Press Conference 4/20/15 transcript: HC Lovie Smith

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.”

Whether the divide among pundits over who the team should draft 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.”

If the team would prefer to start a rookie quarterback, 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.”

The first overall pick being 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.”

How 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.”

Regarding the statement from Jameis Winston’s attorney that Winston is not ready for the NFL off-the-field and if the team is in agreement:
“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.”

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.”

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?”

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.”

The attributes that 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.”

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.”

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.”

Regarding 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.”

Thoughts on Bruce Carter and if he is 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.”

Importance of signing 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.”

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