Jon Gruden Conference Call Highlights

Jon Gruden talks to the Indianapolis media about the challenge of playing the Colts, Tampa Bay's identity as a defensive team, the 2003 loss to the Colts, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June ... and more!

On starting Donald Penn at LT...

"Yes, we'll have Donald Penn over there playing left tackle. He'll have his hands full, that's for sure."

On what he will tell Penn going against DE-Dwight Freeney...

"I think everybody that plays against Dwight Freeney or (Robert) Mathis, you obviously have to take into consideration that they're tremendous. You have to be careful, there's no question about it. But you have to show up and play and you have to play hard, and that's what we're going to focus on doing."

On what he sees from Manning and the offense...

"He's the best, in terms of that he does more at the line of scrimmage than any guy I've ever seen. I know (Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore, a good friend of mine, is a great coach. They have some of the great skill players to go with him that exist in football. I think Joseph Addai has really given them a punishing runner that can make long runs and make plays. Dallas Clark has emerged into a superstar over the last couple of years. You don't miss many beats with Peyton Manning. He sees your rotations, he senses blitzes, he smells out a lot of problems, and he's magnificent with the ball in his hands. And he has an assortment of guys that can do damage."

On the RCA Dome...

"We had to open up at Seattle, and that's a loud place to play. When you're playing football like the Colts are playing, dominant football, particular in the present age, you're going to deal with a lot of excited fans. So we'll work in the noise today and tomorrow and Friday, and we'll do the best we can to get our players re-familiarized with the loud crowd. It will be hard to function, it always is, but we've been pretty good in that atmosphere in the past, although I'm sure this will be a real high-strung crowd."

On turning it around after last season...

"We have a lot of new players. Usually, you can say what you want to say, but usually the players decide the outcomes of these games, and we didn't do a particularly good job of coaching I'm sure. Two years ago we won 11 games, won the (NFC) South division, and last year we had an assortment of injuries starting at quarterback. When you play a rookie quarterback, sometimes, not to make excuses or point fingers, it can be a tough year. We lost Simeon Rice. We traded Anthony McFarland. We lost a number of players defensively, offensively. We were able to compete and get some key guys in free agency, we had a full complement of drafts the last couple of years, and some of these guys have grown in to pretty good players. So, we're putting better players on the field, I believe, and our guys are playing extremely hard."

On Tampa being a defensive team over the years...

"I think a lot of it you have to research it yourself, because when you say certain things, sometimes they're perceived as excuses or whatever. I'll just say this: we've been very fortunate, been blessed here to have had Hall of Fame caliber players play a long period of time on defense, guys like John Lynch and Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Ronde Barber has been stellar for a long time. We drafted the Anthony McFarlands and certainly brought in guys like Simeon Rice. We have spent a lot of high draft picks and a lot of money defensively, and to be honest with you, a lot of the guys that we did draft early in the first round or second round here offensively just didn't come through like we had hoped. You have to take responsibility for that as a coach. A lot of it has to do with drafting well and guys enjoying long great careers, much like you're seeing with Peyton Manning and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne) and certainly the two defensive ends (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis) and now Bob Sanders. So, it's a credit to Bill Polian and certainly Coach Dungy."

On if the defense is back and playing as well as it appears...

"You measure your defense's success against teams like the Indianapolis Colts. I'll just put it at that. No disrespect to anybody we've played, but we saw a guy (David Carr) playing his first game with the (Carolina) Panthers last week. We had an early lead. Our defense is playing hard, playing well. I give them a lot of credit for that. The Rams are struggling right now up front with numerous injuries. We'll be tested, there's no question about it, by an offensive machine at their place. I just don't like to make a lot of statements about being back, because we've been very good here on defense, we're trying to regain our form, and to do that, we have to put 16, 17, 18 outings in a row together."


Derrick Brooks
Doug Benc/Getty

On LB-Derrick Brooks...

"He's playing great, and as I said, we've added some people around him which are making it a lot more fun for him. We've added Cato June from the Colts and Barrett Ruud has really emerged as a real good middle linebacker for us. So he's surrounded now by some guys that are healthy, that are athletic and opportunistic, that understand our defense. Our safety play is much better. I really think Phillip Buchanon and Tanard Jackson, two newcomers to our secondary, have upgraded us there. And our defensive line, although we're not perfect yet, we're getting better and we're playing hard."

On how LB-Cato June has fit in...

"He's been great. He's been an outstanding addition to our team. He's a great guy. He's a hard-working guy. He's an inspiring teammate. Guys like him, they feed off his energy. He's made some impact plays for us and I know he's really excited about the opportunity of playing his former teammates."

On WR-Joey Galloway going strong in his 13th season...

"Yes, he's really playing well for us. The last few weeks, we really haven't thrown the ball very much at all, particularly in the second half. You know how some of these receivers are, they get on my case a little bit about that. But he's been outstanding for us. He's running good routes, he's playing hard and he's made some real explosive plays for us. And Ike Hilliard has come in here this season and really given us four really good outings. So those two veterans have really played well for us."

On how rare it is for a receiver to last so long in the league...

"Well, it's rare for anybody to last that long. I was fortunate to be around Irving Fryar, Art Monk late in their careers, and Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. You hope Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne can play deep into their 30s or into their 40s because they're just great players. They take care of themselves off the field, they know how to play the game, and it's a credit to them. There's not many guys around like them."

the 2003 game and if it was one of the more disappointing and bizarre games in his career...

"I really appreciate you bringing that up. That was not a real enjoyable time in my life. We played really well for about 55 minutes of that game. I think we had a 35-14 lead and Brad Pyatt returned a kickoff about 80 yards to set up a score. Then the sheriff, I call Peyton Manning the sheriff, he just took over our town and he was dominant down the stretch. What can I say, it was one of the great comeback victories of all-time. And unfortunately, I was on the wrong end of the stick."

On how much fatigue played down the stretch of the 03 game...

"I don't know about that. I think momentum shifted and Peyton Manning, he just had dollar signs in his eyes. He was on a mission and he got red hot and he targeted a couple of our coverages, a couple of guys, and he made some huge plays in the process. Unfortunately, offensively, we weren't able to get much done in the closing five minutes. But Manning has done that to a lot of people, not necessarily that dramatically, but he's a guy that you're going to have to contend with for 60 minutes."

On if he figured out the leaping call...

"That's another thing I really appreciate you bringing up. What are you supposed to do? You're supposed to jump up and try and block a kick, aren't you? I don't know. I've seen leaping calls and tuck-rule calls. I'm still trying to get to the bottom of all of these calls. But you have to deal with the interpretation of how it's seen by the officials, and they're doing the best they can."


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