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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Transcripts: Day 1 of Offseason Program

General Manager Jason Licht, Head Coach Lovie Smith and Buccaneer players Gerald McCoy, George Johnson and Bruce Carter all spoke to the media at length on Monday.

Check out photos of the Buccaneers' current roster.

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When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers send their usual pair of representatives to NFL Draft headquarters in Chicago in less than two weeks – once again this year it will be Video Director Dave Levy and Head Equipment  Manager Jim Sorenson – they can save them a little trouble by filling out the first card ahead of time.

As always, Levy and Sorenson and their counterparts for the other 31 teams, will actually make the draft go by handing over index cards to NFL officials inside the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Each card will bear the name of the player that has been communicated to them via dedicated phone lines connected to team headquarters. Since the Buccaneers own the first overall pick in this year's proceedings, they're the only team guaranteed to get the one specific player they covet the most.

In fact, General Manager Jason Licht could fill out that card right now if he so desired. The Bucs have essentially made up their minds, and aren't likely to change them between now and April 30. They could, if they wished, reveal their intentions now and begin working on a contract with their targeted player. They could, but they won't. Not yet, at least.

Check out photos of some of the players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face during the 2015 preseason (AP Images).

"If we had to pick today, we would feel very comfortable making the pick," said Licht. "With that said, we'll wait. We'll use the majority of our allotted time. There is always something that could pop up that you wish you would've waited; [I'm] talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something you can't refuse. We'll use the allotted time, but everyone in the organization feels very comfortable right now with where we are at."

Tampa Bay wouldn't be the first team to take the draft-night mystery out of the first pick and begin early negotiations with their intended pick. However, with the slotted rookie salary cap that has been in place since the new CBA was passed in 2011, there isn't much need for intense negotiations. And if the Bucs do value one particular player over the rest, there isn't anything to be gained by trying to work negotiations with more than one potential pick.

"There's no benefit for a team to engage in contract negations right now or to get a player signed," said Licht. "There's no benefit at all. You can't get the player in here any earlier, he can't start working out here any earlier, you can't talk to him anymore than you can right now, and because of the new CBA, it's not as difficult as it once was to sign a player, so the parameters are already pretty much there. We're just going to wait and we're going to use all of our allotted time. We're still going to have some discussions internally, but we're spending just as much time right now on pick 34, 65, 109 and so forth."

Who the Bucs will be playing in 2015.

Indeed, there are many more scenarios and competing team needs to take into account when planning for picks in the second round and beyond. Fortunately, they don't need to devote any of their remaining time on completing the consensus within One Buc Place for pick number one.

"We are in total agreement as a staff," said Head Coach Lovie Smith of the plan for that selection. "Jason and I, go back to the first pick of the draft, you bring more people involved, make sure we can all come to an agreement and that's definitely the case."

While the upcoming draft was obviously a hot topic at team headquarters on Monday, there was plenty more to discuss thanks to the beginning of the team's 2015 Offseason Training Program. In addition to Licht and Smith, Buccaneer players Gerald McCoy, George Johnson and Bruce Carter spoke to the assembled media. The full transcripts for all five podium sessions are below.GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT

(Opening statement)
"Hey guys, good morning. It's a great day here. Just passing through and seeing guys here in the building and our players. Glancing out my window and seeing some guys participating in some drills and stuff outside. It's fun to know that football is right around the corner. We have this big draft coming up. I thought I would wear a suit. Bigger draft than I've been a part of, so that makes it very exciting. In fact, I have a pocket square here and everything. Anyway with that said, the draft coming up, first I just want to tell you, you guys all know – but a lot of the public – how much work goes into this with our scouts. They're away from their homes six months, staying in hotels all over the country and this thing wouldn't work without them. They are the true lifeblood of this organization and this draft. The scouting assistants, everyone that is involved, they do an insurmountable amount of work. I just want to throw out an appreciation to them before I open this up."

(On if the No. 1 overall pick carries a burden with it)
"No, never once did the word 'burden' come up at all. It's always been excitement. After the hangover, the season gets over, you realize that we have a real opportunity now with this pick, whatever we do with it, to make this franchise better. I don't think you will find anyone in this building that thinks of it as a burden. It's exciting. You never want to have it again, unless we trade up for it, but it's exciting to have."

(On the importance of the draft for the organization)
"It's huge. Personally, I think it's probably the biggest draft in the history of the organization. We have a real chance to put us over the top and get us there. At least, get us to a level that we think we're going to be at this year, which is competing for championships. It's a great draft. It's a great draft to have the number one pick, too."

(On if a decision has been made about who will be selected No. 1 overall)
"You know, going back all the way to [Indianapolis], we said we had a leader in the club house, we still do. If we had to pick today, we would feel very comfortable making the pick. With that said, we'll wait. We'll use the majority of our allotted time. There is always something that could pop-up that you wish you would've waited, talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something you can't refuse. We'll use the allotted time, but everyone in the organization feels very comfortable right now with where we are at."

(On if history and trends have an impact on the decision, considering quarterbacks taken first and second overall don't always work out)
"Well, yeah we look at history a lot. It's kind of embedded in all scouts. You want to try and make comparisons and you want to see when you are building a team, how the championship teams did it - and the common denominator there, by the way, is building through the draft. But in terms of that, that doesn't sway us from not taking a pick. I think it's all an individual, case by case basis. And no, just because what you just said has happened in the past, wouldn't sway us from making a decision for a quarterback."

(On if he looks at the situation as if one of the top two quarterback prospects "could be a bust")
"If we are going to go with a quarterback, we are going to take the one we think, internally, that after much evaluation and a lot of work, that would put us in the best position to have success here in the future."

(On why there is such a 50/50 chance of quarterbacks being successful or not when selected at the top of the draft)
"Well, with any pick at any position, I think you are going to find a success rate or failure rate. I don't think it's just the quarterback position. Usually teams and scouts and GMs and coaches, if they make mistakes it's not from talent, it's from above the shoulders. So, you want to make sure you are getting the right person."

(On the recent civil lawsuit filed against Jameis Winston and if that surprised him or if there was anything new learned that would change his thoughts)
"Yeah, no. To answer your first question, it didn't surprise us. The information that came out with it was not a surprise to us. We're very confident in the amount of work we have done. Maybe 25 years from now I'll write a book, but we feel very confident in the amount of work we've done internally. We have had work done externally, third parties, on and on and on. So there have been no surprises."

(On if he has talked to anyone in the state attorney's office or on the accuser's side about the accusations concerning Jameis Winston)
"Well, I'll answer that this way: We've talked to a lot of people. 'A lot' is probably not a big enough word. But, we're not going to publicly talk about who we talked to. That's just what we decided internally. We are not going to talk about the process. All I'll tell you is that the Glazer family, the head coach, the general manager, our staffs, we all couldn't feel more confident about the process we have gone through so far."

(On if he still feels comfortable making Jameis Winston the face of the franchise)
"We still feel comfortable with the decision we are about to make, one way or the other."

(On if the Glazers have signed off on the No. 1 pick)
"Once again, we all feel very comfortable where we are at right now. We are still going to use the majority of the allotted time before we go ahead and make the decision just because I think it makes for good business. There's no benefit for a team to engage in contract negations right now or to get a player signed. There's no benefit at all. You can't get the player in here any earlier, he can't start working out here any earlier, you can't talk to him anymore than you can right now, and because of the new CBA, it's not as difficult as it once was to sign a player, so the parameters are already pretty much there. We're just going to wait and we're going to use all of our allotted time. We're still going to have some discussions internally, but we're spending just as much time right now on pick 34, 65, 109 and so forth."

(On if he's ever been part of an evaluation process where he has had to do this much background work and if that in and of itself is unsettling)
"Yeah, no. I've been around some picks where we have done almost as much work. But, unsettling? I don't want to say unsettling. Sometimes you find out more and more good as you go. So, it's not unsettling that we are doing this much. It's actually comforting that we are putting as much work into it as we are."

(On determining the difference between being a bad person or being immature and if he has come to a conclusion about Jameis Winston)
"You know, we are just not going to publicly talk about any more about what we feel about the players. I'll say this, my feelings and our feelings haven't changed since we had him in here and I made some comments at that point."

(On the evaluation of Jameis Winston compared to that of Arizona Tyrann Mathieu)
"Very similar. Very similar. Talking to a lot of people and not just trying to talk to as many unbiased people around him and associates as well as people close to him. So, very similar. Found a guy there that [General Manager] Steve Keim, [Head Coach] Bruce Arians, [President] Michael Bidwill, they were all very comfortable with him as a person and knew how much football meant to him."

(On Mike Glennon)
"Really like Mike Glennon. He's a very valuable piece of this organization and this team."

(On the benefit of seeing Jameis Winston at the Mike Alstott Family Foundation event)
"He was there. There were a lot of people there. We just kind of relaxed for one night, finally and just tried to have some fun. We really didn't go into it as a tool to see what he is all about. Whatever we got was bonus, but we were mostly just trying to have some fun."

(On Winston and Marcus Mariota's private workouts)
"You know, we got a lot out of them. We were impressed with both of them. We'll just leave it at that."

(On how the draft fits the team's needs)
"It matches up pretty good. We've got, it's a good [offensive line] draft, pretty deep O-line draft. It's good on the defensive side. There's some good defensive line depth there too. In terms of that, it matches up pretty well, but there's also, you know, we also still keep our eye on that best available player too. Because at the end of the day, those are the guys you are glad you have, you're glad you picked. So we are not going to pigeonhole ourselves into necessarily always just picking for need. But we are aware of what this team needs."

(On how Mariota and Winston as a tandem stack up against other quarterbacks over the last decade)
"You know, it's right up there with them. I haven't really had a chance to give that a lot of thought. Right now we are focusing on the players and those two are definitely two of them. Like I said, I think I answered that question when I said this is a good year to have the No. 1 pick.  Just like in past years with those players that you are thinking and referring to. It's right up there with them. We are happy that we are in this position right now."

(On if Jameis Winston will need a support system off the field)
"I think no matter who you pick, especially at the quarterback, you have to put a support system together. You know, I have gotten the question a lot is this particular player, are you ready for him to be face of franchise? I think that term, 'face of the franchise,' that's a title that is earned. I don't think any player walks in here is the face of the franchise. Right now, Gerald McCoy is the face of the franchise. We have several faces of the franchise: Vincent Jackson, Logan Mankins is going to have a big part of this year and Mike Evans.  But to answer your question, it doesn't matter who it is. The quarterback, if you have a young quarterback, you have to have a strong support system just to give yourself the best chance at success."

(On whether or not having the No. 1 overall pick forces a choice between team need or best player available)
"If we feel like – Lovie, myself, our staffs – you know, if everyone involved here feels the consensus is that he is a franchise-level player, no matter who it is, then I think that's a case where it supersedes anything else. Now, that would also make him the best available player too."

(On other areas of interest to pursue in the draft)
"Really good players [laughing]. You can't win without really good players. That's a study I did the other day. No offense to our analytics department. He does a great job, but that was an easy one."

(On trading the No. 1 pick)
"It's fair to assume someone is going to have to make a really good offer, yeah. And this time of year you get a lot of calls every day.  Not making offers, but just throwing, gauging your interest of if you would be open to it or not. And that will continue. But it would have to be an offer that makes this franchise, that sets this franchise even further ahead than what you thought you were going to with the decision you made."

(On how much free agency helped the defense)
"I think we made some big strides. We added a player at every position, I think, defensively. I think we had a really good plan this year that ownership really backed us on. We added some players that had some familiarity with the system or with Lovie [Smith] and we knew the player very well before we signed him as opposed to buying a player without really knowing what you are getting. And we ripped a couple band aids off and we added some players that we think are going to really help us."

(On not signing many players to multi-year deals)
"Yeah, we just wanted to be smart this year and I think we were very - we looked for value and we were smart with the way we did it and I think it's going to pay off. I think we didn't set out to copy any team, but if you look at what we did, it's what the good teams do."

(On if there were any changes to the pre-draft process this year compared to last)
"Not really. The pre-draft process in terms of going back to the fall and fall scouting? Well, you know, I will say this: this year we worked out a heck of a lot more players [in] private workouts than we did in years past. I mean a lot more. We really amped that up with our coaches and our scouting department and they did a great job. They're tired. They need a beer just as much as I do when this is all over. In that respect we did."


(Opening statement)
"It really is good to get the offseason started. Some of the players I've seen a little bit, but most of them I haven't, so it's kind of good to start the process of catching up on what they've been doing. For us, it does kind of seem like yesterday when were just finishing up and leaving. We have a long ways to go, we realize that, but you're just kind of eager for the players to get back and you see it in their faces, that they can't wait to start the offseason program. The offseason program, we're not getting ready to start game-planning, it's not gameday or anything like that. It's just tedious work, behind the scenes. Those four hours we can use right now with the players, we're going to use every second of it. Hopefully we become a whole lot better football team. As I talked to the football team this morning, I talked to them about going forward. We're not going to talk a lot about what happened last year. We didn't meet our goals last year. It's just about going forward. Right now we are at the same place everyone else is, so it's kind of what we do from here on out. We have to change our mentality, get more of a championship mentality. You get that through hard work, starting off in the offseason.

I'm excited about the schedule, can't wait for the schedule to come out, to see exactly who we'll end up with when we play, how our division opponents – when we play them. There's a lot of excitement with this week. A lot of excitement for the Draft coming up too – we've done a lot of work with the Draft. We've traveled – you hear my voice a little bit, kind of getting over some flu-type symptoms. When you go cross-country in a day, a lot of things happen, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know a lot of these young men and a few, really getting to know them. I think, in the end, most decisions aren't that hard if you put the work in and try to get as many questions as you can answered. The decision on what you should do and what we will do isn't as hard as you might think. That's kind of where we are."

(On if the divide among pundits over whether the Buccaneers should draft Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota has any effect on the team's opinions)
"No, we go with our own opinion. I'm getting information from you right now what everyone thinks we should do. We don't get into an awful lot – we have a group inside our building, their opinion really matters. The first third-and-one, we're not going to start calling people on what we should do. Again, we trust our building. But that says a lot about some of the athletes coming out. You mentioned two quarterbacks. Both quarterbacks are excellent players and both are going to have a lot of success in the league, so there should be different opinions. I think there's different opinions about quite a bit. You guys never write the same thing. You both see the same play; you write something totally different with it. That's just a part of it."

(On if the team would prefer to have a rookie quarterback start, or have him learn as a backup)
"Again, that's an opinion. I don't really know how to answer that because that has very little to do with – I believe in history and history can tell you a lot of things, but not about the players we have coming out. As I see it, there are different guys coming out, different year. If it was that simple that 'This happened this year, so that means the same thing is going to happen,' – it just doesn't work like that. I haven't been in this situation very often, I just know from going through it though and getting to know these guys, I know you say that the odds say that only so many guys – I guess quarterbacks – make it. The ones we spent a lot of time with just seemed like were going to buck that trend a little bit this year."

(On if having the first overall pick is a franchise-turning moment)
"I think you can look at every draft – Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks would say that that draft with him and [Warren] Sapp was a franchise-[turning moment]. Lee Roy Selmon's draft was a franchise changing draft. But for us, since we have the first pick in the draft, we hope that's the case. I just know I think it's a pretty strong draft when we get to set the pace. We get our pick and again, it's just not that first pick, it's the others we're going to get too. We need a little bit and we think we're going to get some excellent football players from this draft, so I hope that's the case."

(On how having the first pick is different from other picks)
"Again, it's the first time for me to be in this situation, so I'm a rookie at it. I think one time we had the fifth pick and if you're talking to a coach that's been in this situation very often, that's not a good thing. You're probably not talking to that guy. I just know, from being in it, you have a game plan on everything that you face, going through a season. Towards the end of the season, I knew we would be picking high, so we had a plan to get started right away. We tried to speed up the process some of when we brought guys in, when we did certain things. We'll have as much time as possible to make these decisions. I just know our experience with it, I have enjoyed it. Again, to do it one time isn't all bad."

(On the statement from Jameis Winston's attorney David Cornwell that Winston is not ready for the NFL off the -field and if the team agrees with that statement)
"As far as agreeing with it, I think, when you do something for the first time, are you prepared, are you ready? I've been married 35 years – was I ready when I first [got married]? I don't know. Something was totally new to me, but I think you can just prepare as best as you possibly can. I would probably say that about all of the players coming into the league. Are they really ready? Most of them probably think that they're not. Some of them think that they are, but are you really ready? Now, I know my first year as a head football coach in the league, I thought I was ready and tried to prepare as much as possible, but was I ready? I think you figure it out as you go through it. You're not going to do it by yourself, you're going have a lot of people that are helping you get through every stage of the process, and that will be the case with this group of rookies."

(On if the team feels comfortable putting a rookie quarterback into the team's new offense)
"Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, we need a guy that can throw the football. He needs to be able to do some other things too. Leadership is important, buying time in the pocket – there's a lot of different things, but we are excited about the direction our offense is going. We have a good idea of what it will look like. This is part of the process too, but we're going to adjust it based on who we have. Every offense, every defense, you have to have – it has to be an adjustable group. Whether it's offense, defense, we feel like that will be the case. We can't coach, can't get on the field for the first two weeks of the offseason, but I'm excited, especially for our offense, just them finding out – some things have changed, but just that first step is exciting for our offense."

(On how you define a championship mentality)
"There's a lot of ways you can define it. I think first, you just have to start having that. If your goal is – what is the goal of everyone every year? Of course to win the championship so you have to just, as we talk about it, it's just working towards that with everything that you do. And that's just trying to do the best that you possibly can every day. Every opportunity, you have a chance to get better. Every opportunity and every day, you have the chance to come in here and work to improve something, you're getting a championship mentality by that. That's just doing everything you possibly can to get better each day with everything that we do and it's the mindset that we have right now. We're all starting from the same spot. And again, why not us?"

(On if the team would be comfortable starting either of the top rookie quarterbacks)
"As far as who I'm comfortable with, I think as a general rule, you have to give the rookies coming in – [they] have a lot to learn. I'm comfortable with the best person that I feel like can help us win. I've never been caught up on whether a guy was a rookie, a veteran, whatever. You just go through the process and the process I'm talking about of getting there in the classroom, on the field, preseason games, all of that. We'll know then. If that's the young guy that we're having to start at any of the positions, I'll be fine with that."

(On what attributes have sold him on Jameis Winston's character)
"I'm just not going to go into just Jameis, I'm going to put the whole group together. As much as you can, you just spend as much time with them and you talk to as many people as you possibly can and get information. I'm talking about people that you trust and that's what we've done. We've talked to a lot of people that we trust. I'm talking about trust their opinion. And from there, you bring [the prospect] in. For me, at certain positions, I tried to spend as much time as I possibly could with them. Again, I feel pretty good right now. If we sign a player, if we draft a player, and I don't feel comfortable with that, we won't draft him. If it's somebody that we're picking, we've been through that and we feel very good about them representing us and doing what we need to do."

(On the difference between feeling comfortable with a draft prospect versus being confident in that pick)
"I think you're using words right now. To me, comfortable means I'm ok with it. You look at me on the sideline one second and down here [the next]. I'm kind of there [in the middle]. So when I say comfortable, I'm ok with it, I'm going to say I'm comfortable with Gerald McCoy being our three-technique around here. Now, tomorrow I'm not going to come in here and say 'I'm really comfortable' with him – I can't go any further than that. So if I said that and we said that, then yes, we're fine with him."

(On if he and Jason Licht are in agreement in their draft strategy)
"Yes, we are in total agreement as a staff. Jason and I, go back to the first pick of the draft, you bring more people involved, make sure we can all come to an agreement and that's definitely the case."

(On defensive end George Johnson)
"We look at a lot. Coaches, we say we look at a lot of video – you're supposed to look at a lot of video. Also went back and looked at a lot of our video when we played the Detroit Lions this past year. George was impressive, to say the least. I've talked a lot about our defensive line and what we need to have on the defensive line. Then when we brought him in to visit with him, talk to him face-to-face, man-to-man, liked everything he said. Sometimes some players are kind of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and you just kind of hate that they ever left and I definitely say that's the case with George. I know he's excited. We have a role for him and we can't wait to get him on the field."

(On what the team liked about Bruce Carter and if he is a fit to play middle linebacker)
"We want athletes. The type we play, size, speed, it helps when you've been in the system, where you know what we're expecting from our linebackers. And that's the case with Bruce. When he came in, I liked him. Then meeting, we did – Hardy Nickerson, Leslie Frazier, all of us, liked his play. He's a productive guy. He had splash plays with the Cowboys. We just think he's what we're looking for. We don't have to look too far in the future – his history says we think we have an idea of how he'll play for us."

(On how important it was to sign free agents that he had previously coached or who had played in a Tampa 2 defense)
"I think it's important to first off just get good football players. If they have a little further to go, we can teach them our system. When you have good football players that play your style of ball and they know the system too, you're just that much farther ahead. We're a lot farther ahead in what we're trying to do this year than last, just based on that experience of them being in the system. So that helped a lot. Wasn't the only factor that we took into consideration, but again, it helped a lot."


(On what he thinks about the steps the Buccaneers have taken through free agency)
"I think it's always great to have guys that have been in the system that you play. Coach did a great job of bringing in guys who have been in the system that we play, guys that have won games in the system that we play, so they bring a lot of experience – something we need. I told the defensive guys today, I told them, 'Hey, get around those guys. Coach brought them in for a reason, they know what we play,' because we're working out right now. And the workouts are great, it's always great to be in shape, but if you can't play the game it doesn't matter how in shape you are. You're not performing. So I told guys to get around those guys that Coach brought in. He brought them in for a reason. Well, use those guys as a resource because they've been in this defense, they know what it takes to win with this defense, so it'll be very helpful for us."

(On if he thinks this can be a better defense)
"Yeah, of course."

(On his excitement level compared to previous years in the league)
"Mine goes up every year because that's another opportunity I have to play this game I've been blessed to play. You see careers end all the time, and I'm going into my sixth year. That's a blessing, so any time I have an opportunity to come back and perform or get an opportunity to perform I get excited. And the older I get, the more excited I get because if I'm getting older but I'm still playing, then that's a blessing. So just every year I get more excited."

(On if Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have talked to him as one of the team's leaders about who they could potentially draft)
"I've talked to them. That's it – that's all you get."

(On how much he looks forward to mentoring the Buccaneers' top draft pick)
"It will be a great opportunity for me because I didn't have that when I came in, so to have a guy come in to get picked as high as our pick is this year, whoever it may be, I'm honestly going to take it upon myself to try to mentor that guy because, like you said, I know the pressures of being picked high and people expect so much from you when you get picked that high. But people have to realize these guys are still kids coming in. Just because your age says 21-22, I can guarantee you from when I came in when I was 22 to me being 27 now, it's a completely different person. Those guys need somebody around them to show them how to be a professional. It's not all about talent, what you do on the field. There's a lot that goes into being a professional, all the way from balancing out your time to how you practice to how you get your body ready. You've got to take care of your body, man. That's how guys last in this league, that's how you see guys play 10,12,14 years – they take care of their bodies. So there's more to being a professional football player than just performing on Sundays."

(On what the biggest shock was for him when he transitioned from college to the NFL)
"The lowest-tiered guy in the NFL is better than the best guy in college. That's how the NFL works. You know, people make these comparisons when you see this great college football team it's like, 'I bet you they could beat the so-and-so's of the NFL.' Not even close. The [NFL team] would beat them by 60. The talent level and the skill set is so much higher in the NFL, I don't think people realize. So when you have a guy that comes in and dominates in his rookie year, that lets you know really how talented that guy really is."

(On what he expects out of defensive end George Johnson)
"Just George to be George. And when I say that, George always had the ability to rush the passer. His years here, when I was with him, he could rush inside, he could rush outside, he played all over the field. But one thing he could always do was rush the passer, so that's why they brought him in – they want him to get after the quarterback. He kind of bounced around a little bit but he found a home in Detroit, and then we had an opportunity to get him and I'm glad to have him back. Something I'll say about George is he's very focused when he comes to work and he's all about business. I mean yes, he'll have fun with us but when he steps on the field, whether it's workouts or he's in the weight room, in the meeting room, he's all about business and I think that's why he'll be successful. He's really going to help us out."

(On the red in his hair)
"I needed to give you all something to talk about. I've been telling everybody, if I did something normal, you all would think something was wrong with me. I got to do something out of the box so you all know Gerald is fine."

(On defensive end Jacquies Smith and where the ceiling is for him)
"He's got a lot of talent, but that's really what made him successful was just raw talent. But now he has an opportunity to spend an entire offseason with us really learning the ins and outs of this defense. And on top of that, he gets a full offseason with [defensive line coach] Joe Cullen. The leap that guys made with Coach Cullen from last offseason until when the season started was a tremendous leap. So you've got a guy with as much talent as 'Jac' and you give him a full offseason with a great coach like Coach Cullen, the sky's the limit."

(On how much anticipation there is amongst the players regarding who the team will draft)
"Amongst us in the locker room? We're not thinking about that because we're here now, so you can't really think about who's not here. We can only focus on who's here, what we have to do  and then when whoever we bring in when the draft is over, we're going to welcome them like family and we're going to move forward. But honestly, today I haven't heard anybody even bring up the draft and usually guys don't talk about it. It's kind of like, alright, cool. He's one of us, let's move forward."

(On if first-round draft picks are ever really 100% prepared for what will happen to them in the NFL as far as the money, expectations, and media pressure)
"Nothing prepares you for that. It's just like nothing you can do can prepare you for training camp in Tampa. It sucks, but you just attack it full speed and hope you come out alive. That's what being a top five pick is, man. You attack it full speed and hopefully, when you come out, you see a light at the end of the tunnel. When you come out, you're still breathing. It's the same thing with training camp in Tampa."

(On if he tried anything new with his offseason workouts)
"I don't know if it's anything new, I just doubled my regimen. I haven't been to the playoffs, guys. Kind of sick of it. All I can do is focus on what I can do better and if I can be better, I believe our team will be better so I just doubled my workout regimen. My last two weeks of my training – I pulled 10-workout weeks, so by Thursday I had done 10 workouts, and it hurt but it is what it is. These guys look up to me to lead us, and that's what I want to do."

(On if there is room for more than one face of the franchise)
"I don't know. You tell me. It is what it is. Whether I'm the face of the franchise or not, I'm not going to stop leading. I'm just going to be me. Guys look up to me to be me, and that's all I'm going to be."

(On his impressions of former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota)
"I don't watch college football. I do not. I didn't watch the National Championship, I didn't watch the games before that. I don't watch it. I mean, I've got you guys talking about me coming up every week, so I've got to focus on that. I can't really just be focused on college football. I honestly don't watch it."

(On his impressions of defensive tackle Henry Melton)
"Oh that's my man. Henry has always had the ability to rush the passer as well. I think he's – if you look at guys who have switched positions coming into the NFL, he's one of the guys who's made a great transition. I mean, he went from a running back to a Pro Bowl defensive tackle. That's not easy to do, but he did it and I think he's going to bring a different type of mentality we need up front and he's got a lot of experience and it's going to be fun."

(On how he would define the atmosphere right now with the organization)
"Guys are just open-minded. Last year is what it is – we're not focused on that. We're only looking forward, and at this stage right here, everybody's undefeated so everybody has an equal opportunity to win the Super Bowl. That's how we're approaching this offseason, that's how we're going to approach training camp and that's how we're going to approach the season. Everybody's undefeated right now. What the record ends up being depends on what we do."


(Opening statement)
"Hello, everybody. I just wanted to say before I started that I'm glad to be here. I'm actually glad to be back here in Tampa; it still feels like home. I never felt like I actually left and went to another team, so I'm glad to be back here, be out there with the guys, such as Gerald [McCoy], Jacquies [Smith], Lavonte [David] and Mike. It's going to be a pretty good season. I'm happy, and I'm even more excited after watching the tape to get with these guys."

(On if he was pleased that the Buccaneers clearly wanted him on their team)
"Yes, definitely. I always want to be part of a team who wants me, because if the team wants you that means they believe in you. They believe in something that you have, and this is actually the first time I've actually been wanted this way. For them to fight for me like that, I'm just excited to get down here."

(On not staying in Detroit)
"This team wanted me more. This team saw something in me that maybe Detroit didn't see. So they just wanted to get me down here and actually help out this team. Gerald takes a lot of pressure with how good he is. He's so consistent each year. Teams key on him a lot. Just to take something off of Gerald actually helps him out, frees him up and frees up the defense."

(On if his game has changed since he was last with the Buccaneers)
"I think it did in a way, just size-wise. When I left here I was 280, sometimes 285. Now I've cut down to 260-265. Playing that light it just feels like I can do more things. I don't have the power that I had at 280 but the quickness and agility is even better now."

(On if it's a privilege playing with great DTs like Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy)
"Oh yeah, definitely, because it seems like everywhere I go I follow great D-tackles. It's a good thing to have, just to learn from these guys and be next to them. It's just exciting to think about."

(On similarities between Suh and McCoy)
"Just the way they approach the game. There's really no difference between them. They both approach the game with such tenacity and ferocity that they just attack everything. Just working out with Gerald, he attacked the drill each and every drill that we did. That says a lot. It shows me that these guys want to be the best no matter where they go, no matter where they are. They just continue to compete against everybody."

(On if he was told what type of role he would have in the defense)
"They didn't really tell me anything. They just told me, 'You're going to come in here, you're going to work.' And I had no problem with that. I've been doing that my entire career. I've been working to stay on the team, working to find a spot on the roster, so it's no problem. I don't care where I really start – rotation or starter – but I'm just going to work, regardless."

(On how satisfying it was to finally have his breakout season)
"It was satisfying because those couple years that I was actually just waiting, I was actually able to learn. Some guys actually mature by just watching and learning from other people, and that's what I actually did. I matured by learning from other guys and actually was able to incorporate some of the things that they did into my game."

(On if he was surprised the Bucs didn't keep him in 2012)
"Each cut hurts, it doesn't matter how deep it is. It's always going to hurt. When they let me go, it got down really deep because that was my college coach. I played with him for four years, and in Tampa, but everything happens for a reason. The way that happened, I can really say it was a blessing in disguise."

(On if he's following the draft)
"I really don't follow it. When you start worrying about guys coming in, you start looking back at what's coming up behind you. You've always got to look forward."

(On how much it helps to play next to strong defensive tackles)
"It actually helps out. If Gerald's taking all the pressure, it leaves me one-on-one. I went through it last year with Suh, and he was so dominant teams keyed up on him. It actually freed me, so the same thing could happen with Gerald, teams could free me up. But then they're going to have to worry about both of us and then you really don't have enough blockers to block everybody."

(On what he sees from his fellow Buccaneer defenders that is encouraging)
"Just the one thing that they've got – each and every player on this team just plays with so much effort. We were just watching the tape, and I saw guys running down the field, 20 yards down the field, a nose tackle making a tackle or picking up a fumble or getting an interception. Just something like that, you can't teach. You can't teach the effort and that's the one thing that I really like about this whole defense. It's not about the scheme, it's just about how the guys play."

(On if he ever felt like giving up when he was trying to make it)
"Yeah, definitely last year when I didn't get a phone call from anybody I already told my agent that I was ready to retire, and he told me to hold on. I was just done with being up-and-down, up-and-down; being on one team and going to another place; picking up my family for every move. I was just so sick of it so I just told my agent I was done. But he had better advice for me by not retiring and it kind of worked out for us."

(On if there is a different atmosphere around the team now)
"You can actually see guys are more loose. They are actually looser. Guys are actually interacting with other players. I remember before, guys interacted with only their group. Now I see guys, like the corners interacting with the wide receivers, the quarterbacks with the punters, the D-Line with the running backs. It's just something like that, and that builds the whole locker room. It actually builds to something better."


(On the free agency process and coming to Tampa Bay)
"I guess it was during the offseason, when guys are going here and going there and getting signed. My agent called me and told me I had a visit to come to Tampa, and then after that I'd probably be visiting Houston depending on how this trip [to Tampa] would go. When I came down here I was very excited. The coaching staff was really nice; they welcomed me. Things obviously went well and I'm excited to be here."

(On coming to a team that plays under a similar defensive system)
"They do a lot of similar things that we did in Dallas. Our defensive coordinator, Coach [Rod] Marinelli, he and Lovie [Smith] are really great friends. So as far as the scheme and the plays, what they do here and in Dallas is pretty much the same. They may have little calls here and there that are a little different, but I think that phase, as far as me learning what they do here, I don't think it will be difficult at all."

(On having played multiple linebacker positions)
"In Dallas, our position coach always taught us to know all three positions. And Coach Hardy [Nickerson] – they do the same thing here. In case a guy goes down, somebody steps up and there's no second or no fall off from the guy who is coming in to step up. I think that worked out well for me and I think it will be great."

(On whether he was surprised that Dallas did not re-sign him)
"Yeah, I mean, obviously the relationships we had there were good. I know they really wanted me to come back, but I think that they had other issues they had to deal with. It worked out well for me. I'm not mad at them and I don't think they're mad at me, so it's all good."

(On if the issues in Dallas were financial)
"Yeah, I think they had a lot of cap issues and stuff like that."

(On his playoff experience being valuable to Tampa Bay)
"Yeah, definitely. My first time going to the playoffs last year, we really put in a lot of hard work. And just seeing some of the guys [in Tampa], even like Gerald [McCoy], who have never been there – and he's an outstanding and a great player, I've never played with him, but I know of him – just for me to come in and show those guys and help lead and show them exactly what it takes to make it to the playoffs and even win the division and Super Bowl and so forth. I think as far as that aspect, my experience will definitely help."

(On necessary traits for a middle linebacker)
"It's got to be somebody that can lead on and off the field. He's got to be somewhat of a captain – offense having the quarterback and the defense having the middle linebacker. Guys have to look up to him, not only vocally, but in your play and how you carry yourself. That's something I'm going to work on and hopefully I can do a great job at it."

(On whether he is comfortable calling plays as the middle linebacker)
"Oh yeah. I've done that numerous times in Dallas. Sometimes where I've started off games where I was making calls and sometimes where we had a middle linebacker go down and I would have to step in and do it. It's really not hard at all."

(On being comfortable in pass coverage)
"I think that will be quite easy for me. Obviously it's something I'll have to work at because it's different, but I think me using my athletic ability and my athleticism, I don't think that will be an issue with me covering. I wouldn't say that I'm ideally your traditional middle linebacker, but I'm more athletic. I can move, I can cover guys; I won't have problems where I need help double-teaming or stuff like that. Things will be good."

(On whether he has spoken to Dallas Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli since the move)
"He sends me text messages and we had a conversation where he called me right before I came down here and he just talked highly of me, he told me he was really proud of the progress that I had made in the two years that we were together. Marinelli, he really taught me a lot. He's a very demanding coach and when you don't do something a certain way, somebody else is going to step up. When you have a coach like that, it's either you're going to get it right or not. Most guys are going to respond to that and I think that's really what helped us out as far as our defense in Dallas. I'm sure Coach Lovie has the same aspect and mindset, so I think it'll be good."

(On new teammate Lavonte David)
"He's a great player. When I was in Dallas, me and Sean Lee would watch highlights of him, how he plays. He's very athletic. He's always around the ball; he's a playmaker. I think that's a great thing to have with him playing weakside linebacker. I think it will be great for me and him, for Gerald, and all the rest of the guys on defense to come out here and get this thing back rolling."

(On whether he has always wanted to play middle linebacker)
"I've actually done it before in college some, and then when I came to Dallas, I played middle linebacker in the 3-4, so it's not like something that is entirely new to me. Making calls and calling out fronts and stuff like that, that's just part of playing linebacker, whether you're in the middle or outside. So it just goes with the territory."

(On former Dallas teammates Henry Melton and Sterling Moore joining Tampa Bay)
"Actually, when I was coming down here on my visit, I ran into Henry in the airport. I had no clue he was coming down here, so I was like, 'Yeah, that kinda worked out well, to know somebody coming down here.' He previously worked with Coach Lovie in Chicago. As far as Sterling goes, he told me he had a visit down here, and I kinda tried to recruit him. Sterling, he's really a good corner and DB. I think he goes underrated sometimes. He's a guy who's really going to come in here and compete for a job. I think he'll do a great job of helping the DBs out and coming in on special teams and doing exactly what he needs to do."

(On his success with turnovers)
"It's not all about getting turnovers, but when that opportunity comes for certain players to make plays, you have to step up and make it. You don't want to have dropped balls or when you have a strip attempt not go for it and things like that. It's really got to be drilled into each player's head that our job out here is to go and take the ball away and score. When you see most guys in the games when they're behind and they're all of a sudden trying to strip, strip, strip, the way that Coach Marinelli preaches is that we need to start the game like that. I think that's something that I'm going to try to embark on and help guys do once I get out there and just keep telling them strip, strip, strip and stuff like that."

(On the experience of helping turn around the Dallas defense)
"It just goes to show that we can be one thing one year and come in the next year and be totally different. It's the same thing with this team here, unfortunately being 2-14 [last season]. We can turn this thing around. At the flick of a dime we can turn this thing around. I think a lot of guys are excited about it. I wasn't here when they had that record, but I'm sure they have a lot of fire in them to turn it around and go out here and show what they really can do."

(On his thoughts on the upcoming NFL Draft)
"I actually don't follow it at all. I'm just coming here just trying to do my job, focusing on making this team better and making this defense better. Everything else will play itself out. I just have to focus on me and helping my teammates be better."

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