“Injuries; [WR] Pierre [Garçon] and [G Joshua] Garnett will be out and [LB] Reuben [Foster] will be questionable.”
Pierre, by playing on his knee injury, did he make it worse? I’m assuming this is the Week 4, Week 5 injury he got against the Cardinals.
“No, we assumed it would get better after that. He had some bad swelling for a while. The swelling went down. So, once we thought the swelling went down he’d be good to go. So did he, especially after he went, Oakland. Then, after that, the swelling has been down, but the pain has been a lot worse. So, thought there was a chance this week. I know he’s trying. I know he’s frustrated with it. But, there’s still pain there so we’re going to hope another week and see where he’s at next week.”
I suppose you can’t go into great detail about it, but is there any ligament, structural? Is it a pain issue?
“I think it’s just a pain issue, yeah.”
Did Reuben look any better today than he did the last couple of days?
“Yes, definitely. He’s looked better each day. This has been his first week of practice, but he’s been able to practice all week. He has been limited in what he’s done. But, no, he’s looked better each day.”
Garçon’s backup is WR Kendrick Bourne. You’ve talked about sophomore slumps. It doesn’t seem like he’s had one. What have you seen from him in terms of growth and where he’s at?
“I thought it took a little bit for KB to come on last year. I thought he finished the second half of the season very well. I don’t think he’s taken a step back. He’s gotten more opportunities this year through injuries, just like he did last year. When he has gotten those opportunities, he’s taken advantage of them. I think he’s going in the right direction. I’ve been happy with KB.”
What makes him a good weapon in the red zone?
“He’s got some size to him, but he’s got hands. I think down there, people talk about size being a huge advantage down there because places are smaller, or the windows are smaller, but it’s not just height. It’s strength and having the hand-eye to attack the ball. You just need a little bit of separation. You’ve got to be able to get your feet under you and be balanced. He’s got size down there, he’s got aggressive hands and he’s not afraid to get hit.”
I think you mentioned last week that you’d like to see a lot of improvement from WR Dante Pettis in the last six weeks of the season. How has he looked this week as far as practice goes and what specifically are you looking for over these last few weeks here?
“We were real excited to get Dante and still very excited to have him. I feel like this last week or so is the first I’ve seen him get back to the form I thought he was at around the Minnesota game, which was the first game of the year. He was very ready to go at the beginning of the year. [WR Marquise Goodwin] Quise got hurt versus Minnesota. Thought Dante was going to have a huge game versus Detroit. He got banged up throughout that game and it really set him back. Tried to play through it for a couple weeks and it ended up putting him down for about a month. He’s kind of been fighting his way back since then. This last month where he has gotten healthier, he’s gotten better each week but he hasn’t fully gotten back to where he started out. I see it a lot more in practice now. I am expecting a lot of big things out of Dante and I want him to be further along than he is. Unfortunately, he’s had some setbacks. I feel better about where he is now. I will be surprised if he doesn’t get better each week here all the way up until Week 16.”
Do you sense his confidence waning at all or suffering at all?
“I don’t think so. You can ask him. We’re all still getting to know each other, but from what I’ve seen Dante is never too high or too low. He’s a confident guy, but it’s hard to be real confident when you’re not feeling right, and most of this year he hasn’t. I hope we can get him out there. I think he is starting to feel better. So, that confidence will obviously get better the better he feels. Hopefully we can get him some opportunities to make some plays. If he does make those plays, I think his confidence will continue to get better.”
There’s some opportunities with the Tampa Bay defense. Statistically, it doesn’t look pretty. But, what do you see from them and do you think you’ll have chance at success?
“You always have chance to have success. I know they’ve been struggling throughout the year, especially numbers-wise. Just to them, they have a very sound defense schematically and everything. Those coaches have been around for a while and coached a lot of defenses. It’s very sound. The players they have, guys like [Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Jason] Pierre-Paul, [Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald] McCoy, their two linebackers who one is on IR and the other we’re not sure if he’s going to play this week. But, they have some good players. Unfortunately, they’ve battled some real big injuries throughout this year. They’ve lost a corner, they’ve lost their linebackers, they’ve lost a number of D-Line, safeties. It’s very tough to win when you go through some of that stuff. I think that has a lot to do with some of the numbers. Even when guys have been healthy, they’re changing in and out each week. So, the continuity hasn’t been there, which is tough on guys. Obviously, when their offense is up there in turnovers that doesn’t make it easier, either.”
What challenges do the Buccaneers present you?
“The main thing is their offense has got as much firepower as anyone in this league. A lot of people have firepower in this league, so I think that says a lot. I know that they’ve struggled with turnovers, but any time you have a combination of two quarterbacks that are on pace to throw for 6,000 yards, that’s pretty unheard of. You’ve got two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers. You’ve got a very good slot receiver. They had a first-round pick at tight end who just went on IR. Their back is solid. Their O-Line is very good and they have a very good scheme. [Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach] Dirk’s [Koetter] done it as good as anyone that I’ve seen over my career. To have that with some quarterbacks who can make some plays and all the other talent I mentioned, it’s not a surprise. But, they’re tough to stop. They’re going to get yards. You’ve got to make sure that when they give you those opportunities, you get those turnovers.”
In terms of their skill position players, it seems like they’re a good, spread-out group of talent there. Is it hard to focus on one guy or double-team guys? Do you have to play it pretty honest with them?
“Yeah, that’s the key with everything. That’s what every team in the league tries to do. If you’ve got one guy, defenses are going to try to take away that one guy. If that’s all you have, you can keep forcing it to that person. But, I don’t care who that person is, it’s not going to be a very high percentage. So, the more guys you have in those five eligibles, the more you put pressure on the defense. You can let them do whatever they want and you just go to the good matchup. It takes a lot of pressure off all the players and especially the quarterback.”
As far as Garnett goes, is that still a concern that it’s something that keeps him out beyond this week?
“I don’t think so. He played with it last week. Got his thumb, some ligaments fixed over our break. Got his cast put on. It’s just still healing a bit. We knew it would be close this week. I’ll be surprised if it’s not good to go next week.”
Where do you think CB Ahkello Witherspoon is at in terms of confidence in this up and down season?
“You’d have to ask him. I want to see a guy play with more confidence, play better. I’ve got a lot of belief in Ahkello because he has shown us at times. He’s at a pretty big point. We’ve had him out there for a little bit over a year. We’ve got a lot of football here to play. Ahkello, in these six games, I want to see a lot out of him because I know he has that ability. He hasn’t been consistent with it. He knows that; we all know that. But, he’s a guy that can and is capable of doing it. The more he’s out there, I hope he continues to get challenged. I hope he gets better with that. He’s got six games to show it. It’s not just Ahkello. It’s every single person out there. But, he does still have some more opportunities to get better.”
In terms of the two quarterbacks for Tampa Bay, did you have to prepare for both of them? How did you approach that?
“No. Both of them, they don’t change their offense with either one. It’s a similar style. They’re pocket passers who can make some plays outside of the pocket off-schedule. But, they’re gunslingers who are going to let it rip. They’re both some good guys, some good players. Played against both of them and they both at times can play as good as anyone in the league.”