Optimism may never be quite as high as it is during the offseason and a couple decorated Tampa Bay Buccaneers aired their true hopes for 2016 Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters during a break in offseason workouts, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David brought up the “P” word often during individual interview sessions.
“Every year that I’ve been here I feel like we were a playoff team but we never got a chance to put it all together,” David said. “But now, that’s in the past and things are different. I feel like we’ve got the guys in place to accomplish that. We’ve got a lot of talented players on this football team and it’s not just me that is hungry and eager to get there. It’s our young guys, too, going out and working hard every day, working their butts off, trying to learn as much as they can to get us to that level.”
Last year the Bucs flirted with their first postseason trip since 2007, carrying a 6-6 record into a Week 14 home game against New Orleans before dropping their final four and finishing 6-10. That was the team’s fifth straight sub-.500 campaign, going 23-57 over that stretch.
Professional seasons that end after Week 17 are all Martin and David know and both expressed their desires to change the narrative that Tampa Bay is an NFL afterthought.
Lavonte David – Photo: Mark Cook/PR
“We still have doubters,” David said. “Nobody believes in us. When they came out with the schedule, all the analysts put out wins and losses [predictions] and we were one of the teams who had more Ls than Ws. That’s like a slap in the face to the guys we have on this team. Everybody had that in the back of their minds.”
While Martin needed a little prodding to discuss what he aims to achieve on a personal level next year, it didn’t take much for him to expound upon his ultimate goals.
“What’s missing? A Super Bowl,” he said. “Going to the playoffs. We haven’t had a lot of wins in my time here and I want to win games and get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl and win it. So that’s the next thing on my list.
“That’s the reason why you play the game. You want to win, go to the playoffs and then go to the Super Bowl. If those aren’t your goals then you shouldn’t be playing. That’s definitely something we’re trying to get.”
When asked in an interview setting with the media about playoff potential, just about every player in the league is going to say he feels his team is capable of making a push. Since last year’s draft, Tampa Bay’s added individuals to its pool of talent recognized by those outside One Buccaneer Place and around the league.
David and Martin have both received All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, quarterback Jameis Winston met or exceeded most expectations last year, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance and Kwon Alexander – a fourth-round pick in 2015 – burst onto the scene after earning the starting job at middle linebacker.
The pieces are there, David believes, but racking up All-Pro honors and Player of the Week awards doesn’t mean anything if they’re not accompanied by wins.
“I’m very tired [of that],” he said. “Very tired. Yesterday in workouts I was screaming it to guys. It’s always in the back of my mind, but we just have to take care of what we need to take care of and that’s taking it one day at a time.
“We’ve got the pieces, we’ve got the guys that are getting individual accolades, but it’s a team effort. Getting the individual accolades is pretty good, but the big accolade is winning the Super Bowl. That’s the main thing. When you win the Super Bowl everybody gets recognized and that’s what we want.”