TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Gerald McCoy has been selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls and is generally regarded as one of the best - if not the finest - defensive tackles in the NFL.
He also feels a bit underappreciated entering his eighth season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - unable to escape inevitable comparisons to Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, one of the stars of the franchise's only Super Bowl winner 15 years ago.
McCoy was the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. Despite compiling an impressive personal resume, he has yet to help the Bucs reach the playoffs.
While the 29-year-old insists he's grown accustomed to being criticized by fans and others, he spoke out on Twitter before reporting to training camp this week, noting he's ''done holding my tongue.''
McCoy showed up to camp in good spirits, wearing a kimono and sandals purchased during an offseason trip to Japan.
He declined to say who his tweets were directed toward, but reiterated he feels much of the criticism is without merit.
''Sometimes you've just got to say what you've got to say,'' said McCoy, a first-team All-Pro in 2013 who has 42 1/2 career sacks.
''Listen, ever since I've been drafted to Tampa, I've been receiving criticism because you've got (Hall of Famer) Lee Roy Selmon and you've got Warren Sapp, and now it's me. I'm supposed to be the next coming of whatever,'' McCoy said.
''Everybody wants you to be a certain way, and if you aren't what they think you should be then it's not enough,'' he added. ''But as long as everyone in this building cares about each other, and we are enough to each other, that's all that matters.''
The eighth-year pro said other high-profile players on the team, including Jameis Winston, DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, Doug Martin, are scrutinized by fans and the media, who dissect all facets of their performance.
Coach Dirk Koetter said the fact McCoy has been selected to play in the past five Pro Bowl is a good indication of the level respect for the defensive tackle that exists around the NFL.
''Sometimes he (has) the inevitable comparisons to Warren Sapp,'' Koetter said. ''But any player that is compared to someone else, I mean, they are not him. He's a different player, and he's a really good football player.''
''Gerald is one of the best in the game, and I think everyone knows that. ... He just consistently shows up,'' the third-year quarterback said. ''So, no matter what people say, actions speak way louder than words.''
McCoy said he uses criticism as motivation to get better. Sapp is a close friend and mentor, so he doesn't take offense to being compared to the Hall of Famer.
''I just try and reinvent myself every year. It's hard to do at this position year in and year out, but I do have a parameter,'' McCoy said, noting Sapp is the standard.
''He always teaches me to chase the ghosts of the game, so you always have to know who came before you to get to where you want to get,'' McCoy added. ''He is one of only five first-ballot D-tackle Hall-of-Famers, so why wouldn't you look up to him? Why wouldn't he be a parameter. ... So, I just keep trying to step it up every year.''
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