Jon Gruden Transcript — Dec. 16

Here is the complete transcript from Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden's press conference after the Bucs defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 37-3, on Sunday, Dec. 16:

Opening statement

I'd just like to say it's a big win for us. I'm really proud of our team. To win a division title is hard to do and we had a lot of guys step up throughout this year to help us do that and today is another indication of that. Micheal Spurlock will get an expensive watch for being the first guy to ever take a kickoff back for a touchdown. You know, Ronde Barber started us off with an impact play. Byron Storer went wire to wire at fullback in his first game ever. I'm really proud of our players and happy for our ownership. It's another division championship that we add to our collection and we'll see what happens.

On the kickoff return for a touchdown

I saw him on the verge of breaking it, he was right in front of me and I just assumed he would step out of bounds or something would happen. I'm being serious. We've had opportunities to get close. It's almost a snake-bitten play for us. For Micheal Spurlock to be the first, there's been a long line of guys that we tried back there this year. It's a credit to Rich Bisaccia and certainly the guys that blocked it. I'm really happy for them. It's a monkey off their back.

On the guys that stepped up

You know Greg White tied a franchise record today. We didn't see Greg White until my brother released him to us in the middle of training camp. As I said, Byron Storer, an undrafted rookie playing fullback today, he played about 70 snaps. The list goes on and on. It's a credit to the guys that are finding these players and the assistant coaches that are working with them.

On if he has ever coached a team that had so many players step up

No, actually I haven't. I hope I never am again. It was funny, we were going to put Luke McCown in the game today and he lost his voice; he had laryngitis. It's always been something that's unexpected and yet someone has been able to step up for us and it's been a collaborative effort from a lot of guys that believe in one another. That's hard to find in any team sport.

On if he recalls discussing Spurlock before this season

Well he's been a guy that's done well on the practice squad. You know, we lost a lot of guys, not only Torrie Cox and Mark Jones, but guys like David Boston, Paris Warren; guys that were in line to do some of the things that he's done. We do see skill and we do see speed and returnability and that's good for us.

On whether the Bucs' 32-year streak of failing to return a kickoff for a touchdown is the most ridiculous record he knows of

I don't know. I can't answer that. But that's a good monkey to get off our back today.

On how Jeff Garcia played

I though he played well. Obviously, we played a much different type of football than we normally do when we got the lead. The credit goes to the offensive line. We were able to run the ball, possess the ball and convert some third downs on the ground to really work the clock. I thought Jeff managed things well. Obviously there was one throwaway that he needed to make, that he will make, as the games go on. But Garcia has been tremendous for us. He's a great leader and a great performer and it's great to have him back.

On whether clinching a playoff spot this early gives the team an edge

I don't know. I'm sure the scenarios will be presented to me so I can understand them. The third seed, the fourth seed, all those seeds — I don't understand. But I do know we are guaranteed a home game and there's a pretty good idea who we play. What happens here the next two weeks will have to be thought through carefully. We do have a long West coast trip this week against the 49ers, who were impressive last night, and close out the season against Carolina, who still is one of the more talented teams in football. So we're going to have to get all the information and find out which way to go here.

On whether he'll rest some of the team's top players before the postseason

That's what everybody tells you — just rest your guys. But we only have 53 guys, and we have about 11 of those 53 who are already in need of rest. We still want to go and compete, we still want to challenge for that third seed. Anything happens in these playoffs, and if we can get another home game for our fans, that will be a factor. That's the goal. So we're going to play our butts off in San Francisco and try and get that third seed in the NFC.

On how this division title compares to the others he's won in Tampa Bay

They're all special. You can look around the league and see there are teams that haven't won a division title in 15 or 20 years. This doesn't happen every day and I realize that. We have some injuries, but so does everybody else. We've gotten real quality play from our quarterback. We've been able to run the football. We've played very good defense. And those are ingredients I kind of like going into the playoffs.

On how big Ronde Barber's interception was in the first quarter

Big. Real big. The wind was a real factor today throwing the football. They chose to come out throwing it and Ronde made an opportunistic play that you would expect him to make in games like this. He shows up big in big games and I'm happy for him.

On how long it took to sink in that the Bucs had returned a kickoff for a touchdown

I thought we were going to get a 15-yard penalty. They guys were going crazy. It was shocking. It was a great accomplishment that we needed to get done and thank God it's now over.

On the questions that special teams coach Richard Bisaccia has had to answer about the kickoff return streak

It's great for him. He's one of the best coaches I know. I don't care what you tell me, he's a great coach and a helluva guy. We haven't had the luxury of a Pro Bowl returner. We've probably used 15 different guys since he's been here and he's done a fine job. There will be a little bonus in his Christmas stocking this year.


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