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01 September 2015

Buccaneers Quotes: Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Head Coach Lovie Smith
Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy
Kicker Kyle Brindza
Punter Jacob Schum
(Opening statement)
“You know, once you get to the final week of practice, you can look at it different ways. We know we’re not going to play our starters an awful lot, so you have to still keep them progressing along, getting ready for Tennessee. Had a good padded practice today. Got a lot of good work done. Have a couple of injuries. Guys are getting better, making progress, all of those things”
(On whether the team might sign free agent cornerback Tim Jennings, who visited today)
“My standard answer for all players that are available: we look at them. We know Tim, of course. Leslie has a history with him, of course we do [as well]. He became available, so we wanted to get him in here as soon as possible and see what we had to offer.”
(On safety Bradley McDougald and kicker Patrick Murray, who did not practice today)
“Both nursing injuries right now. We’ll kind of see how it plays out. Couldn’t go today though; neither one could.”
(On releasing punter Michael Koenen today and what that says about the punting situation)
“Jacob Schum has done a good job for us. First off, Michael Koenen has done an awful lot. One of our team captains, has been a good punter for us throughout. We just feel like this is the direction we need to go at this time. But we are excited about Jacob. He did a pretty good job in the game the other day and we kind of have a history with him a little bit. This time of the year, tough decisions have to be made and we feel good about the direction we’re going.”
(On newly acquired kicker Kyle Brindza)
“Good to get him into the mix, into the flow of things. He has a strong leg. It doesn’t take long to see that. He’s a part of our team now and evaluation has begun. We’ll kind of see how that plays out a little bit. Of course we have a game coming up. We’ll just evaluate him as much as we possibly can and go from there.”
(On whether Murray is currently able to kick)
“No, he wasn’t able [to kick today]. He’s nursing an injury right now to his knee. Besides that, he’s good to go.”
(On whether Murray will be able to kick in the game on Thursday)
“No, I can’t say that. He didn’t practice today is about all I can say right now. You know how we do it, you know how I do it. Talk about short-term – can’t look into the future.”
(On wide receiver Kenny Bell saying that he hoped to test his hamstring at practice today)
“Kenny hurt his hamstring Friday and wants to test it now – not going to happen. You don’t come back from hamstring injuries that quick. It’s good that he wants to do that and I’m sure that the pain is gone, but he’s not quite ready yet.”
(On the importance of special teams in Smith’s plans, both now and in his previous tenure in Chicago, and how vital those units are)
“It’s vital and it’s something that we have to get done, but I was [in Chicago] for a period of time [when] it wasn’t that way. Luckily we got Devin Hester early on, so that made everything look a lot better. But we didn’t have our kicker in place, then we found Robbie Gould just on a kickoff, pretty much. So you just have to keep working through. Eventually you find your guys. In the position we’re in right now, we get first pick [from the waiver wire], so our plan all along was to keep looking at everybody that’s available. Eventually, though, we’ll settle on the guy that should be pretty good for us. And then special teams as a whole, that’s more than just the specialists. We have to do a better job, especially with our coverage teams. That has a lot to do with, of course, scheme, but personnel too, on who some of those down-the-line players are. That’s why you can find out a lot from this last preseason game, to see exactly who wants to play those roles.”
(Opening Statement)
“All right, here we are winding down the preseason. I think all of our guys are anxious to get out and play this game. I know the guys that are in the backup roles that are fighting for a roster spot are anxious to get to Thursday night and get a chance to show why they deserve to be on this 53-man roster. It should be an exciting time for those guys for sure.”
(On putting defensive tackle Henry Melton at left end on early downs)
“We know he has that capability. We’ll see as we go. Nothing is conclusive at this point. We just want to be able to take a look at him out there and see how he moved around. He’s done it before. He’s quite an athlete, as you know. We’ll see how it goes as we get closer to September 13th.”
(On how Melton has looked through training camp and three preseason games)
“He’s done a good job. He’s a very savvy guy who has real good athletic ability and understands the game well. He’s given us another option. We have some things to talk about as we prepare for the 13th.”
(On the competition at nickelback)
“[It’s a] critical positon. In a lot of ways that guy is a starter on your defense with all the multiple wide receiver sets you get today. He plays an extended period of time. Unfortunately Leonard [Johnson] gets injured. We knew we weren’t going to have him for a while. Some other guys have to step up. That gives Isaiah Frey a chance. It gives Sterling Moore a chance. Those guys will probably be the primary guys competing for the job. We have one other rookie, Jude [Adei-Barimah]. He’ll have a chance to compete and get some reps in the Thursday night game as well. Young kid out of Bowling Green who has shown some flashes here in training camp. We have some options. Hopefully one of those guys will step up and be the guy.”
(On if Thursday’s game is critical for the nickelback position)
“It’s important. As we are navigating this territory and trying to determine which guy is going to open up for us on the 13th.”
(On Chris Conte and the safety position)
“He did some good things. He was definitely a little bit rusty. He’ll be the first to tell you that. It’s been quite a while since he played some football – with the injury he had last season and missing, really, all of training camp for the most part. He did some things, his movement was [good], he was in good position most of the time, but he needs more reps, he needs more time. He’s getting that this week and we have quite a few days before the first ball game, so we have some time and he needs it. We need it also to be able to evaluate where he is and what he can give us as we approach the 13th. He’s a guy who has proven he can play in our league and play well, just a matter of how healthy is he going to be and what his timing is going to be like.”
(On what he needs to see from guys who are on the border of making the team or getting cut)
“You would like to find some guys that could really help you in the backup roles, but also potential special teams guys. If you are a backup and you are not one of our starter, which our starters are going to be limited on Thursday night, you need to have tremendous value for our special teams. Usually that is a lot of defensive guys. Hopefully they will show well enough on defense, but also show well on special teams to where our special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea will really fight for some of those guys to be on our team. We need to see them run around and make some plays on defense, but they also in that backup role need to do a good job on special teams.”
(On undrafted rookies who are standing out)
“Yeah, our back up linebackers are, for the most part, veteran guys with the exception of – we have one other guy who is a rookie, undrafted free agent – Josh Keyes. He’s done some good things in the games we have had him in. Thursday night will be important for him. He’ll have to show us some things. At safety there isn’t really a rookie other than Chris Hackett. He has chance to maybe show some things and fight for a roster spot as well. For all of our guys, guys on our defensive line that are remaining after the cuts, they will have a chance to show. Chris probably has a lot to prove on Thursday night, Chris Hackett, and Josh as well. We’re not very deep when you talk about our fifth and sixth linebacker spot. That’s not settled. We kind of know who are top four are. Our defensive line for the most part is somewhat settled. Those guys are fighting for those backup roles.”
(On why this defense is better than last year’s)
“I think Kwon [Alexander] will really help us to improve and I think our safety position is better than it was a year ago this time. The familiarity of our players with what we are asking them to do – the techniques, the scheme. You don’t have to go through the introductory phase that we went through a year ago. I think that as much as anything – the experience in the system – should help our defense and hopefully we will have some guys step up like Jacquies Smith being able to take another step, T.J. Fatinikun being able to take another step forward. That would help our defense. I think adding Henry Melton inside should help our defense. If he has to play outside he can do that, but he has made the Pro Bowl as an inside player. Experience and then just adding a couple more guys should help us to improve.”
(On possibly adding cornerback Tim Jennings to the roster)
“Well, I was in Indianapolis when we drafted Tim. We had a lot of discussions about Tim prior to the draft. I was so happy when [former Vice Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts] Bill Polian and the rest of our staff decided he was the guy we were going to choose. A lot of history with him, I have a lot of respect for his game and I have told him a bunch of times after some of our games against Chicago how proud I was to see his maturation as a player. I have a lot of respect for him and for him to go on and become a Pro Bowl corner – everything we thought he might become when we drafted him. His savviness, his ball skills, his toughness, his familiarity with this defense all would be pluses for us here.”
(On Kwon Alexander being the first name that came to mind when asking about the defense)
“The middle linebacker position in a 4-3 [defense] is so, so important. When you find a guy who you think has a chance to fill that role, it instantly upgrades your defense. We think we identified the guy who fits that mold for us. He’s young, he doesn’t have a lot of experience and there are going to be some growing pains along the way but over time we feel like we plugged a hole in our defense. It’s a key component of our defense – the middle linebacker positon – and that helps you believe that you have improved because of that.”
(On the pass rush)
“No question. No matter the system in our league, if you are not able to harass the quarterback it will be a long day on defense. You have to find ways. In our case we would like to be able to do with four and hopefully we have the four that can get that done. Otherwise you have to start mixing it up with pressure and so on. That can expose your corners. It does start with being able to rush the quarterback, without question.”
(On the chances of Jacquies Smith playing on Thursday)
“The fact that the starters are going to be limited, I don’t think there is any reason to have to put him out there. We kind of know what Jacquies can do and that’s not necessary for him to play in this ball game.”    
(On his plans for Thursday night’s final preseason game)
“I don’t know yet. Coach [Lovie Smith] hasn’t told us. They usually tell us at the end of the day two days before or the day before, how much we’ll play, so I don’t know yet.”
(On if he will be cheering on the guys trying to make the roster if he is not in the game)
“Yeah, of course. This is their first real opportunity to start and play a full NFL game. It’s always fun to see guys go out there and just try to make some plays. The day after is what I don’t like, but that day [Thursday] is always fun. You get to see guys go out there and fly around.”
(On what makes him think the defense can be an “upper echelon unit” this season)
“One, it’s going to start with how hard we play. Then, just being assignment sound. Last thing, which is probably the most important is what Coach always emphasizes is taking the ball away. If you go back and look at the game we just played, there was three opportunities on third down we could of got off. We lose contain on the first third down – that could have been a sack. The next third down, coverage was off slightly, but we still could have got off the field. The next third down we just missed a sack. There was three different opportunities where we could have ended that drive. All credit to the Cleveland Browns, but it was more of us not being where we were supposed to be, which is why those two long drives happened. Besides those two long drives we had five three-and-outs. We’re showing signs of what we can be, but we have a long way to go.”
(On if it’s hard to get excited for a preseason game)
“Football is football and we love our fans, but when we go out there on that field we have to be self-motivated. We feed off the energy of the fans. Any opportunity for you to go out there and play the game that we love, you try to relish in that moment, because you could easily not be playing. I don’t think you have to really get amped up to play a preseason game. Week 1, of course, everything counts so you want to be on point, but you want to attack preseason as hard as possible, because then some things that need to be fixed can be revealed and you know where you need to be at, what you need to fix, where your mind needs to be at and it really helps. I see any opportunity to go out there and play football as a great thing.”
(On if having a rookie quarterback puts more of an emphasis on the defense)
“Yeah, definitely. We want to make things as easy as possible for him. He’s a great talent, very smart guy. Any opportunity, not just for a rookie, but any quarterback you have; if you have a talented playmaker at quarterback then you want to give them as many opportunities as possible. We got to have each other’s back. It’s our job to score, get the ball back and put it back in the offense’s hands. We just want to do that as much as possible.”
(On defensive end William Gholston)
“Will has made huge strides this preseason. He’s taken a huge step each week and in each preseason game. I think he played his best game to date this past week. I’m looking forward to seeing what he adds to this roster.”
(On what Gholston is doing differently)
“Will is just playing. He’s not thinking so much. He’s just going. Eliminating thinking allows you to play fast. Just knowing your assignment and just playing as hard as you can – it allows you to play fast. That’s all he is doing. He is more relaxed out there – not worried about mistakes. Coach [Joe Cullen], our [defensive] line coach told him you get off the ball, he’ll clean him up. Just get off the ball and [Cullen] will get his technique right. It’s working for Will.”
(On rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander)
“Yeah man. He loves the game, loves to run, loves to hit. There was a play we watched on film where he was all over the place. You’ve seen him. He was just trying to hit something. If you were in his way he was trying to take you out. You love to have that behind you. Whether he is a rookie or whether he is a five, 10-year vet, it doesn’t matter. Just having a guy like that on the field is going to be huge for us.”
(On what is the next level for Gerald McCoy)
“Just take my game to the next level. That next level is when we have an opportunity to get off the field or we have an opportunity to end the game – help put my team in the best position to do that. I don’t always have to be making the play. Whether it is taking on double-teams or causing some type of disruption to help somebody else make the play. Whatever it may be, just putting our team in the best opportunity to finish games and finish drives or get off the field at halftime, whether it’s the two-minute drill or whatever it may be. It’s just all I can do. Just go out there every day and give them my all.”
(On what sort of identity he want this defense to have)
“When that ball is thrown or the ball commits, all 11 hats to the ball. Those guys just swarm the ball and if you are not careful with the ball they’ll take it from you. That has to be our identity and we have to make people fear coming to RayJay.
(On working as both a kicker and punter)
“For me, it’s being able to work on everything each day. I don’t do just kicking one day and punting the next because I think it takes away from it a little bit. Especially in the game, you’re not going to kick one game and punt the next. You always have to work on everything. For the past actually two years, that’s what I’ve been doing. [At] Notre Dame junior year, I was able to start at all three [kicker, punter and kickoffs] – senior year as well – so for me it’s being able to improve day-in and day-out, punting, field goal, as well as kickoff.
(On being traded to Tampa Bay)
“I’m blessed to be able to have this opportunity as well as a team showing that much interest in me. It’s my turn to prove my worth, [show] what they got and run with it.”
(On the kicking competition)
“I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m not saying I have a solid spot on this team. My job today is to go out and prove my worth and be able to showcase what my talent is and showcase that I’m able to be on this team – make that cut. Take nothing for granted because you never know, one day it could all be gone.”
(On what he has learned from being on different teams)
“You just kind of pick up something different each time. You grow as a person, you grow as a teammate. You kind of just are learning the ins and outs of everything. It’s a crazy business, but there’s nothing else I would rather be doing. I love what I do. I want to help this team win. I really feel that I can do that. I’m glad they brought me back in to give me this other chance. I feel this is a really great opportunity to get my career rolling and hopefully be part of this team for a really long time.”
(On how important the punter position is and if he feels that a punter can have an impact on the game)
“Absolutely. I think [punting] is the most important play in the game. It’s such a huge change of field position and if it’s a bad punt, that can be really bad for your team. Or you have a great punt and that can be a game-changer. It’s the biggest play in football, I believe. As long as you go out there and have a consistent game – like I said, one kick at a time. Do what you do in practice every single day. That’s why I strive to get better each and every day. I believe it’s really important, every game situation.”
(On if he has had the chance to work as the holder)
“Yeah, every practice we are always working on holds. I’ve worked on holds with every team that I’ve been on. Especially now, it’s just kind of learning different techniques with each kicker. Everyone’s different. I’ve got to be able to hold for each guy. You learn what they like and you work on it. It’s a game where you have to adjust to certain things. It’s just – different kickers, different styles, so I’ll adjust and I’ll be ready to hold for anyone.”
(On placing a punt inside the 20-yard line)
“It’s always a great feeling, especially when you get as close to the goal line as possible. It took me a long time in college to figure out exactly how to do it. Once I figured it out, I only grew upon it. It’s just the hours out on the field of making that happen, it just becomes almost like a second language. It’s another type of step in my walk – you just hit it and you just know where it’s going to land. You get the backspin and you hope for it to hit and land backwards. Just hang it high, give enough time for our coverage guys to get down there and be able to make a huge play and pin them as close to that goal line as possible and set our defense up in a really good position.”

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