Bucs head coach Lovie Smith spoke at length about WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay's moves in free agency, the health of G Carl Nicks, draft prospect QBs Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles in an hour-long interview with the media. This is the first installment of a four-part transcript of Smith's hour-long interview with the media.
ORLANDO – Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith discussed the latest news on troubled wide receiver Mike Williams and shared his thoughts on the team’s moves in free agency, the upcoming draft, the health of guard Carl Nicks, the Bucs' quarterback position, and attending the pro days of Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and UCF QB Blake Bortles in an hour-long interview with PewterReport.com, the local Bucs beat writers and the national media at the NFC coaches breakfast interview at the NFL Owners Meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando, Fla.
This is the first installment in a four-part transcript covering Smith's interview on Wednesday morning:Smith’s opening statement regarding Mike Williams:
“I just want to clear up what I know and what direction we are going with Mike. First off, I can’t wait until we start talking about our players on the field. Off-the-field things do happen. I’ve communicated with Mike and I have some information that I have to go on right now. That information … I know that there was an incident at the home. I haven’t had the chance to talk to everybody there. I haven’t done that type of research. We have time to do that. We’re at the NFL Owners Meeting right now seeing what new rules we are passing and getting into the flow of things with all of that. I’m aware of the situation with Michael Williams just going forward in general. I don’t believe a guy should get a death sentence on one infraction. I made the statement that I’m not going to kick someone off the team based on them being a victim of what I was initially told. Again, you don’t get a (death) sentence from one incident. You look for a pattern. If a player shows a pattern of behavior that we don’t feel like is what we want displayed by our Tampa Bay Buccaneers then more drastic measures come into play. I’m not to that point right now. Again, I came down here Saturday for the Owners Meeting. I haven’t had the chance to talk to Mike face-to-face. I’m going to hold any further comment until I talk to Mike face-to-face. Again, we don’t put up with a lot of off-the-field things going on. It’s kind of as simple as that. I have a pattern. I have a history as a head football coach. I can’t wait to talk to my team first – our team first. I’ve talked to (the media) more than I’ve talked to them. I can’t wait until April 7 gets here and we can start talking more about football.”
Smith on Williams’ previous off-field incidents:
“Everything is factored in, but I’m coming in and I think the advantage to starting fresh is that I’m not going to judge players an awful lot based on what they’ve done before. They’re on our football team right now and it’s a new day and they say they want a chance to do some things the right way, that’s what I’m going to go with. Mike has a court date set, but we have to let that all play out in the system a little bit. That’s how it is with everybody else in society, so that’s the way we’re going to do it, too.”Smith when asked if Williams has a clean slate with him:
“I’m not saying a clean slate. I’m saying that everybody has a starting spot (with him) and everything that you’ve done is with you. But if you are on the football team you haven’t done enough right now as far as our organization is concerned to not be here. I’m talking about starting from that spot.”Smith on whether Tampa Bay still has unfinished business in free agency:
“First of all, we’re a 4-12 football team, so there’s a lot of unfinished business. I think we’ve addressed a lot of issues. From an offensive side, to bring in a veteran quarterback that has had success in the league that I’ve known about strengthens the quarterback position along with Mike Glennon. I feel pretty good about the two of them. Running back position is a position I felt pretty good about coming in. We have three running backs on the roster that rushed for over 100 yards in a game. That says a lot. Offensive line, we didn’t perform as well as we needed to. We addressed some of those issues. The receiver position and tight end, we’re looking at all of them. In the offseason you try to improve all the positions. On the defensive side, it all starts up front. We added a couple of good football players. We added a very good defensive back. We signed one of our linebackers back. We’ve addressed a lot of issues, but we’re just trying to catch up with the rest of our division. Carolina had a heck of a run. Ron Rivera did a great job with them last year. There’s Mike Smith (in Atlanta), Sean Payton (in New Orleans). We know what they’re going to bring leading their football teams.”Smith on the Buccaneers’ aggressive approach in free agency this year:
“We’re not trying to put a dream team together or a quick fix. We’re trying to improve our ball club and we addressed some areas. I’m going to piggyback on what Jason [Licht] said. One of my first statements was that I couldn’t wait for the day when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were relevant again. It’s all on the same line. There’s no rebuilding. You look at every position and you evaluate every player on your team and see if you need to improve that position. If we think we do need a lot of improvements in a lot of areas I think you do owe it to your fans – and not just our fans, but everybody who loves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – to do that. That’s what we’ve done. We’re going to do the same thing in the draft. Right now we have the seventh (overall) pick. We could move up. We could move back. We’re going to add some more football players that will be new. I’m not afraid of new. There are a lot of new coaches coming in. That’s what happens sometimes with change.”Smith on whether it takes time to build cohesion within an organization:
“Yes, but for us, we have to be ready by that opening game. We’re going to try to make improvements every day. It’s as simple as that. I mentioned April 7. April 21 is our first mini-camp. There are a lot of important dates set up right now and we’re going to try to take advantage of them. We have voluntary workouts starting up soon. For our football team, for us to make those moves we need everybody there working hard each day.”Smith on the status of Nicks’ rehab:
“I know he’s rehabbing right now. I’ve seen Carl quite a bit. He’s one of the guys that is in town that I have had the opportunity to speak with at times. It’s really no more than that. When I say there’s change, we have a new trainer. We have different people here. I know Carl has worked extremely hard to get back out on the football field, and that’s all we can ask for right now.”Smith on his time off last year after being fired by Chicago after 2012:
“In a year I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on a lot of different things. You (media) guys should all try that sometime, hit that pause button. Of course, let someone pay you for that year (laughs). You have a different perspective. I didn’t feel like I was unemployed that year, but seriously, my wife and I had a great time. We have eight grandkids and three children. I had a lot of things I wanted to do that as a coach you sometimes don’t get the chance to. I spent a lot of time with my 15 month-old grandson, so all that was good – but also getting deep into football where you don’t have to game plan for an opponent. So I really enjoyed the time being a fan, studying our game and looking at different coaches and everything I believe in. My core values and how I run a football team and the chance to analyze all that. The conclusion I came to is that we’re not going to make a lot of drastic changes about how I believe you treat people and how you win football games. There are some things that I believe we will do differently. You’ll just have to wait until we start playing games to see that.”Smith on if he had any anxiety about returning to coaching after a year off:
“No. For you guys that know me I have a strong faith. I think everything happens for a reason. I just took advantage of that time. The entire year I was off I was planning for (my) comeback into the game. It wasn’t hard, but at the same time we’re creatures of habit. It took me two months to sleep in until 7:30 a.m. It still felt like I was doing something wrong [by sleeping in]. To just have the chance to take a step back and what I was able to see was how much I love the game, too. I missed this. My approach to the Owners Meeting this year … usually you are, ‘Okay, we’ve got the Owners Meeting.’ This time I was ready to go. It’s been like that every day going into the office.”Smith on bringing in several wide receivers for visits, but not signing any:
“We brought in some players and we have a lot to offer. We have a lot of new excitement. And off the field, it’s great living in Tampa. I know that first-hand. I think most guys end up where they belong. Whether it was them wanting something a little bit different, or us. They are evaluating us and we’re evaluating them. Part of them coming in [for visits] is part of the process. Sometimes after you get together you say, ‘It’s not a great fit. Maybe we both need to go in a different direction.’ Again, I feel good about getting the players we really wanted.”Smith on the current state of the wide receiver position in Tampa Bay:
“We’re going to dress on game day five players, so you mentioned two guys [in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams], but we have young players right now that have potential. I know that’s a scary word a little bit. But we have some, and we’ll just continue the process. That’s ongoing. We’ve done a lot in free agency, but we weren’t trying to fill our entire roster through free agency. I think there is a deep group of receivers in the draft. Free agency isn’t over, but we’re going to use the draft to address a lot of areas also.”Smith on 34-year old Josh McCown and him possibly being a bridge to a younger QB:
“We have evaluated the position and I have evaluated Josh quite a bit – just talking about Josh coming in. Thirty-four is a number and being a 34-year old guy that has been back and forth for a long period of time and doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his body. He’s a very good athlete. He won’t get the credit for being the athlete that he is. He brings mobility to the position. He makes good decisions. As I looked at, I said, ‘Who is available that I think can help us win football games?’ What Josh displayed last year was that. I know a lot has been said about his leadership, but I’m talking about his play on the football field. That’s what you go on. There are a couple other good quarterbacks in their 30s doing a pretty good job right now. I don’t think you are ready to be put out to pasture yet when you get into your 30s. I feel pretty good – confident – about the type of play we’re going to get from him. I’m going to say Mike Glennon, too. I don’t know Mike as well, but to be a rookie and come in and do that, I like the strength of the position.”Smith on being in a good spot with the seventh overall pick and the opportunity to draft a QB:
“Yes, we are. I guess if there is something positive that comes out of being a new staff coming in is that you get an early pick to be able to add a good player. I’m just going to make a statement. As I talk about Mike and as I talk about Josh, we have all positions on the table. I’m leaving here to go watch Johnny Manziel’s workout. We have a lot of different options we can go with. In the end it will all fit together from what my experience has shown me.”Smith on watching the pro day of a quarterback like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel:
“I think you put some stock in it, but it’s just part of the evaluation process. I know some guys say you can’t judge a guy just on the Combine. No, you can’t. But the Combine is a part of it. The interviews are a part of it. His college workout is a part of it. Then watching as many games as you possibly can. I had a little bit of time off this past year. You realize that, right? I had time to watch quite a few games. I had a chance to watch [Manziel] a lot. You add all that up and talk to people for us that know each player. You use every tool that you can to make an evaluation. Not just on that player, but all players. What do I want to see? I want to see how he handles a different environment. He’s played in front of big crowds, but he hasn’t had to perform on one day. This is a big day with a lot of people coming out. One of many.”Smith on attending Blake Bortles’ pro day last week at Central Florida:
“I was really impressed with Blake when I first met him up at the Combine. I watched him quite a bit this part year also. Everything we’ve seen throughout this process I think we saw on his pro day also. He’s a guy with a lot of potential and poise. He’s young, also. He has a bright future ahead of him. I haven’t seen anything that makes you say, ‘No’ or something you don’t really like about him.”
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