Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik held a press conference on Saturday evening to discuss the Bucs roster cuts to get to the 53-man roster limit. The transcript of the entire media session is below. The question to Dominik is bolded in parenthesis.
(Dominik's opening statement on cut down day.)
"Good evening. Just real quick, for today for our organization it is a great day and also a tough day. Having been the Turk and the director of pro here for many years, telling over 20 people that they don't get to play football tomorrow in the National Football League until they find another opportunity, that is hard. They have families and they have people they need to talk to tonight, so we always take it really serious. A compliment we had as an organization happened right after the Houston game. A member of our organization that doesn't work with us daily came up and said about our 75 players ‘that is the greatest locker room I've ever been around.' These are really great guys. We've been really excited about the 80, and 75 guys that have been on this football team. That kind of brings us over about today as well in terms of the 53 men that are on this football team currently, and the 61 men we will have on this football team when we can start signing tomorrow when we can add to the practice squad and finalize the roster. It is a good day and we are excited about the quality of the football team, and we are excited about some of the depth that we have here and looking forward to letting this team start preparing for the Cleveland Browns that open the season. With that I'll open up to questions from you guys."
(Dominik on the injury to offensive tackle Demar Dotson.)
"Demar had a season-ending injury. Thankfully for Demar it is not an ACL. It is not something that is going to sit there and take 8-10 months to rehab. It is really important that's it more of a 3-4 month type injury. He had to have a little surgery. We look forward to having him have a full recovery. I think he'll be perfectly fine come next offseason and early March to begin pursuing his dream of playing for the Buccaneers in the regular season next year."
(Dominik on how hard is it to admit the mistakes of the first free agency group that featured released players like wide receiver Michael Clayton and running back Derrick Ward.)
"I hate to characterize a person as a mistake. I'll say this, some of the people that I have the most respect for in the National Football League are the people that made decisions for the right reasons for their organization. I've always kind of followed that mindset. I'll say that this morning when I talked to Michael Clayton and certainly when coach Morris talked to Michael Clayton he handled it as good and as well as you'd except for a person to handle tough news for his family, and for him. Obviously with the emergence and the play of Sammie Stroughter, Mike Williams, we were able to make a decision like that where we felt in the best interest of our football team we are going to keep seven receivers and let Michael have an opportunity elsewhere. That's where those kind of decisions are made because we felt like we were able to address that position enough where we are able to make decisions that we think are in the best interests of this football team going forward."
(Dominik on if it was the upside of the other receivers that caused Clayton to be the only receiver the team cut.)
"I think it was the upside. It is what we've seen of our young players, and really our players in general actually perform in the preseason for this football team. Again we talked about publically building an offense around Josh Freeman, and letting that grow, and letting that group of receivers grow with him. And I was very excited and encouraged to watch our preseason unfold and watch Sammie Stroughter, Arrelious Benn, and Mike Williams play around Josh Freeman. Another young guy that played well in Houston made this football team in Preston Parker. He had a very good preseason and learned how to do it the right way on fourth down. Preston played very well for us on special teams, and that got him the opportunity to earn a roster spot at this time. That's great, and that is what we are excited about. Those players growing together have been the most important thing for this organization."
(Dominik on how the team plans on using the large number of wide receivers on game days.)
"A lot of times when you look at your receivers in general and you look at your 45 man roster or 53 or 61, generally most teams will carry between six and eight receivers total. We felt like our quality and our depth was clearly worth seven deep. We're in the business if it feels they are in your best 53 players we're going to keep them. That's where Preston Parker made this football team. Again he did it on his work ethic on the football field, and being able to catch the ball consistently in OTAs, the mini-camp that we had, and in training camp Preston continued to impress us. We felt like he earned a 53rd spot on this team."
(Dominik on keeping five safeties.)
"Yeah the safety position was a heavy battle. Corey Lynch continues to show why he is in the National Football League with his performance not only on special teams, which we've all seen, but then being in the right position to make plays. We've been very encouraged on Cody Grimm's development as a seventh-round selection. I think the coaching staff has done a great job of getting him in position to make plays. I think you saw him do that and he played well on special teams as well. A big part of this football team that I've always talked about building is on fourth down. The three guys that are backups in Sabby [Piscitelli], Corey, and Cody are all really talented special teams players. That went into the decision of why all five are on this football team."
(Dominik on where the team went thin on the roster specifically linebacker and offensive line.)
"We are at six at linebacker. We are at eight on o-line. I don't know if there is a spot where I really feel like we are a thin football team. The nice thing about now having eight practice squad players instead of five like years ago is it allows you fill in where you feel comfortable with your football team when you go out to practice on Tuesday for us."
(Dominik on the entire 2010 draft class making the team and if that is because this is an amazing draft class versus them making the team because they are draft picks.)
"I would say it this way. I don't really keep track of the draft class. I really don't. I want to make sure that we make decisions on the best interest of this football team. I think our draft class specifically the seventh-rounders, which usually have the hardest time making it of any football team. I think they all did show-up. I think Erik Lorig played well in this last preseason game and got a lot of good pressure, and played consistent again on special teams. Dekoda [Watson] is probably going to be one of our most impactful rookies on fourth down in our entire football team. I think they all stepped up and figured out how to play. I think that is a credit to coach Rich Bisaccia really working hard with these young players and them buying in to the mentality to understand how to make a football team. When we interviewed them at the combine and made the selection we felt like those three players had that mentality of saying I got to make it on special teams, and I'll worry about how my pass rush goes, or worry about how my play at linebacker goes or my play at safety when I transition to safety as Cody Grimm did. So in that way I'm not keeping score at home. It is more of trying to keep the right guys."
(Dominik on what Preston Parker did as a receiver to make the team.)
"He really has done a good job of learning how to be versatile. He's figuring out the receiver position, our slot position, and he's got X. He's comfortable at the X position as well, and he's starting to learn Z as well. So he's got it figured out for you long-term Buccaneer fans, the Karl Williams way, and you find as many positions as you can learn and become valuable on special teams and that is how you make a football team. That's what Preston did." (Dominik on quarterback Rudy Carpenter and why he made the team)
“I was very happy with how Rudy finished out his preseason performance. Having watched him last year with the Dallas Cowboys, we made the decision to claim him off their practice squad. He was a young guy that I had a lot of hope for and I think he finished the preseason very strong. That was encouraging for me, in terms of accuracy, in terms of toughness – hanging in the pocket and delivering the ball. He’s got good anticipation and he has been what I expected out of him when we made the claim last year to try and bring a young quarterback in here to grow with your other young quarterbacks in Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman.”
(Dominik on pressure for Faine and Joseph to stay healthy due to Zuttah being only backup at center and guard)
“We want them all to stay healthy, especially the starters. I’ll say that Todd Toriscelli and Kurtis Shultz have done a really good job with this football team. We talked about it right after the Houston game how fortunate we are as an organization that we walked out of that game and felt like our 45-man roster was going to be the same 45-man roster that we could dress versus Cleveland. That’s a good job by the coaching staff in terms of working them in the Florida heat. That’s a great job by our training and strength staff. Obviously Zuttah can handle so many different positions. We kept a young man named Derek Hardman, who made our football team and played a lot of guard in the preseason – both left guard, right guard, and left tackle. So, he has the ability to swing as well. James Lee has played inside before as well. So, we have some extra depth there as we go forward.”
(Dominik on depth at offensive tackle position)
“Well, I think James Lee had a good preseason. I think you got a chance to see him out at the right side a couple of games and certainly on the left as well. There is comfort there with James Lee and you can’t predict anything, but Zuttah has been outside before. He has played left tackle as well and we have been pre-training him out at practice at left tackle, at right tackle, just to be prepared in case something happens. So when we take our proposed seven guys into the game… we have the versatility. James and Zuttah have done that for this organization so it makes you feel more comfortable at that position.”
(Dominik on Reggie Brown and his role)
“Reggie is going to have to have a good week of practice to get a hat on because I do believe and I think coach Morris has the same philosophy, as well has coach Olson and coach Bisaccia, that you have to play special teams to play. Or, you have to be one of those three receivers that go out on every down. So, that is where Reggie has to come on and see if he can get a hat on every week. That is going to be up to him to see if he can.”
(Dominik on releasing Derrick Ward)
“The confidence and the excitement of Cadillac Williams was a big part of it and having him have another offseason where he wasn’t rehabbing everyday. This was a real offseason for a real football player where he could do it the way you want to see a football player do it, and I think Cadillac had very good OTAs. He had a very good mini-camp and a solid training camp for us. That gave us a lot of encouragement. I also have a lot of respect for Earnest Graham being able to step into that role if need be and that really triggered the decision go in that direction. With Kareem Huggins coming in as a change-of-pace back and Chris Pressley making our football team as our blocking fullback, it gave me the mindset and the organization the mindset to move on and move forward for our football team. That was the logic behind that decision.”
(Dominik on keeping seven receivers and not Clayton)
“I think that the other guys performed very well. There are certain roles and certain elements that they do – each guy has a really good ability. You look at Sammie Stroughter and what he can do, not only at the “Zebra” position, but he can go inside and return. You look at Mike Williams and how he grabbed the “X” position and took off with it. I think that Rejus (Benn) really came on. Obviously, the last game he made plays and got the opportunity to make some catches and he took advantage of those opportunities. He showed up on special teams and he showed up blocking. Maurice Stovall has been a fantastic special teams player for us. It’s disappointing that he has missed the last two weeks, but he has proven himself, at least on fourth down, to have an opportunity. So, when you start to look at each individual player, you start to see why Michael Clayton probably did not make this football team.”
(Dominik on the youthfulness of the Bucs)
“It’s a young football team. I don’t know where we rank in the NFL, but I do know that we are not just focused on being youthful. It’s time that this team starts growing and winning together. At the same point, we weren’t not going to address elements on this football team. When we went out and signed Sean Jones in free agency or when we went out and signed Keydrick Vincent, it was not about how old they were. It was could they help this football team? And that was really the bottom line. Now, I hope we become an older football team that grows together and gels together and starts to figure out how to win like we have in the past.”
(Dominik on Talib’s maturation process and suspension)
“I have [seen him mature] and I think you guys have. I’ve read articles where we talked about Aqib Talib and how he has matured on and off the football field. I’ve been very impressed with him. He has handled it just like he would or I would expect him to. It is what it is and we have to move forward. The nice thing for this football team is that E.J. Biggers has really stepped up and he had a really good preseason. Elbert Mack has played a lot of football for this organization. Myron Lewis got a chance to play the last couple of games and is starting to play well. So, that gives you confidence going into that game to play without him. Our guys just have to step up and this will be E.J. Biggers opportunity to do that. Aqib’s handled it as well has you would ever expect him to and I know he is hungry and excited to get on that plane to go to Charlotte, but right now we are focused on Cleveland.”
(Dominik looking at the waiver wire for other players)
“We will. Last year we had a chance, at the early part of the season, to grab Tim Crowder. At one point we grabbed Michael Bennett. We grabbed guys that made this football team this year and we will continue to look at our team that way as well this year and really scour the waiver wire tonight. We are going to go grab some dinner real quick because it has really been a long run for us these last few days and then we are going to reconvene tonight and we will probably have an all-nighter again going through tapes of everyone we think is projected to be cut, things we have read on the internet that may or may not be true. We are getting prepared so that we are in position if we want to make some waiver claims, if we want to make some trades, but we are going to keep all options open to make sure that we get the best 53 men on this football team at all times. But tonight is a good night for those 53 men. They worked really hard and I think we have a really great group of guys. Now we just have to go out and start playing football.”