FB Mike Alstott and S John Lynch spoke at the NFC Championship Game press conference on Friday
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in St. Louis this weekend in order to try to win a spot in Super Bowl XXXIV. The game is still two days away, but the Bucs got a little taste of the Super Bowl scene upon arriving in the Gateway City on Friday afternoon. Just as Super Bowl week is a continuous media affair, the conference championship games draw intense media attention.
Head Coach Tony Dungy and four of his players, FB Mike Alstott, QB Shaun King, S John Lynch and DT Warren Sapp, headed directly from St. Louis' Lambert Field to the NFC Championship Game headquarters for a formal press conference. Buccaneers.com went with the team's five representatives to the press conference. Below are excerpts from each of the Bucs' interaction with the assembled press.
Head Coach Tony Dungy:
On the Rams… "They're the fastest team we've played, offensively, defensively, all the way around. We have to get used to their speed."
On QB Shaun King… "I think Shaun will do fine. He's done well for us the last seven or eight weeks and he had a good week of practice. We're beyond the stage of calling him a rookie quarterback. We have a very high opinion of Shaun. We felt good about him ever since we coached him in the Senior Bowl. Coach (Mike) Shula and Coach (Clyde) Christensen felt he could get the job done for us."
On whether the Rams lack of playoff experience is a disadvantage… "I don't think it makes any difference. When it comes to these type of games, you're always facing a good football team. It really doesn't matter if you've been here before…you have to be good to be here."
On whether the team must get FB Mike Alstott going… "We're going to have to use all of our weapons. Mike has been a big, bit part of our offense and we want him to be that on Sunday. We have to get both Mike and Warrick (Dunn) pas the line of scrimmage and get them to the linebackers."
On what individual matchups will be important… "It's not really this player on that player. Their offense is a total package and they do a good job of moving their guys around. It's the same thing with our defense – we succeed as a team. That's what makes this such a fun matchup."
QB Shaun King:
On whether he's nervous… "No. We're excited about the opportunity to play the Rams. I'm excited. This is my first year in the league and everyone tells me you don't get these opportunities in this league this early."
On the cold weather in St. Louis… "It's kind of chilly. It's a little different than what we have in Tampa. But it won't matter on Sunday in the dome."
On whether he still plays like a rookie… "I hope I don't play that way on Sunday. I still have a lot of things to learn about football, but when I go out on Sunday, I try not to think about it that way."
On his touchdown pass against Washington…
"It surprised me when I turned around…I didn't expect (Washington DE Ndukwe Kalu) to be there. Luckily, I had the ball high enough. John Davis did a good job of selling the run and he was really wide open. I just flipped the ball to him."
On his role in the game… "I understand the importance of me playing well on Sunday. I feel like I'm up to the challenge. I like it. That's why I chose to play quarterback…whether your team wins or loses can depend on you."
FB Mike Alstott:
On the Rams' defense… "They're very confident. They're playing well right now. Offensively, they're doing a lot, which means the defense doesn't have to make a lot of big plays. We have to be aggressive against them and set the tempo of the game."
On the matchup… "I think we match up better against the Rams than we did against Washington. The Rams are a lot quicker on defense. We match up better against their front four and their front seven. They take a lot of risks, they blitz a lot. We have to pick up their blitzes and take advantage of that."
On the need to stick with the run… "We're a very poised team. We just keep plugging away. We'll take the three or four-yard gains, and when the big plays come, we'll take them. Our defense is excellent and our special teams are going to make big plays and give us good field position. We just have to keep our poise."
On whether the Bucs have been overlooked… "It doesn't matter. We play within ourselves. We're a tight football team, a very close group. We don't care what people say. We go out and play the way Coach Dungy wants us to play and don't worry about what anybody else says."
S John Lynch:
On comments by certain Rams players about the effectiveness of the Bucs' defensive scheme… "We're of the opinion you play the game on the field. We feel good about ourselves. We don't feel like we have to justify what we do, because we do it well."
On whether the team is excited to be where it's at… "This is what we've worked for for a long time. We fought through a lot of hard times. It's really gratifying to be where we are, but we don't want to be finished yet."
On the state of the team… "We're poised. We're excited to be playing in this game. In the playoffs, the intensity level picks up a little bit, but we were in an intense game almost every week. Of course we know what's at stake, but we're approaching it like any other game. We're going to go out and play hard and see what happens."
On the Rams' approach… "There's no doubt about it, they're very confident. They've earned the right to be confident with the way they've played throughout the year. They feel good about themselves, and good for them. We feel good about ourselves, too. I think it will be a good matchup on Sunday."
On containing the Rams offense… "We have to tackle extremely well. Because they have so many great athletes and they spread the ball out, teams have trouble tackling. On the flip side, that's a strength of ours – tackling."
DT Warren Sapp:
On whether sacking QB Kurt Warner is the key to beating the Rams… "Whenever you get pressure on the quarterback, that's going to bode well for your ballclub. Outside of stopping Marshall Faulk, I think that's the first thing we've got to do. After that, it becomes a matter of coverage and rushing the passer, and we feel good about those two aspects of our game."
On whether the Rams will choose to pass a lot… "More power to them. If they're going to drop back and pass as many times as we think they will, that's going to give me a lot of opportunities to get up close and personal with Kurt Warner."
On G Adam Timmerman… "I like Timmerman's ballgame. I expect it to be the same knockdown, drag-out we had in Green Bay all those years he was up there. I expect him to come out with his best game and I'm coming with mine. We're going to lock horns for 60 minutes and see what happens. It's the biggest game of the year, so we're going to come out and do our thing."
On DE Kevin Carter, who he played against in high school… "I thought he was a great player. I'd never seen a guy of his size and speed do what he's capable of doing. He's proven to be all that I thought he was then, and even more. He's become even bigger and stronger. He's a great player in this league and I love to watch him."
On the Bucs' win at San Diego in 1996… "I think it was the turning point for this whole franchise. Twelve or 13 years before Coach Dungy got here…double digit losses. That's a mighty, mighty mountain to break down. He set the path for us and set the course, and we followed it. When I look back at that ballgame, it was one of those things that the Bucs had never done…never went to the West Coast, never won in California, never did this, never did that. We've broken down a lot of those nevers. And we've never won an NFC Championship Game, so we're going to go see what we can do about that on Sunday."