HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
(On the passing of former Alabama and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Ray Perkins)
"Ray was a great guy. He offered me a job to stay at Alabama and I took the Temple job instead as a head coach. I've known him over the years – hell of a coach [and a] hell of a guy. He'll be sorely missed."
(On WR Mike Evans playing through injuries this season and still performing well statistically)
"Mike is all about winning. I've been around a lot of great receivers – can't say I've ever been around one as unselfish as he is. He just wants to win. Obviously, he's played really hurt. A couple ballgames, he had no business being out there, but I couldn't get him off the field. I had to fight him to get him off the field. He and Chris [Godwin] – they set a tempo in that room that's just great for young players to watch and learn from."
(On CB Jamel Dean's status in the concussion protocol)
"He cleared the protocol, but he had a very, very sore groin, so he did not practice today. Hopefully, we'll get him healed up."
(On if the team planned to hold WR Chris Godwin out of Wednesday's practice)
"There was no way with that finger – having the pins taken out – that I was going to let the ball touch him. He went through walkthrough and caught one upside down [and] backwards, but he's not going to catch any balls until Friday."
(On TE Rob Gronkowski's production this season and his role down the stretch)
"Just continue to do what he's doing. He's played really well for us – blocking well, catching the ball [and] getting open. Just continuing to grow in the offense. I think everybody's numbers are being shared, so one guy's production isn't going to be as great as it has been in the past when there were no other guys. We've got a lot of guys and hopefully they'll all have production. The numbers won't be as great, but they'll be really good production."
(On if WR Mike Evans having big games in the final month is a priority for the offense and if that would help the offense)
"There's no doubt about that, but again, you can't force it to him. We've moved him all over the place and hopefully he'll be productive and continue to get touchdowns. It would be great if he gets 1,000 [receiving yards] – that means we're doing something really, really [well]. But it's not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal right now is to win every game."
(On G Alex Cappa's performance this season)
"He did a great job in the offseason of building his strength. He has a great understanding of what he's trying to do out there. He's a great communicator [and] he's helped Tristan [Wirfs] a ton playing next to him because he is such a good communicator. [He] has made a really nice jump from year one to year two [in this offense]."
(On DL Will Gholston's performance this season)
"He's playing great. He's played really, really solid for two years and this year he's been very, very disruptive. He's a great leader in the room [and] we do have some really good, quality guys over there. Some guys have bigger reputations, but I don't know if any are playing better than he is."
(On where the defense needs to improve in the final four weeks of the regular season)
"Starting faster. Not waiting to make our adjustments in the second half and just starting faster and matching the intensity of the other teams."
(On how Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has performed recently and his resiliency)
"I love the guy. He's tough, he's a competitor, you know he's a gym rat and you know he loves the game. I don't think anything shakes him up and it's going to be a 60-minute battle with him. One or two plays isn't going to deter him in any way. We have all the respect in the world for him."
(On the Tampa Bay defense's ability to create pressure without allowing many rushing yards and his preparation for Vikings RB Dalvin Cook)
"I think it's a fine line when you think you're going to pressure the quarterback, but you've got to have gap control when you are blitzing to make sure he doesn't get out. Once [Cook] breaks it, it's usually going to the house, so we have to have great gap control [and] great discipline when we're blitzing and when we're not blitzing."
(On if he believes S Antoine Winfield Jr. has hit a 'rookie wall')
"I joked about it with him the other day, but no. He's been more and more prepared than most rookies for the length of the season. I don't see it at all in his practice habits or his gameplay."
(On Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote believing rookie T Tristan Wirfs is an All-Pro at his position and if he agrees with that)
"We're very, very, very pleased with his play [and] his ability to take the top guys and block them. He's doing every single thing we could ever ask a rookie to do – it's amazing. Larry [Foote] played for a long time and played against a lot of good players, so that's a high-quality praise for him."
(On his experience working with QB Tom Brady in his offensive system)
"It's been fantastic. From day one, getting him here [and] watching him prepare and help young players get better – he's a joy to coach and he's a fantastic competitor. I love that about him. He's been there and done it and he's helped so many of our guys who haven't [been there] believe that they can. That's a huge part of it and I couldn't ask any more out of him."
(On if he is able to think long term about Brady given his age)
"I don't see any drop at all. I've had some veteran guys that needed Wednesdays off and he's not one of those guys. He's amazing that way and how he takes care of himself. He's helped a lot of young players learn about taking care of themselves also."
(On if he is frustrated by the lack of execution of the offense's first set of scripted plays)
"I think the big thing is [that] third down has been a problem, so one of the ways to fix it is make first downs on first and second [down] and stay out of third down. But, when we do have manageable third downs – knock on wood, we've been playing pretty penalty-free – that we convert those third downs and keep the chains moving to get that rhythm. When we get in the rhythm, we're pretty good."
(On if he was surprised Vikings RB Dalvin Cook went as late as he did in the 2017 NFL Draft)
"From what I remember, we had high grades on him. He could do everything. There's been some really good backs coming out of Florida State in the last few years and we had [him] as a 'can't miss' guy. Whether he could do it off the field, that's the same question you have with every single one of these young guys anymore. Can they handle it off the field? He's done a great, great job."
(On the having a quarterback like Tom Brady who has leadership and experience in the league)
"There's no doubt about it. I've been very, very fortunate with some of the best quarterbacks that all have that. Every single one I've probably ever coached have had that ability. Peyton [Manning] Ben [Roethlisberger], Andrew Luck as a rookie was amazing. Tom [Brady], Timmy Couch, Kelly Holcomb – every one of those guys that were successful. When they got in the huddle, they had the ability to make everybody believe that this is the best play that's going to be called and run. Then, walk off, work with guys, take them to the side, work with them and bring them along. All those great ones do it."
TIGHT ENDS COACH RICK CHRISTOPHEL
(On TE Rob Gronkowski's growth throughout the season)
"I think one of the things is getting acclimated to the offense [and] getting acclimated to where he fits in and his role. Of course, being familiar with Tom [Brady] has helped and that makes a big difference. It's also getting himself back into game shape and getting those things done. You don't say he's on a pitch count, but you kind of watch some of the reps he takes and try to make sure we're getting him in the right position and the right places at the right times. I think that's helped him and I think that's why you've seen the improvement."
(On what he has seen from TE Tanner Hudson since he has returned to the team following the passing of his father)
"It's tough – he was really close with his dad. It's a tough situation. I try to give some thoughts to him about when I lost my dad – it was kind of the same thing – [because] I was very close to my dad. It's tough on you. Just making sure that he stays close to his family – that's the kind of support he [needs] right now. He's got to be strong, but at the same time, there's nothing wrong with him grieving and going through that. I think he's come back in a pretty good frame of mind. I know there's some things still on his mind and that's going to carry on, especially through Christmas [because] that's a tough time. I think the biggest thing is to be there if he wants to talk. I've got three daughters, so I can listen really [well]. Just make sure he knows we're here to help him, we want him to get through this stuff and try to make him a better man for that."
(On the overall production from the tight ends this season)
"I think it's gotten better over the last four or five games [and] I think that's good. I like some of the things they've done in the running game – [it is] important that we get the ball down field on the run game. For us to get the ball, it goes back to all the weapons we've got. You've got Mike Evans, you've got Chris Godwin, you've got A.B. (Antonio Brown), obviously, you've got Scotty Miller – there's only one ball and somebody's got to get the ball. We've been very fortunate to be in some of those one-on-one situations and some different situations where Tom [Brady] recognizes it and gets them the ball. We've been fortunate enough to make the plays and you create trust with the quarterback when you make those plays, so you get more chances. As long as you keep getting those opportunities and you make the most of them, you'll keep getting those targets."
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
(On playing meaningful games in December)
"December football is always huge, no matter what the situation is. You're always playing for something – I believe big time – if you are a playoff team, if you're not a playoff team. I would say the only time when it really doesn't matter is when the seeding is truly set, which that's definitely not the case at all. These games are crucial. These games are playoff games – big time. If we want to get to the playoffs, we've got to win these games. We've got to win this week and it just starts with one game at a time and it starts with one day at a time. You can't look ahead of yourself. We've got to have good practices. We've got to know what we're doing. We've got to prepare well. It's basically playoffs every single week right now."
(On what stands out about the offense this season and what it can improve on)
"We've had our ups and downs throughout the year. It's always better to have your ups, of course, but it's football, [so] you're going to always have downs throughout the weeks. It's a very competitive league. We've just got to stick together – that's what we've got to do. We've got to focus on the details. There are a lot of plays that I feel like we could take more advantage of and [we need to] go out there and take advantage of those plays because in order to win some games that we haven't won, you've got to make more plays than the opponent. In those cases, we've got to go out there and the plays we didn't make, we've got to find a way so that we can go out there and make those plays so we can win close games and win big games that will be coming up."
(On how dangerous the Minnesota Vikings are as they've found their rhythm)
"It could be a very dangerous team coming into December. They've got a lot of momentum going for them right now and having momentum is huge in the NFL. So, we've got to be on top of our game big time – offensively [and] defensively. They've got a lot of talent all over the place. Like I said earlier, this is basically a playoff game. Coach has been emphasizing that to us big time. This is basically the start of the playoffs for us because if we do want to go to the playoffs, we've got to win. We've got to take it one game at a time and we've got a very good Vikings defense, a very good Vikings team overall that has been playing very well together lately. We've got to go out there and we've got to give our best performance week in and week out, especially this week."
SAFETY ANTOINE WINFIELD JR.
(On playing the Minnesota Vikings after watching his father play for Minnesota during his NFL career)
"I was talking to my dad last night – we were watching film together – and I was like, 'Isn't it crazy that I'm playing against the Vikings?' We laughed about it. I grew up a Vikings fan, watching my dad play up there. I've always loved the Vikings – I watched pretty much all of their games when I was growing up – so it's going to be a cool experience being able to play against one of my favorite teams."
(On what he took away from consecutive three-point losses in Tampa Bay's last two games)
"I say we just have to start fast. I feel like we've been getting down early on in games and I feel like that's been hurting us at the end because they're all close games. I feel like starting faster [and] creating more takeaways is something we need to do more."
(On if he feels he has hit the 'rookie wall' now that he has played more games this season than he previously had in college)
"Not at all – I'm still enjoying it. A lot of people have kept coming up to me to ask if I've hit it yet, [but] I'm like, 'No – I don't even know what you're talking about.' I love playing football, so a rookie wall with me – I don't think there is one."