With a full season's worth of Thursday night games increasing the number of unusual work weeks in the NFL, the issue of "short rest" versus "long rest" has become more prominent over the last two seasons. For instance, the Buffalo Bills recently voiced some displeasure on their own official web site about facing six opponents this season who have had or will have the benefit of extra rest…and it seems like a valid point.
The Buccaneers have seen both sides of that situation this year, as has every team, including the Bills. Tampa Bay got three extra days before facing Seattle in Week Nine, while the Seahawks came into that game off a Monday night contest in St. Louis. On the other hand, the New England Patriots had an extra weekend to prepare for a Week Three game against the Buccaneers, and the Falcons caught Tampa Bay's visit to Atlanta in Week Seven following their own Week Six bye.
Now the Bucs are taking on Atlanta again, and for the second time they have a disadvantage in preparation time, having played on Monday night. If that had to happen, however, Head Coach Greg Schiano is happy that it happened against a familiar division opponent.
"If you're going to play a Monday night game, I think the best thing is to have a divisional opponent the next game, because you know the most about them," said Schiano. "You know – Tampa, Atlanta, there's going to be a natural rivalry there in the division, so it's all good."
Schiano also said that he particularly enjoys preparing for an in-season rematch with a division opponent like the Falcons.
"To go back and look at your previous game book and go through it all and look at notes after the fact – we debrief after every game and go back through it, our feelings, our thoughts, what we should've done more of," he said. "With these guys, there were only three games between [matchups], so it really is pretty fresh in your mind. Now, they've got some guys back healthy, which changes the scenario a little bit, matchups and things like that, but yeah, I enjoy it. I think you learn that, as you become more and more familiar with their schemes, you can kind of start at a different point when you start your game planning."
The intricacies of planning for Sunday's game against Atlanta weren't the only topics being discussed on Thursday at One Buccaneer Place. Below are some more thoughts from Buccaneer coaches and players after practice on Thursday.
Head Coach Greg Schiano
"Good practice. We were in spiders and helmets. Guys really moved around well. I was anxious to see how we would respond after playing Monday. It was very active; both third down and red zone went in today. That's a lot of football, and offensively, especially, that's where it taxes you. I thought [quarterback] Mike [Glennon] and the receivers and the running backs, everybody did a good job, a really good job. That's encouraging. Tomorrow, we'll shine it all up and get ready to go for Sunday."
(On defensive end Da'Quan Bowers)
"He wasn't cleared to practice today, not yet. He's undergoing those tests, he's going through the protocols, so we'll probably know more tomorrow. It's a day later getting started with it because of the Monday night [game]."
(On if a decision has been made regarding the status of guard Carl Nicks)
"No. He is getting better though. But no, there's been no decision."
(On if defensive end William Gholston is in line for extra snaps if Bowers is out)
"I think we do it a couple different ways. Gholston had a good number of reps the other night. I thought he handled himself well, so he'll probably continue to get some, but there's other guys who could fill in as well."
(On what Gholston has done well to earn extra reps)
"Mostly production in practice in pass rush drills and one-on-one pass rush when we have pads on. He's growing up. He's learning how to use all his strengths. He's a very strong guy and he's learning how to mobilize that strength and use it effectively. The things he did against Miami, I think, played to his strengths as well."
(On defensive tackle Akeem Spence's performance)
"I thought he really did well, then I think that wrist bothered him for a game or two, then, Monday night, he played well again. I'm hoping that wrist [injury] is behind him. As we talked about, the rookies, I think some of them are starting to get a second wind now and understanding that, 'Hey, this is the NFL. If I'm going to be a player in the NFL, I've got to go every week.' I'm encouraged by Akeem."
(On Jonathan Casillas getting more snaps than Dekoda Watson at linebacker in Monday's game)
"I think a lot of it was the opportunity that Casillas got when Watson wasn't 100 percent. He got the opportunity, he took advantage of it. That's competitive sport. He did a good job when he got the chance, so he got more. Like we talk all the time, you earn your piece of the pie around here. He deserved more. We're looking at ways that we can use Dekoda as well, so we're trying to use our best athletic guys in different ways; whether it's at linebacker or on special teams, we're trying to get as much out of them as we can."
(On Casillas' performance)
"I think Monday night he played well. Out in Seattle, he played well. A very physical player, Johnathan."
(On allowing long punt returns)
"It's inexcusable, number one. Now, [Seattle wide receiver] Golden Tate's a really fine returner, and [Miami running back Marcus] Thigpen, the same. Thigpen hadn't done it this year. You watch his tape from years previous, he had; he hadn't done it yet this year. That one was completely – we had guys not go to their landmarks, we had guys who lost contain. We can't do that. That's how you lose games right there – field position. Fortunately, the defense was able to bow their neck and make them kick a field goal, but it was a tremendous punt, and all we've got to do is do our job as a coverage unit and we're going to get him down. Golden Tate, he is really strong. There, it wasn't as much assignment as it was just not strong enough play. He broke six tackles on the play. But that didn't answer your question. We've got to get better at it, so we've got to do our job and then we've got to tackle better."
(On if not hearing cornerback Johnthan Banks' name much recently is a good thing)
"Yeah. Now it'd be a really good thing if you started hearing it mentioned for knockdowns and interceptions, right? But as long as you don't hear it for beat-deeps and DPIs [defensive pass interference penalties] – he played every play the other night, and that was big for him. I think [he's] another one of those rookies who, maybe, is getting over the hump. Part of that getting over the hump is you're learning more and more football and how it applies to opponents. Each week is such a different battle, depending [on] who you're covering and what they do offensively, so, yes, it's another football game, but, within that game, there's a separate game for those corners, for sure. The way than Johnthan is utilized opposite [cornerback] Darrelle [Revis] is special as well. I think all that stuff plays into [it]. It's impressive that a rookie can capture all that in a week's game plan timing and go out and do it."
(On how he addresed safety Dashon Goldson and wide receiver Eric Page after their personal foul penalties in Monday's game)
"I just try to talk to them like men. I'm not going to put Dashon Goldson on the bench, he's too good a player. You could say, 'I'll bench him.' Okay, you bench him. You're not going to do that. But he knows, he knows that hurts the team. He didn't mean to do that. When does a guy's helmet come off? If his helmet's on and a guy's saying something and you go right back and say something to him, yeah, walk away, sure, but he didn't slug him, he didn't do anything. The tip of his face mask hit the guy's face. I don't think Dashon even realized that the guy's helmet had come off, in the heat of the battle, but the problem is the flag was thrown. We've just got to control it. Now, Page's was a rookie mistake, and that's what I'm chalking it up to is it better never happen again. Something even in the same family better not happen again, and I think it's safe to say it won't."
(On punter Michael Koenen's performance in Monday's game)
"Three [punts] inside the ten [yard line], three touchbacks on the kickoffs and two inside the fifteen yard line, that's pretty impressive. The one [short punt] slid off the side of his foot. Mike is such an unselfish player, because we've asked him to do some things in the punting game that, without a shadow of a doubt, decrease his gross punting, but he's a team guy and truly just wants to win. He's a good example to use with our football team about unselfishness and selflessness."
(On if directional punting was the cause of the short punts against Miami and Seattle)
"No, because we're a directional punting team, so Mike does that. Now, when you directional punt, there is the risk of doing that, because your margin of error is much [slimmer]. If you miss one and you're going down the middle, then you miss it out by the numbers. Certainly we understand the risk involved, but when you have a punter like Mike, it gives you a chance to do things like that. [Those are] kind of the things I'm alluding to as far as him being unselfish, because when you directional punt, you certainly lose distance, but it helps you in your coverage unit, beyond a shadow of a doubt."
(On Glennon throwing accurate deep passes)
"I think we're going to see him do it in games. He does it out there [in practice] all the time. I think we're going to see it in games. He's a very accurate [passer], good touch, understands placement, and that's why we keep trying to do it. We've got three DPIs in the last two weeks, so we'll take that. Hopefully some of them start to land and they're not DPIs. It doesn't only have to be deep and outside; we can do deep all over the field as well. We'll continue to take shots. I think those deep, outside comebacks that he's hit Ti [wide receiver Tiquan Underwood] on, he can rip those. Some of those throws are really good rips, so we'll keep doing that."
Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan
(On Miami's final possession Monday night)
"When it got down to the two minute [warning], the clock stopped and I thought we – because we had a chance to regroup a little bit – we could pressure, without having to try to communicate in a real up-tempo scenario. That's what started the drive off. We ran a pressure and the guys did a great job of executing and got a sack on the first down. The second one was just a four man rush we were playing coverage on the second one in and the four front guys just tore through and got to the quarterback. In starting what amounted to being a two minute drill in that way, and they were so far ahead on the down in distance, and that obviously was the key."
(On linebacker Lavonte David's speech on the last drive)
"I didn't get a first hand [account] but that's what I understood and that sounds like him. The perception is he's not a real vocal or outspoken leader. He definitely leads by his example, how productive and how competitive he plays, but we have been in that situation a couple times this year and haven't done a good enough job and, like I said, we did have a chance to kind of regroup there when the clock stopped with the two minute drill. From what I understand, he made it clear to everybody that this was going to change and it was going to change right now. He's the core of our defense as far as making all the calls and he plays every single down in all the different personnel groups. I heard the same thing and that's not shocking and I think you'll probably see a little bit more of that as he gets more comfortable with that kind of role."
(On what Jonathan Casillas earning a role as starting linebacker)
"Because he has, however he has gotten into that role like you just said, Jon has really embraced it and has taken it on as a big responsibility. In the past sometimes when guys were splitting times with other guys – not that they're not conscientious or diligent towards getting prepared – but it's not as much pressure on them knowing that they're going to play half of the time in that role. But since he has gotten to that role, he has it now and he's really embraced it and done a great job. I thought he had a great practice week last week and I told him that. Just really into the meetings and digesting the game plan, really did a great job in practice last week, was totally wired in. And like I said, sometimes when you think you're going to play 10 or 20 snaps in a certain role, you don't have that kind of focus. When you tell a guy 'you're it, you are the guy there isn't anyone else who's going to play that role unless we bring somebody up off of the practice squad.' He really epitomizes what you hope a guy would do, he completely got wound up about it and was totally riveted the whole week in practice and meetings and I think he did a good job and I think he will. I really think you'll see him take off now that he has been tagged as the starter of that position."
(On limiting big plays)
"There's a stat that we keep every week, and last week was the first time in a year we hadn't given up a play, a run over 15, or a pass of over 25. It's the first time in a year and I always tell the guys, if you can do that, you'll probably win about 99 percent of the games. It's just so difficult to nickel and dime a team down the field. The one thing I was most encouraged by, [Head Coach] Greg [Schiano] always does a great job of kind of laying out a plan, and really he doesn't give more than two or three bullet points. This is what we got, the bottom line is when the game is over we've got to be able to look back and say 'We did these two or three things,' that's it. If we do those things, our winning chances are tremendous. For last week – a lot of the times it's the same every week for a defense – but we made an emphasis to the players about stopping the run. We thought with the sacks they have given up, they certainly we are going to try to get them into a passing game, that's a way for them to protect the quarterback, possess the ball, keep it away from us, and our guys just took it as a personal challenge, did a good job in practice, went out and really ran to the ball and really did a great job of creating a flat wall at the line of scrimmage and did a good job in run defense. The that we told them is keeping [Miami quarterback Ryan] Tannehill in the pocket and keeping their running back [Lamar Miller], who has excellent speed, at least make him run inside the tackle boxes, do not let him get on the perimeter and keep the ball in front. We always say the 10-and 15-yard curl routes never going to beat you, but if you can come out of a game and say they never hit a 25-or 30-yard pass, it's just so difficult to drive the length of the field. I think we have a very competitive defense, for people to just get five and 10 yard gains; it's hard to put together a 12 or 16 play drive. They did a great job of that too. They hit some passes, they've got quality receivers, and a good quarterback and they did a good job, but we didn't get the ball thrown over our head and inevitably you find yourself in a one or two or three point game with four minutes to go in the game and that's what you're hoping for."
LB Lavonte David
(On giving a speech to the defense on Miami's final drive)
"It was just one of those moments where something needed to be said. We were in a situation where at the beginning of the year, we were in that same exact situation, last drive and we didn't come up on the winning end of it. We got in that situation again, I felt like I should step up and said something to get the guys motivated, get the guys hyped up. My words, I didn't think they were much, but it motivated guys and we got the job done."
(On his relationship with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy)
"Me and Gerald, we always talk throughout the whole game. we play behind each other most of the time, he motivates me and I motivate him, it was one of those times where you've got to let the d-linemen work. I told the whole defensive line, 'You get a chance to go get the quarterback, so go get the quarterback and let everybody see what y'all are made of,' and that's what happened.
(On how McCoy helps him do his job)
"Week-in and week-out, me and Gerald always say 'Even though it's your job, I'm a linebacker, I play off of you, and I back you up. If I'm somewhere I'm not supposed to be, I know you're going to back me up.' That's how we play, that's just how the whole defense plays. Gerald is the leader, he took me since I got here and that's the type of relationship you want to have with a teammate on and off the field."
(On if he expects to see Falcons running back Stephen Jackson to get the ball more)
"He's a great back; he's going to get to his touches. Even though their offense is more pass oriented, but you've got a great back like that you've got to feed him sometimes."
(On his safety Monday night)
"It was just a great play call by the defensive coordinator. They come in a formation that we wanted and it gave me an opportunity to shoot the gap. Either way we knew what they were going to do, they were giving us the stretch play the whole game, we knew a gap was going to open up and fortunately that gap opened up and I was able to hit him."
(On what it would mean if he made the Pro Bowl)
"It would be big, going to Hawaii your second year, that would be amazing, but you know it's up to me. I'm just going to go out there and continue to do what I do, play football, playing the game I love. I'm going to leave that to the fans and all my peers."
G Davin Joseph
(On calling a meeting and telling the offensive line they needed to step up)
"We talk often; it wasn't really one specific meeting. We try to talk amongst the group relatively often. We have a tall task of really carrying our offense in the run game and a lot of adjustments were put on us, the checks, kind of just knowing exactly what to do, because we were in Seattle and you really can't communicate verbally, you just have to know what to do. Of course finishing, being physical and doing all of the little things to make the run game work and we had some really good success. We carried it over to this week and we like it. We like the fact that our head coach, offensive coordinator put that trust in us as a group."
(On continuity playing a role in the offensive line's improvement)
"Of course, having a set line right now definitely helps, getting a win definitely helps, getting the yardage, all that stuff, it all helps. Now we have the task of keeping it up."
(On his on-field personality being different than his off-field one)
"When it comes to football I'm very aggressive and assertive and all that stuff. In life I like to enjoy it, of course I smile and I enjoy doing certain things and all that stuff just like everybody else, but when it comes to football this is what we do to feed our families and earn our living. It's definitely a certain amount of respect and time you've got to put into the game to expect the results you really want."
(On the how the running game has picked despite injuries)
"I can't even take credit on that one; they have a great coach in that room. Coach [running backs coach Earnest] Byner, he's awesome. You really see how he prepares those guys and gets them ready for the game and really how he's committed to them and their success. You plug guys in and they just take off, that's just really a reflection on how good of a coach he really is. It's good to have a guy like that on your staff."