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Tampa Bay Buccaneers



(On T Donovan Smith being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list)

"He doesn't have any symptoms or anything – it's just the way the situation is right now. It's a wrinkle in the plan, but we've got people that are capable of jumping in and playing. Josh Wells will do a heck of a job."

(On all three specialists being removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list)

"They asked for an extra kicking period today [and] we threw it in there for them. It's great to have those guys back – they've all been performing so well. It's a big, big boost to us not having to learn new names of guys. It's hard when you go out there and you don't know the guy's name that's kicking for you, so at least we know their names."

(On the depth the team created at the running back position)

"I feel very, very comfortable with the depth at running back. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has come on like gangbusters in the last month and he's ready to play. Leonard [Fournette] will do a heck of a job, 'Shady' (LeSean McCoy) will do a heck of a job, Kenjon Barner's giving us good depth, so we've got a good, quality backfield."

(On when the team found out T Donovan Smith would be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list)

"We were aware of the contact – we didn't think it was anything near where he would be not available. It's one of those things this year – you have to be [ready] at the last second [on a] Saturday night, ready to make changes and guys have to be ready to go. It's a very unique and special year that we're dealing with."

(On if CB Jamel Dean will be available on Sunday)

"He'll be another game-time decision. He looked pretty solid today. We'll work him out again before the game and see how it goes."

(On the importance of TE Rob Gronkowski performing well in the final stretch of the regular season and how he has progressed throughout the season)
"I think he's gotten better and better – adapting to what we do [and] us adapting to what he can do. I think he's playing really, really well. He is a mismatch in certain situations, that's for sure. Hopefully we can continue to get him the ball when it counts."

(On his current health)

"Pretty solid. I've lost 25 pounds during this season that I gained this summer from COVID [quarantining]. It's been a good year so far [from that perspective] – this last 10 [days] is going to be harder [but] I feel great personally. The COVID thing is go to work, go home, go to work, go home. There's not much to life right now other than football."

(On if he feels that delegating playcalling responsibilities to Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich has taken pressure off him)

"For sure. It's not really the playcalling, it's the play preparation [and] the amount of time you put into a gameplan when you're calling it versus when you're putting in a gameplan for someone else to call and assisting them. That part of it definitely relieves a lot of stress."

(On what he has emphasized to ensure the team is not underestimating the Falcons this weekend)

"We're in the playoff hunt, so we can't overlook anyone. Every single game is maximum importance. There's a ton of respect, it's a divisional ballgame. We know these guys – they're extremely talented. They've lost a lot of close ballgames and we know we're getting their best shot, so we better make sure they're getting ours."

(On how CB Ross Cockrell has stepped up in his role with CB Jamel Dean out)

"There's no doubt. Ross has been a great addition to our ballclub. He was a great pickup. [He is a] really heady player, multiple-position guy. He's in there at 4:30 in the morning watching film, so he's been a tremendous addition to us and very valuable in these last few ballgames."


(On the challenge of playing without T Donovan Smith on Sunday)

"I think one of the biggest things that has helped us has been continuity, staying together and playing together for a while. Obviously, we've got confidence in [Josh] Wells and we know he's going to go out there and do well. Him and Ali [Marpet] will hold it down over there."

(On how he has progressed and improved now in his second season as a full-time starter)

"I think, obviously, the more you play, the more comfortable you're going to get. It's been good having the same guys in there a lot. I played with A.Q. [Shipley] a little bit – that was fun, too – but having 'Jens' (Ryan Jensen) and Tristan [Wirfs] there, it's been good. I feel like we've all been able to get on the same page and work together. It's been good."

(On the key to the offensive line committing fewer penalties in recent weeks)

"The pre-snap stuff is just focus and being locked in on that. The post-snap – I don't know – you just kind of play. You've got to have a good feel for what you think they're going to call and let go when you feel the time is right."

(On the confidence in running backs Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Kenjon Barner replacing Ronald Jones II this week)

"Super confident. Those guys you listed – everybody knows how good they are. Obviously, we're going to miss 'Ro', but our backfield is deep, so we're not worried about it."


(On playing across from OLB Shaquil Barrett)

"I just think we're a great duo. You've got duos in the NFL, but with me and Shaq, it's different. We don't argue or [anything]. It's like, 'Hey bro, I've got this. I've got this.' We're always talking. We play off each other. There's no competition at all. It's just basically – I go out there and tell the man to do his best today, I say I'm going to do my best and that's it."

(On what he likes about playing alongside Barrett)

"What I like about Shaq – from playing with him last year and this year – is he's not a selfish player. He'll take those risks that I'll drop. Other times I'll be like, 'I'll drop and you take the rush.' [We're] just playing off each other and having fun. We have a lot of fun playing this game together, especially at our position. There's really nothing [negative] you can say about Shaq. He's a good player [and] I'm glad he's on my team and playing on the opposite side of me."

(On what it would mean to finish this season on a high note)

"To be honest, I think all the guys are looking to finish on a high note this year. Our playoffs have been started. Last week our playoffs started, and we already knew that. It's a must-win game and that's what we're trying to do here. It would mean a lot for us to win these games and get into the playoffs. I know each and every guy, especially the veteran guys [with] the stories they're telling of how close they were – some were close, and some are like, 'I was there.' I was there and won it [with the Giants], but it's just getting to the playoffs at this point and running the table. That's what we're trying to do."

(On how much fun he is having in the Buccaneers defense)

"I'm having so much fun in the 3-4 [defense]. The reason I'm here is because the Giants thought I wasn't going to be good at the 3-4 position, but I'm having so much fun at the 3-4 position. My coach taught me how to drop – me learning how to drop, me learning how to read coverage, reading the quarterback's eyes, catching picks. I knew football was fun, but not this type of fun. I'm having fun doing it. I can't really say much about it, but I'm doing a good job. The thing about it is I look at myself now and what I'm going to be doing next year. Obviously, we all have battles we're facing as a human being when it comes to football, but I can't wait to see what I do next year."


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