more through their running backs now and with [Greg] Olsen back, a different set of wide receivers back than they had, but it still all goes through him.”
(On what jumps out to him while watching film of Carolina cornerback James Bradberry)
“His aggressiveness and his confidence. You can just see how he has grown from starting out as a rookie to his second year [and] how much more aggressive he plays. He is not afraid to take chances. Obviously, he knows their system. He’s got experience now. He’s played against most of these receivers multiple times, especially in the division, so they matched him on Mike [Evans] last time they played us. He is growing into the role of a number one corner.”
(On how well the offensive line has held up despite all of the injuries it has suffered)
“Unbelievably well. We’re fortunate enough to have a Joe Hawley, an Evan Smith and a Caleb Benenoch, who we drafted a year ago. Who else has that kind of situation with O-line depth? Who? There is nobody in the league that I can think of. I don’t study everyone else’s roster, but, ‘Okay, Evan is in there. All of the sudden J.R. Sweezy goes down, so he moves over. Joe comes in.’ I didn’t see a difference. I didn’t feel anything different from a guy that’s played and won a bunch of games for us the year before. Caleb is still learning and getting better, so I feel real good about it.”
(On if offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch has grown a lot from his first start this season against the Packers)
“Yes, I think so. It is still a matter of communication. I don’t know the number of reps that he has actually played at tackle. I haven’t counted it up in this league, but I think he has held up pretty well. I think we’ve done a good job of helping him in protection when we can, but I think he has done a real good job.”
(On what he saw in quarterback Jameis Winston against Atlanta)
“First of all, he was accurate. I don’t know what the stats ended up [being], but we also had a couple of drops in there. There were a couple of other opportunities we had for some catches. He protected the football for the most other than right before the first half. Other than that, there were not a lot of [mistakes]. That adds to the protection, as well. I thought the protection was good, so it doesn’t put a guy under duress. When he moved around, he had room to be able to make decisions down the field like the touchdown to Hump (Adam Humphries). I thought he did a really good job protecting the ball. He was really accurate. I thought he rose to the occasion of Monday Night Football. We’ve talked to the offense about, ‘I don’t know what it was. Was it Monday Night Football? Was it playing at night like you were back in high school or college and just that feeling that you had? But, how do we bottle that and carry that over to Sundays at one o’clock and be able to start faster and do the things we need to do to move forward offensively.’ But it was fun to see. We are so close. We really are to getting out of that low-20 range and getting in the high-20s and the 30s with just the simple part of hanging onto the football when you get in the red zone, or snapping it correctly or [avoiding] penalties. We are so close. I know every team can say that, but when we are right where we are at now with the guys we’ve got, we are right there.”
(On things that wide receiver DeSean Jackson does well that the coaches notice)
“One thing he is, is he is really good in space. You could argue, have we got the ball to him enough in space? That’s debatable because he is one of those guys we do have that can get yards after catch. He is. I’m not saying on screens, I’m saying when you get him in space, he can run away from people. You could argue, ‘Hey, how do we do that better with him? How do we get him the ball more in space?’ If a third of the deep balls we had earlier in the year and some of those opportunities – or the one at Buffalo that got called back – if we get those, are we talking as much about this? Probably not. It is always difficult when you have, in my opinion, as many weapons as we have from tight ends to the receivers we have to feel like everybody is getting enough. In one respect, you are talking about DeSean. In the other, you are talking about Mike [Evans] like, ‘Well, he is due for 20 percent less targets.’ Part of that is he got suspended. That’s on him. The other is we’ve got other people. We’ve got other people and changing quarterbacks, so I do think he brings that taking the top off. I do think he is an excellent route-runner. [He has] tremendous balance and body control. We just probably haven’t gotten him as much in space. We’ve tried – it just hasn’t formulated at times.”
(On if at a certain point too many good players can cause issues for an offense)
“I think there is some of that to where if you’re not careful – no matter what it is in any position – you can take your running back position and say, ‘Okay, who is our starter? Who is our changeup?’ Everybody understands their role. Who is your number one receiver? Who is your number two? Who is your number three? Here’s what they do. There is some of that. There is no question, ‘Do you feel like, hey, we’ve got to move the ball around and get him touches or do we have a tendency?’ Well, we’ve tried to do some of that. We’ve tried to target the receivers and put them in positions where they are at their best. What does DeSean do well? What does Mike do well? Just like any team does. You’re going to play to that just like with Adam Humphries and our tight ends as they develop. There is something to that. There is something to making sure [that] we are getting our best players that do this enough touches. There is and we go through that every week. Like you were saying, last year, it was, ‘Hey, how do we move Mike around? How do we get him the ball? How do we feature him?’”
(On there being less components to the offense last season than this year)
“There [were]. There is something to that. Is there a tendency though when you have that, that you can be a little more predictable? Yes, because we’re moving him around. Well, we are moving him around because we want to get him the ball, so they can roll to him and cloud him and when you have more weapons it is harder to do that – that’s why Cam [Brate] had so many touchdowns in the red zone, because Mike does bring that. It’s all part of it. I think we’ve done a good job offensively. We just haven’t, at times, finished. When we’ve had those opportunities – it only takes a play here or there and instead of a 20 or 21-point game, you’re at 27. That’s easy for everybody to say, but I’m not worried about everybody else. I’m worried about us and how we can do it better, so we get to that point scoring more often in the first half and then, when we get down there, [limiting] those unforced errors that we’ve created for ourselves.”
(On who would replace wide receiver DeSean Jackson if he is unable to play on Sunday)
“Well, Chris [Godwin]. [Like] when he was hurt in the second half, Chris will take that. Then Freddie [Martino] and then we will get Bobo [Wilson] up. Those are the guys that would be next in line. You’re always excited for those guys. You’re disappointed when a player doesn’t get the opportunity and they get banged up, but Chris has earned that. Chris has gone out there and played really well. There is a reason why we drafted him. We think a lot of him. They’re different players in what they bring. Freddie has done fine when he has had his opportunities here. You’re always excited about the next guy because everybody that we have in that locker room are the best [players] in the world. We’re not dropping down to, like I’ve said before, somebody that you just pick up off the street. No, we are talking about some of the best in the world that wherever they came from before they got here, they were elite. Wherever they were from, they were one of the best players to play at their school.”
(On facing Carolina’s defense)
“I think what they have – first of all they do a really good job schematically – I think they are fairly simple until you get to third downs, but I think they’ve got an unbelievable leader – [a] savvy, [aware] linebacker that makes them start with that. From there, they’ve got a lot of really good players. The two ends that have 10 sacks a piece – really good players. [Kawann] Short inside – really good player. The other nose tackle (Star Lotulelei) – really good player. Thomas Davis – really good player. [Shaq] Thompson – really good player. [James] Bradberry – a really good player. Their other corner (Daryl Worley) was a draft pick. [Kurt] Coleman is a guy that gets it and plays like a linebacker and [Mike] Adams has played in this league. I think they had one Pro Bowler – I think that’s all they had, if that’s what I saw – but when you look at them, collectively, it’s not like you are staring at holes. You can play some other teams where, ‘Wow, they’ve got two, three or four really good players, but the drop-off between the next guy [is significant].’ No, they throw 11 guys out at you and say, ‘Okay, we’ve got 11 darn good football players. That’s what makes it hard. [They are] really well coached, do a great job and they send out a really good group of people.”
(On if he ever looks back and thinks about ‘what-ifs’)
“You try not to, really with any of those things, use them as excuses because there [are] always things that come up in a given season. How much any of that impacts, I think from our standpoint as coaches, which we’d never use – it’s not worth it. We understand our jobs. Our job is to win games no matter who we put on the field. Of course, you do. You think of those things. It’s human nature to think, ‘What if the season [would have gone this way], what if this was started, what if not this, what if we wouldn’t have gotten banged up, what if this?’ At the end of it, it doesn’t matter. It’s on to Carolina and we’ve got to figure out a way to win this week and build off it. I’m so proud of our guys offensively. I can’t say it enough. I’m not going to say the injuries, but we’ve had some things happen [with] Jameis being hurt and whatever, but it feels like we are getting better. It just feels like it. It feels like when you talk about, ‘You have nothing to play for.’ Oh yes, we do. We have a lot to play for. As professionals, our product we put on the field – the guys that I coach and our offense, what it looks like – there is a lot to play for. I think our guys have owned that and have continued to do that. You have not seen our guys just say, ‘Screw it.’ That has not been the case and that says a lot about them and our offensive staff.”
(On how long he has known Carolina cornerback James Bradberry)
“I have been playing elite football against James Bradberry since I was about seven [or] eight. We go way, way back. We’ve been [rivals] really since we started playing football.”
(On which teams they played on)
“In little league, he played for a team called the Hueytown Saints and I played for the Bessemer Tigers. We beat him then. In middle school, he played Pleasant Grove. I played for Hueytown and high school on up. They beat us my junior year. They beat us and he had a great game that game. I gave him that (Pro Bowl vote) because it’s so good to see people from your home town doing great. Mario Addison is another person from Birmingham who I have seen play and they had Joe Webb last year. Carolina is a team that likes getting people from Alabama and Georgia.”
(On tight end O.J. Howard’s rookie season)
“It was an amazing season and I hate that it ended like that, but it’s a lot to build off of. Again, it’s that room that he’s in with Coach Ben Steele being an NFL veteran, Cam [Brate] who is emerging as one of the top-tier tight ends in this league. When Luke Stocker was here, he really helped lead O.J. into the right way to do things. Just the other guys [like] Antony [Auclair] – the diversity – and even Alan [Cross] the little country boy. O.J.’s got it all. I commend it to the teammates that he’s been around and his work ethic. He came in and didn’t look back. He was a professional and he is going to be an amazing player. He already is an amazing player.”
(On his strong performance on Monday Night Football)
“I’m just playing football. That Atlanta game is a huge game for me, growing up an hour and a half from that city [and] from that stadium. I always like to give those guys a fight. Having a [college] teammate on the other side playing running back (Devonta Freeman) – that was having a pretty good game – [makes] the competitive nature come. Then you are the only game on TV. One thing about us, obviously we are not in the playoff picture, but we’ve still got a lot to play for. That was a time to just show everybody that we still have a great team. [It was] a time to show people that we can do great things.”
(On if he enjoys the challenge of facing Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly)
“Yeah, a couple weeks back we were talking about how people said our offense was predictable. When you play a guy like Luke Kuechly, he is going to tell you what the play is. He knows what is coming. Your job is to beat him. He is going to be who he is. He is an amazing player. I love playing against him, so it’s going to be fun. But, we’ve got to do what we do. One person can’t be able to determine how we are on offense. We’ve got to play because we know that defense over there is really good, so we’ve got to do our job.”
(On the challenge of leading the team during the final two games despite being out of playoff contention and dealing with an abundance of injuries)
“It’s going to be beautiful when we continue to fight, continue to give our all and scratch out two wins, starting with this one. We’ve got to fight. Our season isn’t over, especially not to me and to the guys in that locker room. No matter who we have out there, our job is to play football and we’ve got to find a way to win.”
(On if it feels like the offense is starting to get closer to being the unit that they hoped to be)
“Like I said, this whole year we’ve had some unfortunate things happen, but those are things that we can control as an offense. It just shows that we’ve got to continue to get better and we’ve got to stay humble and keep working. Of course, there [are] going to be situations that everyone has, but we’ve just go to focus on what we can control and we’ve got to execute to perfection. We never know when a play like that can just come back and bite us in our tail. We’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity that we get and play hard and not hurt ourselves.”
(On what it’s been like seeing Bradberry grow in the NFL)
“I never had any doubt in him. His growth is the same as my growth. I’m proud of him, obviously, but at the end of the day we’ve still got to play against him. It’s going to be a hug at the end of the game and, ‘Keep doing what you are doing.’ But, he is going to be trying to beat me and I am going to be trying to beat him.”
(On if Winston and Bradberry have ever taken part in friendly trash talk before)
“No, he [doesn’t] talk a lot. He is pretty quiet and to himself, but he loves football. He loves to play, so I know he is going to be ready to play.”
(On if there was ever a moment playing against Bradberry that he realized how good he was)
“Yeah, my whole life. That’s what is really great about it – my whole life he has been a great player. I am happy for his family and how hard he has worked that he is in the league doing his thing.”
(On if the referee tripping with the ball tested his resolve in the middle of a tough season)
“That’s something that we can’t control. When the ref tripped up everyone just [was frustrated], but at that time we just had to spike the ball. We can’t control that. We could’ve made plays for it to not even get to that point. Stuff like that, it happens. It happens in every football game. We’ve had our share of unfortunate events. Every team has had their share of unfortunate events. We’ve just got to find a way to prosper and get a win.”

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