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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12-28-2003 - Post Game Quotes

Head Coach Jon Gruden

(Opening statements) First of all, I would like to congratulate Tennessee on a fine regular season. They are a very good team. Anthony McFarland sprained his ankle in the first quarter and was unable to return. John Lynch had some stinger problems at the end of the first half. I'm obviously very disappointed in where we are and where we finished but I will answer any questions that I can.

(On how frustrating the has this season has been following the Super Bowl win) It's a frustrating year following a Liberty Bowl win or any bowl win. It's very frustrating. We are very realistic about what has occurred here in the last year or so. A lot of things have changed since Super Bowl XXXVII obviously. I like our football team and I believe we have a good solid nucleus. However, we have some things we do have to improve upon.

(On the effectiveness of the pass rush) We did expect a little bit more pass rush. Obviously their commitment to running the ball on early downs had a little bit to do with that. It's a credit to the Tennessee Titans football team. They are very good.

(On pulling Brad Johnson and playing Shaun King) We had planned on playing Shaun a little bit. Obviously, we had hoped the circumstances would have been better. He has worked hard and deserved an opportunity to go out and play a little bit. We have been in a lot of tight games this season and it has been hard to get him in there. I think he showed some of the things he is capable of doing.

(On John Lynch's hit in the first quarter setting the tone of the game) It was a big hit and a big play. We didn't like giving up that amount of yardage and an opening score. That was a big play certainly that woke up both sidelines.

(On why the defense didn't keep the intensity up)

It's not all about intensity, complacency. Sometimes it's about the fact that the other team is pretty darn good also. We had some opportunities to make some plays on both sides of the ball. Once again, we struggled dramatically in the kicking game. We failed to achieve any kind of field position. It's tough to beat an outstanding team on the road like Tennessee.

(On Brad Johnson's interceptions) The first play was a middle screen. Jevon Kearse makes an unbelievable play coming from the backside. The second one, Tank Williams times it perfectly. Great play, we got a good look on the slant to Michael Pittman. The third one, he gets high-lowed as he is throwing. There's not a hell of a lot you can do about that.

(On if the Titans are a good enough team to make a run for the Super Bowl) There's no question. They have the number one rushing defense. They got a quarterback that is an MVP caliber player. With Neil O'Donnell, say what you want, he's been here in the system for a long time. It's not like everything for foreign to him today. They got a big back and outstanding receivers. They are a big physical football team just looking at them. They are a very good team. They are indeed capable, that's no question.

(On if this was the toughest season emotionally as a head coach) Any time you lose, you are emotionally taking back a little bit. But you got to be resilient. You have to have some resolve. You got to have a lot of confidence. What needs to be done and how we are going to go about doing that. I'm sure that the leaders on this football team and the coaching staff included feel the same way.

(On who decided that Warren Sapp would return to the game following his injury) He had some lingering foot problems for the last three or for weeks. Plantar or however they say that. He fought through it. He had limited on the practice field for the last month. But he wanted to finish the game on the field with his teammates and I credit him for that.

(On what Warren Sapp has meant to the franchise) There is no question. From afar and from up close at gunpoint range, I know what Warren Sapp's about as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. He is a Hall of Fame candidate. The most feared, most productive inside player in my time in this league. We will see what happens. I hate to sit here and paint a bleak picture that we have decided whose going where or if he's decided on whose going where until we take a little bit of time and move on.

QB Brad Johnson

(On interceptions) I feel bad for what happened on all three of them. I don't feel bad for the way I read the play. I would have probably made the same play again on all three of them. (Jevon) Kearse makes a great (play on the) tipped ball. The safety makes a great jump on the slant. And the other one was the guy hitting the ball that went up in the air. Unfortunately, I was the one that had the ball in his hands. It probably would have happened to every quarterback out there today.

(On being replaced in the second half) At this time of the year with our record and the ways things are going, I think it was great that Shaun came in there. Shaun gave us a spark and played really well.

(On what we can see from this season) We have some tremendous players here. There is still a lot intact. Going into next year, this year doesn't help us, doesn't hurt us. I said that after the Super Bowl win, and I say that after a 7-9 year. It will be a new beginning. We will have a great offseason. We will come back energized for next year. Unfortunately, this year we had a lot of bad breaks and it just didn't go our way.

RB Thomas Jones

(On being active on offense) We had a lot of different plays and I was able to get in situations where catch the ball and where we had some defensive looks where we could run the ball. Coach Gruden made some great calls at the right time. We just didn't execute and we had too many turnovers.

(On looking ahead to next season) I look forward to having a great season next year. I am going into the off-season training as I hard as I can and try to get ready.

DE Simeon Rice

(On the season) Just get on the bus and move on. Put this chapter out of your mind, but understand what you went through, learn from it, gather yourself up and go back to the lab to create a monster. I am going to come back next year and create a monster for you, but I can't speak for anyone else. I am accepting at this point. It is what it is. It has been a long journey of ups and downs with this being rock bottom. Going home is as low as you go. I haven't been in this situation since I was with Arizona. It is a lesson you grow from it, you learn from it and you move on.

(On Warren Sapp) He is a good player and a vivacious guy. I love him to death. I would love to see him come back here.

S John Lynch

(On playing for pride) It is different. It has been a long time since we have done that. You are watching the shows and they are talking about people going to the playoffs and it is a different deal for us. You just become accustom to be playing football in January. That is the reality of where we were at. Wow we had to come out and play against a very good football team. They played better than us today, a lot better.

(On the Titans reaction to his hit) I appreciate his teammates sticking up for him. What I tried to convey to them after they had all chilled out a bit was, it is just football. Coach Fisher came up to me and said, "I know you are not a cheap player and my team knows that."

LB Derrick Brooks

(On losing) I don't like losing, I am not going to make excuses for losing, and I am not going to be associated with losing. It has been a long time since we have been 7-9. I would like to promise our fans that I will be back. It starts with me to lead this football team. I am not making excuses for injury or lack of big play or whatever it may be, I won't make excuses. The person that it starts with is me. I can make that as a personal promise. That is what next year will be for me, personal. That is how I came back after the last 7-9 season. I made it personal, I made a promise to this franchise, and I am making it personal right now to make this franchise a winner and take us back to the Super Bowl.

(On the skeptics) They have their opinions and they are entitled to them. That is what fuels me. I was around when 5 wins was a winning season let alone 12 so I can appreciate their criticism. The best thing about this is that we have a Head Coach who has stepped up and said he will not be associated with losing. With him making that statement to this team, I can't do any but get fired up.

CB Ronde Barber

(On his response to doomsayers) We still have guys who play good football. We are a veteran football team, there is no doubt about it, but being a veteran team doesn't make you old. It makes you experienced. We still have guys who play with a lot of heart.

(On what he would tell this year Super Bowl Champs about why it is so hard to repeat) It is more coincidence than anything else. It is incredibly hard to win week in and week out in the NFL. That is just the nature of this game. We have had some bad breaks, but other teams have had some bad breaks. There is no formula. If things are going right for you and you are playing well, you win Super Bowls.

(On Warren Sapp) I can't worry about that. I have a job to do, he has a job to do. Those things tend to work themselves out.

(On the feeling of being out of the playoffs) That is what we have had to deal with this year. We are way too inconsistent to be considered a playoff team. I think that we have learned to deal with this year, but it is not something that we like. It is not something that we are going to try to repeat. We will be back. It is a bad deal for us right now. We go from being the talk of the town, king of the stoop, to where we are now. Anytime you don't win the Super Bowl it is a losing season, but when your record is below .500 that is embarrassing. We are way too talented to be 7-9.

Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher

(Opening statements) If somebody before the season had told me you have a chance to go 12-4 and start the season by defeating the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl and end the season by beating the world champions, I would take that. That is basically what happened. This year was a great effort by this team to get us in this position. It is hard to imagine to win 12 games and not win the division. Congratulations are in order for the Colts. We are in the dance. We look this week to have the chance to go to Baltimore.

As far as this game is concerned, it was a must win for us because we felt the Texans would play the Colts very well. We did everything possible to win this game. We elected to go with Neil (O'Donnell) over Steve (McNair) to rest Steve. Steve was better than he was last week and he could have played. However, we felt our best chance to have success in the postseason was to give Steve some extra opportunity to rest.

I can't say enough about Neil. His stats are obvious. He did a great job against a very good defense. He put us in position now to proceed as the fifth seed in the playoffs. The two quarterbacks in relief of Steve (Neil and Billy Volek) both had ratings of over 100. That is a compliment to the quarterbacks and the offensive staff.

Defensively, the four turnovers were the obvious difference. We played hard against a very dynamic offense. They do a great deal of shifting and have a great deal of skill.

(On Neil O'Donnell's preparation) Once we got him under contract last week, he came in and played like he hadn't even left. There was a chance he was going to play last week. He took a crash refresher course in the offense, but of course he didn't end up playing. I think the additional week really put him in position to make good decisions today.

(On the offense's confidence in O'Donnell) Our offense had a great deal of confidence in Billy against Buffalo and again today with Neil.

(On Eddie George's performance) We saw him be the first back since Jim Brown to gain 10,000 yards without missing a game, which is quite an accomplishment for Eddie.

(On John Lynch's hit on Justin McCareins in the first quarter) John's not a dirty player. He is a Pro Bowl safety. That was just one of those things. Things started to get a little out of hand. We had a couple of penalties that hurt us as a result, but we settled down. This officiating crew did a good job of keeping things under control.

(On facing Baltimore) It is a great challenge. They are a good football team. They are very good on defense. They run the football very well. Because they have locked things up, there is no telling what they will do tonight. We are going to go back to the office and get ready. We are going to prepare as if we have a short week with a game Saturday.

(On DT Albert Haynesworth) Albert was put on the inactive list today. He will be back to work tomorrow because of disciplinary reasons. The rest is between me and him. I told him to return to work tomorrow at 10 a.m.

(On not flashing the Colts score on the scoreboard) I didn't want it to be a distraction. Despite what you say to a group of players, they know what is at stake. I didn't want it to be a distraction. I wanted them to stay focused on this game. There was a couple of times where we announced the score when I thought it was helpful. There is no telling what the opposite effect would be on your club. We thought we would be better off if we just lined up and played.

(On George's confidence level) He's been gaining momentum the last four or five weeks and the timing is great. It is just where we need him right now. Chris (Brown) is doing a nice job in relief, but Eddie feels good and is healthy. He is explosive and gaining momentum.

(On starting O'Donnell) We discussed it all week. I was leaning toward Neil after we saw him work during the week. He had such a good feel for the plan. It was my plan to hold Steve out in the back of my mind.

(On field position) We didn't have to drive the football. We had short fields and were able to get points. Gary (Anderson) did a great job for us. There was a significant wind in the first half and he did a nice job. The turnovers were the obvious difference. They are a tough offense to match up with. You can see that by the chunks they were able to gain.

(On the injuries) Justin McCareins came back after a mild concussion. Frank (Wycheck) has some sore ribs. Jevon Kearse has a back contusion but I think he will be OK. Kevin Carter had a head and neck injury when he got hit by a teammate. I think he will be OK. Robert Holcombe should be back this week.

Titans QB Neil O'Donnell

(On how it felt to be back) It felt great. It felt great to be back out there with all the guys, just having fun again. I've had a lot of tough Sundays the past four months, but this was one of the better ones. I was excited. The team did great. The offensive line - I can't tip my hat to those guys enough. They kept me clean all day. Sometimes I got to even the third or fourth reads and that's the offensive line giving me that type of time.

(On if he surprised himself) The hardest thing about playing our position is the speed of the game. You could go through all the practice you want, but you never get that tempo. And I never was one in my career to hold the football. It's one thing Steve McNair does extremely well - he improvises. He can get outside and make things happen and buy time. I'm going to get the ball out. That came back pretty quickly for me. Especially by the second quarter, I felt like I had some rhythm in me. That's all you try to do with this position is get some rhythm and get the ball out and get it in the right person's hands.

(On when he knew he was starting) Probably about an hour before the game. I kind of told Steve I really wanted him to rest. He's our guy. He's going to take us where we have to go. I thought that was the best move they did to sit Steve down today and rest him. He's the MVP and he's the one that's going to lead this team to where we have to be.

(On Eddie George being more involved in the passing game) Just from watching tape, one thing the Tampa Bay defense does extremely well is line up and say 'Okay I've got you and you've got him.' They have so much talent on that defense, they don't try to trick you. I kept watching tape time after time how that back was always leaking out the back. Always. I saw Peyton Manning hit them a few times when they played them. I just kept running the tape back and watching that. I just gave Eddie a heads up. I said "Eddie, if one and two's not there, I'm going to come back down and check down there for you. Eddie did a great job sneaking out there.

(On renewing the relationship with Derrick Mason for big plays) It's kind of amazing how we clicked so fast. A lot of those routes were timing routes. Literally, I've been in camp - some camp - I've been in real season for almost two weeks. And when I first signed here, I didn't want to overdo it and stay out after practice because those guys' legs are shot. It's week 17 and they don't want to run for me. And I don't want to throw too much. To be honest with you, I wasn't throwing much. We had six inches of snow up in New Jersey. To go outside and try to find someone to throw a football with in week 15 is kind of hard.

(On if he was nervous) No, I never was one to get nervous. Even when I played, I get anxious. I want to play Saturday. I watched all the games yesterday and sat around. I just wanted to get it going. It felt great to be back in there, it really did. It was a lot of fun, it really was.

(On the two minute drill at the end of the half) I love doing that. I love calling the plays and getting involved in doing that. I practice that a lot in my mind. I go through situations and where we're at, even when I'm sitting around on Saturday. If there's a minute fifty-two and we've got one timeout, I'm always wanting to go through a scenario of how I want to try to call plays and get the ball downfield.

(On when he began to feel comfortable) I think second quarter. I felt like by the second quarter, with my eyes I could move the linebackers especially. They're such a sound defense. If you have to move Brooks, because they will stay in position and make plays. He's a great linebacker at reading the quarterback's eyes. You watch him. He gets all his interceptions from watching the quarterback go across the field. He makes a lot of picks that way. By the second quarter, I felt really comfortable in the pocket, putting people with my eyes where I wanted to and going back to the side.

(On importance of leaving the game on his own terms) Extremely important. That's the biggest thing. When I leave this time, I don't plan on being in anyone's camp next year. When I leave this time, I have a clear mind. I'll be able to walk back into the Titans facility again if I ever need anything or if I ever want to see anyone. I actually felt like that I always had that if and that what if. I'd watch games on Sundays and think that guy's not that good. I could have been there. That's the hardest thing to live with. I've been blessed with 14 great years. I looked at this opportunity as a little opportunity with two games remaining in the regular season that could turn into something humongous. Meaning the Super Bowl. It's great to be back in the locker room - that's what I miss the most are the guys in the locker room. For an older gentleman in our profession, they keep me laughing a lot.

(On Frank Wycheck saying that with him in the huddle nothing's ever changed) That's what all the guys in the huddle were saying. Benji Olson doesn't say much, but when he says something everyone listens because his voice is so high. He said, "Hey, Neil's back." I've been with those guys. I've spent a lot of time with them. I've been through a lot of battles with those guys - the offensive line and Frank and all them. I tell you, I really felt like, by the second quarter, I felt like I'd never left the game.

(On what would be the perfect ending) The Super Bowl.

(On you taking the knee in the Super Bowl) Steve could take the knee. I don't care. I've got two AFC Championship rings. I don't have a Super Bowl ring. Steve deserves it all. He does, he's the one who put us in this position to go all the way. I would love for him to take the knee and I'll carry Steve off.

(On conversations with Warren Sapp) You have to talk to Warren before he talks to you. So that's why you try to always start the conversation, because he'll wear you out in the game. I've played against Warren plenty of times with Pittsburgh. He's a great player and he kind of knows his days are over there. So, that's what he told me, he's going to move on.

(On the importance of knowing if he would start) Steve started feeling better Friday so I kind of said he may go on Sunday. I kept telling Steve it would be good to rest you. Let me play. I need it more than he does. He knows how to see all that. You never know with Steve. He's last minute. He's a warrior out there.

Titans RB Eddie George

(On his confidence level and if he feels he's ready to take it to another level) Oh yeah. Definitely. I think you work to get to this point especially the post season. You come and work hard every day and now it's here. It's the time we've all been waiting for since last year when we were out in Oakland. It's going to be the hard way and it starts off in Baltimore. So the mindset is ready. The veterans are going to have to do. The rookies are going to have to sit back and watch and emulate what we do and just take them one game at a time.

(On if they have something to prove against Baltimore) Not necessarily anything to prove. We definitely want to go in there and win. We all know what's happened in the past with this team. They've been a thorn in our sides and sometimes to move on in the future you have to be presented with the past. Maybe this is one of those times.

(On if the feeling of reaching the 10,000 milestone was as special as he thought) Yeah. Yeah it was. Getting up to it people were telling me I was 5 yards away. I said please don't tell me because you tend to get over anxious and you just want to get it over with. The offensive line I think they wanted it more than me. They did a great job up front. I'm just grateful and thankful that I got the opportunities today to get it. Going into this game saying you need 78 yards against Tampa Bay. It's like wow you got a tough task but I just thank God that I got it.

(On how aware he is of the guys that join him with this milestone) Very aware. If you're playing football you always know what goals are out there especially at your position. So I am well aware of the group that it includes. I'm just very blessed and honored to be in that group to play every game in my career and accomplish that goal is something I'm very proud of.

(On how it felt being involved in the passing game more today) That was good. I felt like as I get going, I get the ball a little bit more and I get hit a little bit more I get more involved in the game, I get my juices going. They made some great calls with the screen which is something we haven't done in quite sometime and now going into the playoffs gives the defenders a different look. They have to expect it now.

(On how Neil O'Donnell was in the huddle) The same Neil. Not skipping a beat and I'm not at all surprised by his demeanor or his leadership abilities. He just brings so much confidence to this team. He's done that since 1999 and he had a little layoff in between the last year and now but it was the same old thing. I'm just glad he's back. I'm glad that he was available for us.

(On if he could tell that O'Donnell was having fun out there) Of course. Neil is always having fun. Two touchdown passes and he's just coming back. He's a veteran. He's a professional. He did an outstanding job in place of Steve (McNair).

(On if it matters who they face in the post season) No. At this point it doesn't. Every opponent is going to be tough. You have to expect it no matter if we have to go to Cincinnati, Baltimore or play here for that matter it doesn't matter. What matters is the preparation. Knowing your opponent and it's going to take a little luck. We're going to go prepare hard and go in there and give it our best shot.

*(On what the history with the Ravens means) * It's an illusion at this point. We've had our mishaps against them. Like I've said before in order to move on in the future you may have to face your past and this is definitely a huge challenge for us because that team is a team that plays well at home. Very well at home. We all know that #52 is going to be able to get them going. We'll be up for the task and go in there and give it our best shot.

(On how it makes him feel to hear people question his ability) I really don't pay any attention to it. Just give me opportunities. Let me show that I'm not "over the hill." I'm in my 8th year. I know players that are in their 10th, 11th and 12th years and are still playing this game. The reason why they're probably saying those things is I haven't put up the numbers in years prior and that's ok. Things go in cycles and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to show I can still play this game at a high level.

(On his individual match up vs. Ray Lewis) It's always going to be special. It always has been. He's beaten me the last five times and here it is an opportunity for us both in the playoffs and that's what it's all about.

Titans WR Derrick Mason

(On O'Donnell's performance) Neil was having fun. I don't think he got touched in the pocket, which was big. The offensive line did well protecting him. Neil did a great job today. He had a lot of zip on his passes.

(On O'Donnell being prepared) Neil was ready to go as soon as he stepped out on that field. His main thing was to win us this ball game and in the process have fun. He was doing it. He was having a lot of fun and playing great.

(On Mason's two touchdown day being overshadowed) Yeah, but that's good. We had our running back go over 10,000 yards. You can't overlook that. We had our backup quarterback come in without playing a game all season and come in and have the game he had. You can't overlook that. Without Neil throwing throwing the ball to me I wouldn't have been able to have those two touchdowns. Without Eddie (George) running the way he did, I wouldn't have been able to get open in those zones. They deserve all the credit today.

Titans S Tank Williams

(On the Titans' defensive effort) The game had an intensity you'd expect from playing the defending Super Bowl champs. They gave us their best shot and we handled it. Heading into to the playoffs momentum is key, so to get four turnovers today and put the offense in a position to get points because of the turnovers is a good feeling. We just have to keep it going.

We have the common goal on defense of just playing good solid, football and that's all we think about. The interceptions were just being in the right place at the right time. Some of it is studying the receiver and some of it is just being right there and the ball just comes right to you.

Their quarterback has a good grasp of their offense. He knows where to go with the ball. We had to put a lot of pressure on him and make him hurry his throws, throw where he doesn't want to or make a bad throw on the run. When our defensive line does that, the interceptions will come. The safeties have been trying to get an interceptions and it's good to get the monkey off our back and get two. I was happy to get that goose egg off of the category of interception by my name.

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