The Buccaneers are just a few sleeps away from their first regular season gameday of the 2019 regular season, and the excitement is building.
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles met with the Tampa media on Thursday to give their thoughts ahead of Sunday’s opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
As the anticipation for kickoff builds, Leftwich, a former player himself, said being in this situation before is what will help him as Sunday approaches:
“I’m pretty sure I’ll feel the same way I’ve felt in the past. The great thing is I’ve been in these types of situations before as a player. They don’t get to tackle – they don’t actually hit me now. You just really focus in, just always constantly thinking about how to put your guys in a position to make plays – just making sure we’re practicing, doing the things we need to practice and just trying to rev the guys up, making sure we’re ready to play on Sunday. That’s really my only thought process as of right now.”
He was also asked about his status as a former player and whether or not that helps him relate to his quarterback, Jameis Winston. He had this to say about their relationship:
“I can talk to him from different aspects. I can talk to him from being the guy inside the pocket – what you’ve got to do [and] what you can’t do. I also can talk to him – I’m always up in the room – from a coach standpoint, just having an understanding of the system. That always gives me an opportunity to teach him the little nuances of what’s really going on. It’s not just everything on paper – you can’t play this position on paper. Sometimes, the three-technique is beating your guard. Sometimes, the defensive end is [beating the tackle]. Sometimes, someone does this. Sometimes, a guy is holding onto your guy, so you have to be able to adjust. Just having an understanding of the offense and having an understanding of having to do this stuff before, it gives us a clear dialogue when we communicate so we’re always on the same page.”
As far as one of the marquee matchups in Sunday’s game between the Bucs and 49ers — a head-to-head between receiver Mike Evans and cornerback Richard Sherman — Leftwich simply gave props to Sherman:
“Our number one guy is our number one guy. We’ve got a lot of respect for Sherm (Richard Sherman) just being in that division (with the Arizona Cardinals). I know what type of player he is. They’ve got a lot of good football players on that side of the ball, to be honest with you. We’ve got our hands full. We’ve got a lot of work to do here on Sunday, but it’s the game. You’re going to have this conversation every week. Every week, each team – this league is filled with players each week, so we respect what they’ve got. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sherm because I’ve coached against him and I’ve seen the plays that he makes, I’ve seen the way that he’s playing now, so we’ll see how that works out.”
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles talked more about the final preparations the team is making for Sunday’s game and less about his own readiness:
“We’ll be ready on Sunday. Right now, you try to do all the little things to make sure we’re prepared – make sure that the guys are playing together, they can communicate and try to be as ready as you can for the first one.”
With it being the first week of the new season, Bowles was asked how big communication will be for his defense, but he downplayed any extra importance about it:
“It’s not that complex. We’ve been practicing since the spring. We’ve just got to continue to communicate and that’s going to be all 16 games – it’s not just the first game. We had to do that every day in camp. No matter what we do, we have to communicate. You can’t be on the field without talking to the guy next to you.”
And finally, Bowles was asked about one of his outside linebackers, Carl Nassib, who was named a captain earlier this week. His response was glowing praise:
“He’s a hard worker, first of all. He’s relentless when he goes off the ball. [He’s] extremely intelligent, always comes to practice ready to play [and] always has a smile on his face. [He has] multiple personalities – all good for football, so that’s a great thing. [He has a] great sense of humor – [he] doesn’t take himself too seriously and he just loves to play. Those are the type of guys you want to play with every day.”