Press Pass: Around the locker room

Go around the Tampa Bay locker room to find out what the Buccaneers are thinking heading into Sunday's game with Atlanta. This edition of "Press Pass" includes the thoughts of Derrick Brooks, Kevin Carter, Michael Pittman and Alex Smith.

LB DERRICK BROOKS

On if he is feeling refreshed after the bye week

Yes I do. The bye week came at a good time as a lot of the players are saying. Right now the bye week is over. As we got back in here on Monday that was a real big emphasis on letting go of the bye week and really getting your attention focused on Atlanta. For the past couple of days we have watched a lot of tape on them. I think to a man, we feel that this team is a lot better than their record. They are on a two-game winning streak, and we have to go into their place and find a way to get a win.

On the division race

If you look across the league all division races, except New England, are one and two games. Everyone feels that they have a chance to make a push. That is good for the league as a whole. It is going to keep this season exciting all the way up to the last game of the season. Right now we are sitting in the driver's seat, and we really control our own destiny. Win our games; take care of our business we will have nothing to worry about. Divisional games, there is nothing more important. We got off to a good start, 2-0, now we are trying to make it 3-0 in our division.

DE/DT KEVIN CARTER

On the team

We like our chances. We like who we are that this point of the season. Our record isn't what we would have it ideally. However, given the circumstances, I think we really fought well. We got ourselves in a position obviously, by the turn of events elsewhere in our division that really put us in a position as to where we can have a profound effect on our own destiny. I can't say we control our own destiny because you never know what is going to happen but we have a shot.

On coming out of the bye week

Sometimes people have a hard time getting it going again. It is a lot to take a week off from something like this and expect to come back and be full speed and everything else. You have to be professional. We all have a job to do. The bye week, for me, couldn't come at a better time. It gave me a chance to rest up, get back on track, and get the battery recharged and ready to go.

WR MICHAEL CLAYTON

on the bye week helping

Definitely. We've got a lot of guys banged up right now but we were able to get a lot of guys back. As well, we were able to have some teams in our division lose some games over the bye, so that helped us out a whole lot. If we finish off strong we control our own destiny. We're really excited that the playoff atmosphere is coming around right now. The weather's getting chilly and we're pretty excited about the feeling that we're getting right now.

QB JEFF GARCIA

On how he feels coming back from the bye week

I feel good, I feel great. Coming back, I feel very motivated, very energized, very excited to get back to doing what we need to do and just get back on the field. I think sometimes when you take a break like that it gets you out of a little bit of rhythm. It is important to make sure that today and tomorrow are good work days for us. It is important for me to get back out there and get moving around, throwing the ball, running around, and all the things that I feel like I need to do in order to be where I need to be on Sunday.

On looking ahead to the second half of the season

I just really look at this second half of the season as a great opportunity for this team to really establish what we have been trying to work on for the first half of the season. I think that we take this one week at a time, I mean, that is the old saying but it is true. We can't look too far ahead of our next opponent. Atlanta poses a difficult challenge in the sense that we are playing there. Their defense has been a strong point for that team. They have played really well defensively; they have given themselves a chance to win football games because of their defense. That is something that we are going to have to face this week. I am not even really concerned about what is ahead of that, it is all about this week and that is what I have to focus on, and that is where all the energy has to be.

RB EARNEST GRAHAM

On using three running backs

It gives us a lot of options. Especially with the type of speed of Michael Bennett, the versatility of Michael Pittman, the way I am running the football right now. It gives us a lot of options, a lot of versatility. I think it is going to be hard for teams to really prepare for that. To keep a fresh back in the game all the time, I think you are going to see it help Jeff [Garcia] a lot too, to keep a fresh back in the game, and have an extra option at receiver. I am sure you can find ways to give us all game time, because that is how our coach works. I think it is going to help our offense a lot.

On being in a groove as a running back

Yes that definitely carries over. Just the momentum, the confidence, knowing where the offensive line is, the chemistry, and the expectations going into the game are already done with. It definitely carries over game to game.

WR IKE HILLIARD

on if the Bucs have noticed other teams having trouble coming out of the bye

I don't think we even worry about what anybody else is doing. We just have to look at what we did in the past. We haven't played well after the bye week ourselves, so that's something that's been addressed. We've given it enough attention to where we know what we have to do. We know what situation we're in and we just have to go out and play ball.

on if the team has been recharged by the bye week

We're not worried about that. We just take it one day at a time, one game at a time. We understand in the back of our minds what situation we have but we don't want to get outside of that box. We have to take care of Atlanta. That's the next game and it's the biggest game of the year. We'll go no farther than that.

on if the Atlanta defense is playing well

Yeah, there's no question. They have guys we have to account for: [John] Abraham, [Lawyer] Milloy, DeAngelo Hall's going to play good football. We're going to have to account for those guys – not to take anything away from the rest of the crew, but they are guys who are going to get them going. They're going to bring a lot of heat.

on the Falcons feeling like they can win

They feel good about what they're doing, regardless of what the record says, regardless of how things haven't worked out I'm sure as well as they want it to on the other side of the ball. Offensively, we know we have a tough defense to face and we have to meet that challenge.

G DAVIN JOSEPH

on the second half of the season

Oh, yeah, it's going to be exciting for us. The second half of the season, we have a lot of divisional games and a chance to go on a run and make the playoffs.

on Atlanta getting on a roll

Their defense is playing really well. I think that's the strong point of their team right now. Hopefully we can keep the ball in our hands and do our thing on offense.

on the Falcons' defense getting a lot of takeaways

Yeah, a lot of turnovers. They're making a lot of things happen – getting after the quarterback, stuffing the run, doing things of that nature. They have talent, there's no doubt about that. Now they're just playing well.

RB MICHAEL PITTMAN

on how he's feeling

I'm feeling good, and very excited to be back. It's going to be a tough game this week, but I'm feeling great. I'm just going to go out and try to do my part to help this team win.

on if he is surprised to be back this early

No, not surprised at all. I told everybody I was going to try to get back as fast as I could. I did everything to get back. I did acupuncture, all that type of stuff. All the vitamins and things to get my ligaments right in my ankle, and all the help from the trainers, the people who have been here. I'm not surprised. I keep myself in shape, also, and that's a big way to heal a lot faster, because my body is already healthy.

G ARRON SEARS

on facing tough competition at Tennessee

It's not the NFL. The NFL is All-Americans each week, week-in and week-out.

on how much John Wade has helped him

Oh, amazingly. I don't know if I'd be here right now if it wasn't for him. He's a guy who knows the offense like the back of his hand. Whenever I'm in the wrong, he's able to set me back into place, week-in and week-out.

on having such a young offensive line

Wade helps everybody across the line. We've got four guys under 24 years old starting on this offensive line, so it's big to have an older guy with his knowledge in the middle.

TE ALEX SMITH

on what stands out about Atlanta

Their defense is playing extremely well. Their defense is playing about as good as ever, especially with those guys on the outside. They're good in coverage and [John] Abraham is putting that pressure on as well. So it will be a tough challenge.


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