Bucs linebacker Lavonte David is having an outstanding year and there is even talk of him being in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. But David's teammate, Mason Foster, is also having his best season as a pro. David and others say Foster's unselfishness has been a contributing factor to David's success.
Last Sunday, in the Buccaneers locker room following Tampa Bay’s 27-6 win over the Bills, Bucs star linebacker Lavonte David stood in front of his locker with a throng on media members interviewing him after another outstanding game.
Standing just off in the distance, Mason Foster looked on, smiling like a proud Papa. To no one in particular Foster said, “That’s my brother.”
While David is getting tons of deserved attention – even nationally now – third-year middle linebacker Mason Foster is quietly putting together an excellent season himself, and many inside the locker room have said that Foster’s unselfishness has been a contributing factor to the attention that David is now receiving.
“There is no doubt (that Mason Foster has a part in David’s success),” Sheridan said. “Mason plays the Mike linebacker, and there isn’t a down in football, especially in the running game, that they are not going to have a guy assigned to block the Mike.
“Lavonte plays behind Gerald [McCoy], and so there is no doubt he is protected a little more in the run game, and more to be able to run, scrape and make tackles, whereas Mason is lined up to what we call the bubble, the uncovered guard. And so he is going to get blocked every single down, and not taking anything away from Lavonte, he has had an outstanding year and plays well week in and week out, but there are a lot of plays he makes where he’s not being blocked. He is running down the ball carrier, where Mason doesn’t get that opportunity that much. Because they are assigning a fullback or a guard or a gap-scheme blocker to come up and block him. So there is no doubt Mason is more of a block-take-on position than Lavonte is.”
Through 12 games, (Foster missed one with an injury), the former Washington Huskies star has 73 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and has scored two touchdowns, including an 85-yard interception return of a Drew Brees pass back in September.
Foster spoke to PewterReport.com on Thursday and said he is happy to just contribute.
“Sacrifice, or whatever you want to call it, I love the guys on this team and I love the people on this defense, so I just look at it like it is my job and I will do whatever I can to help them on and off the field,” Foster said. “I love everything that Lavonte is doing, and I feel like when he does good, I am doing good, no matter what. I feel like if he gets a sack, I feel like I got a sack. A lot of time you are just running into people to free up other people, but I love it. I love playing football. My plays come around, too. I just have to keep playing hard. But I love this team and will do whatever to help this team win.”
David himself knows much of his credit belongs to his teammate.
“An unselfish player, that is what he is,” David said. “And he doesn’t complain at all. We are roommates and we talk about our game plan. We talk about how we are going to make a certain play, or how a certain play will fit up for one another. And he still makes his splash plays. He is a playmaker, and we have seen that throughout the year. Even if I am getting all of the attention, Mason's job is unsung and does a great job.
“Mason is a competitor and when you have a great middle linebacker, other teams have no choice but to game plan for him. Mason not only likes to see himself succeed, but other teammates to succeed. He sacrifices for everybody. He probably has the hardest job on the field and does a great job handling it.”
Fellow linebacker Dekoda Watson also praised Foster for his play and role with the team.
“That is just part of being a team, you have to do things that sometimes you don’t necessarily want to do but that is what is comes down to – sacrificing and being a great teammate,” Watson said. “Credit to Mason Foster. He is out there making plays and doing things that people don’t see. And that is opening gaps for Lavonte, opening gaps for myself. But shoot, you see the plays he does make. The interceptions, tackles for loss the sacks and things like that, so he is definitely contributing. I have watched him grow over the last three years and he is definitely a fine player. He is just going to continue to grind and I can’t see any limits for the whole linebacking crew.”
The Buccaneers defense put together arguably one of their best games last week against the Bills, limiting Buffalo’s weapon-laden offense to just 214 yards, while compiling seven sacks and four interceptions.
Foster said the team is getting better at understanding and executing their roles.
“It (learning the defense) takes a while definitely,” Foster said. “The more familiar you get with it – because it is very detailed oriented – the better. It is not some teams you see that go out there and play man defense the whole game. You are still running around and hitting, but you have to be really locked in to everything you are supposed to do. Every person has a piece to the puzzle and if it doesn’t fit right, then it is out the back door.
"But having guys getting more familiar with it, guys knowing where to take their shots and finding their niche in the defense. I definitely think you can see that by the way we are playing. Everybody has their role and knows how to play it. And it is making the defense successful.”
David agreed with Foster on the complexity of the Bucs defense and said that is why his relationship has been helpful in the team’s recent success.
“It is not a simple defense at all,” David said. “When it is like that, you have to be on the same page as the guy you are next to. We learned that from the first day. We have a feel for each other and where we are going to be, and we talk a lot before the play. Mental errors are rare between us, and in a game the less mental errors, the more positive the results will be.”
While the accolades continue to flow to David, Foster doesn’t appear too worried about anything other than getting better.
“I always look at it like I want to improve day in and day out and each year get better,” Foster said. “And I feel like I have done that – just try and get better as a linebacker. And anytime someone says anything (I’m not doing well), I look at it as a challenge. I just love to play football, man.”
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