Pro Bowl S John Lynch took tackling advice from legendary hitter Ronnie Lott while Lynch was still at Stanford
John Lynch, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pro Bowl safety, is regarded as one of the most punishing hitters of his NFL generation. It is thus quite a compliment when Lynch directs praise in your direction regarding your tackling skills.
Donnie Abraham, Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, take a bow.
According to Lynch, the sure tackling ability of the Buccaneers' cornerbacks is the hidden asset in Tampa Bay's stellar defense. The Bucs spend much of their time in a very simple defensive alignment called 'cover two,' and all of their opponents know it. One key to the continued success of this defense over the last five years, Lynch shared on Thursday, is the ability of the cornerbacks to control the ballcarriers on the outside of the alignment. Abraham, Barber and Kelly, who combined for 207 tackles in 2000, do that as well as any trio of corners in the league.
This insight and more came out during the course of Lynch's Your Turn interview, part of a series that asks Buccaneers fans to provide the question for Q&A's with the team's stars. To watch the video of the first half of that interview, please visit the Video Archive or use the Broadcast Network console on the home page. The second half of Lynch's interview will be posted next week.
In addition, a full transcript of Thursday's interview follows.
Moderator: "Like the rest of the team, you are finishing up four weeks of voluntary practices out back. I noticed that, even with the all that heat, when the field had cleared off, you and Simeon Rice ran what seemed like about 50 wind sprints. Can't you get enough?"
John Lynch: "That guy's something! I like to stay after and get some work in, and Simeon stays even after everyone leaves. I'd been hearing about it, so I thought I'd go out there and see what it was all about. It's great having guys like that who are not only talented – I think everybody in this league can appreciate the talent of Simeon Rice – but who work like that. What he wants is what everybody here wants, and that is to win a championship. It's neat to see a guy work like that. I enjoyed it. I think I'm still sweating!"
Moderator: "I wouldn't be surprised. We'll have some more questions a little bit later about Simeon (in Part II).
"I actually should have said 'Welcome back', because we checked the records and you've been on Your Turn before. You're our first repeat customer, so you probably remember the drill. We took questions from Buccaneers fans using Buccaneers.com. We received hundreds of them and culled it down to about 20. We read them in the fans' own words and it makes a nice little Q&A session."
John Lynch: "Shoot away."
Moderator: The first one isn't actually a question. It's just a comment from a user that I thought was interesting and thought you might also.
Debbie from Oldsmar, Florida: In April, I was on vacation in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, when much to my surprise and delight, I saw a teenager on the beach wearing a number 47 John Lynch football jersey. My family was more excited about seeing that than seeing the other sights in England.
John Lynch: "Yeah, it's funny how far we've come. I'm speaking both for the franchise and personally. I think the only John Lynch jersey back in '94 might have been one my parents made. Now, it's really interesting to see. When I'm home in California, I'll see a lot of Buccaneer jerseys, especially since Keyshawn's come aboard. Up in L.A., you see a lot of those. But you just see a lot of Bucs jerseys. Part of it's good marketing but I think a lot of it is putting good product out there, and that's exciting."
Moderator: "You're a veteran of nine seasons now, and you have to be somewhat familiar with the trappings of celebrity at this point, but when you hear something like this, does it still strike you as kind of strange that people around the world know your name?"
John Lynch: "Oh, sure it does. That's something I think you always find kind of strange, and I think you always will as an athlete, that people put you up on a pedestal. But it's part of what comes with it. Most people are very kind and understanding in terms of showing their appreciation of what you do."
Corey Cagle of Neptune New Jersey: What do you think of new draftee John Howell and typically what do you do to assist him and all of the other rookies in the defensive backfield?
John Lynch: "You can't tell a lot in these mini-camps really until you put the pads on and there are live bullets. It's tough to make a judgment on the player. But John, one thing you can see with him, is he's incredibly instinctive as a player. (The scouts) did their work, and I think Monte (Kiffin) had a little insider information there with Monte's son being at Colorado State. And then the fact that Colorado State runs our exact defense is a great benefit. While a lot of other rookies are very confused at this point, John comes in and knows what we're doing for the most part, and it's showing out there. He puts himself in good position to get around the football.
"Like a lot of rookies, he'll probably have to contribute on special teams to start off, but as we lost Damien Robinson, there's going to be a need at some point in the season for somebody to come in there and play. John's one guy who I think could be ready. There are other guys. David Gibson has really improved himself coming into that second year. He looks comfortable and is really having a great mini-camp as well."
Beau of St. Martinville, Louisiana: I want to know how it felt when you nailed Marshall Faulk in the Monday Night Football game last year.
John Lynch: "It felt good. It felt great, really. Marshall's a guy that I love competing against. We're both from San Diego, and if you watch NFL Films, we're good friends. But on the football field we like to compete against each other. Marshall's a real quiet guy of the field, I'm a quiet guy off the field, but on the field we're both competitors. Playing the last couple of years like we have, and we played him back in Indianapolis, I like competing against him. He's a great football player and I have a ton of respect for him, but I got him that time.
"It felt good. That's when I was struggling with my shoulder, and there were certain things I couldn't do. But one thing I still could do, if I got someone lined up … I got him in that chute, and I waited for him to come. I only gave him one way to break and I unloaded, and it felt good. To his credit, he got right back up and did some good things that night as well."
Zack from Charleston, West Virginia: I have read several articles about the voluntary practices that have said 90% of the players or more have came out for those practices. Has this brought the team together as a whole and will it add to the enthusiasm this season?
John Lynch: "Yeah, I think so. I think one great thing that Tony does is kind of put the onus on us. A lot of coaches will tell there guys they better be here or they're going to be cut. Tony never flat out says that, and these are voluntary. I think at some point, the league's probably going to have to clarify that. If we're going to be here, go ahead and make it mandatory. That's my thought on it.
"But I like the fact that people are here. We're here because we want to win a championship, not because Tony says we have to be. We're here because we want to get better. What these allow you to do is work on your techniques and skills. We install every defense and, especially with our new offense, they're able to install things, so when you hit camp you hit it running. You're installing everything and teaching the basics of it, but once you hit camp you're refining things and fine-tuning things. It gives you a big jump. The people who get the work done at this time of the year have a big head start. In a league that's filled with parity, any way you can separate yourself, you've got to take advantage of it."
Rik Haines of Federal Way, Washington: Can you give me a description of how the safeties play cover two and their reads? John Lynch: "That's funny. You mentioned I was a repeat guest here, and last time I was on Rik Haynes had a question. Rik Haynes was my high school football coach at Torrey Pines High School. How are you doing, Coach Haynes?
"As far as cover two, that's really our bread and butter, and I'd be happy to get on the phone and break it down for you. I've been trying to get in touch you and bring you down for training camp so you could see for yourself.
"But really, cover two for us is the bread and butter of what we do. We've been doing it for the last five or six years, since Tony and that coaching staff came in here. It's a copy-cat league, and now you're starting to see it all over. I think the way we play it, though, is what makes us good. Last year I think we played 48% of our snaps, which is an inordinate amount of snaps in cover two. So it's not much of a secret as two what we're doing. We're showing them that we're going to play cover two but we're going to beat it.
"Really, it puts the onus on our corners. Our corners don't get the credit they're due, because they have to become physical football players. They're asked to make a lot of tackles, and they do a great job of that. We're fortunate we can play cover two the way we do because we play it a little bit differently. The middle linebacker runs the center of the field, so it's tough. The conventional wisdom for the offense is to get the ball down the middle of the field against cover two. We run our 'Mike' backer down the middle and we're able to do that because we have great inside players like Derrick Brooks who can cover the entire field and are sure tacklers on top of that.
"So it's a bread and butter of ours and it's something we're always working on. I'll give you a call, Coach Haynes."
Joe of Brandon, Florida: Do you try to hit someone from a certain angle, or is it just hit and miss?
John Lynch: "That's part of becoming a good football player. In our system, we play a one-gap system. I'm sure you've heard that a lot, it means that everyone's responsible for one gap. Once you've really learned how to play the system, and what smart football players do, is always use your leverage. Everything I do as a football player, minus a couple of situations I get put into, I always have help from a person, say forcing it back to Derrick Brooks, so I can take leverage on a guy and know I can position my body as such so he can't break the other way. You take it away with your body, but on my right I'll have Derrick Brooks. You take away one of his avenues that he can go into and you always attack your leverage side. Sometimes that leverage side is not dictated by another person but maybe by the sidelines. Those are things you learn in football. Playing your leverage and playing your angles is a lot of what makes a good football player.
Moderator: "It sounds like there's a big mental side involved and I'm sure it's instinctual for you at this point."
John Lynch: "Absolutely. That's what's so good about this part. At this point in my career, I really try to learn what everyone does on the field. That's one thing our defense does a great job of, knowing what your partner is doing. The second part is trusting your partner. They can't let you down because you've got to trust them. What that does is let your instincts take over."
Arturo Castro of Aurora, Illinois: What is going through your mind just before you are about to cream someone, especially when you know you're going to be able to put a big hit on him. John Lynch: "This game moves so fast, really there's not a whole lot of thought. One thing I'm constantly talking myself through is bringing my arms through when I'm tackling. When I came in the league, I had a tendency to try to knock people out all the time and not use my arms. Herm Edwards, who's now the head coach of the Jets, did a great job of teaching my how to tackle, and that's bringing your arms and bringing them tight. If there's anything I'm thinking, it's that, and then the concept I talked about last time of hitting through someone. Ronnie Lott taught me way back when I was in Stanford, a lot of people just hit. He used to talk about seeing three or four of them and you're trying to get through to that fourth guy. That's when you really come up with the good licks."
Roger Palco of North Ridgeville, Ohio: Are going to miss playing against the 'Black and Blue' Division teams next year, and are you planning to make sure that Brett Favre doesn't forget you?
Reggie from Ewa Beach, Hawaii: With the new alignment coming up, who do you look forward to starting a rivalry with?
John Lynch: "That's an interesting question. The traditionalist, when you've been in the league for awhile, you learn to appreciate it. Though it wasn't always the most fun to play against Barry Sanders twice a year, you learn to relish that opportunity to play against the best.
"Now, saying that, our record within our division – with this whole realignment, I was looking at it – wasn't as good as I thought. So, hey, if it's going to help us win that championship, then that's great. We're still going to have to play good football and we're going to play these teams at times.
"In terms of Brett Favre, he's a guy you just love playing against. He's such a great competitor and athlete and he has fun playing football. He has a passion for the game. You'll miss that.
"With respect to the division, there are some great teams. New Orleans is an up-and-coming team. They remind me of us a couple of years ago. They're trying to do it through playing good defense, having good special teams and playing ball-control on offense with the ability to make big plays. (Head Coach Jim) Haslett has done a great job down there. Obviously, everyone thinks of Atlanta with Michael Vick. It will be interesting to see how quickly he comes along, but a guy like that can really change the fortunes of an organization."
Jeff Byrd of Murrieta, California: Did you play Pop Warner football as a child? What position did you play and how old were you when you started?
John Lynch: "I did. I started probably in the third grade. Throughout football, I played a number of positions. I played tailback at first, then played some quarterback, and on defense I played linebacker. I had a blast. My dad was always our coach and we had a good time."
Shaggy from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Who is the toughest receiver or running back you have had to face?
John Lynch: "The running back, Barry Sanders. When we used to play him, that was kind of the guy I was assigned to, and that was always a tough task. He had some good days against the Buccaneers, so that was always a great challenge.
"At receiver, I would have to say … I had the opportunity to play against Jerry Rice a couple of times: '97 when he got hurt and the time he lit us up, I think in '93 or '94, when he came down here and caught four (touchdowns) on us. That's when he was really in his heyday, and he was something. Now, obviously we have the opportunity to play against a guy like Randy Moss, who I think when it's all said and done is going to be a Hall of Fame player."
Ruben Carrillo of Tampa: Do you think the loss of Herman Edwards will affect the defense in any way?
Tom Overman of Lutz: Are you concerned about the lack of NFL coaching experience in the new coaches?
John Lynch: "At first, that's obviously a concern. Not only do we lose Herm but we lost Lovie Smith, both great coaches who were instrumental in what we did defensively and just as a team around here. They both had great leadership qualities and brought the best out of their players. They demanded a lot out of you and they got a lot out of their players. To Tony and Monte's credit, though, they did a tremendous job of replacing them.
"Obviously, when Monte calls you and says 'We've got a great coach, but one thing, he's younger than you are,' you kind of say, 'Wow.' But Coach (Mike) Tomlin – Tony's not afraid to give young coaches opportunities. If that's the best guy, that's who he's going to hire. They had a very thorough interview process. Monte would call me and say, 'I don't just bring them in here and talk to them. I take them out on the field.' Mike impressed him and he kept coming back to him. He's done a great job out here. He understands that he's got tough shoes to fill, but he's just trying to come in here and make us a little better. And Joe Barry's doing a great job with the 'backers, so they did a great job of replacing those guys. I think we've been around each other long enough that we're going to keep the ship going and those guys are going to be integral parts of it."
Moderator: "Well, you were here in '96 when Coach Dungy came aboard, and at that time he brought on a lot of coaches without NFL experience."
John Lynch: "Sure. Rod Marinelli, for instance, and Lovie Smith. Those are two coaches that I have unbelievable respect for, and neither of them had NFL experience. I've learned. Five years ago, I might have had a different answer, but it's not an absolute pre-requisite for being a good coach."
Moderator: "Thank you for those insights, John. That's the end of Part I of this Your Turn interview. If you don't mind sticking around, we have some more topics to cover, such as your recovery from a shoulder injury last year, some of the hardest hitters in NFL history and a few questions on the effects of weather, both hot and cold."