Mike Alstott is on pace for his first 1000-yard rushing season
Buccaneers.com: The Bucs have used in a variety of formations this year, with and without lead blockers. Do you have a specific formation you like to run out of the most?
Mike Alstott: Actually, I like the fact that I get to play in all of those formations. It's kind of like college, being out there 80, 90 percent of the time. Even when you're not the one carrying or catching the ball on a play, it helps you stay in the flow of the game to be out there. I've had the opportunity to run the ball a lot more this year, which I'm happy about.
BC: You have a career-high 4.2 yards per carry so far this year. To what do you attribute that improvement?
MA: Well, again, I think that comes from running the ball a lot. More carries means more chances to break a longer run, which helps your average. If you're still running the ball in the fourth quarter, the defense is usually getting tired and you can put up some big runs up the middle. I also have to give most of the credit to our offensive line. No back in this league can have a good rushing average if his line isn't opening that initial hole. I don't care how good you are.
BC: At the pace you're on, you'll finish with right around 1,000 rushing yards this season. Is that a specific goal for you?
MA: It's not really something I've sat around and thought about. I think it would be good for the team if I got there, because that would mean our power running game was working over the last month of the season. To be honest, I'm much more focused on making the playoffs.
BC: You know, all of your touchdowns last year were on plays of six yards or shorter, while all of your TDs this year have been from 17 yards or more. Any idea why?
MA: Well, if you look at any of those plays, everybody on the offense did a great job of blocking. The line opens a big hole, which lets the fullback get to the linebacker and the receivers keep the cornerbacks away. Sometimes I've only had to beat one guy, like in Green Bay. Plus, we haven't had that many first-and-goal situations this year. We've done a lot of our scoring from long range.
BC: You grew up in the Midwest. Do you like living in Florida now?
MA: You've got to love the weather. I take advantage of the chance to fish as often as I can, and obviously there's a lot of different types of fishing you can do down here. It's also nice to be practicing in December and have it be 70 degrees outside.
BC: So, fishing is your big hobby?
MA: I love being on my boat. It's like another home for me. It's very relaxing, with the waves and the quiet…there's no phone or front door. It's an unbelievable experience out on the ocean.
BC: What are you trying to catch?
MA: It depends on where and when we go out. I like to fish for tarpon…that's my big goal, to bring in a big tarpon for my wall.
BC: Is there anybody whose style your trying to emulate when you run?
MA: People have told me that my running reminds them of John Riggins. That's a big compliment, but I'm not trying to be like anybody in particular. I don't have a specific plan when I run. I'm just the type of guy that puts his shoulders down and runs hard and uses his instincts."
BC: But so many of your memorable runs are tackle-breaking carries, where you fight for extra yardage. That's pretty much your style, isn't it?
MA: Well, I do go into each run with the idea that I'm not going to let just one guy tackle me. I think I win most of those battles."
BC: Don't you think that's probably the way Riggins felt?
MA: Yes, that's true. He never gave up. He was a hard-working guy and a hard runner who loved to play football. He didn't get a lot of yards out in the open…he bulled his way for everything he gained and earned it. I think that's why so many fans liked him. It was fun to watch him refuse to go down. I'm trying to do the same thing.
BC: That's all part of the 'toughness' that people see in you on the field, the reason that a lot of Buccaneer fans enjoy watching you run. Where do you think that 'toughness' comes from?
MA: Well, first of all, just about everybody out there in the NFL is tough. It's a rough sport. But whatever toughness I have I think comes from my parents. My dad was in the Marines and once spent 13 months in the jungle. Both my parents have worked very hard their entire lives. What I do is no tougher than anything they've experienced.
BC: Let's talk about the annual Mike Alstott Football Camp. You spend a lot of personal time at that camp every summer. Is that difficult to work into the schedule?
MA: No, I like it a lot. I really believe that that kind of thing is part of the territory when you are a professional athlete. Playing football gives you more than just the game…you get a lot of people on your side pulling for you, living the game through you and supporting you. I think you have to accept that, and use it to give back. The camp is a fun way to do that. Besides, I don't mind being busy. I like having a lot to do.
BC: What do you try to teach the kids at the camp?
MA: I bring in a lot of guys to go over various areas of the game, but one thing I try to get them to understand is that hard work is part of the fun. After a rough game, when you're tired and dirty, it's a good feeling.
BC: You signed a new contract with the Buccaneers in 1998 rather than letting your contract run out at the end of the season and test the free agent market. Was it a matter of security?
MA: Well, I had always dreamed of getting a long-term NFL contract, so yes, the security was important. And I was happy that the Buccaneers considered me an important part of the future. But I also wanted to stay here because I thought we had a great chance to win.
BC: But then the 1998 season was a disappointment for the team, at 8-8. Did you think the team would rebound in 1999?
MA: You're right, we were all disappointed by 1998. I didn't see that coming. But, yes, we thought we would get it done this year. We think we're a better team than when we made the playoffs in 1997, and we're starting to play with a lot of confidence right now.
BC: What do the Bucs need to do to get into the playoffs?
MA: We're in a good spot now if we can just take care of our own business. I think we need to be more consistent, all of us, especially on offense. Our defense has picked it up and is playing good every week now. We need to do the same on offense. We've had some good games in the second half, but we've had others where we could have kept it from being so tight at the end of the game.
BC: You had 65 catches as a rookie in 1996 but haven't really come close to that total again. Did you think after that year that you would catch more passes?
MA: Well, yeah, but I have also had a lot more carries every year. I'd like to catch more passes, but we're all basically greedy players. I'm happy with the role I'm in. We've thrown the ball a lot more to Warrick (Dunn) this year, and that's worked well for us. If you look at my rushing and receiving stats over the last four years, they pretty much add up to about the same overall, in the 800-1,000 range. I want to produce more overall, but I guess it doesn't really matter if it comes on runs or catches.
BC: You may not know this, but the Buccaneers are 21-4 in the regular season in games in which you've scored a touchdown. That seems to go beyond coincidence. Do you have an explanation?
MA: That goes back to what I was saying earlier. Our offense centers around our running game. If I'm scoring, that probably means our running game is working, which means the game is going well for us. If I'm scoring in the fourth quarter, we probably have a lead and are trying to grind it out. I just wish we hadn't lost those four games!
BC: As a rookie, you just missed the Pro Bowl, but you've gone each of the past two years. Now you're in a position to have a shot every year, it seems. Is it still a thrill or is it old hat, now?
MA: Believe it or not, once you've gone to the Pro Bowl, you're just as hungry to get back there again. It's a great honor and it's exciting to be there among the best in the NFL. I want to go every year, if I can, but I'm really a little more interested in playing in January than February.
BC: Any parting shots?
MA: Nope. If you want to know anything else, I'll be in the chat room this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. See you there.