The Bucs are back in action coming of the Bye Week and are re-focused to make a playoff push with four games remaining in the season. As they look to correct some issues they’ve had on both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay faces a crucial match-up on Sunday against the Vikings, who are just one game behind the Bucs for a playoff spot.

Bruce Arians spoke with the media on Tuesday as the Bucs returned to practice to discuss the overview of this team after 12 games and where this team feels they’re at with four to go and the playoffs in reach.

Here is a full transcript of his press conference.

(On if he was able to use the Bye Week to determine the reason for the slower starts on offense)
I think we had those answers going into it – it’s third downs [and creating] manageable third downs on offense. Defensively, it’s just matching the speed. We do a great job in the second half, but we have to do a better job of matching the speed – especially if the [other] team is in tempo – to start the ballgames and get off the field on third down.”

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

(On how much more of an identity does Ronald Jones II need to get this team going)
“I think definitely, he’s having a heck of a year. When things are good he’s getting 20 touches. We just got to stay in the ball games earlier and not fall behind. That is what we try to do every week, but I thought in the Kansas City game we did a good job of staying in the game plan, keeping him going and getting back in the ball game. Definitely he is where we start.”

(On the importance of beating the Vikings’ defensive success on third down and goal-to-go situations)
“It’s huge. They’ve done a good job on third down, getting teams in a little bit longer situations. They got a great blitz package, Mike Zimmer is one of the best there is, one of the guys I respect the most in this business. They have a heck of a third down package and they know what they’re doing in the red zone. We played them a couple of times in Arizona and they’re very very solid. They know what they’re doing, you’re not putting anything in that you’re going to show them formationally that they’re not going to know what to do.”

(On things going well during the off week with no new COVID cases)
“I’m knocking on – it’s not really wood, I think it’s plastic. But we still got a couple of days to make sure over the weekend. But so far so good, our guys have done a great job all season of following the protocols.”

(On making sure you just get in the playoffs before anything else)
It’s just getting in the dance. We’ve been a one-seed and won it, we’ve been a six-seed and won it. This year especially with no fans, the home field advantage is really out the window. It’s just going to be lining up playing in empty stadiums. That’s what’s been a big big part of the playoffs in the past is home field advantage and I don’t think it’s going to be an advantage this year. It’s just a matter of getting in.”

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

(On the pedigree of Tom Brady playing in the postseason)
“You could see the practice had a different feel already. Guys were excited, it was half a run, half a walkthrough practice. It’s the excitement I wanted to feel when we got back together.”

(On what he’s seen from Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson)
“Dynamic. Dalvin’s one of the best backs, arguably the best back in the league right now, and they feature him. He’s a great zone runner, he’s a downhill runner, one-cut, hard to tackle. It’s going to be a great challenge defensively. Jefferson, he takes the top off the coverage, we’ve seen a bunch of those guys this year, but don’t ever forget [Adam] Thielen, because he’s really the go-to guy.”

(On game planning around Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith and Brady’s recent INTs going to safeties)
“I think not as much coverage wise, it’s you got to know when he’s blitzing because he’s a heck of a blitzer and he disguises it. He’s up on the line, he’s back in Cover 2, he does a great job of disguising coverages and then when he’s blitzing he does a great job of starting back and then coming. Whoever’s got him in protection has got to be very very alert of where he is at all times.”

(On if he has a better identity of what this offense is after adding new pieces)
“None of them are really new anymore. It basically starts and always starts with the running game and the receivers have been together now and Tom I think is very very comfortable this week. The identity is again, being able to do a lot of different things with a lot of different people.”

(On with so much variety if you run the risk of guys not getting as many reps and hurting execution)
“No because you get very predictable that way. You cannot be predictable in the NFL. That’s a sure sign of defeat.”

(On if there’s been a point where he sees the continuity there with the offense)
“I think we’ll see more on Sunday. It was a good rest for him [Brady] but also for looking at a lot of different things. Looking at how this team plays and the way we play teams like them. It’s still a work in progress, that part is, but again, I feel very very comfortable that everybody’s on the same page right now.”

(On if there’s anything they can now implement in practice to help get faster starts)
I don’t think so. We always talk about starting off fast in practices and finishing strong. We have periods of kicking in between so it’s a first half, second half and we talk about those things all the time and we emphasize third down. I think it’s a matter of playing on Sunday, practicing at night helps if you’re going to play at night, but it’s a matter of matching that speed in the first 10 minutes of the game.”

(On if there’s any danger of guys looking past teams that don’t have a winning record)
“No, because Minnesota’s one game behind us. They’ll have the tiebreaker, so this is a huge game. We ain’t looking behind nobody, that’s for sure.”

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady
Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

(On what he’s picked up over the last 12 games that he’d like to tweak)
“I looked at a lot of things that we were doing well and then a few things that we were not. I think we talked about the starts and playing great in the second half – we got to start that in the first half. We did that early in the season and then we kind of fell off.”

(On adding Ted Larson)
“Ted started for us a couple years in Arizona and was willing to go on the practice squad. With losing A.Q., it’s another veteran interior player for the long haul and a guy we really trust and kind of knows the system.”

(On waiving Jaydon Mickens)
“Well right now I can’t dress seven receivers on Sunday. Kenjon Barner does a heck of a job as a kick returner also, so rather than having seven receivers and three backs, I’d rather have four running backs. Mick has done a heck of a job for us.”

(On if he wouldn’t see Barner on the field as a RB, and just as a retuner)
“No, he’s a solid running back. He’s got good hands and he can do a lot of things. He’s got great speed, so I wouldn’t say that at all.”

(On the toughness of Chris Godwin, and an update on Jamel Dean)
Jamel was out there, he should be finishing up the protocol, hopefully. There’s no chart for the toughness of Chris Godwin. If it goes to 10, throw it away and start over again because the dude plays. He had a mitt on his hand to protect his fingers and he’s catching the ball in practice with that on. He’s amazing, I can’t say enough, he’s one of the toughest guys that I’ve coached.

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