HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"How about the injury list first? Guys that did not practice: Da'Quan Bowers is getting better, but isn't quite there yet, William Gholston same thing, Bradley McDougald, Rashaan Melvin and Louis Murphy. Besides that, everybody was able to at least practice on a limited basis, we're in pretty good shape really. We had a few guys that won't play, but looking at everybody else on this football team, for all we've been through, the numbers are pretty good right now. A good Wednesday practice, game week, they don't need a whole lot of pep talks to get ready for practice and they know what's at stake. In training camp you make a mistake it's, 'Hey we'll get it right the next time, we have time,' but now every rep counts and you don't want mental mistakes. We just want to be able to go out there and let the guys perform and if they're better than us, fine, but it's not. Game plan-wise, normally Wednesday will be a first and second down game plan for us and Thursday will be a third down game plan day for us. Jeff Tedford is getting better. He stopped by yesterday, I don't have any more information to give you beyond that. Our offensive staff will be making the calls this week, the offensive staff is doing the game plan along – of course I've been involved in that as I am on both sides of the football."(On if Tedford has to be cleared by doctors before he can come back)
"He has to be cleared. Once he's cleared, I'm going to ask him, but in the end if I think he needs some more time, we won't let him go, but he's making progress. Again he was in the office yesterday, so we'll see."(On if the offensive staff will be calling plays this week)
"If Jeff's not available, but no, [Jeff] has not been ruled out."(On linebacker Lavonte David and why he hasn't been recognized by the nation)
"I don't know why he hasn't. If you're a linebacker guy and you've looked at the linebackers in the league then you should notice him and ask about number 54 down here. He can do it all that you ask an outside linebacker to do. He can guard tight ends, receivers; he's an excellent zone coverage guy; he has good hands; if we wanted to make him be one of the better pass rushers as a linebacker, he can do that; he's disciplined; do you want me to stop or keep coming? Just everything that you look for in a linebacker he has. [He's] Team captain – it takes a lot to be voted team captain also. Did I tell you guys that I was out last year? When I was out last year, I got a chance to watch, you always look – I wanted to get a chance to really analyze the linebackers and Lavonte David was one that I just loved his game then and now I get a chance to see it daily. More people are taking notice to him, how can you not?"(On describing Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks with the same words)
"A similar description to [Brooks] and we've had a couple of 55s – in our defense as a whole we've had great Will linebackers to play, of course Derrick being the Hall of Famer, but we've had great Will linebackers to play the game and Lavonte David can do – again everything we want that position to do, he can."(On if there is something special about the first game of the season)
"It won't be my first, but it seems that way every year. Did I tell you guys I was out the league last year? Being out last year, you appreciate it more, but opening day is special. Preseason games are fun, but they are glorified practices. To see our team come out of the tunnel – and, again, I said you don't need a pep talk this week, the intensity has picked up, guys want to get it down, and more guys are staying afterwards just trying to get themselves in the best position to show our fans exactly what we have. I cannot wait to see the guys run out of the tunnel and get the game started."**
Photos from practice at One Buc Place on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.
(On being familiar with facing Carolina after playing them in his last three years at Chicago)** "It's helped a lot. I think, I was counting today, I think I've worked – either had on my staff or coached someone like [Carolina wide receivers coach] Ricky Proehl, I was on the staff with Ricky in St. Louis and I think it was eight guys off of their staff. I know quite a bit about them, of course, with [Carolina offensive coordinator] Mike Shula down here. All great guys, great coaches, and for them they play similar defense. They have our playbook and we kind of know what they're going to do, but in the end it comes down to execution on that play. We respect what they do and they're a challenge and I can't wait to compete against them."(On what he took away from Wednesday's practice) "I just liked the way guys were into football and knowing that every play counted and there's a sense of urgency to get it right. Guys were helping each other out. It was hot out there today and it'll be hot of course Sunday, but guys not just wanting to get through practice, but we all wanted to get there because there are looks that we have to have. I've talked a lot and will continue to talk about the matchups that we have, our offensive line against theirs, but I'm also talking to our defensive front saying, 'Hey it defensive line versus defensive line, which one is the best?' Linebackers versus linebackers, I want Mason Foster to know who Luke Kuechly is and Thomas Davis should know who Lavonte David is. We have some excellent players from both sides at a lot of positions this week."(On bringing safety Major Wright back) "We cut him and then we decided – we put Charles [Sims] on [injured reserve designated for return] and then [Wirght] was available and then we asked him to come back. That's hard to play out, but yeah it helped. I know him. A lot of things would be new for me as we come out at Raymond James Stadium this week, but I've been with Major Wright to know how he performs and how he'll handle game day and just what he's bringing to the table. Again we're trying to get the best 46 dressed, the best 53 on our roster and we feel like he's one of them."(On how the team replicates Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in practice in order to prepare for him) "It's just hard. There haven't been many athletes, many quarterbacks, come through like him. Strong arm. And we've had good fronts, you know, good players matching up against him – he's a hard guy to get down. Of course, he has great speed. It's a challenge each week when you play against a guy like that."(On if more stock can be put in the team's depth chart now as gameday approaches) "Yes you can. Again, that does go right up until game week, though. On some positions, we really do pay attention to how a player performs in practice leading up [to the game]. And if it's close and one guy performed a lot better in practice, we'll make that move too. The league tells us to come up with a depth chart right now; that's how we see it right now. Of course, things can change. But for the most part, this is who we're going with."(On if cornerback Mike Jenkins' lack of practice time is a concern) "It's a concern. It's not an ideal world for us for him to miss all that time. But conditioning-wise, Mike has been conditioning. We took our time with him. Wanted to make sure he was pretty much one hundred percent before we put him out there. But he's been running. As Mike said, 'Hey, I've lived in Florida for a long time.' And he's looked good out in practice. So I don't think there are any issues. It's not like we're going to play him 60 reps this week; we'll ease him back into the mix. But there's a chance all three guys could play."(On if he likes running back Doug Martin saying he feels like a rookie all over again and has to prove himself on the field again) "Yes, and I want all of the guys to feel that way. Yeah, it's not my first time, but I sure feel like a rookie with something to prove – we all feel it. And to a man, they'll all tell you that. Who doesn't have something to prove? Of course with Doug missing last year too, it's kind of special for him. Doug Martin, just from the moment we've had him, he's done everything. He works hard every day. A lot of running backs, when the defensive guys hit them, they complain; Doug never says a word. He just keeps going. I know he's been a Pro Bowl back and yeah, he's been our bell cow. For us to be successful, he needs to have a great year."(On if he has given a specific challenge to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the season) "We have. We've talked. Everyone has talked an awful lot about Gerald McCoy, and we should. Very seldom do I make the statement, 'Best at.' But to me, he's the best at his position in the league. That standard – I'm always talking to Gerald about that. 'Gerald, you can't blend in, you can't be gray. You have to stand out. Lead us.' And the great players accept that challenge. 'You can't give me too much.' He's knows what's at stake this week. That's why we have confidence too. I think you can be a good team if you have good players. But you need a couple of special players in the group and I feel like we have that. And again, we have a lot of confidence right now. But you say all those things and then you come back to we were 4-12 last time we were on the field. We have a long ways to go. We like the potential. I know potential can get you in trouble, but I just think in time this group can end up doing something."(On what it takes to be a return man in the NFL and how running back Bobby Rainey has looked returning kicks in practice) "The first thing is to catch the ball. People take that for granted. But it's first, catching the ball, then getting positive yards. It's kind of simple as that. Every yard you get, it's one less the offense has to. But you've got to make somebody miss. Just know they're going full speed, want to knock you out. You've got to be able to make a guy miss. It's as simple as that. And then go vertical. Bobby can do that, along with a few other guys that we have."(On if you need to be fearless to be a return man) "You have to have it. Of course. You have to. It's a little different: kickoff returns, you have time to catch the ball, they're not right there on you. You know that from the moment you catch the football, it could be that quick. That's a part of it and guys realize that and that's why it's a tough position. Guys like Bobby [Rainey] love doing it. Bobby has been in my ear a long time. 'Hey, Lovie, I can do this. I'm the guy.' If he's back there this week, he'll get his chance."(On who won the competition for slot receiver and if it was wide receiver Chris Owusu) "Chris is one of the guys that can play it. We have a couple. For the most part, Mike [Evans] and Vincent [Jackson] will be in their position. But beyond that, Louis Murphy can play inside in the slot, Robert Herron of course can play inside to the slot. We feel like we can go with different flavors in there. Normally, you'd think about a quick, fast, athletic guy in there. Robert is more probably geared toward that. We have different body types also."(On the matchup against Carolina defensive linemen Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy) "Two great players. I'm talking about Hardy and Johnson. The matchup, we have to play at a certain level. [Anthony Collins] and Demar [Dotson] both realize that. But they're good football players too. That's why we brought Anthony here. He knew who we play, he knew what division we're in. And of course Demar, he's seen both players. Good tackles look forward to that challenge quite a bit."QUARTERBACK JOSH MCCOWN
(On starting the first game of a season since 2007)** "Hopefully everything will be fine. It's going to be reflective right now in the way I prepare and I just appreciate this opportunity. I know and understand the journey that I have been on. To be in this situation, it's very humbling and I'm very thankful for it. I think I'm soaking it in right now, just in my preparation and the way I go about my days, because I want to make the most of it. I want to help this team win. It will happen as it happens, but we're out there to do a job and out there to win a game and that's the main thing."(On how much of his athletic ability he has lost over his career) "I don't know because it's not like a car where you can look and see the gas is low. I feel good and I feel that I can do the same things that I have done. I look at tape and I try to look at it with an honest eye, 'Do I look different?' I feel okay and I feel like I seem the same. I don't know if that means that I lost anything or not. I just try and continue to do and play the way that I've played and let it sort itself out that way."(On if him being able to still dunk tells him where his athletic ability stands) "I'm trying to move away from the basketball. I've been encouraged to get away from that all together. To answer your question, yes I've [dunked a basketball this summer] and all that means is that I can do that."(On how important it is for the team to get a quick start in the game and for the season) "It's very important. I think it's important for every team in the league. All 32 teams want to have a quick start, they want to get off to a good start and we're no different. We understand something that Lovie has been preaching in that we want to win the home games. We've got to win the home games and have a home-field advantage. The fans are important to us, getting them behind us and with us. We know part of that is winning early and giving them somebody they can get behind so that we can build and we can make Raymond James a tough place to play. Getting off to a quick start and winning games early will have added value because of that and it's certainly something that we want to do."(On the impact offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's absence has had on the offense) "It's been an adjustment because obviously you have one guy that's leading the offense the whole spring and summer and now you take him out of there, you remove him from the situation and there's going to be some adjustments, but the coaches have done an outstanding job of pulling the weight, picking up where they needed to and coming together and being able to present us with a plan and all of those things. Hats off to those guys, we certainly miss Jeff and we wish him the best and hope that things improve quickly and all of that and we'll just see whenever he's back, he's back and we'll be excited about that. For now, the coaches have done a great job of picking up the slack."(On his journey that has led him to this point) "I don't know if I can quickly reflect on it, but it has been scattered and it's been – I think every person can look at their life it's different, everybody's journey is a little scattered I think. I think they can take pieces that they've gone through and reflect on those and I've certainly done the same thing. I look that places that I've been and played and coaches that I've played for and players that I've gotten to play with and then my families journey through that and it's all helped build me to be a better man, a better person, husband, father and all of those things. In those moments they're tough and it's certainly not something that I would want for anybody. But at the same time, when you come out [on] the other side of it, I just feel like you see the reasoning behind it. I feel like I understand why I went through that and the benefits it gave me as a person and as a man."(On what is crucial for this offense to succeed) "I think you have to start with just protecting the football. On offense that's one of the main elements, we've got to protect the football and especially with the way Lovie wants to do things, that's first and foremost and then our balance. If you take 'protect the football' as a given, then I would say our balance, our capacity to run and throw the football effectively. When we find ourselves in a game where we need to run the ball we can turn around and give it to Doug [Martin] and Bobby [Rainey] and those guys and pound it and feel good about that. When we find ourselves in a game where they're going to pound it and take that away, we can get it outside to Mike [Evans], Vincent [Jackson] and Austin [Seferian-Jenkins] and move the ball around that way. I think that's critical for us, to be balanced and to be effective in both of those and not necessarily be focused on one or the other, but to be able to have both of them as a weapon."(On the challenge Carolina's defense presents) "They are probably as good of a group you'll see. They're well put together, especially with the ends, but the guys inside are solid players as well. We understand that, it's going to be a challenge for us, Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are two of the better defensive ends in the league and we understand what's ahead of us with this front seven. You talk about those four and you talk about the guys behind them, especially with Kuechly and Davis, just the athleticism that they have upfront is something I think every defense covets, you want to be able to play like those guys play. We'll have our hands full."(On if he sees why Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was upset to lose guard Logan Mankins) "I see why [Tom Brady was upset]. Logan is first class, he's a pro. We inserted him on the first day and he was on top of everything with minimal study time or preparation time relative to the rest of us. He's been awesome. I understand Tom's frustrations, I would understand anybody's frustration when you take a guy like Logan off of your team or away from your franchise because he brings so much, not with how impressive he was on the field, but his presence, his work ethic and the way he approaches the game."(On his ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs) "We'll see. I hope to assess it and look at it and feel like – again I feel like I can do the same things that I have done. A different part of my journey, I have not spent every year taking every snap. The neat thing about the league right now is that we have so many guys, especially when you start talking about Tom [Brady] Peyton [Manning] and Drew [Brees], guys that are playing at a high level are older guys in the mid-30s or older, but those guys have taken every snap. For me, I feel like if there is a difference it's that I have not taken the poundings of that over the course of my career and hopefully and I feel like it does lend to me being able to do the same things that I've done early in my career."(On how excited he is to be able open up the offense for the regular season) "Whatever it takes for us to move the ball, that's what we'll do. We're certainly excited about not having to be cryptic about it anymore and we can just lay it out there. We feel like the best thing about Week One is, you do this a little bit in preseason [game] three a little bit, but you're really putting a good game plan together where you're intent on executing these plays at a high level, you're going out and practicing them, you're studying this tape over and over again. That's the fun part, that you really feel like to the full extent, even in preseason game three you prepare for that team, but you don't necessarily unleash everything that you do. We know that we can go into this game planning and getting ready without having to hold things back and that's a good thing. Certainly I want to be able to get balls up to Mike and Vince and you hope that it's a part of any offense that has a couple of guys that over 6'4" at receiver."LINEBACKER LAVONTE DAVID
(On if he is surprised at how little national attention he has despite his level of play)
"It's not up to me. I've just got to be consistent with my level of play and maybe it will come along. I'm just trying to continue what I do best – go out there on Sundays, have fun with my teammates, and try to win games especially."(On if the team is preparing as if Cam Newton will be 100 percent)
"Of course – it's Cam Newton. When he's playing, he's 100 percent. You've always got to be aware of that. He's a dangerous football player whenever he's on the field. He has great athletes around him and he makes those guys dangerous too when you have a quarterback like that who can make anybody he plays with a dangerous player. So we're expecting him to be one hundred percent."RUNNING BACK DOUG MARTIN
(On what the offense is capable of)** "This offense is capable of a lot of things. We have Josh McCown – great leader as the quarterback. We've got two big receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and Austin [Seferian-Jenkins] for the tight end. We've got a great line and we have myself as the running back, as well as Bobby Rainey and Mike James. We're capable of a lot of things this year and I can't wait to see what this offense is going to do."(On guard Logan Mankins) "I've watched some film on him and he's a great pass blocker and a great run blocker – he's consistent, and that's very important with anything you do in the league. You can see that he's learning the offense very well. He's asking a lot of questions and he wants to get better and be a part of this offense."(On what needs to be done to beat Carolina in Week 1) "Disrupt Cam Newton, number one. I believe our defense is going to do a good job. We've just got to be consistent. Follow the details and just keep on being consistent throughout the game."DEFENSIVE TACKLE GERALD MCCOY
(On linebacker Lavonte David)** "He doesn't like talking about himself, he doesn't like really being brought up. But here's the thing about him: just that characteristic – he's so humble but he's so talented. I don't even think he realizes how talented he is. All week, he'll joke around. But Saturday night and Sunday, whole day, he just zones in and turns into another person. I think that's why he plays so well. He's a playful guy, always having a good time. He's just a very, very humble and laid back person."(On how good of a player David is) "I don't think he's good, I think he's great. Continuing that greatness is up to him. But at this moment, I think he's great. Just a great football player in general."(On Mankins) "The thing about Mankins is he's real quiet. He has controlled chaos. Once he steps across those white lines, he turns into a different person. Walking around, he's just kind of laid back, old school. He's a vet. I just now crossed over into the vet realm, but he's been a vet. So he knows how to play it cool."(On if he has extra adrenaline for this game because they are facing a division rival) "Not because of that. Because it's opening day – first real game of the 2014 season. Obviously, you want to win any division game. Another motivation is we're at home. We want to go undefeated at home. One thing I do want to say is it's going to take our fans. We really, really need a home field advantage this year because we have a really talented team. Our fans coming out and helping us, we're going to need it. So I'm looking forward to that."(On if the game plan has been changed knowing that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has injured ribs)
"Cam Newton is Cam Newton. He's a two-time Pro Bowler, Rookie of the Year, all that jazz. We're still facing the division champs. Until somebody takes that from them, that's who they are. The team runs and he runs, so we're preparing for Cam Newton. I don't really care about the rib or back or whatever it is. We're just preparing for him as if he's 100 percent. That's all we care about."