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20 April 2015

TRANSCRIPT: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 2015 OFFSEASON PROGRAM MEDIA AVAILABILITY: MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015

GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
 
(Opening statement)
“Hey guys, good morning. It’s a great day here. Just passing through and seeing guys here in the building and our players. Glancing out my window and seeing some guys participating in some drills and stuff outside. It’s fun to know that football is right around the corner. We have this big draft coming up. I thought I would wear a suit. Bigger draft than I’ve been a part of, so that makes it very exciting. In fact, I have a pocket square here and everything. Anyway with that said, the draft coming up, first I just want to tell you, you guys all know – but a lot of the public – how much work goes into this with our scouts. They’re away from their homes six months, staying in hotels all over the country and this thing wouldn’t work without them. They are the true lifeblood of this organization and this draft. The scouting assistants, everyone that is involved, they do an insurmountable amount of work. I just want to throw out an appreciation to them before I open this up.”
 
(On if the No. 1 overall pick carries a burden with it)
“No, never once did the word ‘burden’ come up at all. It’s always been excitement. After the hangover, the season gets over, you realize that we have a real opportunity now with this pick, whatever we do with it, to make this franchise better. I don’t think you will find anyone in this building that thinks of it as a burden. It’s exciting. You never want to have it again, unless we trade up for it, but it’s exciting to have.”
 
(On the importance of the draft for the organization)
“It’s huge. Personally, I think it’s probably the biggest draft in the history of the organization. We have a real chance to put us over the top and get us there. At least, get us to a level that we think we’re going to be at this year, which is competing for championships. It’s a great draft. It’s a great draft to have the number one pick, too.”
 
(On if a decision has been made about who will be selected No. 1 overall)
“You know, going back all the way to [Indianapolis], we said we had a leader in the club house, we still do. If we had to pick today, we would feel very comfortable making the pick. With that said, we’ll wait. We’ll use the majority of our allotted time. There is always something that could pop-up that you wish you would’ve waited, talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something you can’t refuse. We’ll use the allotted time, but everyone in the organization feels very comfortable right now with where we are at.”
 
(On if history and trends have an impact on the decision, considering quarterbacks taken first and second overall don’t always work out)
“Well, yeah we look at history a lot. It’s kind of embedded in all scouts. You want to try and make comparisons and you want to see when you are building a team, how the championship teams did it - and the common denominator there, by the way, is building through the draft. But in terms of that, that doesn’t sway us from not taking a pick. I think it’s all an individual, case by case basis. And no, just because what you just said has happened in the past, wouldn’t sway us from making a decision for a quarterback.”
 
(On if he looks at the situation as if one of the top two quarterback prospects “could be a bust”)
“If we are going to go with a quarterback, we are going to take the one we think, internally, that after much evaluation and a lot of work, that would put us in the best position to have success here in the future.”
 
(On why there is such a 50/50 chance of quarterbacks being successful or not when selected at the top of the draft)
“Well, with any pick at any position, I think you are going to find a success rate or failure rate. I don’t think it’s just the quarterback position. Usually teams and scouts and GMs and coaches, if they make mistakes it’s not from talent, it’s from above the shoulders. So, you want to make sure you are getting the right person.”
 
(On the recent civil lawsuit filed against Jameis Winston and if that surprised him or if there was anything new learned that would change his thoughts)
“Yeah, no. To answer your first question, it didn’t surprise us. The information that came out with it was not a surprise to us. We’re very confident in the amount of work we have done. Maybe 25 years from now I’ll write a book, but we feel very confident in the amount of work we’ve done internally. We have had work done externally, third parties, on and on and on. So there have been no surprises.”
 
(On if he has talked to anyone in the state attorney’s office or on the accuser’s side about the accusations concerning Jameis Winston)
“Well, I’ll answer that this way: We’ve talked to a lot of people. ‘A lot’ is probably not a big enough word. But, we’re not going to publicly talk about who we talked to. That’s just what we decided internally. We are not going to talk about the process. All I’ll tell you is that the Glazer family, the head coach, the general manager, our staffs, we all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through so far.”
 
(On if he still feels comfortable making Jameis Winston the face of the franchise) 
“We still feel comfortable with the decision we are about to make, one way or the other.”
 
(On if the Glazers have signed off on the No. 1 pick)
“Once again, we all feel very comfortable where we are at right now. We are still going to use the majority of the allotted time before we go ahead and make the decision just because I think it makes for good business. There’s no benefit for a team to engage in contract negations right now or to get a player signed. There’s no benefit at all. You can’t get the player in here any earlier, he can’t start working out here any earlier, you can’t talk to him anymore than you can right now, and because of the new CBA, it’s not as difficult as it once was to sign a player, so the parameters are already pretty much there. We’re just going to wait and we’re going to use all of our allotted time. We’re still going to have some discussions internally, but we’re spending just as much time right now on pick 34, 65, 109 and so forth.”
 
(On if he’s ever been part of an evaluation process where he has had to do this much background work and if that in and of itself is unsettling)
“Yeah, no. I’ve been around some picks where we have done almost as much work. But, unsettling? I don’t want to say unsettling. Sometimes you find out more and more good as you go. So, it’s not unsettling that we are doing this much. It’s actually comforting that we are putting as much work into it as we are.”
 
(On determining the difference between being a bad person or being immature and if he has come to a conclusion about Jameis Winston)
“You know, we are just not going to publicly talk about any more about what we feel about the players. I’ll say this, my feelings and our feelings haven’t changed since we had him in here and I made some comments at that point.”
 
(On the evaluation of Jameis Winston compared to that of Arizona Tyrann Mathieu)
“Very similar. Very similar. Talking to a lot of people and not just trying to talk to as many unbiased people around him and associates as well as people close to him. So, very similar. Found a guy there that [General Manager] Steve Keim, [Head Coach] Bruce Arians, [President] Michael Bidwill, they were all very comfortable with him as a person and knew how much football meant to him.”
 
(On Mike Glennon)
“Really like Mike Glennon. He’s a very valuable piece of this organization and this team.”
 
(On the benefit of seeing Jameis Winston at the Mike Alstott Family Foundation event)
“He was there. There were a lot of people there. We just kind of relaxed for one night, finally and just tried to have some fun. We really didn’t go into it as a tool to see what he is all about. Whatever we got was bonus, but we were mostly just trying to have some fun.”
 
(On Winston and Marcus Mariota’s private workouts)
“You know, we got a lot out of them. We were impressed with both of them. We’ll just leave it at that.”
 
(On how the draft fits the team’s needs)
“It matches up pretty good. We’ve got, it’s a good [offensive line] draft, pretty deep O-line draft. It’s good on the defensive side. There’s some good defensive line depth there too. In terms of that, it matches up pretty well, but there’s also, you know, we also still keep our eye on that best available player too. Because at the end of the day, those are the guys you are glad you have, you’re glad you picked. So we are not going to pigeonhole ourselves into necessarily always just picking for need. But we are aware of what this team needs.”
 
(On how Mariota and Winston as a tandem stack up against other quarterbacks over the last decade)
“You know, it’s right up there with them. I haven’t really had a chance to give that a lot of thought. Right now we are focusing on the players and those two are definitely two of them. Like I said, I think I answered that question when I said this is a good year to have the No. 1 pick.  Just like in past years with those players that you are thinking and referring to. It’s right up there with them. We are happy that we are in this position right now.”
 
(On if Jameis Winston will need a support system off the field)
“I think no matter who you pick, especially at the quarterback, you have to put a support system together. You know, I have gotten the question a lot is this particular player, are you ready for him to be face of franchise? I think that term, ‘face of the franchise,’ that’s a title that is earned. I don’t think any player walks in here is the face of the franchise. Right now, Gerald McCoy is the face of the franchise. We have several faces of the franchise: Vincent Jackson, Logan Mankins is going to have a big part of this year and Mike Evans.  But to answer your question, it doesn’t matter who it is. The quarterback, if you have a young quarterback, you have to have a strong support system just to give yourself the best chance at success.”
 
(On whether or not having the No. 1 overall pick forces a choice between team need or best player available)
“If we feel like – Lovie, myself, our staffs – you know, if everyone involved here feels the consensus is that he is a franchise-level player, no matter who it is, then I think that’s a case where it supersedes anything else. Now, that would also make him the best available player too.”
 
(On other areas of interest to pursue in the draft)
“Really good players [laughing]. You can’t win without really good players. That’s a study I did the other day. No offense to our analytics department. He does a great job, but that was an easy one.”
 
(On trading the No. 1 pick)
“It’s fair to assume someone is going to have to make a really good offer, yeah. And this time of year you get a lot of calls every day.  Not making offers, but just throwing, gauging your interest of if you would be open to it or not. And that will continue. But it would have to be an offer that makes this franchise, that sets this franchise even further ahead than what you thought you were going to with the decision you made.”
 
(On how much free agency helped the defense)
“I think we made some big strides. We added a player at every position, I think, defensively. I think we had a really good plan this year that ownership really backed us on. We added some players that had some familiarity with the system or with Lovie [Smith] and we knew the player very well before we signed him as opposed to buying a player without really knowing what you are getting. And we ripped a couple band aids off and we added some players that we think are going to really help us.”
 
(On not signing many players to multi-year deals)
“Yeah, we just wanted to be smart this year and I think we were very - we looked for value and we were smart with the way we did it and I think it’s going to pay off. I think we didn’t set out to copy any team, but if you look at what we did, it’s what the good teams do.”
 
(On if there were any changes to the pre-draft process this year compared to last)
“Not really. The pre-draft process in terms of going back to the fall and fall scouting? Well, you know, I will say this: this year we worked out a heck of a lot more players [in] private workouts than we did in years past. I mean a lot more. We really amped that up with our coaches and our scouting department and they did a great job. They’re tired. They need a beer just as much as I do when this is all over. In that respect we did.” 
 
HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
 
(Opening statement)
“It really is good to get the offseason started. Some of the players I’ve seen a little bit, but most of them I haven’t, so it’s kind of good to start the process of catching up on what they’ve been doing. For us, it does kind of seem like yesterday when were just finishing up and leaving. We have a long ways to go, we realize that, but you’re just kind of eager for the players to get back and you see it in their faces, that they can’t wait to start the offseason program. The offseason program, we’re not getting ready to start game-planning, it’s not gameday or anything like that. It’s just tedious work, behind the scenes. Those four hours we can use right now with the players, we’re going to use every second of it. Hopefully we become a whole lot better football team. As I talked to the football team this morning, I talked to them about going forward. We’re not going to talk a lot about what happened last year. We didn’t meet our goals last year. It’s just about going forward. Right now we are at the same place everyone else is, so it’s kind of what we do from here on out. We have to change our mentality, get more of a championship mentality. You get that through hard work, starting off in the offseason.
I’m excited about the schedule, can’t wait for the schedule to come out, to see exactly who we’ll end up with when we play, how our division opponents – when we play them. There’s a lot of excitement with this week. A lot of excitement for the Draft coming up too – we’ve done a lot of work with the Draft. We’ve traveled – you hear my voice a little bit, kind of getting over some flu-type symptoms. When you go cross-country in a day, a lot of things happen, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know a lot of these young men and a few, really getting to know them. I think, in the end, most decisions aren’t that hard if you put the work in and try to get as many questions as you can answered. The decision on what you should do and what we will do isn’t as hard as you might think. That’s kind of where we are.”
 
(On if the divide among pundits over whether the Buccaneers should draft Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota has any effect on the team’s opinions)
“No, we go with our own opinion. I’m getting information from you right now what everyone thinks we should do. We don’t get into an awful lot – we have a group inside our building, their opinion really matters. The first third-and-one, we’re not going to start calling people on what we should do. Again, we trust our building. But that says a lot about some of the athletes coming out. You mentioned two quarterbacks. Both quarterbacks are excellent players and both are going to have a lot of success in the league, so there should be different opinions. I think there’s different opinions about quite a bit. You guys never write the same thing. You both see the same play; you write something totally different with it. That’s just a part of it.”
 
(On if the team would prefer to have a rookie quarterback start, or have him learn as a backup)
“Again, that’s an opinion. I don’t really know how to answer that because that has very little to do with – I believe in history and history can tell you a lot of things, but not about the players we have coming out. As I see it, there are different guys coming out, different year. If it was that simple that ‘This happened this year, so that means the same thing is going to happen,’ – it just doesn’t work like that. I haven’t been in this situation very often, I just know from going through it though and getting to know these guys, I know you say that the odds say that only so many guys – I guess quarterbacks – make it. The ones we spent a lot of time with just seemed like were going to buck that trend a little bit this year.”
 
(On if having the first overall pick is a franchise-turning moment)
“I think you can look at every draft – Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks would say that that draft with him and [Warren] Sapp was a franchise-[turning moment]. Lee Roy Selmon’s draft was a franchise changing draft. But for us, since we have the first pick in the draft, we hope that’s the case. I just know I think it’s a pretty strong draft when we get to set the pace. We get our pick and again, it’s just not that first pick, it’s the others we’re going to get too. We need a little bit and we think we’re going to get some excellent football players from this draft, so I hope that’s the case.”
 
(On how having the first pick is different from other picks)
“Again, it’s the first time for me to be in this situation, so I’m a rookie at it. I think one time we had the fifth pick and if you’re talking to a coach that’s been in this situation very often, that’s not a good thing. You’re probably not talking to that guy. I just know, from being in it, you have a game plan on everything that you face, going through a season. Towards the end of the season, I knew we would be picking high, so we had a plan to get started right away. We tried to speed up the process some of when we brought guys in, when we did certain things. We’ll have as much time as possible to make these decisions. I just know our experience with it, I have enjoyed it. Again, to do it one time isn’t all bad.”
 
(On the statement from Jameis Winston’s attorney David Cornwell that Winston is not ready for the NFL off the -field and if the team agrees with that statement)
“As far as agreeing with it, I think, when you do something for the first time, are you prepared, are you ready? I’ve been married 35 years – was I ready when I first [got married]? I don’t know. Something was totally new to me, but I think you can just prepare as best as you possibly can. I would probably say that about all of the players coming into the league. Are they really ready? Most of them probably think that they’re not. Some of them think that they are, but are you really ready? Now, I know my first year as a head football coach in the league, I thought I was ready and tried to prepare as much as possible, but was I ready? I think you figure it out as you go through it. You’re not going to do it by yourself, you’re going have a lot of people that are helping you get through every stage of the process, and that will be the case with this group of rookies.”
 
(On if the team feels comfortable putting a rookie quarterback into the team’s new offense)
“Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, we need a guy that can throw the football. He needs to be able to do some other things too. Leadership is important, buying time in the pocket – there’s a lot of different things, but we are excited about the direction our offense is going. We have a good idea of what it will look like. This is part of the process too, but we’re going to adjust it based on who we have. Every offense, every defense, you have to have – it has to be an adjustable group. Whether it’s offense, defense, we feel like that will be the case. We can’t coach, can’t get on the field for the first two weeks of the offseason, but I’m excited, especially for our offense, just them finding out – some things have changed, but just that first step is exciting for our offense.”
 
(On how you define a championship mentality)
“There’s a lot of ways you can define it. I think first, you just have to start having that. If your goal is – what is the goal of everyone every year? Of course to win the championship so you have to just, as we talk about it, it’s just working towards that with everything that you do. And that’s just trying to do the best that you possibly can every day. Every opportunity, you have a chance to get better. Every opportunity and every day, you have the chance to come in here and work to improve something, you’re getting a championship mentality by that. That’s just doing everything you possibly can to get better each day with everything that we do and it’s the mindset that we have right now. We’re all starting from the same spot. And again, why not us?”
 
(On if the team would be comfortable starting either of the top rookie quarterbacks)
“As far as who I’m comfortable with, I think as a general rule, you have to give the rookies coming in – [they] have a lot to learn. I’m comfortable with the best person that I feel like can help us win. I’ve never been caught up on whether a guy was a rookie, a veteran, whatever. You just go through the process and the process I’m talking about of getting there in the classroom, on the field, preseason games, all of that. We’ll know then. If that’s the young guy that we’re having to start at any of the positions, I’ll be fine with that.”
 
(On what attributes have sold him on Jameis Winston’s character)
“I’m just not going to go into just Jameis, I’m going to put the whole group together. As much as you can, you just spend as much time with them and you talk to as many people as you possibly can and get information. I’m talking about people that you trust and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve talked to a lot of people that we trust. I’m talking about trust their opinion. And from there, you bring [the prospect] in. For me, at certain positions, I tried to spend as much time as I possibly could with them. Again, I feel pretty good right now. If we sign a player, if we draft a player, and I don’t feel comfortable with that, we won’t draft him. If it’s somebody that we’re picking, we’ve been through that and we feel very good about them representing us and doing what we need to do.”
 
(On the difference between feeling comfortable with a draft prospect versus being confident in that pick)
“I think you’re using words right now. To me, comfortable means I’m ok with it. You look at me on the sideline one second and down here [the next]. I’m kind of there [in the middle]. So when I say comfortable, I’m ok with it, I’m going to say I’m comfortable with Gerald McCoy being our three-technique around here. Now, tomorrow I’m not going to come in here and say ‘I’m really comfortable’ with him – I can’t go any further than that. So if I said that and we said that, then yes, we’re fine with him.”
 
(On if he and Jason Licht are in agreement in their draft strategy)
“Yes, we are in total agreement as a staff. Jason and I, go back to the first pick of the draft, you bring more people involved, make sure we can all come to an agreement and that’s definitely the case.”
 
(On defensive end George Johnson)
“We look at a lot. Coaches, we say we look at a lot of video – you’re supposed to look at a lot of video. Also went back and looked at a lot of our video when we played the Detroit Lions this past year. George was impressive, to say the least. I’ve talked a lot about our defensive line and what we need to have on the defensive line. Then when we brought him in to visit with him, talk to him face-to-face, man-to-man, liked everything he said. Sometimes some players are kind of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and you just kind of hate that they ever left and I definitely say that’s the case with George. I know he’s excited. We have a role for him and we can’t wait to get him on the field.”
 
(On what the team liked about Bruce Carter and if he is a fit to play middle linebacker)
“We want athletes. The type we play, size, speed, it helps when you’ve been in the system, where you know what we’re expecting from our linebackers. And that’s the case with Bruce. When he came in, I liked him. Then meeting, we did – Hardy Nickerson, Leslie Frazier, all of us, liked his play. He’s a productive guy. He had splash plays with the Cowboys. We just think he’s what we’re looking for. We don’t have to look too far in the future – his history says we think we have an idea of how he’ll play for us.”
 
(On how important it was to sign free agents that he had previously coached or who had played in a Tampa 2 defense)
“I think it’s important to first off just get good football players. If they have a little further to go, we can teach them our system. When you have good football players that play your style of ball and they know the system too, you’re just that much farther ahead. We’re a lot farther ahead in what we’re trying to do this year than last, just based on that experience of them being in the system. So that helped a lot. Wasn’t the only factor that we took into consideration, but again, it helped a lot.”
 
DEFENSIVE TACKLE GERALD MCCOY
 
(On what he thinks about the steps the Buccaneers have taken through free agency)
“I think it’s always great to have guys that have been in the system that you play. Coach did a great job of bringing in guys who have been in the system that we play, guys that have won games in the system that we play, so they bring a lot of experience – something we need. I told the defensive guys today, I told them, ‘Hey, get around those guys. Coach brought them in for a reason, they know what we play,’ because we’re working out right now. And the workouts are great, it’s always great to be in shape, but if you can’t play the game it doesn’t matter how in shape you are. You’re not performing. So I told guys to get around those guys that Coach brought in. He brought them in for a reason. Well, use those guys as a resource because they’ve been in this defense, they know what it takes to win with this defense, so it’ll be very helpful for us.”
 
(On if he thinks this can be a better defense)
“Yeah, of course.”
 
(On his excitement level compared to previous years in the league)
“Mine goes up every year because that’s another opportunity I have to play this game I’ve been blessed to play. You see careers end all the time, and I’m going into my sixth year. That’s a blessing, so any time I have an opportunity to come back and perform or get an opportunity to perform I get excited. And the older I get, the more excited I get because if I’m getting older but I’m still playing, then that’s a blessing. So just every year I get more excited.”
 
(On if Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have talked to him as one of the team’s leaders about who they could potentially draft)
“I’ve talked to them. That’s it – that’s all you get.”
 
(On how much he looks forward to mentoring the Buccaneers’ top draft pick)
“It will be a great opportunity for me because I didn’t have that when I came in, so to have a guy come in to get picked as high as our pick is this year, whoever it may be, I’m honestly going to take it upon myself to try to mentor that guy because, like you said, I know the pressures of being picked high and people expect so much from you when you get picked that high. But people have to realize these guys are still kids coming in. Just because your age says 21-22, I can guarantee you from when I came in when I was 22 to me being 27 now, it’s a completely different person. Those guys need somebody around them to show them how to be a professional. It’s not all about talent, what you do on the field. There’s a lot that goes into being a professional, all the way from balancing out your time to how you practice to how you get your body ready. You’ve got to take care of your body, man. That’s how guys last in this league, that’s how you see guys play 10,12,14 years – they take care of their bodies. So there’s more to being a professional football player than just performing on Sundays.”
 
(On what the biggest shock was for him when he transitioned from college to the NFL)
“The lowest-tiered guy in the NFL is better than the best guy in college. That’s how the NFL works. You know, people make these comparisons when you see this great college football team it’s like, ‘I bet you they could beat the so-and-so’s of the NFL.’ Not even close. The [NFL team] would beat them by 60. The talent level and the skill set is so much higher in the NFL, I don’t think people realize. So when you have a guy that comes in and dominates in his rookie year, that lets you know really how talented that guy really is.”
 
(On what he expects out of defensive end George Johnson)
“Just George to be George. And when I say that, George always had the ability to rush the passer. His years here, when I was with him, he could rush inside, he could rush

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