Q&A With The Bucs From San Diego

January 25 - Pewter Report managing editor Leo Haggerty had a chance to sit down and chat with severals Bucs players, head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Rich McKay in San Diego, California.

Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden:

Q: Can Oakland simulate in practice the speed of the Buccaneers?
A: I think they can. I think they are fast. They take pride in being one of the fastest teams in the world. They got speed there and a lot of it.

Bucs QB Brad Johnson:

Q: What's the biggest difference between Gruden and other coaches?
A: The biggest difference with Jon is learning terminology. The West Coast terminology is quite a bit to spit out in the huddle. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I kind of struggle in the huddle and Jon will give me the play again and we get to Sunday and it comes out pretty fast. I think learning the terminology is something that takes a little time. As far as concepts and philosophies, I feel great with them. I had a great background in Minnesota under Brian (Billick) and Norv Turner. The biggest change is the terminology and understanding what the defenses do to you and how they want to attack you.

Q: What was it like growing up in Black Mountain, North Carolina?
A: My mom is a high school assistant principal. My dad ran summer camps and I always had somebody to play with in the summer time. I had keys to the gyms. I had five keys to five different gyms to play in. I lived on a dirt road up on a mountain and if it snowed, you had to walk up the mountain. If you are shooting basketball, and you miss the shot you better retrieve it pretty fast or the ball was going down the hill. I have got some big legs and that's probably why, climbing those hills. Black Mountain is a great town. Actually, Brad Dougherty, he was the main guy there and my whole goal there was to get my jersey framed up on the wall with him and I finally did. We had to earn everything we got. We had great people. We would go into the grocery stores and you would know someone but not everyone. Everyone was always rooting for you and happy for you and that's all you can ask out of your friends, family and a small town.

Q: How does Jon Gruden motivate this team?
A: He motivates in a lot of different ways. To motivate Warren Sapp and to motivate me is two different extremes. A lot of times he¹d have a play and the next thing that you know there will be some outrageous movie clip while watching film trying to make a comparison to something. He¹s always teaching. He¹s an unbelievable teacher on the chalkboard. He carries it over to the practice field. One of the neat things about me is we were playing Cincinnati early in the year and we had this little play which was kind of a play-action fake to the tailback to kind of get a combination to the right. Then at halftime he was like, "Listen, if they come weak on you, just kind of drift in the pocket and roll out to the right a bit to buy a little extra time." And, son-of-a-gun if he didn't call the play and they came four weak. I kind of rolled out to the right and hit Ken Dilger on a long underneath route and he scores a touchdown. The first thing I said when I came over there was, "That was a great coaching point you had." The first thing I tell him is that I'm here to learn. Give me some more. Feed me, feed me. Jon will overload you with information constantly and eventually you are going to learn it. You may not remember 100 percent but you are going to retain more the more he coaches and teaches. My question was one of familiarity.

Q: How much of an advantage is Gruden being that he was the coach of your Super Bowl opponent last year?

A: He may know a few more things about their personnel and certain guys, but truthfully it really comes down to what we are doing on offense. Knowing our protections, our shifts and personnel groupings and how we are going to attack. It's going to be no different than any other game we have played or our preparation this week. He¹s unbelievable at game-planning and figuring out what defenses want to do to you or how they want to attack you.

Bucs CB Brian Kelly:

Q: What makes the Cover 2 so effective?
A: It takes away the vertical passing game. It also takes away a lot of the timing on what offenses want to do. This is a timing offense Gannon hits the back foot and lets the ball go because he knows all the spots that his receivers are going to be in. In Cover 2 you are able to disrupt some of the timing by rerouting the receiver but the key to Cover Two is having a great front four rush to allow pressure. Because, if not, you let a guy like Gannon sit in the pocket and he can tear you apart.

Q: Why do you play Cover 2 better than any other team?
A: Because we've been playing it for so long. Also, we have a front four that can rush probably better than anybody in the NFL right now. If we just sit there and let them take the time, you can tear a apart a Cover 2 if the quarterback has time.

Q: Should this defense be considered one of the great defenses in history if they win the Super Bowl?
A: I think so. It would be hard not to put us in that group. If you look at the numbers and the stats of where we are now, you could put us there. But there are always compared to how many championships they won or if they were able to win the big championships. To be able to have this great season and not win a championship, I don't think we would fit that category. The 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens, all those guys won championships.

Tampa Bay DT Warren Sapp:

Q: What do you like about playing in big games?
A: Big time players make big plays in big games. That's where the stage is. When we played Florida State on ABC we called it "Ghetto television" because everyone got it. It's free.

Q: How was it building the mystique of the Tampa Bay defense?
A: We got the finest defense in the NFL over the last six years. I think we're building something, but championships are what build legacies and that's what we're here for.

Q: Can defense still win championships?
A: Someone came up to me earlier in the year and said, "Warren, points are up in the NFL," and I said, "Not down here."

Q: How import is it for you, after starting your career with Tampa Bay and the Bucs were the Yucks, to come back to San Diego and be apart of the total turnaround for the franchise?
A: They were the Yucks before I got here. I've been digging for a long time to get to this point where they started calling us the Bucs. We are 60 minutes from immortality. They can never take the championship away from me.

Tampa Bay SS John Lynch:

Q: How important is it to you, a native of San Diego, to play in a Super Bowl in your hometown?
A: You know it's really been a non-issue. I¹ve been in Tampa long enough where everyone knows the type of person I am and player I¹ve been for the Bucs. Certainly your childhood and your growing up is part of who you are but as I've said before, I think that is the great thing about the game of football. It brings people from all different places and backgrounds together and makes you realize that you¹re all driving for the same thing and you¹re all similar more than you are different. Michael Pittman (also from San Diego) and I have talked about it a lot in regard to coming home and playing in front of a lot of family and friends.

Bucs GM Rich McKay:

Q: What was it like in the beginning for the Buccaneers as compared to the last round of expansion?
A: One of the NFL's greatest failures, if there are any, was they way they treated expansion teams in those days. You can't give a new city a new franchise that they paid all this money for invested all this emotion to get the franchise, and then nothing. It just wasn't right. Obviously the expansion of Jacksonville and Carolina was vastly superior in the structure of what they got and the fact that they had free agency. It was a much fairer process. It is what it should be. You shouldn't be bringing teams into the League and have no chance to win a game the first two years. My question for McKay concerned whether the Bucs, going to the Super Bowl, were ahead of schedule. His answer will probably shock you as much as it did me.

Q: How satisfying is it that one year from last year there's a new coach, you go 12-4 with the best record in the NFL, you close down the Vet in Philly with a first time NFC Championship victory and make the first Super Bowl trip in the history of the organization?

A: It's shocking. You don't change coaches and not, in some way, take a slight step back somewhere or somehow. You just don¹t do that. The Raiders deserve a lot of credit because they, likewise, continued to march forward. That¹s very hard to do. In their case they had the coach stay within the house. Ours came from the outside. It¹s very impressive for me and the players and the coaches to achieve what they have achieved. As far as the game at the Vet, that¹s as tough a group of circumstances that I can remember our franchise ever going into. For those guys to allow an opening kickoff and an opening touchdown and to see those damn white hankies, going around and around, and coming back from it was very impressive.

Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius:

Q: What was it like to get the 71-yard reception to set up the first touchdown against Philly after the heart wrenching week that you had?
A: I think it was a release (of emotion). I don't think there¹s any doubt about it. It felt good to get back on the football field and be able to make a play. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't know if I was going to play earlier in the week. That's how emotional of a week last week was, so being able to go out there and catch a pass that maybe helped turn the game around and helped Mike Alstott punch the ball in a couple of plays later felt great. I knew I made the right decision in making the trip. I owe an awful lot to this team. They have given me a chance via free agency to come in here and help the team win. I personally owe a lot to this team. Although last week was an emotional roller-coaster, for me to be able to come out there, if I had something to offer, I was going to offer it. I would not have made that trip if I didn't feel I had something to give. Coach Gruden called the play, Brad put the ball on the money and I got a couple of blocks downfield and was able to make the play.

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