Spending more time with his family and being away from the daily rigors of NFL coaching allowed new Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith to “recharge my batteries,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
It wasn’t all kicking back and relaxing for the former Atlanta Falcons head coach, though.
In addition to co-writing a book on leadership entitled “You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life,” Smith said he spent two days a week consulting at the NFL league office in the officiating department.
Bucs were tied with Buffalo as the NFL’s most penalized teams this season – Photo by: Getty Images
“I had my office set up with game tape from the league office that they were allowing me to use and then I would spend time with Dean Blandino and his staff,” Smith said during his introductory press conference at One Buc Place. “So I got to see it from a fan’s perspective in one sense but I also still had the opportunity to see it from the All-22 and the [High End Zone camera]. So it was very enjoyable.”
Penalties have dogged Tampa Bay in recent years. Their 143 infractions tied for the league-lead with Buffalo this season and no team has topped the Bucs’ count of 382 over the last three years.
Head coach Dirk Koetter said last week that addressing the team’s proclivity to rack up penalties is high on his to-do list now that he’s in charge. Smith’s new experience behind the NFL officiating scene in addition to his history of leading well-disciplined teams may be just what the Bucs need to get a handle on their troubles playing within the rules.
“I think it has to be an emphasis point from the very beginning and that was one of the things that we did in Atlanta in terms of talking to the players about how important it is to play penalty free,” said Smith, whose Falcons teams were consistently among the least-penalized in the league over seven years as head coach.
“The defensive pass interferences are probably the toughest ones to deal with, then the egregious late hits and things like that. You want guys to play tough, you want them to play smart, though. We want to be tough, we want to be aggressive, but we’ve got to play smart. We always talked about taking it right up to the edge, but let’s not go over.”
Spending time this past season working with league officials can only be beneficial, Smith added.
“Absolutely, one of the first insights is it reinforced that being an official in the NFL is a very tough job,” he said. “That’s first and foremost. But yes, I got an opportunity to see how the game is officiated and I think that it’ll be an advantage.
“One of the things that I think is very important is that you strive to play penalty-free football. On defense you have to play penalty-free football because if you don’t you’re getting a lot of opportunities to have the spot fouls. The things that really hurt you are the defensive pass interferences or the silly, dumb penalties. As a defense we’re going to strive to play on the edge, not over the edge. That’s a fine line and when teams play on the edge they’re ready to play and they’re ready to play the way the game is supposed to be played.”