White, who rotates at defensive end and defensive tackle, has been through seven NFL training camps, played in the Canadian Football League and won the Arena Football League Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007, recording 15 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 14 games.
Pewter Report contributing writer Charles Gonzalez talks to White about the differences of playing in the NFL compared to the AFL, his journey from the AFL to the NFL, having lunch with quarterback Jeff Garcia and more in this PewterReport.com Conversation.
Greg, you were brought in from the Arena League during training camp at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex as basically a no-name guy from the Orlando Predators. What are your feelings about making Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster with less experience in the defense than players like Julian Jenkins and Ellis Wyms?
“You would think since I’ve been around for five years that it would be a big celebration when you find out, but no. not at all. It was somewhat like another day, you know because you get a phone call if you don’t make it and nothing happens if you do make it. It was a sweet deal and only a little bit of joy in the sense that I would have thought that there would have been a party, some national attention, but no it was just I made the team and now it is just time to go to work and that’s pretty much how it went. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited, but it’s like work, really it is. For me, it was one of the best things.”
You have gotten that phone call before from NFL teams to tell you that you have been cut. This season had to be the best time to not get the phone call. Talk about having a new outlook with the Bucs this season when you didn’t get the call.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I thought I had made the team, going into a team meeting and they pulled me out of the team meeting and tell me that I didn’t make it [in Chicago in 2005]. So I was kind of used to it in a sense that it was water off of a duck’s back. So when I made it I was like, ‘Wow I made it.’ It hit me when I went through the walk-thru. I saw Greg Spires and he came up to me, because he’s known me since 2002, and was like ‘Yo you made it’ and I was like ‘Yeah I did make it’. That was like the most joyful part of it all and then it was back to work.”
You got to see a lot of action in the preseason with the defense and recorded five tackles and one sack. It is known that regular season play is much more competitive than in the preseason. Talk about what it was like to get your first action in Seattle against the Seahawks?
“I went out there at the beginning with my glasses on and just looked at the stadium and was like, ‘Wow I’m really here and I’m going to get to play, really suiting up.’ Because some guys make the 53-man roster and are inactive and I was active. I was actually going to get to play and get to hit [quarterback] Matt Hasselbeck or [running back] Shaun Alexander, which was crazy because he’s one of the biggest names out there. It was exciting to go against
You have started to receive more playing time in the last two games against the New Orleans Saints and the St. Louis Rams, recording three tackles and your first career sack in the NFL. What was it like to get your first sack against New Orleans?
“It was quick; it was like, ‘Oh man I got it, now back to work.’ You know what I mean? There really isn’t much time for any celebration when you make a play or you make the team. It’s just you work and in some instances in the NFL it’s like it is expected. It’s like you made the team. Great, now back to work. You got a sack, great, get another one, so that’s just how it is. You can’t really get into it after a sack because it’s a big field and you get tired. When I was playing in Arena League, I could celebrate because it’s a small field, but in the NFL it’s like ‘Yeah, now let’s go back to work.’ You don’t want to get too excited, but it was fun. Actually, that’s when the attention came after the first sack. People came to me and reporters knew my name and that was kind of cool to me.”
The road to making the Bucs roster this season has been long and winding for you. From being cut by the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay and released from the Houston Texans to playing in NFL Europe, the Canadian Football League and the Arena League. What kept you motivated to keep playing football for another shot at the NFL?
“After [getting cut] from Washington, I called my agent and told him I didn’t want to play football anymore and he asked me why not. I told him that it wasn’t that I was giving up on the NFL, it seemed like the NFL had given up on me. I didn’t think that my opportunity was there anymore and I didn’t want to do another training camp because I had been there before for four years and it sucked to work that hard and to get cut at the end. So he told me to think about it and I told him that I was pretty sure that this is what I wanted to do so I started working. Then he came to me and asked me if I wanted to play for NFL Europe and I had never exhausted that option so I said why not? I went over there and led the league in sacks over there and had a blast during my time. That’s when Chicago allocated me and then at the end of the preseason I got released. So he asked me if I wanted to go to Canada and I had never done that, so I went to Canada [British Columbia]. So I had to pretty much exhaust all my options to say, ‘No I’m not going to play.’ It’s been a struggle from the time I got released from the Texans; it was a struggle because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Last year, my agent was like, ‘Let’s go to the Arena League.’ I thought the Arena League was my spot. I was doing well and [Predators head coach] Jay [Gruden] asked me if I wanted to try [the NFL] again and I was like, ‘No.’ He asked my why and I told him I was happy and a lot of people didn’t understand. They kept asking me why you would turn down the NFL when you have an opportunity to change your life and your family’s life. I just told them because if it was that easy then everybody would be doing it. Jay came and talked to me again and I was like, ‘Okay.’ At first, I said no because I was doing great in the AFL and I don’t have worry about losing my job and every week guys coming in and taking my position. It was real safe there for me and my agent told me to give it one more chance because I might look back in five years and regret it.”
After making the 53-man roster, you went out to eat lunch at a restaurant and quarterback Jeff Garcia showed up and sat down to eat with you. He talked to you about making the most of your opportunity with the Bucs this season. After everything Garcia has gone through – making it to the NFL by way of the Canadian Football League – how big was it for Garcia to have that talk with you?
“The funny thing was that we didn’t go out together; it was one of those things where I went to go eat and he came down to the restaurant I was at. I was at the bar and he came down. I really didn’t think he was going to sit next to me because that’s Jeff Garcia, you know what I mean? So we just started talking and I was like, ‘Cool. ‘So I told him that I would pay for lunch and he was like, ‘No I will take care of it.’ I told him that I wanted to pay so I could brag to all my friends that you came and sat with me and we had a conversation. So he was like, ‘Okay.’ He was really cool and we talked and I felt accepted here then because a guy that really doesn’t know me comes and sits down to talk to me. He’s a real down to earth guy, a real cool dude.”
There are noticeable differences between playing in the AFL and the NFL. Whether it’s the length and width of the field or the narrow goal posts, it’s a different game even though it’s still football. What in your mind are the biggest differences having the opportunity to play in both the AFL and NFL?
“The heat. The heat is killing me out there. You know we were in air conditioning and here it’s really hot. I would like to go into a dome every once in a while, I might have one of my best games in the dome because I’m so used to it. It’s different in the demand; it’s a little more relaxed in the AFL. Obviously you have to win, but it’s a little more relaxed. Here it’s more tensed and you have to be on your job, you have to do this you have to do that. It is very detailed, very tedious. Meeting 24-7 so that’s how different it is. The workload is definitely a major difference because in the Arena League we got out at around 12 p.m., but around here we get out around 4 p.m. so it’s a lot different.”
Greg, you have been rotated on the defensive line between playing defensive end and defensive tackle with the Bucs. Where are you more comfortable playing, defensive end or defensive tackle?
“I’m more comfortable at defensive end and my second home will probably be at defensive tackle in the pass rush. Let me say that again, in the pass rush, not in the base scheme for run defense or in the three technique. I feel real comfortable at end in the pass rush and inside at tackle.”
Your former head coach with the Orlando Predators, Jay Gruden, went to his brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden and asked him to give you a shot during training camp this season. Talk about your relationship with Jay Gruden and what it meant to you that he would show that much respect for your talent as a football player?
“He didn’t have to go to his brother and recommend me and I didn’t ask him. Our relationship is good and when I made the team I told him. ‘Thanks for helping me get on the team.’ He said to me. ‘Thanks for not making me look bad’. So it was cool, I like Jay. He’s awesome, he tells it like it is and you have to respect that. For me, it meant a lot to me that he stuck his neck out for me. Every time somebody asks me how I made it to the NFL I’m like, ‘ay Gruden.’ It was pretty much that he got somebody to listen to him and I don’t want to say it’s who you know, but I’m glad that I know him.”
It has been well documented in an earlier question about your travels through football and the NFL. With all that experience in football, what’s the biggest lesson you have learned during your career in game?
“I don’t want to sound like a big cliché, but just being persistent. I have exhausted all of my other options to get where I’m at right now. I was okay when I said that enough was enough, but when another opportunity came and it was another option that I hadn’t touched yet, I was willing to do it. Because when I went to NFL Europe I did that to see if I could still play. Maybe it’s not everybody else, maybe it’s me and that’s how I took it. That’s why I went to NFL Europe and I feel that I played really well and then I went to Chicago. Man you have to exhaust all of your options, all of them and make sure that you left nothing unturned. Then, if that didn’t work out then it is okay for me as far as I’m concerned to move on.”
Linebacker Derrick Brooks has been known as a quiet player off the field, but does a lot of talking when he gets on the field. Former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp has always been known as one of the biggest trash-talking players in the NFL. In your opinion, who is the best trash talker on the team and have you started to trash talk at all?
“[Safety] Kalvin Pearson goes at it a lot, the special teams’ guru there. He goes at it a lot. [Linebacker] Cato [June] is more of a body kind of player letting his body do his talking. If it was sign language, then he would be the best at trash talking. If we were reading sign language then he would be that guy that has perfected it, but I really don’t hear him talking on the field. I haven’t faced any players that have talked any trash just yet. I haven’t talked any trash. I’m working on it; give me a couple more weeks when people start respecting me. Until then, I’m going to keep my mouth shut and wait.”
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