Josh McCown absorbed a season-high six sacks on Sunday in Detroit and was hit hard on several other plays. On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback admitted that he "did not feel very good on Monday," though he said it with a laugh. McCown's toughness was never really in question, but his resilience in repeatedly getting off the Ford Field turf was a boost to his teammates on Sunday.
"It drives us," said rookie WR Mike Evans, who caught two touchdown passes from McCown against the Lions. "It makes us tougher. He's a tough guy getting hit like that. You see it more when you watch film – he was getting beat up. He's making throws and he kept bouncing back up and he finished the game."
McCown, in turn, said he was motivated to shake off those hits when he saw All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, clearly aching from a bruised knee suffered in the first quarter, go back into the game after a short time on the sideline.
"All I know is what it did for me when I saw Gerald come off the bench after he had his injury or whatever and get back in the game, fight to get back in the game," said the quarterback of his fellow team captain. "He's a guy that has been paid a lot of money and is playing on a team that is out of playoff contention. There are a lot of reasons to go, 'You know, I'll just sit this one out, the rest of this one out.' But he got back in there and fought for his team. So I know what it did for me, seeing him get back up and do that. It encouraged me, makes me want to play harder. That's what we all do. That's what we get paid to do. I'm not the only one out there battling through injuries and hits and stuff like that."
That final point is obvious on every late-season injury report, but the Buccaneers were merely happy on Wednesday that both McCown and McCoy were on the practice field. McCown, in fact, wasn't even on the report, though he must surely have some lingering soreness. McCoy was on the report but, with outside reports of the extent of his injury greatly exaggerated, he was able to practice on Wednesday in a limited fashion.
Photos from practice at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday, December 10th.
The Buccaneers' other defensive All-Pro, linebacker Lavonte David, practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, as well, which means that he has obviously done well to this point in the tests necessitated by the league's concussion protocol. Starting left tackle Anthony Collins, who missed the Detroit game with an elbow injury, was able to practice without limitations.
The Buccaneers made a switch on their 10-man practice squad on Wednesday, and while that won't affect the lineup on Sunday in Charlotte it could be an indication of how that lineup will shape up. Namely, the team released a tight end (Taylor Sloat) and signed a linebacker (Ka'Lial Glaud), which is likely a sign that they needed more help filling out the practice-field reps at that latter position. That's understandable with linebacker Brandon Magee going on injured reserve on Tuesday and starting middle linebacker Mason Foster missing another practice with his Achilles tendon injury. Foster did not play in the Detroit game, and by midway through the fourth quarter of that game the Bucs were down to just three healthy linebackers.
On the other hand, tight ends Brandon Myers (calf) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) were both on the practice field Wednesday, if limited, after missing the last two games. Tampa Bay's full injury report can be found here.
Carolina's injury report has a big name on it: quarterback Cam Newton, who was involved in an auto accident near Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday. Newton thankfully escaped serious injury but did suffer a pair of transverse process fractures in his back. Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera confirmed on Wednesday what seemed inevitable: Derek Anderson will start at quarterback for the Panthers, though Rivera did not yet say whether or not Newton would be active for the game, too.
Obviously, Newton did not practice on Wednesday. Four other Panthers were held out: C Ryan Kalil (not injury related), G Chris Scott (foot), G Amini Silatolu (knee) and RB DeAngelo Williams (hand). RB Jonathan Stewart, who had a season-high 155 rushing yards in Sunday's win in New Orleans, was limited by a hip ailment. Carolina's full injury report can be found here.
The health of the roster wasn't the only topic discussed at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday. Below are some additional thoughts from Buccaneer coaches and players about Sunday's game against the Panthers.Head Coach Lovie Smith
"Injury list: Mason Foster, Clinton McDonald, and Bobby Rainey all are still nursing their injuries, so they weren't able to go. Rest of the group was able to at least practice on a limited basis: I'm talking Gerald McCoy… Lavonte David, of course, getting better; Austin Seferian[-Jenkins] is getting better also, so it's good to get some players that's been out for a while back out on the football field. Carolina beat us in a close one the first time we played them. Quarterback-wise, of course, we played Derek Anderson the first time. So whoever plays, we're going to get ready for the quarterback position, even though it would be a little bit different game plan that they would use. Last week, Carolina really looked good. Looked like the [divisional] defending champs, not the team that had lost seven in a row or whatever. But to go down to New Orleans like that and win is saying quite a bit. Played well in all three phases."
(On the decision to stick with quarterback Josh McCown)
"We're not looking at guys. Just like every other week, the guys that start are the guys that I think give us the best chance to win. That's not going to change. Week 16, it will be the same way. We may tweak here and there on some of the things but, you know, I won't be announcing it, obviously, until we get to the game. But Josh as our quarterback gives us the best chance to win."
(On the hard hits that McCown took in the game last Sunday against Detroit)
"We all took a pounding. Wednesday, normally guys are back into the flow, anxious to get back out on the field. So that was our football team. A few of the guys have bruises a little bit. Except for those guys I talked about, everybody was out there. Spirited practice for a Wednesday."
(On trying to get first win against a NFC South division opponent and establishing themselves within the division)
"[The division has] been off, but we're going to have a division champ that I think will do fairly well when they get into the playoffs. What we still can get accomplished is that this week we're playing the defending champs and they really looked good last week. For us to get momentum going into next year and just [get] momentum and start winning, just to get a win and play better, that's what we have to look forward to this, that in itself is enough. Eventually these are the teams that we have to beat. We played them well the first time – I say well, but I mean we were in the game, had an opportunity and I think we're a better football team than back then, they say they are too. I'm anxious to see."
(On if there was a discussion to play quarterback Mike Glennon in order to look ahead to next season)
"Not at all. It would be pretty hard to tell the guys we're looking to the 2015 season and we're just going to start doing it that way. What I've talked to the team about is that you come to work, you try to win every week, so how could you do it any other way besides that? The future is not here right now. This is the 2014 season and we feel like we can get some things accomplished. With the organization we're all on board with what we're going to do on these last games now, whether that means looking at someone, if we look at someone it's because we feel like they give us the best chance to win and we'll see how that goes."
(On what the wants to accomplish in the last three games)
"Just win a football game, let's start with that. You laid it out, we haven't won a division game, haven't won a home game, but this week we want to win a division game. We have figured out how to win on the road, we just haven't figured out how to win division game yet on the road. Starting with that and once we get that accomplished, then we start checking off other things."
Quarterbacks Coach Marcus Arroyo
(On quarterback Josh McCown's toughness)
"He's definitely tough, I think that's his nature. It's one of the premier qualities you look for in a quarterback – his toughness. He's displayed [it] again this year. He'll keep getting up – keep getting up physically, but then mentally too. The ups and downs of quarterbacking – mentally tough, gone through a lot, working through adversity and trying to help him through that as well. We're working through it together, obviously. Tough? Yes, absolutely."
(On if last Sunday's game at Detroit is one of the toughest that McCown has played in his career)
"He took a couple good shots. [Ndamukong] Suh will get you if you're running around out there too much, that seems to be his deal. He'll hit you and hit you hard. [Josh] got hit pretty hard and kept getting up. Had Mike [Glennon] ready a couple of times, just because you see a guy take a hit like that, you've got to be ready. He's back today and we'll see how he feels."
(On the effect McCown's toughness has on his teammates)
"I think it's all the things that we probably all think. You see someone going through the situation – whatever it may be – bounce back from something that looks like an adverse situation [and] really stand back in there and look you in the eye and get back in there, I think that's uplifting and I think it's a tribute to him. Then you want to be able to match that. That toughness is what we're trying to impart here. That's one of coach's creeds, toughness, and our quarterback has been displaying that."
(On the substitution plan against Detroit and not using backup players as much)
"The substitutions were probably more of the game plan. Obviously we've been banged up so I think that limits some of it. Going back two weeks ago and who we had with that group and then last week we had a couple of [people] back – the substitution part I think is more game-plan specific. We didn't use as much of the bench and part of that, obviously, we can control what we're doing schematically a little bit more. There's a couple of things we wish we would have done more of, looking back on it. That's just part of the few things that you look at. Our bench guys are ready, our bench guys are prepared with what we ask them to do. It will be the same this week."
(On the change in mindset now that the team is eliminated from postseason contention)
"It's all kind of new to me. Obviously, this transition will be – this first week of how that mindset happens is the first time kind of going through it obviously. You know, we're still trying to go today and go get better. Obviously there's guys that will be doing roles based on however [Coach Lovie Smith] deems the roster should be moved around and that is out of my control, I don't have anything to do with that. All we can do is explain exactly where we're at and he'll control the roster, let us know who we've got, who's going to be where – there might be some subtle changes to look at some things, but I'll let him comment on those. I think some of that might take part, kind of seeing who can do that, what are you looking for, what's the future hold, what these guys can do now. Obviously, the other part is because we're still new, still moving guys around. The front's been different at least six or seven games already. It's about finding out who's where, who can plug in, who can help out – at all positions, the front was just an example. I think that's probably going to be evident this week is finding out a little bit more about guys."
(On if calling plays for players that are still learning the offensive system is more difficult)
"That's hard to answer – you've got to be careful. You've got to know what your guys are, whether they're elite guys or they're new and their plugging and playing, I think more than anything who we are is we've got a group that's just learning our system, number one. New guys are coming in and playing without as much experience as others. There are times when your game plan becomes a little bit watered down, but situationally it's also taken into account. What can this guy handle? What can we all handle? What is the situation of who we're facing and then where the game's at? It can play a factor at times. You don't want to put a guy at a disadvantage, you'd hate to do that and we try our best [not] to do that. You look back on it at times, can you truly control that? You hope they line up with not that look and that one thing, because there's always a weakness somewhere. Not as a person, but as a scheme usually you get something."
(On.what he has learned after 13 games working in the NFL)
"I think the big part is that execution is still the key to this game, it's executing what you're running and that's at every level. It's executing what you want to run, it's eliminating the things that hurt you and doing the things that you know win football games. I think as a young coach coming in you find out 'Ok, are the things that you believe are time-tested and infallible, do they still hold water at the NFL level?' They absolutely do. Not turning it over, not beating yourself, winning the critical situations and playing hard in the fourth quarter and finishing, those are the things, coming in that I believe and I knew, I was taught – those things are still here. Not turning it over, not beating ourselves, winning some critical situations in third down and red zone and then finishing a game is one of the biggest things in the NFL. This is a touchdown league, a six-point league. You can lose in the last fourth quarter like that [quickly]. The analytics held true coming in, as far as knowing, over the course of studying it, what it is that stays consistent within the league, and two-minute is one of them. The end of the games and the numbers that come down to end of games – end of games are perfect example for us. I've learned a lot about myself and ball. That'd be a really long conversation. It's definitely something I'm excited about continuing to learn each day. I'm learning more from these guys each day and learning more from ourselves and learning more about myself. Watching a game, I'm probably as critical as anybody could be, maybe too critical at times, because you don't give yourself, at this level, a pat on the back at all. You kind of take it in the chest."
(On how he sees the quarterback position and the offense going forward)
"I don't control the roster and where Coach believes how the future is going to play out. All we can do is go in and evaluate who you've got. Mike [Glennon] will be ready to play, if Mike needs to play, if Mike is in that position."
(On if changing quarterbacks was discussed following Sunday's game)
"The only reason it was discussed is because Josh, [coming out of] that game last week – the only discussion that was had was 'Is Josh going to be physically ready to play?' Other than that, it hasn't gone that far. We're all understanding that Mike will be ready to play. He was ready to play last week, he'll be ready to play this week. I have all the confidence that if that moves forward, then we will be ready to roll. And he is doing a great job preparing – he's a pro."QB Josh McCown
(On whether last week's game was the worst he has had in terms of getting hit)
"I don't know. I'd have to go back through a lot of games. But that's part of it. You're unprotected as a quarterback when you get hit a lot of times, because you're throwing. So the shots look different, but a lot of these guys take poundings week-in and week-out when they get hit. Sometimes, if you're fortunate enough at quarterback, you might get through a game or two or a week or two where you don't take any serious hits. There are guys who do it week-in and week-out, so I understand that, they are really tough guys. It's part of it. At this position, if you find yourself where you're getting hit a few times, you just have to get used to it and move forward."
(On how he feels today)
(On wide receiver Vincent Jackson and whether he is considered 'elite')
"Especially based off last game, he's elite for us. When you can go out and catch 10 balls for 160 yards, I think you're doing elite things. But that's hard, because it's subjective. Everybody has their own opinion of what an elite receiver is. I've been fortunate enough to play with a lot of good ones, and I think he's right up there with them, because of what he brings to the table, not only from a knowledge standpoint, but he's just a physical, big guy with speed and catches the ball well. I think he still has that, I don't want to say label, but he's in that class of upper-echelon receivers for sure."
(On what Jackson provides for the team)
"He's a pro. Obviously he's one of our captains, so he does a ton. Just from a leadership standpoint, the way he approaches his job every day and how he helps lead that room. I think it helps Mike [Evans] to have a guy like that to look up to and see how he's going about his job, how he's going about his work. It also helps because it's one thing for a young guy like Mike to have a veteran receiver in the room, but it's another thing to have a veteran guy who is playing at a high level and has played at a high level for a while, and kind of a big guy who can relate to Mike a little bit. So I think that's an added value to us, to have a guy like Vince in that room. You can't say enough about him, what he does for our team and his work ethic and the way he handles himself. It's not only good for just Mike and the receivers, but it's good for everybody."
(On how much of Evans' success can be attributed to Jackson)
"Obviously it has played a huge part. You can never really measure that, but it's played a huge part because, again, I think it's one thing to tell somebody how to do something. It's another thing for them to get to see an example of how it's being done. And I think that's the best way to sum up Vincent. When he goes out to the practice field, the little things that he does and the way he approaches his job is huge. It's huge for all the young guys in that room. I have no doubt that has contributed to Mike being able to have some success so early."
(On remaining the starter this week and what he feels about 2015)
"If you look back through my career, I've learned to just take it year by year [laughing]. But I did come in for a reason, and I've said this before. I had opportunities, but, obviously, to work with Lovie and to build something with him, to be a part of that, is something that I want to do. So I am behind him 100 percent, whatever he decides to do. If that's to take a look at another player at another position, or at my position or whatever, I'm fine with that, because I want to help him build this team. And until they say, 'Hey, you're no longer a part of that,' then I'm going to do that. So that's kind of my mindset. I understand, moving forward, yeah, if they're sticking with me right now, where that leaves me, and obviously it's encouraging to have another opportunity to go at it and again, like we've said earlier, to kind of build momentum for moving into 2015."
(On whether he was involved in any discussions with coaches on Tuesday regarding starting)
"Coach makes those decisions, so we do what we're supposed to do as far as playing. That's above my pay grade, so to speak. I let him handle that and just carry out my job the best I can."
(On if he thought that the team might start quarterback Mike Glennon)
"Well, I mean, I've been around long enough and been in situations where they do that, where an organization will say, 'Hey, let's do this.' So, I understand your question, but, for me, it was just about helping this team win, trying to help this team win, and then onto the next week. I know a lot of football people say it, but it's kind of one day at a time. Whatever is in front of you, go do that until you're told otherwise. That was really my mindset. And I have not been told otherwise."
(On what he does to recover from a game and get physically ready for another)
"[Head Athletic Trainer] Bobby [Slater] and the guys in the training room, they do a heck of a job, as good as anybody I've been around, of just fighting to get guys back on the field and aggressively treating guys and going, 'OK, how can we attack this and get you back right.' All of those things are part of the regimen. Just rest, stretching, massages – all those things fit into that in order to help you get to a place where you feel like you can go out and execute and do your job."
(On being approached by fans)
"I take pictures with people, but that's about it. I just encourage them that we're working and that we're, I said this last night on the radio show but I believe it, we're building a backbone and you find out a lot about your team when you're 2-11 and about the core group of guys you're trying to build with when you're like this. Those who can go out and work right now, those are the guys I believe you want to build with. The guys who will keep fighting. It lays a great foundation for the future, and I think when you have a great foundation, you can have lasting success. If you're foundation is not good, it might look all right for a little bit, but then it will fall apart. I believe that right now, we didn't want to be in this situation, nobody did, but in life you have to find value out of everything, out of every position, every spot you're put in, you have to find good in it. The good for us is that we can measure ourselves and who we are and the character of us as men when we're put in a bad situation and how we respond. When the carrot is taken away from you, how do you keep working? Do you go out there and do you compete today at practice like you're 11-2 instead of 2-11? Can we do that? And I feel like we can. I feel like when we do that, and we finish the next three weeks out the way we want to, working that way, it will have laid a great foundation for us moving forward. I think that will serve us well for a long time, and it will serve Bucs fans for a long time, because that's the way you want to build things is with a strong foundation."
(On finding validation in work despite the team's record)
"I think it's just that. It's the way that you go to work. In this business, it's results-based. There's no question about it. But there's also a part of the journey and the process that I have found great value in. It's just the way I approach those times and the way you approach these times. I think, for me that I look back on, those are the things that I'm proud of. And I would say that to anybody else going to work that maybe is in a job that they don't want to be at. It's not necessarily what you're doing, but it's the motivation in your heart and the way you go about that that is where you find real value and peace in your life. I think just speaking for me, and I know there are other guys in the locker room, but that, for me, is what gives me the most satisfaction and peace. It's knowing I'm going out and working and giving it the same effort that I would give if the record was flipped and it was 11-2."WR Mike Evans
(On if it surprised him seeing McCown continue to get up after the hits)
"No. I know he's a tough guy. He's been doing it all year."
(On what the team's focus is this week having been eliminated from playoff contention)
"Look to win. I'm trying to win no matter what, and I know my teammates are too. If I'm playing pickup basketball, I want to win. If I'm playing pool in the player's lounge, I want to win. I'm going to try to win. We've got to finish the season strong."
(On the possibility of setting the franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a single season)
"It would be cool. It's a great accomplishment for me and my family. Hopefully I get it."
(On if he was surprised at the coaches' decision to stick with quarterback Josh McCown over quarterback Mike Glennon)
"I don't think about any of that. Whoever's throwing the ball, it's my job to catch it."
(On Texas A&M teammate and Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel getting his first career NFL start this Sunday)
"I'm pumped, man. It's going to be fun to see that. I hope they don't play the same time that we play – I want to see that."