Crash & AJ

Crash & AJ

Crash and AJ, Weekday Mornings on 98ROCK


Buccaneers Press Conference 1/20/21

Source: Buccaneers Communications


(On practicing near Raymond James Stadium while it is being prepared to host the Super Bowl)

“We don’t play that game this week – that’s the message to everybody. We play the Packers in the NFC Championship game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you get beat and [will] be packing your bags on Monday.”

(On how General Manager Jason Licht has improved the team’s depth for this season)

“I think you don’t have to go any further than Aaron Stinnie – noticing that guy and getting him on our roster. The talented free agents that we have, young players right now that were undrafted – I think [John] Spytek, [Mike] Biehl, ‘Mac’ (Rob McCartney) – they do a great job of having the next man up ready. It’s fun to work with guys who know what they’re doing.”

(On DL Vita Vea practicing on Wednesday)

“He walked really [well], because that’s all we did today. We had a walkthrough. That was a really physical game last week and it’s that time of year where we don’t need to be beating on each other. We’ll see him move around more tomorrow. I watched him run for the last few weeks to get in shape and he looks good.”

(On how he prevents the team from relying too much on its Week 6 victory over Green Bay)

“It was the same thing as the Saints last week, having beaten us twice [and] pretty badly, once. We won that ballgame. You can’t fall into that trap of what happened last time. They’re a much, much better football team [and] we’re a much better football team. Both [teams are] very different right now, so you better take care of today’s work each and every day.”

(On if he is concerned about any of the defensive players’ availability due to injury)

“No. I feel like everybody will be ready to roll on defense. Nobody feels good this time of year. If you feel good, you [are not] playing. There’s a bunch of bumps and bruises, but they won’t keep them out.”

(On if the offense decreasing its amount of turnovers has been the difference in advancing to the NFC Championship this season)

“It’s a huge, huge part of it. That was a major emphasis – that and eliminating penalties. Getting more disciplined was a huge part of our offseason. Obviously, Tom [Brady] doesn’t turn it over much, but we’ve hammered everybody about protecting the football – anybody with their hands on the ball. That and penalties.”

(On if the combination of RB Ronald Jones II and RB Leonard Fournette helps the offense keep them fresh)

“No doubt. Both of those guys I consider starters, so it’s a matter of just getting guys in there and keeping them fresh. Who has got the hot hand and that whole thing. I thought ‘Ro’ (Jones II) had his confidence back and really hit the holes hard. I thought Leonard [also] played outstanding so yeah, it’s a heck of a one-two punch and having fresh legs out there all the time.”

(On how he is preparing his team for colder temperatures on Green Bay on Sunday)

“I don’t really consider 28 degrees cold. I grew up in the north [and] we’ve got a lot of guys that [have] played in Green Bay and played in colleges up north. The weather won’t affect the ballgame – I don’t think – at all.”

(On if he believes WR Antonio Brown will play on Sunday)

“It’s too early to tell. He’ll be day-to-day.”

(On if the Divisional Round game against New Orleans was the best performance of LB Devin White’s career)

“I would say it’s one of them. He’s had some really, really good ones. Obviously, the splash plays – the interception [and] the fumble recovery. The rest of it is just typical Devin – flying around and making tackles [is] exactly what we expect of him. But the splash plays helped make it one of his best games, yes.”

(On how the ability to run the football impacts the offense’s ability to utilize play-action)

“They go hand in hand. Play-action, if you’re not running it, you might as well just go maximum protection and just drop back. When you’re running it, that fraction of changing someone’s eyes an initial step in the wrong direction gets people open and it makes it easy. So yeah, they go hand in hand.”

(On how often he and QB Tom Brady discuss the gameplan for the week)

“I think it’s been a work from Day 1. Finding his likes [and] what he finds our likes are. Byron [Leftwich] has done a great job of making him as comfortable as possible when we get to Sunday – just hammering it out from Monday all the way to Saturday. We’re doing things on Saturday [and] changing some things that we saw in practice or didn’t like in practice. It’s a continued effort just to get to Sunday.”

(On when he realized DL Vita Vea may be able to return at some point this season)

“It was about three weeks ago. I saw him running in the pool and then on the Ultra G [treadmill]. It’s like, ‘Man, he’s getting close.’ Once I finally saw him outside running, [I knew.] He wanted to play. He wanted to come back and I said, ‘Hey, we’ll keep winning and you keep working and it will work out’ – and it has.”

(On how he has seen the team’s rookies progress throughout the season and into the postseason)

“They’ve been fantastic. Tristan [Wirfs] and Antoine [Winfield Jr.] – I really don’t consider them rookies anymore. With how many games they’ve played, they’re in their sophomore year – almost to the end of it. Tyler [Johnson] stepped in, Khalil [Davis] stepped [in and did] a great job. Just about everybody we’ve had has had a role in what we’re doing and embraced their role. Ke’Shawn Vaughn has done a hell of a job. Everybody’s put their hand in the pile, accepts their role and is ready when their role changes.”

(On how the Tampa Bay defense has become adept at defending play-action)

“It starts with stopping the run. Once you shut down the run, it’s a little bit easier to get to the play-action. Now, they’re really, really good at it and Matt [LaFleur] has a great system. Aaron [Rodgers] has mastered it and it will probably be one of our biggest challenges – to handle their play-action game.”


(On if he appreciates the uniqueness of this trip to the NFC Championship game)

“I think the team has worked really hard to put ourselves in this position. Our coaches have done a great job preparing us for this moment. We’ve really come on strong here the last six weeks – played our best football of the year when we needed it the most. The Bye Week was really good for us – got a chance to get a little mental refresh [and] a physical refresh. Then, the team has done a great job coming together and performing and executing under pressure [with] two road playoff wins. It gives us a great opportunity to go on the road again to beat one of the great football teams in the league. The Packers were in the NFC Championship game last year – lost a tough one to San Francisco – and I know the type of team they are and what they’re capable of. They’ve got a great offense – one of the best in the league – really talented defense, really well coached. That’s how it should be – the two best teams in the conference should be getting together and seeing how it all goes down. I’m excited for it – we’ve still got a lot of preparation. We barely got started in practice today. We’re going to need two more good days and then we’ll be ready to go.”

(On what he has told his teammates about preparing for a Conference Championship Game)

“We’re not allowed in the building [on] Monday and Tuesday, so today’s the first day we’re in here and we’re only halfway through the day. We haven’t had too much conversation about those things yet. I think everyone understands the significance of these [games]. It’s very difficult to get to this point – to be [the remaining] four of 32 [teams]. I think we’re all excited for it, but certainly understand we have a lot of prep to go. We’re going to take every minute up to kickoff to get ready to go.”

(On the key to the team winning its last seven road games)

“We’ve been pretty good on the road all year outside of the first game and the Chicago game. For one reason or another, we’ve just done a good job. Some years it’s been like that. I’ve been a part of other teams where it wasn’t quite like that. Let’s keep that streak going – that would be pretty sweet. Let’s get another one. We’re going to be challenged to get it because we’re going up against a great football team. Playing on the road, it’s about good football, execution, communication, all the fundamentals, the blocking, tackling, throwing – all those things. It’s a great environment. This is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they’re excited, we’ll be excited, and it will make for a great football game.”

(On what he has learned from working throwing mechanics coach and former MLB pitcher Tom House)

“Tom is a great instructor. I got a chance to meet him six [or] seven years ago and he’s helped me a lot with my throwing mechanics over the years. He’s just been a good friend of mine. He certainly knows his techniques and fundamentals. I always get encouraging texts from him. Tom’s a cool guy.”

(On how the offense has utilized tight ends in recent weeks)

“It’s obviously one of the tougher positions in the league to play because you have to do everything. You’ve got to block in the run game, you’ve got to block defensive ends in the run game, you’ve got to get open on strong safeties who are very athletic, you’ve got to run deep routes, you’ve got to run short routes [and] you’ve got to catch the ball. You’ve got to deal with the wear and tear of doing all the things in the blocking [and] then you’ve got to pass protect. When you have great players at that position like we have with Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), Cam [Brate] has done a great job, O.J. [Howard] – obviously we miss him being out there with us – ‘Huddy’ (Tanner Hudson) has done a great job when he’s been out there, ‘Ant’ (Antony Auclair) has been great when he’s been in there. It’s definitely a great position for us. They’re going to need to be great this weekend because this is a very challenging defense. They have a lot of different fronts, a lot of coverages [and] they do a really great job defensively of making you earn everything. They’re very well coached, have a great scheme and everyone’s going to be challenged. Not just the tight end group, [but] the running backs, receivers, the line – it’s going to be a big test for all of us.”


(On not underestimating the Packers despite beating Green Bay 38-10 in Week 6)

“We put that in people’s ears already. This is a whole different football team that we’re about to face and we’re a different team in our own right. At the same time, this is a different stage and a different level. That was like Week [6] in October or whatever it was – that was a long time ago. We’ve got to put that past us. They’ve got a lot of weapons back. It’s going to be a different ballgame. A lot is at stake right here, so we’ve definitely got to forget about what happened that game the last time we played them and focus on the right now – that’s us getting better at practice today. When Sunday comes, we’ve just got to be able to execute at a very high level.”

(On the key to the team’s ability to generate takeaways against teams that don’t turn the ball over often)

“Just a collective effort – everybody just attacking the ball when the ball is in the air, whether it’s man coverage or whether it’s zone coverage. Everybody just being where they’re supposed to be and the rush and coverage all working together. [If] the rush gets there and you are where you’re supposed to be, you’ll have a chance to make a play on the ball, whether it’s a clean pick, whether it’s a tip or whether it’s forcing the ball out on a fumble. We make an emphasis on it in practice. We always try to go for the footballs in practice and it [translates] over to the game. That’s something I learned a long time ago – what you do in practice happens in the game. That’s just something that we try to focus on – everybody just doing their job [and] being where they’re supposed to be – your plays will come.”

(On what it means to be in the NFC Championship with the Buccaneers organization, which he has been with his entire career)

“It just goes to show [that] throughout the hard times, the people upstairs and around the building believed in me. Obviously, I believed in them, as well. It’s just an honor to still be here, to still be able to live out my dream as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and to be at this point right here. Through the first eight years of my career, I’ve never been in a situation like this. There have been some rough years I’ve been through, but for me to just still be here after all that – it’s just me having a strong mind and a great support system. Understanding and believing what’s at stake and what God has for me and always having faith – all of that paid off. All of that is paying off right now and now it’s just up to me to just go out there and continue to prove that I belong. It’s great that we’re here right now, but we’ve just still got a long way to go.” 


(On where the team has improved the most since facing Green Bay in Week 6)

“I think we’re better offensively. Our defense has been really good all year. I just think we’re better offensively. We’ve been getting more time in – that was our sixth game together with no preseason, [shorter] training camp [and] no OTAs. We’re just getting better and better each week as the season goes on. I just feel like we’re better offensively. Our defense has been strong all year.”

(On being within one game of playing in his first Super Bowl)

“It means a lot. That’s what we play for. I know we’re professionals and we get paid, but the money can only go so far. You can make so much money, but winning, playing through injuries, being hurt and having the opportunity to play for a championship – it means the world.”

(On having the opportunity to play in the NFC Championship with the organization that drafted him and many teammates who he has been with for his entire career)

“It’s awesome. A lot of guys, we’ve been losing for a long time. We didn’t take the easy road out – guys didn’t demand trades. I know people’s situations are different, but for guys like me, Lavonte [David], Will Gholston, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Cam Brate and all those other guys who have been here for over four [or] five years – nine years for Lavonte – it means a lot. We’ve been here [and] we saw some bad days. We’re happy to be in the position we are now.”


(On being able to split carries with RB Leonard Fournette to help him ease back from his recovery)

“Yeah, it’s been great. Like coach said, it’s been a great one-two punch. The quad wasn’t too bad – I’ve just got to stay warm, stay loose, stay ready and things like that. It’s nothing new for me.”

(On the run game being an important part of the offense)

“We love it. Me, the O-line and all the guys always talk about staying balanced. We know what we have out there at quarterback. It’s good to keep that balance and be able to impose our will on the defense.”

(On what has worked in regard to Head Coach Bruce Arians’ coaching style)

“I would say just letting players play and adapt to the offense in their own way – playing to our strengths.”


(On the confidence the defensive secondary is playing with entering the NFC Championship)

“Confidence with the back end of our defense -- that comes with practice and preparation. As long as we prepare well, we can have that confidence going into the game.”

(On how different Green Bay is since Tampa Bay played the Packers in Week 6)

“They still have a great offense. It’s the same offense, offensively. It is difficult to beat the same team twice, so we know going in that we really have to prepare well, practice well [and] make sure we’re still studying these guys extremely well because they have a great offense. Going into this game, that game before doesn’t matter anymore. The game last week [does not] matter anymore. We’ve just got to know to move forward and get ready to prepare to go out there and play these guys.”

(On where he feels he has become most comfortable since the first month of his NFL career)

“I would just say pretty much overall every aspect of my game – especially at a confidence level. Coming in, those first few games you’re kind of feeling everything out. I feel like I felt everything out. Like you said, this is my 19th game – that’s crazy because it flies by so fast. Just getting that experience week-to-week, I feel like it just builds your confidence and builds your overall play.”

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