Jon Gruden Transcript — Nov. 26

Here is the complete transcript from Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden's day-after press conference on Monday, Nov. 26, 2007:

On if he talked to QB Jeff Garcia about his injury

No I haven't, I know he is in pain. It was a deep back bruise and his status will be day-to-day.

On the importance of QB Jeff Garcia

It's fortunate for some of these teams that they haven't had to do without their number one guy. But your starting quarterback is your starting quarterback because he gives your team the best chance to win and certainly Jeff Garcia is a big reason why we've had some success offensively this season. Bruce did some good things, I thought we had 180 yards in the first half and the second half we clearly struggled, but we didn't have the ball very much, either.

On an update of RB Michael Pittman's injury

I think he's improving. We do think he has a chance to play against the Saints, but there is also a chance he won't. I don't want to be hiding anything from anybody, those are just the facts, I really don't know until sometimes the day of the game.

On the positives of QB Bruce Gradkowski's play yesterday

The number one thing you do as a backup quarterback coming into a game with three months of inactivity is not turn the ball over. That's why we won the game. Washington turned it over repeatedly, we didn't, and we won the football game. That was the number one objective I think when you come in cold, having been inactive for a long period of time, you protect the football. He did make some plays, I thought he executed a pretty nice two-minute drive at the end of the half to get us a key field goal. There were some good signs, he managed the offense, he made some pretty good changes, we didn't protect very well and there were some opportunities that maybe we could've had but we didn't have an opportunity to look at.

On what trainers have said about other quarterbacks with the same back injury

There are a lot of guys who have had lower back injuries. I don't like to compare this injury to the one Brad Johnson had in 2002 or the one that David Carr had, or the one that Tarvaris Jackson had in Minnesota. There have been a lot of guys with similar injuries. Everybody responds to them differently, the best I can do is say that he has a deep lower back bruise. He's a sore man right now and his status is day-to-day.

On the defense producing turnovers

I think Greg White forced two fumbles yesterday, hustle plays to the pile, fumbles, stripping the balls, blind pursuit as a very big part of the game. Effort plays played a big part of it. Obviously Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber had critical interceptions; those guys made plays. Our pass rush in the first half was pretty good, should've had some more pressure personally in the second half. We capitalized with good hustle getting to the ball and our blind pursuit knocked the ball loose a couple of times which were big plays.

On the second half

In fairness to the offense, I think we had one possession to start the third quarter. We dropped a third down play. Then our next possession, we are backed up on our three-yard line, and became somewhat conservative there. That was it for the third quarter. Then one of our drives in the fourth quarter was a four-minute drill, where basically we are trying to get a first down to end the game. It is a credit to the Redskins, Coach Gibbs and their staff did a great job. They converted some third down and longs to keep some drives alive, which we have to take a look at. We made some great plays defensively, and I am sure those players will look at the tape to today and feel like there are some plays that we can perform better on.

On the red zone offense

We had a nice drive the first time down there; we knocked it in the ground. It was probably play selection and plays I called a couple of times. We missed Earnest Graham, I think, on a key third down play that had a chance to continue the drive and make a first down. We didn't make the plays there, and maybe my play selections, those two things came into play.

On seeing run blitzes

Yes we did. They played basically one front, and brought pressure either off the weak side or off the strong side. They played an eight-man front, which can be hard to run the ball against, although, Earnest did manufacture 75 or 80 yards on the ground. I don't know if they are run blitzes or just their base defense. They are going to make it hard for us to run the ball; they were clear with that intent.

On how QB Bruce Gradkowski impacted the play calling

It has a lot of impact. He has been inactive, hasn't been playing, hasn't been practicing, the speed of the game is intense, we had a lead, our defense was playing well.

On Gradkowski

He played two possessions in the second half. The first possession he did throw a pass that is complete for a first down. The second possession he is on his own three-yard line. He didn't play the whole second half. When he did play in the second half he was victimized by a drop. And the other situation we are deep in our own territory and we kind of shut it down in terms of opening up the attack. I expect more of him; he knows that, our team knows that. We will evaluate it carefully again today, and make some decisions here on where we are going this week.

On the Saints

This is a big game. I don't want to underestimate the matter but this is a big football game, for us and for them. This is a rivalry game, these South games now are taking shape, they understand the magnitude of it and so do we. They are very talented and an explosive team on offense, and I believe they are pretty darn good on defense too. It is going to take all three phases to really play at a high level to win in the Superdome.

On if playing on hard turf at New Orleans will make a difference

There is hard turf at Raymond James. When you get knocked on your butt it is hard turf, and when a big man lands on you, those hits take a toll.

On the veterans on defense

We've got dinosaurs at receiver, we've got elder statesmen [on defense]. You should leave these guys alone. Brian Kelly has had a real tough go here in the last year and a half with the toe and the injuries that he's had, and for him to really step in here and make the signature play to end the game is exciting to me. I think he's a great cover guy, he's a leader on our football team. For he and Ronde [Barber] and Derrick [Brooks] to make big plays at this stage of the season tells you that they've got a lot of football left in them and if we're going to hang around here and be a factor in the next five weeks it will be because of them, that's for sure.

On being scrutinized as the head coach

Scrutiny? It's just part of the job. You know, you do the best you can. I feel proud about that, I've worked as hard as I can with my coaches and I'm not shy about working. Whether we get the results or not that are pleasing to people, then that's their opinion, but I'm real confident in our coaching staff and I'm real confident in our young players and our veteran players coming together and fighting and competing here to close out the season.

On the impact of kickers

Huge. I said after the game we started a cheer in the locker room, it was defense, defense, defense and right after that it was kickers, kickers, kickers, but Bidwell is a Pro Bowl punter and he should be a Pro Bowl punter this year. He's a tremendous down-it punter inside the red zone and he hit some bombs that really helped us win the football game, and Matt Bryant making four field goals, I thought his kickoffs against a dangerous return man in [Rock] Cartwright were very important in this game. Those two guys helped us win the game, that's no question.

On Maurice Stovall excelling on special teams

Well, he's a great athlete and he has a size and strength advantage most of the time, and most of the time, if you look at Maurice, he's 6-foot-4 and 215 or 218 pounds. He's uncharacteristically big for a guy that plays that position and he's relentless. He does have change of direction and he has the ability to run and I think that combination has worked for him. He's made some splash plays out there and really helped us here in the last few weeks.

On Greg White

He's just coming on. Let's be honest and Greg White didn't get here until week two or three of training camp. No one knew much about him, except for my brother and I should give my brother a raise over that because we're happy we got him. We've pulled Jay Taylor out of Arena Football and he helped us kick some field goals and Greg White is a great story. He just works hard, he's getting himself acclimated to an 11 man game, playing outside on grass, to a new defense. I don't think he knows some of the great things he's doing and I'm not going to tell him because again, I still think there's a lot more ahead for him.

On comparing the Saints in Week 2 to now

I haven't studied them, just a little bit this morning. Obviously, they're still very talented on offense, they're committed to throwing it, they're wide open. Empty backfield sets, they're capable of throwing it on every snap. Reggie Bush is a joker deluxe, he can line up all over the football field and try to mismatch you. Defensively, they've had some injuries, Charles Grant, although I think he played yesterday and [Brian] Young, their big defense tackle. But they're still a good team, they're still a very good team.

On Ronde Barber

I'm very happy for him. I'm very proud of him. I'm proud to have worked with him for the last six years. I love that guy and I'm really happy for his success and I tried to tell him behind the scenes that it's your time of year now, that we're going to need you to step up here in the next few weeks for us to have a chance. His scoop and score in Atlanta, the big turnover yesterday, a couple nice blitzes off the corner, I'm just really excited and happy for him.

On Kevin Carter

He's still pretty good. He's versatile, he's a great guy, he's upbeat, he's big. He's real big. He's a leader, I think Gaines Adams, Greg White, and all the guys would tell you, Jovan Haye, that Kevin Carter is in his own way become a real big time leader on this football team. He sets a tempo, he has an image of professionalism that I think our guys can draw from and I think it can help them in their futures.

On having depth at defensive end

[It's good] to keep them fresh, you know you have to be able to keep your guys fresh. You do want to have some combinations so you don't have a drop off. You don't want to have a significant drop off when this guy or that guy comes out of the game. You want to be able to get pressure, and run your games and play your defense and call your defense with whatever we put on the field. I think Patrick Chukwurah is coming back, certainly Ryan Sims did some good things inside yesterday and we're pleased with that.

On the Saints having a make or break game this week

I don't know about all that. That's a sidebar right now. We've got issues right now that we have to deal with our football team. We've won three games here in the last few weeks, we might have some changes this week, you never know. So we're going to concentrate on our business and try to play a good solid football game on the road.

On Tim Tebow

I hope he wins the Heisman, personally. No disrespect to [Darren] McFadden or any of those other guys. I've never seen a guy run the ball like that. The durability, the competitiveness, and the leadership that he has. He's a beast, I love watching the Gators and I certainly have a lot of respect for Tebow.

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