Gerald McCoy knows just how important he is to the Buccaneers' defense. The three-time Pro Bowler has established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the league; Pro Football Focus ranked him as the NFL's top pass-rushing defensive tackle last season. He led the team in sacks in 2014, and has been a first-team All-Pro. But entering his sixth season, despite his personal success, he's never been to the playoffs.
McCoy met with members of the media on Saturday at One Buccaneer Place during the Bucs' first day of training camp. His message – the time is now for a postseason push. And it all starts with him.
"When I was young, I was allowed to be young – well not really, but I was young," McCoy said. "I'm not there anymore and I'm going into my sixth year and I truly believe this team will only go as far as I go. You have a dominant guy in the middle. It helps everything out around him, which is our defense. You have a great defense – most of these teams that are winning, usually [have] a great defense. That's another reason why I had to come in in great shape, because you know it's not really any more talking. I'm going into my sixth year – I haven't been to the playoffs. Enough is enough. I definitely feel the urgency – it's time to get it done."
Prior to arriving at camp, McCoy tweeted that he'd lost 12 pounds and two percent body fat since the end of mini-camp, and he had been posting videos of vigorous workouts all offseason. His intention was to return to team facilities in the best shape of his life, he said.
"For me, one thing our coach does, Coach (Joe) Cullen, our d-line coach, is he breaks every player down and he tells us what we need to do to have a career year, or what we need to do to help this team out," McCoy said. "He told me, who I am to this team, who I am to this defense, I have to be in the best shape of my life. I just took that to heart and tried to come back in the best shape I could."
A "career year" could mean performing better than he did 2013, when he was named a first-team All-Pro, or better than 2014, when PFF named him the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the league. But it more than likely has nothing to do with personal goals. Chances are, it means playing late into January.