Buccaneers rookie LB Mason Foster showed signs of coming of age on Sunday in Tampa Bay’s 24-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Foster recorded 10 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble in just his second NFL start, impressing head coach Raheem Morris.
"That Adrian Peterson guy is different [from running backs Foster faced in college] now,” Morris said. “He’s a different guy, I think you all know that. But to have 10 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and to play with the energy that he played with time in and time out, of course he had a couple of mistakes, no doubt about it, that’s just like my whole football team. “They’re going to have mistakes, but [it's] the understanding of those mistakes and his ability to come off and correct those things. He’s really showing growth and his development. It’s well beyond his years. It’s awesome.”
While Foster was pleased getting his first sack, the rookie admitted that he really didn’t put much thought into it until after it happened.
“[You] really don’t think about it, though, when you're playing," Foster said. "It's kind of like one of those things [where] you just make a play, but then after you're thinking about it [being against] a great quarterback you watched growing up and making a play on it, it's exciting.”
The rookie, who played his college football at Washington, sees the improvements he has made since becoming the starting middle linebacker for the Buccaneers. He knows he still needs to improve in areas, but he is willing to work hard and put in the effort to do so.
“I thought I got better,” Foster said. “I still had some mistakes I shouldn’t make, but at the same time I'm still learning. I want to come out and play as hard as I can. I feel like getting the sack, forcing fumbles, and running around and making plays here and there shows that I was playing hard. I'm just going to keep improving [and] keep staying in my playbook.”
Even though his team was down 17-0 in the first half, Foster never doubted his team or his coaches. “I knew that we were just a couple plays away from being right back in the game,” Foster said. “I knew at halftime we have great coaches [and] they are going to make the adjustments. I knew if we just made certain plays we were right there -- just little things here and there.”
The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Foster really didn’t make any major adjustments after the first half. He just continued to do what any player does and that was to hustle for the football.
“No, I just really wanted to lock in more and hustle to the ball as much as possible because you know you're playing against a good running back and it takes a lot of guys to get him down, so just keep hustling to the ball and try to take my shots when I got the chance.”
Foster received more playing time in the game against Minnesota and he appreciated the extra snaps in a league that he knows demands excellence.
“It felt great,” Foster said. “Definitely. The NFL is a physical league and you've got to be in great shape to play here, but it felt good to be out there and win the game and everything.”
The Buccaneers' come-from-behind victory over the Vikings on Sunday was huge. It's a major morale boost for the team, given the negative historical statistics and stigma surrounding 0-2 starts. Foster agreed that the feeling was great experiencing his first regular season victory.
“Yes, definitely,” Foster said. “The goal is to win and [we] went out there and fought hard and came out with the W, so there is no better feeling than that.”
This coming Sunday, Foster and his teammates will welcome their NFC rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, to Raymond James Stadium. When asked about Michael Turner, Foster acknowledged that he is one of the toughest running backs in the league. Foster is also well aware of how good the Falcons offense can be, but he accepts the challenge.
“He's a great running back,” Foster said. “Runs hard and breaks a lot of tackles. Again, it's the NFL. I'm excited to play a good running back, good O-line, great tight ends… it's going to be a challenge, but that’s why you love playing.”