Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
(On QB Jameis Winston's performance against Detroit despite having a fractured thumb)
"I [saw] him throw it on Friday, so I felt comfortable with that, even though the thumb was broke. Other than that, Jameis is just doing things that I see him do every day. I see him go out, work on his game [and] get better every week. You guys just had the opportunity to see part of it on Sunday."
(On the key to getting new players integrated into the system quickly)
"Just coaching – putting in as much time as possible to give those guys a chance. We signed a few guys. [There is] nothing you can do about it, right? That's the game of football. That's where we are at in the National Football League, so we've just got to get these guys up to speed – the guys that [are] going to be in the game. We've got to get them up to speed to give these guys an opportunity to make some plays on [Saturday]."
(On if he has to remind Winston not to have the 'Superman-complex' without key offensive targets)
"He's just got to play. I mean [if] you lose Mike [Evans] and you lose Chris [Godwin] – who are you kidding, right? You are losing two of the best on the planet. So, we have an awareness of that. Then, Scotty [Miller] is down, so our room changed quick. A lot has changed on us in seven or eight days. This is the league. This is what we prepare for. We always speak, 'Next guy up.' I tell you guys all the time, I really believe in that. It's my job as the coach to try to put these guys in position to do what they can do well, so hopefully they can make plays on [Saturday]. We are going to work our tails off this week, but once we get to the game, you've got to have all of the confidence in the world in these guys that they can go out and make some plays. We'll see what happens."
(On if there is a risk that Winston might try to do too much without his regular targets)
"I guess of some sort. It's always been communicated to him before that, but other than that, just go play the way you've been playing. See what you've been seeing. I don't want him overthinking this thing. It's hard enough as it is to play the position, so you can't try to go out and do everyone else's job. Allows those guys to do their job. You just make sure you do your job – that's the mindset you've got to have as a quarterback anytime you are in this situation."
(On there being more opportunities for TE O.J. Howard and TE Cameron Brate)
"The way I see it is just still continue to put guys in position, regardless of who they are. I think it would be a mistake on me to go out there and say, 'Okay, I've got to get O.J. this ball. I've got to get BP (Breshad Perriman) the ball.' I think you've just got to put guys in situations to have success, regardless of who it is, because it can't be about one guy. So, try your best to put them in position to have success and trust that they can have that success once you have that understanding. I know O.J., I know Cam, I know BP – some of these guys just got here, I've got to learn them and know what they can do. Whatever they can do [I have] to just try to put them in position so they can have some sort of success."
(On Winston still putting up numbers even without WR Mike Evans, WR Chris Godwin and WR Scotty Miller in the lineup at times in the Week 15 win over Detroit)
"Oh yeah, and that's the mindset that we have, right? We just have to play. He's just got to go out and play. He's just got to go out, play the game of football the way we are coaching him [and] the way we have been teaching him to play, and that's everyone else around him – with the understanding that when you lose guys like that, it's difficult. But at the same time, this is what we signed up for. This is the National Football League. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us – trust me. Nobody is feeling sorry for us. We've got to do what we've got to do to help our team win football games."
(On what he has learned about WR Ishmael Hyman and WR Justin Watson)
"Well, I always knew that J-Wat just needed an opportunity. He's been here the whole time. Ish got here later in the year. I know what they can do for the most part. I know what their attributes [are]. Like I said, it's not their job to go out and be Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. It's my job to put them in position so they can do what their skillset says. Hopefully that's enough. Hopefully we can help our team win the football game. It's a team thing, so we've just got to make sure we do what we can on our side of the ball, and we'll see."
(On if he sees a comparison between Watson and Evans)
"No [laughs] – no disrespect to J-Wat. That's a tough comparison for anybody. That's a tough one."
(On if there has been an effort to change the script to reduce turnovers on the opening possession)
"No, it's not about plays. It's about execution of plays. If it was the same play that it happened on, yes, you would have a point there, but it's been different scenarios. We've just got to protect the football."
(On the Houston Texans defense without DE J.J. Watt and DE Jadeveon Clowney)
"Well, [the Texans] have had time now to play without those guys, so they know what they are right now. You just look at last week – they played a real hot football team last week and [were] able to play those guys well enough to help their team win the football game. We know what we are up against. We are up against a well-coached team. We're up against guys that know how to play [and] that have been playing good defense. A lot of those guys have been on that team for a while now, so they've been playing really good defense for a long time now, together. Now, those two guys are not there, but collectively the rest of those guys have been together and played together. They know how to play good football. We know they are well coached. We know they are going to come in here ready to play. These guys are playing for a division title walking into our stadium on Sunday, so we've just got to make sure we are ready to play."
(On T Josh Wells filling in for T Donovan Smith)
"I mean, he did a great job. We talk about it all the time – anybody on this team, we have confidence in if they have to play. Is he going to be Donovan? No, he's not going to be Donovan. It's kind of my job to understand who [are] the guys in the game, the personnel in the game, and just try to put us in the best position possible to have success. Wells went out and did a great job. He's been working hard, getting himself ready for that type of moment. He came through for us. We believe in him – we trust in him. We've just got to go out and have maybe another opportunity with him this week."
(On Winston's ability to make plays and if he is moving closer to his peak as a player)
"I still think [there is] room for improvement from the turnovers standpoint. Me personally, I've watched this kid get better every week. It [doesn't] showcase itself in stats or results. The numbers are there, but nobody is [going to] pay attention to the numbers with this kid, no matter what he does. All he can do is just keep playing, keep playing good football – continuously play good football – that's all we want Jameis to do and that's all Jameis is worried about. I understand how good of a football player he is and what he brings to our football team – he's just got to play. Playing quarterback in this league is difficult. It's extremely difficult to play quarterback in this league. When you have a guy that's seeing it the way he's seeing it and playing the way he's playing … I've watched him get better week-in and week-out to be honest with you, but it doesn't always showcase itself in results, so you can't always say, 'Look he's getting better right here or he's doing this well.' You've just got to go week-to-week, play the games, continuously get better and just keep putting us in positions to win football games. That's the job of the quarterback – put us in position to win football games. He's been doing a heck of a job at that."
(On the resiliency and mindset of the offensive line and where it comes from)
"It's the commitment to each other. In order to win football games in this league, you need a bunch of men committing to each other – not just the offensive line position, but as a whole you need everyone to commit. [There are] going to be some times where you're going to get beat [and you think], 'I hope my partner helps me out here.' That's part of the game of football, right? [There are] 11 guys out there at one time – you don't win every battle, you just fight. What these guys do every day [is] they commit to each other. They've made the commitment to each other, they've made a commitment to this football team and they've made a commitment to us to go out there and work their tails off in practice. That's why I like this team so much – I like what this team is about because of the way they go about their business every day and the way they approach football."
(On if this team has had that commitment since the beginning)
"Well, you have to build to that, right? We're all new. You've got to think, you come in here in OTAs and all these new coaches are saying all of these probably different things. I've been in that position. You've got to build the relationship with somebody before you can trust them [and] before you can be in positions of listening to someone. As a player – a player doesn't really care what you're saying until he knows that you care, right? Until he knows that you really care – care for him, care for everything around him – it's hard to get any player. I've been in their shoes. I've been in a locker room before. It's hard to get anyone to commit to anything. These guys have done a great job of committing to each other and it's just showcasing itself week-in and week-out with the way we are playing football – win or lose. Win or lose, these guys have been stand-up guys in the way they approach football. Every day is a remarkable thing."
(On RB Peyton Barber chipping a defensive player, getting up and catching a check-down pass against the Lions and the effort that it showed from him)
"It was just a commitment. You should've seen how many linemen [were] just joking with Peyton because they understand what he did. They understand the help that he gave [and him being] able to get up and have the wherewithal to get up, still be a part of the pattern, catch the ball and get 14 yards. That is just the commitment that Peyton has, the commitment that Ali [Marpet] has, the guy that was blocking the guy that kind of got around the corner on Ali. It's right what you coach, it's right what you teach, but when you see those things happen in real time, it's always a good thing. That's the effort that I say guys are giving throughout every position."
(On if he feels RB Ronald Jones II is a little impatient at times)
"I don't really think Ronald struggles with anything. I just think as a young player, there's always room for growth. I wouldn't call it a struggle thing because I don't see it that way. You've got to think like this is a young player. This is a young player where little things like that may happen. That might not even be the case on every situation, but I don't know a young running back out here that [doesn't] try to score every time they touch it. That's just the mindset that those guys that tote the ball have. He's doing fine. We grew from last week. He's grateful and can't wait to have an opportunity this week."
(On if the team is running the ball well enough to close out games over the past two weeks)
"Both of those games I really never felt anything from a danger standpoint. The past couple of weeks, we might have not gotten the yardage, but we're getting what we want. Those things will improve. Those things improve just like every other thing about us. If we just keep working at it [and] keep practicing at it every day, those things will improve. We just do what we do, but continuously try to work on doing it better – just work on doing it better day-in and day-out, play-in and play-out and you'll start to begin to see the results."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
(On CB Sean Murphy-Bunting's interception)
"He learned from it. In the first quarter they ran the same play and he was too far off and he got beat on it. He was much more aware of it the next time around and he kind of baited him a little bit too it. I don't know whether he baited him or not, but he understood the play that was coming, and made a heck of a play."
(On young players making big plays)
"I think it's good for a confidence level for a young player especially. We're nowhere near where we want to be yet, but those guys are making plays and they're understanding the system. The game has slowed down for them, so as the game slows down and they get more reps you want to see those type of plays come out, and they've been making some."
(On if Murphy-Bunting baiting Lions QB David Blough was more coaching or awareness)
"I think it was more self-awareness. I'm not sure he baited him as much as everybody's saying he baited him. He got the route early and he understood he was too far off the first time. He made the adjustment the second time and when the play came up, he recognized it, so you have to give him a lot of credit."
(On when he noticed that OLB Shaquil Barrett was capable of having a double-digit sack season)
"Probably when he got nine sacks in a short amount of time [laughs]."
(On when he knew Barrett could be special for this team)
"You knew he could rush the passer and you knew he had heavy hands. You can never equate the number of sacks because quarterbacks getting rid of the ball, scrambles and the whole nine yards. But you knew once he gets going and he got on a roll, and you saw it happening every week, you got more and more encouraged. Nine in four weeks – that was pretty special right there, but I didn't know how many he'd get before the season [ended]."
(On how different Barrett looks now compared to when he was with Denver)
"It's a little bit of a different scheme. He could do a lot of things in Denver and we have him doing a lot of things here, but I didn't know the arsenal he had in his pass-rush game. He worked on them, like he said, in the spring, so he deserves all the credit."
(On the defense's growth from September)
"Communication would be the biggest thing. I think we're communicating a lot better than what we were at the beginning of the season."
(On if it takes time for that communication to develop)
"Well, you want it to happen right away. Unfortunately, it didn't happen right away. I don't know how much time it usually takes, but I'm happy with where we are right now. We just [have] to keep going."
(On where run defense fits on his list of priorities)
"Well, if you're last in the league, it fits pretty high. If you're first – not being funny – you've got to stop the run in order to try to stop the passing game. We've got to get better at the passing game. We understand that, but we take pride in both stopping the run and trying to stop the pass. Those guys take a lot of pride up front in it."
(On opposing offenses having few rush attempts against the Buccaneers defense)
"No, I don't know. You'd have to look at the scores and see where we were at those times in the games and certain things that we do to deter some of the things in the run game. It's all mixed in-between. We'll get a look at it after the season and see where we can make adjustments."
(On the depth at defensive line)
"It's good to see them playing together. All those guys are unselfish. They play for each other and they set each other up for certain plays. You love that part as a coordinator – seeing that happen."
(On signing guys back for next year)
"I think that's something, when Jason [Licht] gets up here, you guys can have a great conversation."
(On losing S Jordan Whitehead)
"It's tough. I mean Jordan was having a solid year. He got better each week, he's probably one of the hardest workers I've every seen on our team and made one of the most significant jumps from the beginning of the year to when he got hurt. His timing was better. His technique got better. His understanding of what we're trying to do got better. So, it's tough to lose a guy like that, but we've got to have a next man up mentality, so we have to have people ready to play.
(On Texans QB Deshaun Watson)
"Besides the athleticism and him being able to run and throw – I think he's a winner. I think he competes. When the game gets tight, he knows he has to make a play. He's confident he can make a play and you appreciate that when you're playing certain people. And I appreciate that from him."
(On Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and where he would rank him among receivers the Buccaneers have faced this season)
"I don't know about the receivers we've faced, but in the league, in my opinion, he's top two. I don't know who the other one is, but he's one of the best in the league, obviously. His work ethic and him seeing single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage, competing, his hands – everything he does, he strives to be the best at it. So, he's a tough matchup."
(On the importance of his relationship with HC Bruce Arians and Arians saying Bowles might have been the smartest player he's ever coached)
"Number one, Bruce lies a lot [laughs]. We have a great relationship and coming down here – as well as with the rest of the coaches I've coached with – Bruce has created a great atmosphere for me, as well as the rest of the coaches. As far as us being together and chemistry from a coaching staff and relating to the team – I'm happy I'm here. I love Tampa."