Press Pass: Tony Dungy

In this edition of "Press Pass," Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy talks about his time in Tampa Bay, the improved play of Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips and the one thing standing in the way of QB Peyton Manning tracking down Brett Favre's new touchdown record.

Tony, what's it like being a best-selling author?

(Laughter) it's a little hectic and a little bit unbelievable. We thought the book would have some local interest in Indianapolis and maybe in Tampa, but we didn't think it would take off like this. It's been fun.

We'll ask you the same thing we asked Peyton (Manning). How has your life changed since that Super Bowl victory nine months ago?

I think being recognized more is the big thing I've noticed, traveling around to different functions. You expect to be noticed in the Indianapolis airport and the Tampa airport, but all across the country people are like, ‘Hey, don't you coach the Colts?' and ‘Didn't you win the Super Bowl.' I think winning the Super Bowl puts you in a bit more of a focus nationally. That's been the biggest surprise to me.

Tony I know you'll probably tell us otherwise, but does a meeting with the Buccaneers hold special meaning for you?

It always is. Anytime I play Tampa, Pittsburgh, Kansas City. The places you've been it definitely makes a difference when you're playing people that you know, when you've lived and worked in those cities there's no question. It will be fun, very competitive. It triggers more emotion than a normal game.

You've had such an impact on players that you've coached. What about the guys that are still here (from your days), like Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. What kind of an impact have they had on your personally?

That was a great time in my life. The guys that were there from the beginning, like Derrick, we went through so much to get that going that naturally it's a special group. Brian and Ronde came in afterward and they grew as players and men. It's a great feeling to see. They're the only three that are still there. To see the impact they've had on the team and the city, it makes you proud. Monte (Kiffin), we go back a long way. He was the defensive coordinator at Nebraska when I was playing in college. We worked together at Minnesota. Seeing him stay at that level, stay at the top, and keep producing those great defenses for 30 years, you know why. He works hard and he puts a lot into it. It is special and all four of us, those four guys and me spend a good deal of quality time there.

Tony talk about the loss of Cato June and how that affected your team?

Cato is an exceptional player. In the system he played in here and in the system he's playing in there (in Tampa) you see the best of what he is. He's great in running lanes. He has tremendous instincts and ball skills. He has a nose for the football. He's very smart and competitive. And this system allows him to do those things. He made a ton of big plays for us. He's making big plays for them. He's an emotional leader as well and it's no surprise to me that he's helping them.

Tony it's one of the big stories this week, Brett Favre breaking the touchdown record. Could you see your quarterback being in that position one day?

I think he will break it if he stays healthy. That's the thing. Dan Marino had very little downtime. Brett hasn't had any since he's started there. Peyton is going to be on pace to break it. I don't see him slowing down in his productivity if he doesn't get hurt. We have a lot of good players around him. He knows the system. The system is not going to chance. I would think injury would be the one thing that could stop him, unless Favre plays for eight more years and just puts the number out of sight. Which could happen.

Tony you talked about the emotions of going against a former team. Do you embrace that situation before the game or do you try to put it aside?

I think you have to try and put it aside. You have to be analytical about the whole thing, watch the tape, come up with the best plan you can and let your guys play. But we've faced it with guys coming back against us these first four weeks. It seems like there are one our two guys on the other team. You want to play your best, but the way to do that is to do them the way you've always done them.

With Cato, how much does Peyton have to change his hand signals or his audibles? Does he understand a lot of that from a defensive standpoint?

We do a lot of changing. We've had offensive players leave (Brandon) Stokley knew about as much about our offensive system as you can know. He certainly knew more than the defensive players know. They know some things. Most teams know what we're doing. It's not a matter of doing something different. We have a couple of formations and a few plays. It's a matter of execution, so we don't feel like we have to change too much.

What is the status of Marvin Harrison right now?

I don't think any of those guys are going to practice today. We hope to have them by the end of the week. My thought to the team was that we have to assume that none of them are going to play and that we're going to play with the guys that finished up the Denver game. They finished up pretty well. We outscored Denver 24-7 in the second half without the guys that were hurt. That's what we have to prepare to do again.

Tony how much have you looked at these linebackers here in Tampa Bay this year and does it look at all familiar?

Just watched them this week. I think I saw them one other time. They're very similar. They have some different coverage in from when I coached there. But the style is still the same. Those guys read the ball, react and use their speed and try to feed guys to the sideline and run them down. It looks very similar. This is the first I've seen of Barrett Ruud, but he's doing a good job in the middle. Of course Cato and Derrick, I know how they're going to play. But I've been impressed with Ruud. I've really been impressed with Jermaine Phillips. He's making some things happen. They're playing him really deep. He's 12-13 yards deep and he's still making plays at the line of scrimmage, making tackles, knocking balls loose. He's been impressive. That's been the biggest addition. The way he's played has really solidified that safety position.

Tony a lot of teams look at Peyton and say the key to containing him is to keep him off the field. How important is it for your defense to not allow the Bucs to control the ball and have long drives down the field that keep Peyton on the sideline?

We don't worry so much about keeping our guys on the sideline. When they get the ball six times, we're going to get it six times. That was Denver's philosophy. We scored touchdowns and they kicked field goals. Our big thing is keeping them out of the end zone. If you look at Tampa, they have a great record when they run the ball 25 times and when they run it 30-35 times they have an even better record. We can't let them run the football and do what they want to do in terms of controlling the game.

A lot of fighters will tell you that getting to the top is one thing and staying there is another. After fighting to get to the top, to be defending Super Bowl champions, what's the mentality? It's different for you now, isn't it?

Our mentality has been to put 2006 out of our minds and to not think that we're defending champions. But to think when we came into training camp on July 29 that we were starting from scratch, that the 2007 team is building it's own identity. We don't have a lot of guys leftover from the 2006 team. We're missing quite a few players. That's the approach. Even though we go places and we read papers that say, ‘Hey, the defending Super Bowl champions are coming to town,' we don't think that way. We don't view ourselves as the champs. We view ourselves as 4-0 trying to get to 5-0.

Looking back on the way things unraveled here in Tampa and how things have gone for you, do you think that it was necessary for you to leave to fulfill you destiny as a coach?

No, I don't look at it that way. I looked at it as that's how God orchestrated things. You play the hand that is dealt to you and you try to move forward and not look back. I was very fortunate to get the job in Tampa Bay and the ultimate success didn't materialize. So you move to the next job and you do the best you can. As long as I'm here I'll try to do the best I can in this job. But I never really looked at it that way, no.

Coach, I know this is a busy time of year for you, but have you had a chance to listen to the Allman Brothers CD I sent you?

(Laughter) No I haven't. Maybe I'll look forward to doing that over the bye.

Also, will you talk to (former Bucs tight end) Dave Moore anymore since he's now a member of the media?

You know that's funny. I got word that Dave was going to have a retirement part and then I got word that he was going into broadcasting. I know he's going to do a great job, but it does surprise me that he's on the media side things.

And who makes the funnier commercials — you or Peyton (Manning)?

I think Peyton definitely does. I made one and I think that's it for me. Those commercials are very much like him. The guy you see in those commercials is really what he's like most of the time, except when he's on the field.

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