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18 May 2015

TRANSCRIPT: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 2015 OFFSEASON PROGRAM MEDIA AVAILABILITY: MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR LESLIE FRAZIER
 
(On if he his bragging about his defensive line)
“I am. Any time you have (defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy on your team, you have to brag. He’s a special athlete and then when you add a (defensive tackle) Henry Melton to the mix, that should really improve our defensive line. If we can get Jacquies (Smith) or T.J. (Fatinikum) or Larry (English) or one of those other guys to really come along and help us with our pass rush, we think we have a chance to have one of the best defensive lines in the league across the board, which, in turn, should help our linebackers and secondary as well. We are excited about those guys.”
 
(On who are the two starting defensive ends as of right now)
“That would be a tough one. You would have to go back and look at last season and see how Jacquies came along. Take a look at some of the things T.J. did for us and Larry when he got in the spot-duty situations. Will Gholston did some good things as well. To say today which one of those guys would be the starters would be a tough one. We need a little bit more time with them and just see if the cream rises to the top.”
 
(On if he thinks Jacquies Smith is better on the right side)
“Maybe. He did some good things for us at left end last season. It’s hard to say he couldn’t flourish if we left him at that spot. We’ll see. He’s going to get a shot at the right end position, but we know he can play left and play it well. We’ll see.”
 
(On how safety D.J. Swearinger and linebacker Khaseem Greene can contribute this season)
“Well, if nothing else, they should help us with our depth, if nothing else we need that. You need guys that will help you on special teams, help your defense if you have injuries, which do occur in our league. They are going to push for starting spots. They have had a chance to succeed in their previous spots and D.J., a high draft pick, has had some success in our league. We’re anxious to see him once we get pads on and see how well he picks up what we are trying to get done here.”
 
(On Swearinger and Greene)
“I had a chance to watch him on tape during his time with the Texans. You can see that he is a football player. He is a guy that makes a lot of plays. He’s an excellent blitzer, I remember that. That’s one of the things that really stuck out to me. He is one of those guys that’s really quick getting from point A to point B. He seems to be a bright football player as well. Khaseem has some familiarity with some of the things we are doing here. That will help him and we’ll see how he progresses over time.”
 
(On only drafting one defensive player in the past two years)
“I’m sure (General Manager) Jason (Licht) and Coach (Lovie Smith) are talking about that. They have a plan. They have explained that plan to me and I’m on board with it. Depth can be an issue in our league. You have to be able to develop some players. We are going to work hard with the waiver wire and some of the things we plan on doing to ensure that we have good depth, but also to create competition for the starting positions that we need on defense as well. Coach and Jason have a plan and we are on board with seeing that plan play out.”
 
(On Jacquies Smith and T.J. Fatinikum’s ceilings)
“That was a difficult spot they were placed in, along with Lawrence Sidbury (Jr.) who came with us a little bit later. Larry (English) and other guys as well. It’s a tough deal when you get plucked into a situation and the season has already begun and everybody is so far up to speed with all the things you are doing. To have this offseason, Larry commented on it a couple days ago, ‘Last year I was just hearing words, and really didn’t know what they meant.’ To have a chance for T.J., for Jacquies to now understand the true meaning of what we are trying to accomplish, It should help them tremendously in their play. They’ll play faster. They’ll be more effective in everything they do. To have a chance to go through this offseason should help all of these guys. You look at a guy like Lavonte David, to have a year of experience in the system now to where, you should see how he has taken charge of this defense, in a way that we didn’t see a year ago because it was so new for him. For all of the guys it is such a benefit. The key is to keep them healthy during the season so you are not bringing in guys like we were last year and having to play and learn on the run.”
 
(On rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander)
“We had him rated pretty high in the draft, so we were very fortunate when he slipped to where he did and we were excited that we were able to draft him. He is a guy that has the athletic ability that we look for. He is excellent from a move standpoint. He has great agility and hands. He has that quick twitch we like to see on a linebacker. He is a smart football player as well. He has a lot of ingredients we were hoping to find - a guy that could potentially start for us. We are anxious to see him in pads and see how well he understands what we are trying to get accomplished. We have high hopes for him. We think Kwon is going to be a big addition to our defense.”
 
(On the talent level at defensive end this year compared to last season)
“We know a little bit more about T.J., Jacquies, a little bit more about Larry English and Will Gholston as well. We had high hopes for Michael (Johnson) but we feel good about the guys that are here. We are watching and looking forward to seeing them develop. They are still very young as I mentioned earlier. They only have so many games under their belt, but we expect those guys to get better and better and create problems for left tackles and right tackles as well. We are excited about the guys we have in camp.”
 
(On when the defense started to come together last season)
“When you look at those last 10 games of the season and you see that we finished in the top five in almost every category group, including points, that’s what gets you excited. There are some things we can build on. We are expecting the guys that are coming back to really improve. So many of them, they were so young a year ago and young in the system.  We have high hopes. Now the key for us is seeing Gerald have another great season, seeing Henry Melton really mesh and become the Henry that was an All-Pro a few years ago, and finding that right end. In our league, if you can’t rush with four and you have to rely on pressure all the time, that creates some problems for your team. We still have some things that we need to see happen and we are a long ways from that This is the early stages of the offseason and we’re just hoping that the guys that we have are going to continue to develop.”
 
(On defensive end George Johnson)
“George seems to have integrated himself into what we are doing – some of the drills that we are working on right now, things he is familiar with. He is somewhat familiar with the system. We have some excitement with what he has done and what he did in Detroit. He did a good job coming up with some big plays in spot situations.  We are going to try and get him a few more snaps here, we are hoping, but George is a guy we think will have a chance to make a difference for us on our defensive line. We are thinking a little bit more left, but he can play right as well. He is a guy that should give us a good pass rush.”
 
(On Johnson being a rotational player)
“No question we would like to have a good rotation across the line, so when we get to the fourth quarter our best guys are on the field in those key situations. We don’t want to put George in a situation where he has to play 80 percent of the downs nor do we want even Gerald to play 80-90 percent of the downs. We would like to have enough depth where when we do take guys off the field to get a blow, we don’t have a big drop off. Hopefully this year we will have the depth to do that. That includes George. I think he had a little of 600 snaps a season ago, so he may end up right around that range, again, a little bit more. That will probably depend on how well the other guys are playing around him as well.”
 
(On the cornerback position)
“We are expecting big things from Johnthan (Banks) and Alterraun (Verner). We need those guys to play big for us. It’s hard to be successful in our league without your corners being able to play man as well as zone and we need them to play big. That will depend on how our defensive line plays as well. The fact that they have more experience; it will be their second season in our program, so it should be a chance for them to grow and develop. Johnthan is another one of those guys, I heard him earlier today say , ‘I feel like I am so much farther ahead than I was a year ago,’ and understanding what we are trying to get done on defense and what we are asking our corners to do. Those guys, they should be better. Brandon (Dixon) having another year under his belt should be a better football player. Last year he was pretty much working off of athletic ability. Now he has a better knowledge of what we are asking and he should be better. Mike (Jenkins), we expected Mike to compete for a starting job and then we lose him after one ball game. We didn’t have him very much in training camp either. We are anxious to see if he can stay on the field. We know he has the ability, but can he stay healthy. That’s the key for Mike Jenkins.”
 
(On if Bruce Carter is a better fit at middle linebacker than Mason Foster was last season)
“We think Bruce has a chance to really come in and provide a quality of leadership for us. He’s played in this system before. He has had some success both at the inside backer position as well as the outside. We think Bruce can really give us something, especially his athletic ability. He’s a guy who has very good speed. He’s a smart football player. The key for him, like a lot of guys, is staying on the field. He has had the injury bug a little bit. We need him to stay healthy, but when he has stayed healthy, he has played the Mike position very well. His leadership, athletic ability and smarts should help our defense.”
 
(On which safeties are planning to play at strong safety and who will be at free safety)
“For our safeties, we like for them to be interchangeable. We might line up a guy, in certain defenses, at strong or free, but they have to be able to play both. That’s the beauty of our system. Especially with the way our league is now, with teams spreading you out so much with three or four receivers, you don’t want to just have a guy who can only play one position at safety. They will find those mismatches and take advantage of it. We ask our guys to be both strong and free, and play them equally well.  We think we have that now with Bradley McDougald along with adding a Chris Conte to the mix. We think Major (Wright) can do it as well. Now we have D.J. (Swearinger), Keith Tandy. We think we have some guys that are able and give us some flexibility on defense to not just be pigeon-holed and the strong or free.”
 
(On how a coordinator can evolve in a system from year one to year two)
“I think it is equally beneficial. You have a better feel for the players and what they can do. What their strengths and weaknesses are. This time of year, a year ago, everything you’d seen was on tape in another system. You were trying to project how they would fit into the system we were going to introduce. Now, we have actually seen Lavonte David, Danny Lansanah and Gerald McCoy play and function in our defense. We kind of know what their strengths and weaknesses are within what we do so we can better utilize their gifts, their talents and have a better understanding of what they are best at doing. Sometimes that only happens through experience. That experience should help me, should help our defensive coaches and our players as well.
 
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR KEVIN O’DEA
 
(On the late-round 2015 draft picks being able to help on special teams this season)
“Yeah, Good Lord willing. That’s what you look for in a guy. If he’s not going to step in right away and start, then hopefully his mindset is, ‘I want to be on the field and help the football team,’ and the best way to do that, the quickest way to do that and the biggest way to build your name is to play on special teams and go down and do something. Everybody notices the guy that goes down on punt (coverage) and just drills somebody. Everybody notices the guy that catches the punt and takes it to the house or the gunner who beats a double-team and comes off the edge and strips the ball out. So those guys – and that’s one of the things that I talk about is if you want to make a play, this is the time to make it. This is your opportunity and we’re going to give you every opportunity as long as you take advantage of it. All those guys, and not just the guys that we draft, (but) it’s the guys that aren’t drafted. In our first meeting I gave them 10 names of Pro Bowl and Hall of Famers that were not drafted in the league. Well, if they can do it, why can’t you? And that’s the mindset I want from those guys.”
 
(On which players he is looking to step up as leaders on special teams)
“That’s a great question and I guess the answer to that is all of them. I want to know what they’ve got. And right now we’re not in pads, so playing out here in shorts is just like being back home with the guys. But when we get the pads on, I don’t know who those guys are. I’m looking for all of them. Whether you’re drafted, and I don’t care what school you’re coming from. Come out and play. Because that’s what football is and that’s what special teams is. It’s about playing with your heart. You play with your heart and give it everything you’ve got (and) you’re going to be hard to cut. So those leaders, they’ll rise to the top quickly on special teams, because they’ll make plays.”
 
(On whether injuries hampered the special teams unit last season)
“In our business, there are no excuses. You can’t say the injuries hurt us. The fact is that the guys who are the next up, they have to be the next up. We have to do better than we did last year. We’re always looking for the best 11 to put out there, but I want the next guy that thinks he’s the next guy out to be the next guy in. We’re never going to change that philosophy. The injuries don’t play a factor in our game. They can’t. We can’t look at it like that, because then you’ll start feeling sorry for yourself (and) that’s not our business. Like I just said, the guys who play with heart, those are the guys – we need everybody to play like that and it doesn’t matter who’s in there.”
 
(On the lack of a dynamic returner last season and if that job belongs to rookie Kaelin Clay)
“First of all, we’re not going to hand it to Clay. We’ve got other guys that are undrafted that look pretty special to me as well. So, whoever that best guy is, that’s who we’re going to put in. We averaged – we were eighth in the league in punt return (average), so that means the scheme works. What we have to do is we have to block longer. If we don’t have a guy that can take it to house, if you stay on your guy, he’ll get to the house. That’s the bottom line. So all of us, it goes back to all of us, not just one returner. We had five guys last year do it. Doesn’t matter. I don’t care who the guy is back there. We have to get him in the end zone and that’s my mindset to transfer to those guys. That’s really what I want.”
 
(On what he likes about Clay)
“First of all, off the field he’s a great young man, he really is. And you guys know Lovie (Smith), that’s very important (to him), character. So when (Clay) steps in, he’s bringing high character. Now, he’s a hard worker and I want him to be a perfectionist. That’s my job. I have to teach him that. Everything he does has to be perfect, because you only get one shot. And then his past history shows us that he’s made a lot of plays, he’s made a lot of big plays, he’s been productive in college. We hope that transfers, but it doesn’t always transfer. So I’m excited about him as a person, I’m excited as he works. He’s shown a great work ethic and he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do and more. That’s what I want to see. He’s studying film, he’ll come in and ask me questions about other people, about guys in the league. That’s what I want. Guys that are taking it upon themselves to do a little bit more. That’s what excites me about him. Because, face it, we’re not tackling him, he’s not getting hit right now, so I can’t tell you I’m excited about that part yet. Come see me in August and hopefully we’re talking about that part of it, but, from the things that I can see and the things that we are doing right now, I’m excited about him. But, like I said, there are undrafted rookies that are showing me those things too, so there are a number of guys that you have to get excited about right now.”
 
(On strong special teams performers from last season that are returning in 2015)
“Russell (Shepard) played probably as good as a Pro Bowl player, and that’s what we talk about. You perform at a Pro Bowl level and guys will recognize you. And guys around the league are starting to do that. Usually when you go to the Pro Bowl, it’s not your first best year, it’s usually your second or third, especially on special teams, because it takes a little while to knock off those guys who are going and, two, for the other guys to realize, ‘Wow, when you look back, hey, he played really well.’ So there’s a lot of guys like that we’re looking at that have been here, whether they were here for four, five games that came in later in the year, or the guys who were here for 11, 12, 15 (games). Whatever it was, we look at all of our guys, and, if they make plays, we’re going to find a place for them on the football field. But, yeah, we have some guys that are coming back that we are excited about as well.”
 
(On the importance of energy and enthusiasm on special teams)
“Well, that’s the name of the game on special teams, because we start practice and we finish practice with special teams. So if you’re tired at the end and you can’t bring yourself up, we’re going to have a problem. But we don’t need you to just bring yourself up, (it’s) the guy next to you (too). And I talk to them a lot about the Special Forces in the military. That’s what you guys are, because you have to stay longer, you have to work harder and you’re not going to be recognized at all. So if you get that mindset – and those are the guys we look for. They’re excitable. It’s just their personality. You can almost pick them out in the locker room, because they’re the guys who are jacking around and talking to everybody, they’re the last ones in the shower because they’ve always got something going on. Those are the guys that I look for, because those are the guys that are going to do that on the field, because they are doing it off the field. Those are the guys that I want.”
 
(On whether any one particular player stands out in regards to that energy shown)
“No, it wouldn’t be fair for me to say one guy. You can figure out who those guys are, but you’ll really know them in August when it’s hot, humid and everybody is done running the drills and now it’s coming to special teams and those guys are the ones still yakking out there. They’re the ones. They’ll stand out for you. But I don’t want to point to one or two guys because I want those guys who haven’t had a chance to show it to show me. So that’s what I’m asking for: show me.”
 
(On the undrafted players challenging for the spot as returner)
“You can see them out there. Mostly they’re the receivers: (Donteea) Dye, (Rannell) Hall, (Adam) Humphries. They’ll be a few DBs we’ll throw in there as well, so, as you see them warming up, as you see them preparing, you’ll know them. Kenny Bell, he has a history on kick returns. So, those guys that want to do it, they’re going to get a chance; I’ll put it that way. Whoever those guys are, they have already come to see me.”
 
(On which undrafted players that went on to great careers he uses as examples to his players)
“Warren Moon wasn’t drafted. Jeff Saturday wasn’t drafted. You could pick out a ton of them, (but) those are two that just come to mind right away. Kurt Warner wasn’t drafted. Those guys are Hall of Fame guys, those guys are Super Bowl guys. Rod Smith, I think. I have a big list of them and I go through them all the time and I talk about them. Those are the guys that, hey, what’s your name? What’s your name? You have to go out and make your name. No one is going to give it to you. Those guys, they know who I’m talking about, they know the examples I’ve given them. In horse racing not too long ago, the Kentucky Derby, the winner of it was in last place. I put a picture of that up. Here they are coming around the first turn, that’s the horse that’s going to win. When I told them that, those guys went, ‘What? You’re kidding me.’ Yeah, it’s heart. I don’t care how you start. Get out there, go as hard as you can as long as you can and at the end of the day you may be the horse that wins.”
 
(On whether this season feels different from last season)
“In my mind, I’m always the same mindset. My guys have to get ready to go. Every year I’m very optimistic. I’m like Lovie: the glass is half full and getting ready to overflow, even though it looks half full. Every year is a new year. In football, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care about the name, especially in my business. That’s why I keep saying over and over, ‘Who wants to play? Who’s going to give it everything they’ve got for one play? That’s all you guys get; you get one play out there.’ So every year we’re optimistic, we’re excited. We’re excited about what we have right now and we’re looking forward to moving through this offseason until we get to pads. That’s the goal. As a coach, that’s what we live for.”
 
DEFENSIVE TACKLE CLINTON MCDONALD
 
(On any differences he sees with the defense after a full year with the Buccaneers)
“Any team, whether you’re a rookie or you’re a guy that just got added on, you’re going to feel a sense of being apprehensive getting to know everybody. It’s kind of like being the new kid at school in elementary (school) and trying to feel your way around, trying to see where you fit in at, see how the guys respond to you. A whole year after last year, back in the offseason I feel very confident in my teammates. I feel very confident that we’re coming together outside of work and (going to) hang out, whether it’s getting something to eat or go bowling, just getting to know each other. I mean, the great teams, they know each other. They know each other on and off the field and that’s what allows those guys to come together as a band of brothers.”
 
(On if he saw a transformation in the defense from the first half to the second half of the 2014 season)
“Definitely, definitely. You’ve seen a big transformation there, just like you guys (have) seen as the press and as a public, we’ve felt it as teammates. We’ve felt it as players on the field. We knew what it was about, we knew what the style of coaching and the style of defense that coach Lovie Smith wanted to represent, along with coach Leslie Frazier, and we didn’t want to let those guys down. We didn’t want to disappoint anybody on our half. We’re a defense so we worry about resolve. We worry about getting the job done and stopping the quarterback, stopping the run, eliminating the pass – things like that. So, we had to get focused on what we had to do the second part of the season after the bye week, and we still (have) a long ways to go and a lot of improving to do, but at the same time we’re kind of narrowing our focus and make it simple for us to go out there and do our jobs the best way we can.”
 
(On what ingredient the team needs to help get to the playoffs)
“The camaraderie comes first. You get a lot of ex-players, retired guys, and the main thing they speak about is the camaraderie. You know, how the guys made them feel inside – because you’ve got to think about this: those guys in there right now, all of us together, we’re a small group of guys that are coming together for one common goal – we’re playing for the Bucs. We want to bring one home for the Bucs and bring one home for the city. So with that in mind, we’ve got to have the camaraderie, we’ve got to have a good offense, a good defense, a good special teams – all that comes into play. We have good character, we have got to have positive attitudes, guys that are ready to go out and go above and beyond and do things they’ve never done to get to places and heights they’ve never been, including myself.”
 
(On how the addition of Henry Melton will help the defensive line)
“A guy like Henry Melton, a former Pro Bowl guy, is a great asset to this team at this point. Our defensive line coach Joe Cullen always preaches on getting to the passer, getting to the passer. This defense, rush and cover, works together. If you can’t rush, you can’t cover, in a sense. Both of them work one and the same. Henry Melton’s just a great addition to this team so far as helping us get to the quarterback, helping us in any way possible that he can. And coming from his experience from Chicago and Dallas, teams that won and (were) successful out there, he brings a lot of camaraderie with himself as well.”
 
(On what has stood out to him about quarterback Jameis Winston)
“I haven’t watched too much of Jameis Winston, yet. One thing I did notice when we were running sprints the other day, he was one of the first guys wanting to get up there and run and how he leads the pack when he’s running. Not to say the other quarterbacks don’t or anybody else don’t, but as a young guy, sometimes it’s easier to be apprehensive and be passive and say, ‘You know what? I’m just going to play this thing through, see how it goes, feel it out a little bit.’ But at the same time, I think Jameis takes his role seriously. I think he’s stepping up to the plate and he sees what’s on his plate, and I think he’s ready to eat.”
 
(On if any undrafted rookie defensive linemen have stood out to him thus far)
“I mean, I don’t think it’s just an individual rookie or a new free agent signee or anything. I think we’re all working hard. The guys we’ve got in our room, the coaches and the staff, are very confident in their ability to work and their ability to play on Sunday, Thursday or whatever day we play. And not just the ability to work and play, but to come out here and practice and give it all each and every day. We’re going here each and every day and we don’t look at it as another day at OTAs, we look at it as another day to get better in our craft and to work on the things we need to work out to prepare us for the season to come.”
 
(On what Winston needs to do to succeed like former Seattle teammate, quarterback Russell Wilson)
“A guy like Russell Wilson, he’s one of a kind. The thing that I’ve seen in him and that I’ve noticed about a lot of other great quarterbacks, and just great players in general in the NFL is their film study. What time do you get in the office, how much energy and effort you put into it? As well as us – the defensive linemen, offensive linemen, tight ends, running backs, everybody – I mean, if you want to be successful as a team, you’ve got to pay the price to be successful. We’ve got a whole offseason to enjoy ourselves and things like that, but when the season comes around, and even before the season, it’s time to get that film study and be a pro about what you’re doing.”
 
(On if there is a bitter taste from last season)
“I definitely feel like it’s a bitter taste in our mouth. Nobody wants to go through the league 2-14. The whole objective is to go to the Super Bowl. No team wants to go to the Super Bowl and lose, either, but at the same time in our mind it’s all about getting better this offseason. It’s all about coming together stronger than before. Warren Sapp made the analogy when he came down here last year (at the) beginning of OTAs, he stuck his one finger up and he said, ‘You take this one finger, you can break this one finger. You can twist, you can do whatever you want to do with it.’ Then he put it in a fist and he said, ‘Look at the fist, though. You can’t break the fist. The fist is stronger than one finger.’ So in our minds as Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as teammates this year, it’s to come together to get the job done.”
 
SAFETY D.J. SWEARINGER
 
(On which Buccaneers players he knew before joining the team and how his adjustment has gone)
“So far it’s been great. I’ve known Major (Wright) for a couple of years. The other guys, it’s like starting over again. New faces, but I’ve been fitting in well.”
 
(On if changing teams is a positive)
“I think it’s a plus for me to get a new start. A new city, new coaches, new players around me and just to start over again, I think that’s a big key for me and it’s something that I’m looking forward to.”
 
(On if he expected to be waived by Houston)
“I didn’t see it coming like that, but I did hear trade rumors and it was what it was. I’m just seeing it as a plus for me. If I leave, it is what it is – somebody else gets a great player.”
 
(On what he knew about the Buccaneers before joining the team)
“I just knew about Coach Lovie Smith, what he did in Chicago. I know he’s a Super Bowl-(caliber) coach. He knows how to win. That’s something I definitely see.”
 
(On what he views as his on-field strengths)
“I’d say in any defense, I’m able to adjust, whether it’s blitzing, whether it’s covering, whether it’s making tackles, whether it’s knocking the ball out, forcing turnovers, leading the defense, making calls for the defense and recognizing formations. I think I have an all-around game.”
 
(On if there are players in the league he patterns his game after)
“No guys in the league – I see those guys as my competition. Guys that I tried to model my game (after are) Sean Taylor, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.”
 
(On how he is trying to get ahead during the offseason)
“Got to stay in the playbook, first and foremost. Stay in the playbook, every day. Every time I get a chance, try to pick up on something new in the playbook. Watch as much film as I can so I can get the visual learning and just try to soak as much info as I can from the coaches.”
 
(On if he is able to play both the free and strong safety positions)
“Most definitely. My last few years, I did both in Houston. I see that as something that’s a strength of my game. Coming out of college, I played all over – corner, nickel (back), dime (back), free and strong (safety) – so that’s something that I think was one of my strengths.”
 
(On what he has seen from the other safeties on the Buccaneers’ roster)
“These guys all can move well. I’m looking forward to competing with them when the time comes, but all these guys are a good group of guys and I’m ready to compete with them.”
 
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