Jon Gruden Transcript — Dec. 24

Here is the complete transcript from Buccaners head coach Jon Gruden on Monday, Dec. 24, 2007, after the team arrived back in Tampa Bay from San Francisco:

On injured players

Maurice Stovall broke his arm; he'll be out for the season. We think [Joey] Galloway is okay; he's got a bruised shoulder. And Ryan Nece and B.J. Askew were unable to play yesterday, Patrick Chukwurah – we'll just update you a little bit later. Treatment isn't until 12:00.

On if Micheal Spurlock is ready to play receiver in the NFL

Well, we're going to have to find out. That's one of the things we will find out here. We've lost a lot of guys, starting with Paris Warren and Mark Jones and [David] Boston and now Stovall.

On if Jeff Garcia will play against Carolina

We'll make that determination here in the next couple days. We'll let you know on Wednesday.

On if it helps to know that the Bucs will be playing the Giants in the playoffs

Yeah, a little bit. It helps them, too. But part of putting together a plan is knowing who is on your active roster. Until we know after the Carolina game...yeah, we'll look at the Giants a little bit, but we have to respect the Panthers. They're still a very talented football team. We're going to finish the season as we started it, preparing hard for every opponent and going out there playing to win.

On if it would be a nice accomplishment to go undefeated in the division

Yeah, it sure would. We wanted to win yesterday. Although we pulled some of our starters, several of them, we thought we had every opportunity to win that game. Looking at the tape this morning, we should have won that game, in my opinion. It's a credit to the 49ers, certainly. Yeah, we'd like to win and get 10 victories and go 6-0 in our division. That would be quite an accomplishment.

On not finishing in the red zone

Well, if we drop a pass wide open, that's not finishing in the red zone. We fumble a snap on second-and-goal on the three-yard-line and than we get a pass batted down on third-and-goal, yeah, he's right. We fumbled a center-quarterback exchanges three times now I believe inside the tight five-yard line area. We have to score touchdowns down there and we have to resolve that but that goes without saying.

On the last two road games the defense has given up five touchdowns in red zone without forcing any field goals

The scoring zone is big and you have to score touchdowns when you're down there offensively and you have to get off the field if you can without giving up touchdowns defensively and we have to take a good look at that, we got to tighten it up on both sides.

On a way to give the offensive line a break

We're going to keep playing. We have a lot of young guys playing and we could all use a break. I'm sure you could use a break, I could use a break. But Carolina will have no mercy on us. There a very physical powerful defensive football team and they have a chance, we're going to play the guys that have got us in this position and there will be a chance Anthony Davis gets some snaps, there's a chance Matt Lehr will get some looks but as I said when you have seven offensive linemen active for every game, some of those things are almost impossible to do.

On if the 3rd seed in the playoffs isn't as important as the players being healthy going into the playoffs

You know when you start seeing your players carried off, you have emotions that go through you. Our plan going into the game was to give Garcia some work in the first half, we knew we were going to throw the football in San Francisco and throw it we did. We had great success, I think we had nine explosive plays of twenty yards or more, should've had more than that. Our plan was to rotate some players in the second half and a couple of guys late in the second quarter. We were going to use the last two games to get some young players an opportunity to play. That's a great teaching experience, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Jeremiah Trotter, we might need these guys in the playoffs and that was the plan going into the game; that will be the plan certainly to a degree this week. It's not an easy decision, but it's one that needed to be made.

On his assessment of the second wave of linebackers in the second half

I thought it was good, it really was, I was pleased. We had a breakdown in coverage on one particular occasion, maybe two, but I thought they played hard, I thought they tackled, they knew what they were doing, and they looked like they had fun playing, showed some promise. These are guys that we're counting on in our future and Kalvin Pearson got to play some safety, we got Will Allen in the football game a little bit, that was good. I was pleased to see that tape and see where we are in terms of progress.

On Alex Smith

Well, we lose receivers, we lean on tight ends and he did have a couple uncharacteristic drops. We had six dropped passes yesterday, and that's inexcusable. That's not winning football. A couple of those were big drops, one of those was deflected and returned 66 yards by [Nate] Clements, and was a big time play in the football game. He has to catch the ball, he's capable of that, he knows that, but he did do some big things. Dropping the football is not part of the program in pro football and we have to do a better job.

On Luke McCown

I thought he made some really good plays. He took a safety in New Orleans when he was backed up, I thought he should have thrown it away, we had a shotgun fumble backed up against Houston and we had a turnover yesterday. You can't turn the ball over, that's been our winning edge this year is taking care of the football. You don't turn the ball over deep in your territory ever. Those were three plays in three consecutive games that need to be eliminated. I thought his mobility, his overall talent again was pretty obvious to us. It was sluggish at the beginning. When you're the backup quarterback, you're not always going to get a full week of work. You're going to have to come off the bench and rally the football team, and I thought he did do that late, but there was some sluggishness early in his stint there and we need to get better.

On Michael Clayton

We wanted to try to get him a game where he can make some plays. He mishandled a couple balls that we expect him to play. I thought he was physical after the catch, I thought he did an excellent job running hard, showed some stamina, quickness and we're going to need Mike Clayton as we enter the playoffs.

On the new faces on defense

We've had a lot of new faces everywhere, but I think the expectations were high for Gaines Adams. Certainly, Jovan Haye and Greg White have come in here and really played well for us. I don't want to say they've exceeded our expectations, but they've been durable, they've been very good in every game. We knew Cato June was an outstanding player, we knew he would add a lot to our football team. Tanard Jackson has been a pleasant surprise. There has been guys who have played better than maybe anyone would have expected, and for that reason, we have optimism and reason to expect more from those guys, but we're proud of them.

On if the 2007 Buccaneers defense is a great defense

Statistically speaking, they're doing pretty well, but I think it's a football team that has complemented each other. We've been able to run the football, possess the clock a little bit. Josh Bidwell has helped everybody with unbelievable punting, he's pinned opponents back, he's been outstanding. We're on the verge of putting together a defense that can be special. I think we have a group of guys that can be capable, in a single-elimination tournament of playing great and that's what we're excited about and we don't want to lose anyone obviously, but we're proud of them and encouraged by what they've done.

On the New England Patriots

I'm like everybody else. It's a great accomplishment. I tip my hat to the coaches, the front office people and the players, it's unbelievable to do that, and really, for the most part in convincing fashion. I think we're the only team to beat the Patriots this year, we beat them in a preseason game, so that tells you something about the Bucs.

On Christmas

We have adjusted the schedule a little bit. I have three sons and I'll get home for Christmas Eve tonight, and we have to prepare for Santa. He's on his way right now, he's several hundred miles away, but we have to prepare for him, the cookies, the milk and we have to get the sleeping bags for him. We wait up for him every year, so it will be another late night for little Jonny here, I'm looking forward to that, it's just what I need.

On what he asked for Christmas

Well, I can't comment on that. I've asked for so many things, I'm just very excited. It's a great time of year. I know what Christmas is all about. I've been brought up in a family where Christmas means a lot for a lot of reasons, and I'm just going to enjoy my family and reflect a little bit, but the kids will be the ones that will probably get the most out of Christmas this year at our house.

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