2010 will be known as the Year of the Rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs had a plethora of first-year players make an impact to help the team win 10 games. This season the Bucs became the first team since the merger in 1970 (excluding the 1987 season) to start 10 rookies and have a winning season. On Monday, the first rookie selected by the Bucs in the 2010 Draft – defensive tackle Gerald McCoy – reflected on his rookie season in the NFL.
“Well, it’s never alright to miss the playoffs, but we got our 10 wins,” said McCoy. “We were a 3-win team that was predicted to get two to four wins this year and we proved everybody wrong. I said it all year on my radio shows – we weren’t worried about what everyone else thought. We knew we could do this because we believed in the vision that coach Raheem had and we got 10 wins and it is exciting.”
That goal of “Race to 10” Morris established at the beginning of the season was not hard for young players like McCoy to buy into because he said he knew no better coming into the league.
“Well, being a rookie actually helps because you are so naïve to everything. Whatever somebody tells you, you say, ‘Ok, I’m going to try that.’ Coach was like, ‘Hey, lets get 10 wins.’ ‘Ok,’” said McCoy. “So that is always going to be our vision and we will try to be the first to 10 wins, but you mature over time and you start to see what you really need to believe in instead of just what is being said to you. But you start to really buy into it and all of the young guys did.”
Even though the future looks bright for Tampa Bay given all the young playmakers that team has assembled the past two seasons, McCoy, who’s season was cut short due to injury, knows the players in the locker room can’t take the opportunity in front of them for granted.
“I missed the last three, somewhat the last four, but right before the game against Washington I said to the guys while warming up, ‘I haven’t had any fun my rookie year because I have been stressed out about being the third pick and I haven’t really gotten to enjoy it. I have four more games as a rookie so I need to enjoy this and have fun with it,’” said McCoy. “Then that first quarter happened and I was done. That right there shows that you can’t take this for granted. You have to enjoy it while you have it.”
“You can’t [take it for granted] and [Coach Morris] told us to remember what this felt like. We came in and the thrill of having 10 wins was amazing… it’s not easy to get 10 wins. We are going to enjoy it for a little bit, but it will help us build on next season.”
McCoy finished the season with 43 tackles, including six tackles for a loss with three sacks, five passes defensed, and one forced fumble. While he was in the lineup, McCoy was just one of many productive rookies for Tampa Bay. McCoy sees the potential of all the rookies around him, including a certain undrafted running back.
“I am just excited to have all these young guys on this team,” said McCoy. “You see these guys and you can’t help but get excited because we know what we can be. LeGarrette (Blount) had 1,000 yards and only played 12 games so if you give him 16 it’s amazing what can happen.”
At just 22-years-old, McCoy is in the group of young Bucs and is looking forward to next season so he can pick up right where he left off before he suffered his season-ending bicep injury against the Redskins. He doesn't anticipate missing much time this offseason and expects to be ready for OTAs (organized team activites).
“I am, and I have learned a lot as a young guy,” said McCoy. “Next season I’ll know what I’ve learned and I can build of that in the offseason. I’ll be a completely different guy next season.”