Before they even met each other, Vernon Hargreaves III had a fan in new Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians. Now Hargreaves has expressed that the feeling is mutual.

After back-to-back 5-11 seasons, the Bucs hired the 66-year old Arians to change things in Tampa Bay, including a defense that could be described as below average at best. Part of that plan was hiring Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator and switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Another part of his plan is to put Hargreaves, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, back to playing outside corner, where he is most comfortable at.

Arians expressed his confidence in Hargreaves at the NFL owner’s meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR

“I have great confidence in Vernon,” Arians said. “If we have to take Vernon and put him at nickel, then I don’t know who that is yet [at outside cornerback]. So let’s find a nickel. Let’s leave Vernon outside where we know he can play and be effective and find a nickel. This is the only roster right now. I don’t know because I haven’t seen the young guys. I’ve seen them play cover two, quarters, I never saw them play man to man.”

Those comments meant everything to Hargreaves, who spoke with the media on Monday for the first time since going on injured reserve after hurting his shoulder in a Week 1 upset at New Orleans last year.

“What Coach Arians said the other day, I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Hargreaves with another very wide grin on his face. “I sent the link to everybody. It just makes me happy that the coaches here now understand – they understand what’s going on, they understand us as players, where guys should be and stuff like that, and I’m happy for that.”

Hargreaves only played one game last season after tearing his labrum in his shoulder that required off-season surgery. He says that he is 100 percent healthy now, and ready to get back onto the field.

Once he does get back on that field, he’s going to be playing outside press corner once again, which he feels is his best position. Hargreaves has played in the slot over the last two years, but that was because he was best available to the team and was willing to play anywhere. Now he’s back in his comfort zone.

“I like playing inside,” Hargreaves said. “I didn’t do it before my rookie year, but when I got drafted here they kind of were testing guys out and I just happened to be the best, truth be told, so they moved me inside. Like I said, I’m a football player, I don’t care where they put me at as long as I’m playing, but playing outside is what I want to do. That’s what I do.”

The fact that Arians went out of his way to compliment him publicly before even meeting the young cornerback instilled a great deal of confidence in Hargreaves.

“I don’t have words for it,” Hargreaves said. “I don’t know why Coach Arians said that about me, but I love it. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t have to say anything about me, but I love it. That’s that confidence that I need. That’s that confidence that we need as a secondary, and we’re excited – the whole group is.”

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III and Falcons WR Julio Jones - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III and Falcons WR Julio Jones – Photo by: Getty Images

Besides his goal of playing healthy for a full 16 games for the first time since his rookie season, Hargreaves wants to make good on his new coaches’ faith in him.

“I want to play for him now, this is where I want to be,” Hargreaves said. “This is always where I wanted to be, but when the head guy puts himself on the line for you, it kind of does something for you. I don’t really know how to explain it but it gives you a good feeling on the inside. It makes you want to play.”

Playing in a new system in which Hargreaves no longer has to play off the ball and can now go back to press coverage on the receiver reminds him his college days at Florida where he recorded 27 pass breakups and 10 interceptions as a three-year starter. Hargreaves couldn’t be more excited to get back to what he feels he does best.

“It’s everything that I do,” Hargreaves said. “It’s everything that I do well. It’s kind of like taking me back to college.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I really like hearing things like this.

    Says a ton about what he was feeling inside and everyone talked about his confidence being an issue.
    Dogged him for celebrating, when all he was doing was trying to hype himself up and his teammates.
    I watched this kid at Florida and wondered what was going on.
    Can’t imagine being drafted that high and then being asked to do something FOREIGN to you.
    just STUPID
    Excited for this young man, and excited for the future of our BUCS.

    Wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Vernon ball out this year.
    Then all the haters can GFT.

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  2. Great comment Billy, especially your last sentence!!

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  3. i think we have a player in VH3. not an all pro or even necessarily a pro bowl shoo-in, but a guy who contributes to this team for years and years. when he was drafted is now immaterial, if he gets a second contract it will be commensurate with his play not his draft position. based on what we have seen my biggest concern is durability. even if you prove yourself a capable starter, it’s tough on a team to be sweating how many games they’ll get out of you each season. hopefully it’s just a blip and nearly a year between meaningful games gives him the chance to put it behind him

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  4. I like Vernon. I don’t think he has a durability issue. He had a torn labrum. It’s not like he was calling in sick. I’d be more concerned about Vita Vea’s sore calf at the beginning of the season. Or Carlton Davis’ sore foot. I feel that when a player has an injury that actually shows up on an x-ray or MRI, you can’t really talk about them having a durability issue (unless their ACL just keeps tearing over and over again). If you break or tear something that requires surgery, you physically cannot play. However, if you’re bruised or sore and just not 100%, hey, suck it up buttercup. You’re getting paid millions to play a game. You have a million dollar staff and equipment room at your disposal to help you recover. You’re partnered up with Advent Health for crying out loud. Football players are supposed to be tough. They’re supposed to play hurt. 16 games plus the playoffs is a very grueling schedule, and the team that holds up that Lombardi trophy in February has the toughest of the tough. I’m not trying to be that guy, but last year just seemed ridiculous in the amount of players not dressing for injuries that did not seem to require a lot of medical attention.

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  5. Guessing you’ve never had a calf issue, tough enough to walk with some of them let alone explode out of your stance, battle a 300+lb grown ass man and run. All the millions of $$ and training staff in the world can’t heal those overnight, just takes time. Think we saw what a healthy Vea can do towards the end of the season, would expect him to only improve with experience and in the new scheme.

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  6. Playing to the players’ strengths instead of your scheme? Crazy talk *sarcasm

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  7. Isn’t it interesting how so many of our players lost confidence under Koetter and staff and the ultra-experienced Bruce Arians already sensed it from watching tape? I know that’s what I saw as a major issue. First a much needed confidence boost. Can a bit of swagger be far behind?

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  8. I like the talent the Bucs have in their secondary. Drafting more players in the secondary is a luxury as this team needs to use draft resources to shore up trenches (OL/DL) and add more pass rushers IMO.

    A scheme change is really going to help the collection of talent.

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  9. LOVE IT!! Let’s give Arians and Bowles a little time with these young defenders. There’s a lot of young talent there, IMO. If a casual fan like myself can second guess why players are being used the way they are, I’m sure Bruce can see it immediately. His comments and confidence about a defensive turnaround, makes me think he can see where the other staff screwed up. Well, at least I hope so.. lol..

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