HEAD COACH BRUCE ARIANS
(On the challenges of balancing both making adjustments over a long coaching career while also sticking true to your coaching style)
"If you're not looking for new things every year, you're falling behind. You can look at what some other people do, but if it really doesn't match your personnel, it's not a fit for you. There's really nothing new in this game. It's a cyclical game. Jet motion and all of this stuff is popular now – they ran that at Mississippi junior colleges back when I was coaching at Mississippi State, so it's nothing new. There's rarely anything that you can invent in this game. You can go back and get some great stuff looking through history, but you have to adapt to stay ahead in this game."
(On the adjustments the Buccaneers had to make without S Antoine Winfield Jr. available for the NFC Championship)
"Mike Edwards had a heck of a ballgame. Then when Andrew Adams had to go in – he's solid, he knows what he is doing. 'Twon' (Winfield Jr.) is a very dynamic player, an excellent blitzer and excellent player, but we do have some depth at safety. I thought Mike Edwards stepped in and did a heck of a job."
(On bringing Running Backs Coach Todd McNair to Tampa)
"Todd was with me in Cleveland. A heck of a running back. He played for me in Kansas City. He knows exactly the way I want things taught and how to teach them. I was really happy to get him back in. He went through some tough times there after all that stuff with USC. He does a great job, especially with RoJo (Ronald Jones II) having been [a University of Southern California) guy, they hit it off right away. He gave him a lot of confidence. That's all Ronald needed. He needed a little confidence. He's done a great job handling LeSean [McCoy] and helping Leonard [Fournette] – everybody accepting their role. 'T-Mac' is a heck of a coach."
(On the status of RB Kenjon Barner)
"He is practicing and it will be a late call to see if we activate him for the ballgame. Jaydon Mickens has been handling the return stuff, but Kenjon is an excellent special teams guy for us. If we can get him up, we will get him up."
(On the difference between coaching in a Super Bowl as a head coach versus being an assistant coach)
"I think the scheduling is the biggest thing and the feel for your team. I was a receivers coach in Super Bowl XL and the coordinator in [Super Bowls] XLIII and XLV. It's different just getting half of the side of the ball ready. We're so lucky this year we don't have to travel. For us, it was a matter of practice schedules and making sure our team was fresh, yet ready to play."
(On how much of the team's success has been due to the depth the Buccaneers have at multiple positions)
"Yeah, this is a heck of a roster. There is no doubt about it. RoJo (Ronald Jones II) goes down, we have Leonard [Fournette], we have 'Shady' (LeSean McCoy) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who had a good role there for a while. I think at all of the places, I love our depth. Aaron Stinnie has stepped up. We had a lot of trust in him. It goes on, and on and on. 'Nacho' (Rakeem Nunez-Roches) has done a great job in Vita [Vea]'s place and getting Steve McLendon was huge for us down the stretch, especially in stopping the run. Jason Licht has done a great, great job of putting depth throughout this whole roster. Even on our practice squad, we've got some practice squad guys that could really start for us."
(On how much he is emphasizing to the players to stick to their routine and the role that playing in Tampa plays into that)
"It's really, really amazing to just be in our facility, be in our locker room, on the practice field, same drive to work every single day. Being able to stay in that routine has been critical because normally you're jumping on a plane. You're either at another team's facility or at a college facility and getting accustomed to that the first few days with different meeting rooms. That's been huge for us as it has been for Kansas City, staying there until Saturday. Just staying in our routines."
(On Director of Football Research Jackie Davidson)
"Jackie is awesome. She knows the rules inside and out, knows the [salary] cap inside and out. She is a great, great addition to the front office. Her connections to New York and all of the rules and everything – we never have to worry about breaking any rules. She is on top of everything."
(On Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes)
"He is unique. He is very unique. There are no other quarterbacks that run out to the right and throw all of the way back across the field to the left. You teach them not to do that, but he's great at it, so you let him do it. He's an amazing player to be able to backpedal and throw the ball so accurately down the field. A great scrambler. There's nothing about his game that isn't better than most."
(On drafting T Tristan Wirfs and his performance this season)
"People say, 'Hey, you just moved up one spot.' Well, you didn't know who else was going to trade up there for him. Jason [Licht] did a great job. We had him ranked the highest guy. He came in and he's been nothing but a dream come true for us – extremely mature young man, great athlete. He just took the bull by the horns and has done a great job blocking just about everybody they put in front of him."
(On how the players listed on the injury report looked in practice today)
"Yeah, they all worked today and looked good. Now it's just a matter of do they swell tomorrow? We'll monitor that in the training room, but they were active today and ran around pretty good."
(On if the team has discussed extending QB Tom Brady's contract past next season)
"I don't have anything to do with contracts, so that would have to be a Jason [Licht] question. I think Tom is real happy where he is at and I wouldn't be surprised."
(On maintaining his feel as a coach in a big game like the Super Bowl)
"I think each and every game you have a feel for it on the sideline – how it's going, how your defense is playing. Are the risks worth the rewards? I can't say we ever go in there like, 'Hey, we're just throwing caution into the wind today.' A lot of it is just gut feelings as the game goes along."
(On facing the Chiefs offense and the advantage of rushing four defenders)
"When you're rushing four, you have many more defenders back there, whether it's man or zone. You can double people and do a lot of things. When you start to have to rush five or start blitzing, you're starting to get into more either fire zone defense or man coverage, and you don't want to single these guys that often. If you can just do it with four, it's a blessing."
(On the team's social justice initiatives and how important it is to have discussions surrounding social justice and have ways to act upon those discussions)
"I think you hit the nail right on the head – act. I'm very proud of our guys and our organization. Darcie Glazer-Kassewitz leads that whole thing and our [Social] Justice [Committee] – the team loves it. They were so happy when they came up with the idea of, this year, mentoring the school children. Those guys are really connected to those kids. When I talk to them all of the time, it's like, 'Words are one thing, but action speaks way louder than words.' Our guys have been acting."
(On how the weather impacts how the game is called)
"We've been fortunate this year. We've had rain before and after [games]. They're talking now maybe rain in the morning and possibly clearing up for the game, but you never know. We've been outside in the wind all week, and it's been really, really windy so that affects the kickers and the quarterbacks, obviously. The field is going to be in great shape. I think Tom [Brady] has played in every kind of weather condition there is. For our guys, it's proper shoes and proper gloves, if you're handling the wet ball."
(On being able to convert third-and-long situations)
"I don't think there is anything worse than giving up a third-and-14 on defense, other than giving up a touchdown. It demoralizes a defense. You think you're off the field, then you're back out there for more plays. You'll see a lot of big plays happen after people give up that type of down and distance third-down conversion. For us, it all starts with protection. I know for Kansas City, it's Patrick [Mahomes]. He extends a lot of plays and makes a lot of plays happen. For us, it's more designed protection, running good routes and throwing and catching it."
(On OLB Jason Pierre-Paul)
"He is a joy. He is a ball of energy. I told him not to practice today and he's running all over the place. Just the energy he brings and the intensity he brings when he plays – he doesn't say a lot, but when he does everybody stops and listens."
(On how the year away from coaching changed his perspective)
"I did the broadcasting with CBS and I was able to go to a bunch of different teams and see how they worked on Fridays, getting some different ideas. It also gave me a little bit of itch to be around the locker room, to be around players more [with] different players that I knew on other teams that I broadcasted for. I wasn't dying to get back in. Everything just kind of fell right into place perfectly. Ownership, general manager – it was a great band of trust. Then my staff being available just lit a fire back in me. And my wife – she got extremely excited. If she's excited, I'm excited."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On how grateful is that he's been able to have the career he has had)
"That's a great question. I think about that quite a bit actually. I think just being grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I've got more than anyone could imagine. In the end I just try to do the best that I can do with every situation. You understand that there are a lot of people that have supported me over the time to get to this point. I think any time you get the chance to realize your dreams – between high school, college and pro football, I've been doing this for almost 30 years. I'm just so appreciative of all the different people who have helped me along the way. So grateful for all of the experiences that I've had. Hopefully I can, in my own way, give back as best I can to other people who are maybe looking to achieve and accomplish their dreams too. It's a big picture approach. At different times in my life, I haven't had the perspective that I have [now]. I have a lot of perspective now just on this career – I wouldn't say on life. I think I'm still learning from a lot of people who have more perspective on life. But from a football standpoint, I think a lot of it for me is trying to give younger players the information they need to be the best that they can be. In the end I'm just very grateful and very appreciative and that's how I pretty much feel on a daily basis."
(On tight end Rob Gronkowski)
"He's super excited because he feels so good. He's played 20 games this year. I think that's the most he's ever played in his career. He's one of the most unique people. Just being around him, he's so positive. I think everybody wishes [that] in their next life they come back as Rob just because he's got such a great personality about him, just his way of being positive. He's a really high achiever. He's very competitive and I see the competitive nature, the determination. When you're down and out, you want him with you. I think that speaks to him as a teammate, as a person and I love playing with him. I've known him for a long time and I'm just so proud of all of his accomplishments. He's an amazing guy. I know for both of us, we rely on each other a lot for different things. I'll be looking for him this Sunday, so that's the most important thing."
(On how he will celebrate if the team wins the Super Bowl)
"I'll be surrounded by my kids. The best part about winning is having the people that have helped you get there and supported you there with you to enjoy it. Some of the best memories I've had in my life are being with my kids right after the Super Bowl and celebrating with them. I hope we have that experience on Sunday. It's going to be a really tough game, so we're going to have to go earn it, but if we get the job done, that's exactly what I'll be doing."
(On the coaching staff arriving to the facility early in the morning and what time Brady arrives)
"I probably get in around 6:15 [a.m.] or so. Pretty early. I think some of them beat me in. I think everyone is in here to try and get as much preparation as we can. There's a lot to study. [Kansas City] is a tough team to prepare for because they're very talented. They have a lot of great things that they do on defense that really challenge you. It's been a lot of preparation. This whole time has been really hardcore prep. Now we ultimately have to be confident in what we're doing and go out there and get the job done."
(On how he prepares for the day of the Super Bowl)
"It's a slow build I think for this game. It's two weeks of prep. You feel like the physical stuff is pretty much done at this point. At this point it's just going through in your head different situations, scenarios, all your different calls that you have, just thinking about how they're going to play us. Again, I think that's where the mental prep [comes in], you really can't leave any stone unturned at this point. We've got Friday, Saturday, Sunday, just over three days left in the season. Seventy-two hours-plus and we've got to use it all and use it to the maximum. This is a game that's really going to challenge us. This team is a really tough team to beat. They haven't been beaten in a long time. They've got a great offense, a great defense, really well-coached, very good on special teams. Just try to chill on Sunday. Get your body mentally, physically in a good place to go out there and compete and get ready for a great game. It's a long game, it's a hard game. It's a long day, but you've got to be ready when the ball is kicked off and we're going to be challenge. They're going to challenge us and we've got to go answer the challenge.
(On converting third-and-long)
"It feels good to do that just because you get kind of behind the down-and-distance on first and second down, it leaves you in third-and-long. Then you're able to bail yourself out of that situation. It's a hard thing to do. I wouldn't try to make an all-day-long trying to stay in third-and-long and see if we can make a bunch of plays. It's very low-percentage football. We're going to have to play well on early downs, keep our third downs manageable, eliminate negative plays, eliminate negative runs, sacks, penalties, all of those things are really important. It's got to be a really clean football game because if you get stuck behind the down-and-distance, these guys do a really great job of getting you off the field. I think every play we're going to have maximum concentration. We have probably 70 plays left in the season so all of them are going to have to be our very best."
(On only scoring three first-quarter points in his nine previous Super Bowls)
"I haven't thought about that much. You'd obviously love to get off to a fast start. Hard to explain why or why not that hasn't happened. I'm sure they're all a lot of individual things [of] why that's happened or not. I think ultimately for us this week it's about taking every play, understanding what we're trying to execute on a given play and then go make it happen. The one thing about this game, you're playing the other best team in the league, so there's not a lot of margin for error. If you do anything unsound it's not going to work. Your execution has to be at your best. It should be that way. That's the way this game should be played. It should be the highest level of execution. It's the most time to prepare, concentration, focus. You've got to lay it on the line and try to make the plays when we've got them. When they're there to be made, we have to make them."
(On how he would fare in athletic training against his 39-year old self and his 22-year-old self)
"Probably similar to when I was 39. I would say pretty similar throwing the ball. Agility-wise, I'm going to work on my speed this offseason. I'm going to try to get my speed up a little bit. I see all of these guys running around, I've got to make a few of those plays. I've already started thinking about how I'm going to train. I'd say that's the one thing I want to always keep working on, continue to throw the ball well. Be in good position to throw the ball accurately, continue to be a student of the game. I think that's how you can continue to make improvements. You can't ever think that you're satisfied. You've got to continue to build and grow and learn and evolve. Some things are going to challenge you, but you've got to fight through those things. From my standpoint, there's always room for improvement."
(On wearing No. 12, which Chris Godwin had previously worn)
"I know numbers for some people mean a lot and Chris was so cool about it. In the end I spoke to Chris and he was amazing. I just loved my experience with Chris. He's a stud no matter what number he's wearing – 12, 14, he's a baller. He can wear any number and be great. I'm just very appreciative that he allowed me to use it."
CENTER RYAN JENSEN
(On what has stood out to him about working with QB Tom Brady)
"Just the way he works. There is a reason why he has had so much success in this league over the last 20 years. The way he works and attacks every day – it's amazing that he can keep that pace. It's awesome for a team to see how he works and how he operates on a daily basis. It's very addictive for other guys to begin following a guy who plays that way and practices that way."
(On the rhythm the offensive line has had throughout the playoff run despite losing G Alex Cappa)
"I think with that it's just guys are coming to work every day preparing like they are going to be the starter. Unfortunately, when 'Cap' (Alex Cappa) got hurt, Aaron [Stinnie] came in and stepped up huge. That's all based on preparation and being ready for that opportunity. I feel like as an offensive line as a whole, we have attacked every day with that same kind of attitude and preparation. For Stinnie to be able to come in and play the way he is playing is a testament of how hard he works and how hard this line works on a daily basis."
GUARD ALI MARPET
(On if he has felt support from Upstate New York and how his Division III background has translated to the NFL)
"I am definitely feeling love. A lot of people have reached out, which is great. I feel sort of happy to be able to represent. I've done a few interviews up there. I'm just thrilled to be representing Hobart and Geneva and that area of New York. As far as the D-III aspect, I think one of the unique experiences that I had at Division III that has sort of [lent] itself to the NFL this year specifically is that a lot of stadiums didn't have a whole lot of fans. I think being able to communicate and have that sort of quiet and bring your own energy, bring your own juice, I'm sort of used to that. I kind of enjoy that. So I think that actually was an advantage for me this year."
(On playing with Tom Brady)
"Very cool. I feel like he's the kind of guy that just elevates everyone else's play. Everyone wants to play at a higher level and obviously that happened this year. I feel like we've had some nice success and confidence and I think that's something that he's brought to us."
(On the offensive line as a unit)
"I think as a group, for us, we feel if we play at a high level, we'll be able to get what we want done. We'll be able to put our team in a good position to win. It's also a group, I feel like, that we have each other's back. We love playing with each other. There's an excitement and an enthusiasm around the game so that definitely helps out and it's just fun playing with these guys."
TACKLE DONOVAN SMITH
(On the offensive line play)
"We've been playing great. It's something that we've been working on since training camp, obviously. We talk about it every day, anytime we go out on the field, in between those lines we want to establish who we are. At the beginning we were just tying things together, but I feel like we're in a good groove, a good flow."
(On playing for an organization that embodies inclusion and diversity)
"It's huge. Like I said, the place and time we're at in the world, in America, you kind of want to have, like you said, a fair chance with diversity. Shoutout to Coach Lo [Lori Locust] being out there, coaching D-line. Shoutout to all the African American coaches that we have here. It's really just great. To be able to just have the opportunity, everybody just all wants to have the opportunity at the end of the day. To be able to see it, and with this organization to have as much diversity that we do have, it just proves that all we need is a chance. Shoutout to everybody on the coaching staff. Shoutout to B.A. [Bruce Arians] for putting it together."
(On the culture change that QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski brought)
"I feel like our locker room has been the same. I think it just allowed other guys to see that it was ok to be themselves in the locker room. I feel as if just the job that we're in, a lot of guys are forced, in my opinion, to be a [certain] way. You want to be your best self when you're at the facility. I feel like you will get the best work, best results from guys who are themselves - being able to be themselves. They're not worried about trying to be somebody else just to get the job done. Our locker room has been great for all the years that I've been here. Just adding those guys, it helped a lot of guys be able to see it's ok to be yourself and go out there and play."