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What They Said: Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, coordinator Mike Smith, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and more


(On the status of quarterback Jameis Winston)
“He was limited today.”

(On Winston not throwing throughout the practice)
“That is correct.”
(On if it can be assumed that since the Buccaneers have not signed an additional quarterback that Jameis Winston will be available in some capacity on Sunday)
“I’ll let you guys draw your own conclusions on that.”

(On the keys for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to be successful in the starting role)
“Ryan is always extremely well prepared. If you put it in perspective, Jameis has 37 starts. Ryan has 116. Ryan got all of the passing reps today, so that’s about 35 more than he’s gotten since the season started with the first offense. He’s a pro. He knows how to prepare and he showed that last week. However it works out, we are going to be fine either way.”

(On if Bills running back LeSean McCoy still has any juice left)
“I would say so, yeah. [He’s] their leading receiver and their leading rusher and he has probably done more damage so far this year as a receiver than he has as a runner, but all you’ve got to do is see him carry the ball in the open field to see that he still has juice.”

(On if the same could be said for Bills running back Mike Tolbert)
“I think that’s why they took Mike up there. Obviously, Coach [Sean] McDermott had Tolbert in Carolina, so he knows him just like we’ve brought players in here that we’re familiar with. He did the same and I’m sure that is the reason why.”

(On the most distinguishing aspects of Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s defenses)
“First of all, excellent scheme, very sound defense. This Buffalo defense – they’ve got them playing very hard, very hard – it’s impressive on tape. The other thing they are doing is when the ball gets tipped in the air they’re coming down with it. They’re really rallying to the ball. Sound, play hard, don’t beat themselves, taking the ball away.”

(On the challenge that Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s mobility presents for the defense)
“Well just totally the opposite of what we’ve seen the last two weeks. The last two weeks we’ve seen guys that are among the best at staying in the pocket. This guy is among the best, Tyrod Taylor, at getting out of the pocket. The thing that is most impressive is that he can flick that wrist and get it 55-60 yards downfield, so number one, you’d prefer to keep him in the pocket. When he gets out of the pocket, extreme danger as far as your scramble rules and you can’t let up for a second because he can really put it down the field.”

(On what linebacker Kwon Alexander allows the defense to do)
“You’re always limited during the season based on the health of who you have up that week and how healthy they are. We went into the year thinking we had two really good inside linebackers in Kwon [Alexander] and Lavonte [David] and they’ve both been beat up. When we get them both back out there healthy, even though we are real happy with the guys who came in – they did a really nice job, but your better players are going to be a better defense.”

(On the message to the team when they began this week)
“I hope you can understand that I need to keep that message [amongst] ourselves. That’s just something that needs to stay in-house. You can talk to the players about it if you want, but I’m not going to repeat it up here.”

(On the suggestion that the first half in Arizona may have been the worst half he has ever seen)
“Not may have – it was. That goes back a long way, even when I was a high school coach.”

(On if he is happy with the way his team came back and competed in the second half)
“A loss is a loss. That beats the alternative, but every loss hurts just as much, whether you lose by one or lose by 40. It hurts just as much. Anyone who is in a competitive business and competes for a living, when you get your [butt] kicked it’s not a good feeling and it takes a while to get it out.”


(On the concern surrounding the play of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves)
“We’re very concerned about his play and the other 10 guys that are out there on the field. We’ve addressed it. We’ve talked to him. We’ve talked to all of our players. You don’t go out and play that type of football and it’s one guy. It was a bunch of guys. We did not play close to consistent football in that game. He’s one of many concerns in terms of what we’ve got to do on the defensive side of the football. We’re up and down like a freaking yo-yo in terms of between series [and] between games. We’ve got to get it fixed. We have to do it collectively. It’s not going to be done by one guy making a statement. We’ve got to go out and we’ve got to fight through it. We’ve got to become a more consistent defense. There [are] many concerns on the defensive side.”

(On the amount of times Hargreaves is being targeted by opposing quarterbacks)
“He was the most targeted corner in the NFL last year, according to some statistical analysis. I’ve mentioned it many times, when you’ve got a guy like Brent Grimes on one side, you’re going to get targeted. As a coaching staff, we’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we can level the playing field in terms of how we have to approach it. We can’t put it on the player. It’s got to come down ultimately [to the coaches] – we’ve got to help him as best we can.”

(On what he feels is the biggest reason for the inconsistency in Hargreaves’ play)
“I think his preparation has been solid. I don’t think the performance is what it needs to be. We don’t want to make this a one-player situation. There’s a lot of responsibility to go around in terms of why we have not been consistent. Believe me, as a coach and as a player there is a whole lot of soul-searching that goes on, on a four-hour flight back. That just turns into the next day and the next day and there is nothing better than going out there and actually being on the field or in a walkthrough to really, totally put it behind. You’ve got to move on. We didn’t play well. We’re very inconsistent. We can try to point fingers, but ultimately, we’ve got to do a better job and I’ve got to do a better job. These guys [have] to play more consistent football. You see it in them at times and ultimately I’m the one that is charged with making sure these guys get it done.”

(On how to increase Hargreaves’ productivity)
“We’ve got to help all of our players when they’re not performing. That is what coaching is all about. We’ve got to help him. There’s a number of ways we can do that. We want to make our players the most efficient players they can be. When they are not efficient, we as coaches have to come up with ways to help them.”

(On if he sees similar issues in the defense that they dealt with early in the season last year)
“The communication is not nearly as big of a problem as it was last year. We did not fit the run very well. It’s real simple. You’ve got a gap, you’ve got to have your head in that gap. If one guy is out of his gap and the ball carrier attacks that gap, it’s into our secondary. Our run fits were horrendous in the first half of that football game. Our tackling was horrendous. We did not want to put our pads on the running back in the game last week. We’ve got to figure out how we as coaches do not allow that to happen.”

(On the possibility that the team did not take the trip seriously)
“I would really have to say if somebody is thinking that way, they’re in the wrong freaking business. We get 16 opportunities and we work our tails off 250-300 days of the year for 16 opportunities. You only are guaranteed 16, and if you do your job right then you get an opportunity to go play a few more games. If that is the case I would be totally shocked because we know what happens – we only have 16 opportunities.”

(On the lack of effectiveness from the defensive line)
“We haven’t been effective at the defensive end position. Those numbers are not nearly what they need to be. I think we have to do a better job of trying to put them in the best possible position. They’re the players that we have. We have to get the most out of them. Obviously, we are not getting the most out of them because they’re not having their performance at the level that it needs to be. That’s an area that we have to address in terms of what we can do schematically – what we are asking the guys to do – we’ve got to get it turned around because if we don’t, it’s going to be more of the same.”

(On the key defensively to stopping Buffalo’s offense and their quarterback Tyrod Taylor)
“They play very close to the vest in terms of what they’re going to do offensively. They want to run the football [and] not turn it over. They’ve done a great job of not turning the ball over. They’ve got a mobile quarterback [and] he’s got a very strong arm, so that’s a deadly combination because if the quarterback gets out, he can throw the ball 60-65 yards down the field. He is very impressive with his arm strength. It’s going to be imperative that we first keep him contained because if he can extend the play, he can not only extend it with his feet but he can extend it with his arm. It’s going to be very important to keep him in the pocket. Most teams that have played them have done a decent job for the most part, but he is going to have his 2-3 plays where he either scrambles and runs or he scrambles and throws the ball down the field. He’s had some explosive completions, so it is important that we eliminate those.”

(On the Bills offensive line)
“It’s by far the biggest offensive line that we’ve faced. When you look at that group, 310 [pounds] is the little guy and they go up 340-350, so there [are] some big guys up front. To me, they’ve got a 1-2 punch in [LeSean] McCoy being the guy that can get out on the edge [and] does a really good job bouncing the ball, and then if they want to pound it they put – we see him all the time – we have seen [Mike] Tolbert when we played Carolina. He’s a fullback body, but he runs as a halfback.”

(On getting linebacker Kwon Alexander back)
“Any time you get a good player back it helps your chances. There is no doubt about it. We’re excited that Kwon has been released to come out and practice and we’re excited to see him get out on the field. It’s been a long time. If you guys remember, he played a handful of plays in the Chicago game and he missed the last two preseason games as well. Hopefully there is not a whole lot of rust on him. We got a chance to work him some last week, so we are ready to put him out there and let him go.”

(On what the defense misses on the field without Alexander)
“Kwon is a very emotional player. He is a fast player – he is probably one of the faster linebackers in the NFL. It gives you some sideline-to-sideline coverage, but also gives you a better chance to match tight ends and match running backs.”

(On if he has met individually with Hargreaves)
“We meet with our guys as a group all of the time. We meet with the majority of our guys one-on-one. Our coaches spend a lot of one-on-one time with our players. Early in the morning, sometimes it’s at lunch – we have a breakfast crew, we have a lunch crew [and] we have different guys that come in whether it’s one-on-one or two-on-two. We want our players to have the best opportunity to succeed. We’ve got to get the best out of our players as coaches because that’s our job.”

(On why the defense struggled in its run fits versus Arizona)
“When you try to do too much in run defense what ends up happening is you end up lying to your partner. That’s what happens when you don’t take your gap in run defense. He’s expecting you to be in this gap and then you move your head outside – you’ve lied to him and he doesn’t know whether you are going back or are you staying out there and we have two guys in one gap. That was the issue in the game. It was compounded by poor tackling.”

(On if this leaves them one-on-one with the opposing running back)

(On working as a team to stop the run)
“Yes, we want to get multiple hats. Obviously, you always have one more – unless you are having to account for a quarterback – you’ll always have one more on the defensive side and ultimately you hope you have two or three because somebody defeats a block. There is nothing wrong with defeating a block in this business.”

(On the sign it gives when the team’s leading tacklers are members of the secondary)
“It’s a rough day. When you have your back end, your last line of defense, making tackles and leading the team in tackles it is not a good day for run defense – that is for sure. It’s been addressed. I think that the guys understand it. We just didn’t execute to the best of our ability in that game. We took a hit early and we weren’t able to recover from it until we went and sat down on our bench at halftime. Then the next round started and we recovered. In this business, you can’t do that. You’ve got to make adjustments on the fly because you’re going to get hit. It’s like a boxing match. You’re going to get hit, and when you get hit, you can’t wait until you get to the corner. You’ve got to recover. If not, you’re going to get knocked out. Basically, we about got knocked out.”

(On the difficulty of making adjustments during the game)
“Absolutely, you are talking about it. We’ve got to show the resolve and not panic. You can’t have a sense of panic, often times it goes like this. I’ve been around situations – this wasn’t a situation that happened on Sunday, but I’ve come over and looked at pictures and the guys are saying, ‘I’m getting double-teamed.’ ‘I’m getting double-teamed.’ ‘I’m getting double-teamed.’ Wait a damn minute, all three of you can’t be getting double-teamed – it’s freaking impossible. Some of that plays into it, as well.”

(On the addition of defensive tackle Chris Baker)
“I think Chris has been solid. I think we need to have more stout play at the line of scrimmage, helping us in our game. He’s very athletic. We’ve got to create situations where he keeps four hands on him, so we can have our linebackers running free.”

(On how cornerback Ryan Smith has progressed since Week 2 versus Minnesota)
“I think Ryan has a great attitude. He did not play well in the second game. He owned it. He said, ‘I’m going to learn from this.’ When you’ve got a guy that says those things, I believe the next time he gets an opportunity he is going to take advantage of it. Ryan has done everything we have asked of him.”

(On if the three-safety rotation was a sign of things to come or if it will change from game to game)
“Each week there is going to be a different dynamic. T.J. [Ward] was coming off an injury. He missed some time the previous week. He missed some time in practice. We’ve got, I think, very good depth at the safety position. I think each one of the guys has a different skillset that is going to help us based on who we are playing [and] how they are trying to attack us. I’ve said it many times, there are more than 11 starters on the defense.”

(On Bills head coach Sean McDermott)
“I think he is a heck of a coach. His teams play hard. They attack the football. If you really wanted to say what they’re doing right now, they are winning the jump balls. The balls in the air – they’re taking it away. They are winning the turnover battle and they are playing very solid defense. They’ve got some guys on that side of the ball – just from my TV scouting – that are very athletic and can put pressure on the quarterback.”

(On if being on the road has correlated in slow starts defensively)
“We didn’t play well. I would hope that our guys realize that no matter if the field is here or in Buffalo, New York it’s 100 yards long and 53 and one-third yards wide. That’s the mentality that we’ve got to have. You are going to play eight on the road and eight at home. Hopefully the mindset it that there is no difference. You’ve got to focus on it that way.”


(On quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick)
“He is a veteran. He has been in the league a long time and he is a very, very smart player.”

(On if it makes a big difference playing with a new quarterback)
“It doesn’t make a big difference, but it’s nice to have somebody that you have continuity with. Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is a smart quarterback and he has really good ball placement. He put it in places where we only could catch it and he gave us a chance to win.”

(On the morale of the team this week)
“It’s been good. We’ve been here before. We aren’t going to act like we haven’t been here before. Last year we were [3-5] and then we went on our run. Hopefully, it won’t have to get to that, but I think we need to start winning ASAP and we need to fix it.”

(On if he feels that he needs to step up as a captain after the loss last week)
“Absolutely. I’m going to try to step it up by practice first. We need to have a great week of preparation. Buffalo is a really good team – a high-energy team. We’ve just got to match that, match their physicality and their energy. They’re going to play hard. We’ve just got to play harder.”

(On what stands out about Buffalo’s defense)
“Just the way everybody flies to the ball. Everybody flies to the ball and they create turnovers.”


(On the approach he takes to filling in as a backup quarterback)
“The biggest thing I learned a long time ago is the routine that you set, so I’ve been following the same routine for a long time. For me, the only thing that would be different is whether you get reps during the week or not and work with the guys. We will see how this week goes. Everything is obviously still up in the air, but I will have to be ready for whatever role [and] whatever capacity they need me in. Whatever capacity they need me in, I will be ready and available for them.”

(On the amount of talent that he has around him on the Buccaneers)
“Offensively the talent level is obviously extremely high on this team. It was a lot of fun being out there with them, but it’s not just the two big names in Mike [Evans] and DeSean [Jackson]. You look at a guy like Adam Humphries and how talented he is in the slot and the things that he really brings. He brings a unique element to our offense, so there [are] a lot of different guys that we can spread the ball around to and that’s a nice thing to have as a quarterback.”

(On the touchdown to fellow Harvard alumnus Cameron Brate)
“I was happy. I was happy that it happened. I got the ball right here and I’m going to send it to our head coach from college, Coach [Tim] Murphy.”

(On the morale of quarterback Jameis Winston)
“Jameis is always the same. He’s in here early and smiling and happy. He’s really the heartbeat of this team and he knows that. For him, it’s genuine. That’s who he is.”

(On how he balances wanting to play and staying prepared versus needing that opportunity)
“When I signed on here, this is Jameis’ team – 100 percent, always. For me, the biggest thing when I am out there is almost not letting him down. I know how much this means to him. I know how much him being out there means to him, so when he came out last week that was one of the biggest things in my head, ‘All right, what can I do to not let him down?’ I’ve probably felt that way about other guys before when I’ve had to go in, but with him especially. He is a special guy. That was just kind of the overwhelming feeling I had when I was in there.”

(On what he is the proudest of about his NFL career)
“I will probably have to wait and answer that until I am done playing, but one of the things that I pride myself on is I try to be the same guy every day – no matter the situation, no matter the adversity. A lot of times for me that’s thinking about my boys, them watching me and what I would want to present them with in certain situations. Just in terms of the demeanor and the approach and just making sure that I’m consistent in the way I do things – that is the biggest thing for me.”

(On the environment in Buffalo)
“It’s definitely unique. The fans there are like no other in terms of their energy and their tailgating abilities [laughs]. But it’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere is going to be electric. They’re great fans and they really pride themselves on making a difference on game day. It’s a fun place to play a football game.”

(On throwing a touchdown pass for seven different teams)
“To me, that’s something that is cool. One of the reasons [is that] one of the other guys on that list is Gus Frerotte. I played with Gus my second year and really looked up to him in terms of not only his career, but the kind of guy he was. To be on a list with Gus, I thought was pretty neat because I was only on one team when I was with him, so to envision the longevity and being on so many different teams. It’s not necessarily an easy thing every year to move your family and keep hopping around, but he provided a great example for me of how to do that and do that admirably. I definitely enjoy the fact that we are both on that list.”

(On his sons being able to watch him play)
“It’s fun for me. That was a lot of the reason initially this year why I wanted to continue to do it. It’s been a lot of fun, having them in the locker room or around the guys a little bit, or even on an off day coming in here and playing around a little bit. It’s neat for me to be able to provide that for them.”


(On moving forward from last week’s loss to Arizona)
“We have practice today. Go be better than last week. Forget about it, it happened. You can’t fix it now. All we can worry about is what happens up in Buffalo.”

(On how facing a mobile quarterback like Buffalo Tyrod Taylor changes the way they prepare for the game)
“Rush lanes. Everybody has to be in their rush lanes and be able to play both sides of your gap. If you have the b-gap in the rush lane, you’ve got to be able to get the a-gap as well, especially in the middle. The ends have to keep them boxed in. We’ve got to get push up the middle. It’s going to take all of us to keep him in the pocket. He’s going to make plays because he’s that athletic, he’s that gifted, but to slow it down and make sure we limit it, we’ve got to work for as well.”

(On what advice he would give cornerback Vernon Hargreaves about being a first-round pick and the pressure that comes along with that)
“This game is all mental. There is a physical aspect of it of course. That’s why they put you in that lab called the Combine and see how fast you can run, how strong you are and all that jazz, so that’s the physical aspect of the game, technique and all that. Everything is mental. You can’t get phased by this or that and in order to last in this league, you have to develop mentally. You have to mature as a football player as far as knowing what you’re seeing, what is coming your way and just being able to deal with the ups and downs of this game, this rollercoaster of emotions this game [brings] and it’s the best players in the world. You’re not always going to play against the top of the best in the world, but these are the best players in the world. You have to mentally be prepared for that day in and day out. Not just on Sundays, but every day throughout the week, you have to prepare for that. We’ve got his back and we support him. He’ll get it.”

(On how much a win against Buffalo could change the mood)
“Winning changes everything. You get a win and the conversation changes. People go to Starbucks with a smile, no road rage, not looking at your boss with a frown, fussing at your kids for no reason. Winning changes everything, so we win, all the conversation changes. The negatives stories, the speculation about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. It all changes if we win. So, we win, everything changes.”

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