HEAD COACH GREG SCHIANO
Q: Your thoughts on coming home:
A: We’re coming home to play the defending Super Bowl champions who are not in a real good mood right now, so we need to bring our best game just to have a chance to win.
Q: What are your personal feelings about coming back to New Jersey?
A: It is going home and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s a 24-hour trip that is one-sixteenth of your season, so I don’t have time to get real sentimental. The nice thing is that I’m familiar with the area and familiar with the stadium, the hotel, all that stuff. At least that makes it better.
Q: Why was Tampa Bay appealing to you?
A: Just the timing and it felt right. I don’t know if there was anything in particular, I just went through the process like I had done before, and every other time it didn’t feel right towards the end. This kept feeling more and more right. That’s why I did it.
Q: Will it be an emotional game returning to MetLife Stadium, the site where Eric LeGrand was injured?
A: I’m sure it will be. Karen and Eric were down for our opener this week, and I said to Karen, “Have you been back yet?” And she hasn’t. I’ve been back once as a spectator, to the Giants-Dallas game last year, their last regular season game. I’ve been in the stadium since but have not coached in it.
Q: Will Karen and Eric be there to watch?
A: They will be, yes.
Q: Has he played any special role for you guys?
A: Well, from what I understand, last weekend, as a retired Buc, he was introduced to the crowd. It was really, really cool. This week, I know the Giants have helped out, and the Giants have provided a place for he and his family to watch the game, which I think is awesome of them. I don’t think there will be any role, but just that he can be there and watch with all the familiarity with both teams and all that. It’s just a good New Jersey thing, and a good thing overall for football.
Q: What have you worked to bring to the Bucs?
A: We have a set of beliefs and core values that I think we have begun to instill here. It takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. We do have a great group of guys on the team. They desperately want to be good. They work very hard. We’ll see how that goes. The other team has something to say about that, but I have no complaints about the way these guys have worked and embraced the changes.
Q: Can you give us a few of the core values you are referring to?
A: Well, I think it starts with trusting each other, that everything is on the up and up and there’s no shenanigans. Belief in what we’re doing, I think that’s huge. Holding each other accountable. Those aren’t football X and O things, those are core values that I think as an organization allow you to do all the X and O things and strength and conditioning things, and film study, and community relations; all the things that go into being an NFL football team. Without core values, I don’t know if you can do any of that successfully.
Q: What’s it like having two coordinators who have served under coach Coughlin?
A: Well, it’s been very helpful. I can tell you there’s a lot of Giant imprint on our program, and a lot of coach Coughlin imprint on our program because as you go through the process and you set up all your schedules; you know it’s different schedules than college. I have several NFL coaches on our staff, I have everybody’s schedules from all the years they’ve coached, and I kept looking at Coach Coughlin’s way of doing things and there are a lot of things that we mimic from a scheduling point and training camp standpoint, and all those things.
Q: With coach Sullivan, have you been picking his brain about Eli?
A: Well, certainly. That would be foolish not to. He’s been a big help, but on the flip side, the Giants know what’s inside of his brain. It goes both ways. There are a lot of similarities with our offenses, but they’re different players that are doing it. Eli is so far along in the process of being in that offense, where Josh is so new to this offense. So there’s a whole bunch of differences, but a bunch of similarities as well.
Q: What’s the transition like to the pro game?
A: There are certain transitions, and football is probably the least of it. It’s all the other stuff; you don’t recruit now, but you evaluate personnel, there’s contractual things. There’s not an NCAA, but there’s a CBA, and I thought leaving college and the NCAA there wouldn’t be as many rules, but I think the CBA may have more rules. That’s the adjustment. The other adjustment is in college you have a very similar demographic, the 18-22 year old people. Here you may have a 21-year old rookie, and Ronde Barber, who’s 37-38 years old. Certainly there are different stages in life. That’s been an interesting dynamic, one that I enjoy though. I think you have to be demanding, you have to be all of those things, but it is neat to have more of a contemporary relationship with some of the guys on the team.
Q: Has that been an interesting process for you?
A: Yes and no. There’s certain things that we believe in that aren’t going to change. The core values of who we are, whether they’re behavioral or football, but then there are other things that my players would say, “I can’t believe you let them do that, coach.” My players at Rutgers. But they’re men, they’re grown men, so you treat them a little differently in certain aspects.
Q: Ironic that Rutgers is down in Tampa Thursday night while you’ll be coming up to New Jersey on Sunday?
A: It is kind of weird, right? A bunch of our reporters I looked up in the press conference, Sarge and Steve are sitting out there, it’s neat to see those guys.
Q: Are you going to the game tomorrow night?
A: I’m going to try. I’ll probably be a little late. We have stuff we have to get done, and like I’ve told you guys so many times, you’re really trying to cram two weeks of work into one week. I’ve got to make sure that I get all of my responsibilities done, but hopefully I’ll be able to get there for part of the game and hopefully celebrate a victory with them.
Q: How do you think Doug Martin, your rookie running back, was able to do so well last week?
A: I think Doug is really a fine talent. He approaches things; he’s got maturity about him, his approaches and preparation. He’s got a low center of gravity, good vision, good balance, good burst. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good running back in this league. The thing that is going to determine that is his level of consistency week-to-week so I think this is a big test for him. You can have a good game opening week, but now you’re going up against the Super Bowl champs. We’ll see what you can do now on the road.
Q: How important is getting a win in that opening week to cement your strategies to your players?
A: Well, it certainly beats the alternative, that’s for sure. I hope that our players over time -- we’ve been together six months or so -- that they believe in what we’re doing, and that one game’s result wouldn’t turn the tide, but it is nice that we did win and that we are able to enjoy a victory together. You know how this league goes, it’s a streaky league, you can get on a win-streak or you can get on a losing streak. It was a bit of relief to get that first one.
Q: For you personally, too?
A: I don’t know. I never really even thought about it. It’s just one of those things where you’re doing your job. It was nice after the game to take a deep breath and say, “Ok, now let’s get out of the frying pan into the fryer. Super Bowl champs next.”
Q: Did you know you were the only rookie coach to win this weekend?
A: I didn’t know that, no.
Q: What does it say about you?
A: (laughs) Lucky.
Q: What has the last six months been like for you?
A: It has been a whirlwind. I kind of underestimated that I think. When you’re at some place as long as I was, you kind of forget. I remember what it was like when I first got to Rutgers, how demanding, but time kind of makes you forget some of the stuff. It’s been a sprint; a fun one, and certainly when you’re doing new things, it’s a challenge. Everything takes a lot longer when you’re doing it for the first time. Ron Rivera (Panthers head coach) and I were talking before the game and I asked him if it gets any easier in year two, and he laughed and said it actually does, and I know the answer to that because my year two at Rutgers was certainly easier on me. We weren’t any better, but it was easier for me to get ready.
Q: Why has the connection with Eric LeGrand been so important to you and why have you brought him into your Buccaneer family?
A: As a college coach, you go into people’s living rooms and kitchens, you tell them, I never told anybody that I would treat them like my own son because I think that’s not possible, but I did tell them that I would treat them the way that I would want my sons treated. When something like this occurs; there are certain players that you get closer with, that’s just human, and I certainly was very close to Eric before his injury because he was just such an upbeat, positive guy. One that not only I, but everybody on the team was attracted to. When something like this happens, and you spend so much time together, under so much stress, the relationship grows and grows. The only regret I have is that I wish I did something earlier, and did something bigger for him. There was talk about a Mr. Relevant, there’s a Mr. Irrelevant (NFL Draft), but maybe there could’ve been a Mr. Relevant, but I dropped the ball on that. I am glad that we were able to get him as a free agent and he could at least have the opportunity to go through the process. Even though it was different than his planned process, at least he got to go through some part of it.
Q: It won’t end at that though?
A: No doubt. He’s like family. Karen is, too. My kids, when he comes down, they always want to see him. That’s neat, too. Eric’s become a guy that means an awful lot to a bunch of us.
Q: Will there be some butterflies for a kid that grew up in Jersey?
A: I don’t know. I always tell the story; I remember when the first Giants Stadium was built. We used to drive past it on the way to my grandma’s every week. She lived in Rutherford, so I watched that thing come out of the ground. Now to be playing in MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, and to actually be coaching an NFL team, I probably won’t be thinking of it very much, but it is fun. I enjoy every game day, like I told you guys before; game day is the best day of the week. Doing it back there will be especially good, but if we don’t play well, then it won’t.
Q: Was it daunting to see how other college coaches have fared in the NFL before you?
A: I know that that has been the case that gets pointed out, but there have been so many more professional coaches that have been hired and not succeeded than there has been college coaches. It’s just that the college coaches are the ones that are noticed because they came from a different level. If you think about it, there’s six to nine coaching changes every year in this league, and there has not been that many college guys that have made the jump, so where are all the other ones coming from? I know there are differences, and I know if you don’t adjust quickly enough, you won’t be around or you won’t have the time that I had at Rutgers, I know that.
Q: Is Coughlin an example for you? How closely have you tried to follow his road map?
A: I know him cordially. We’re not real close, but I respect the heck out of him. I studied things that he’s done. He made the jump from a program that he kind of put back in order and went to the NFL. There are some things that I’ve studied about how he’s done it. I really look up to his attention to detail and the way he prepares his football teams in every aspect. I hope that I can just do a similar job. I don’t think I’m anywhere near the point where I can do what he does right now, but certainly trying to get there.
Q: Is this a building year for Tampa, or a win-now year?
A: I don’t know if there is such a thing as building years in the National Football League. I think everybody is win-now. Can you do it, that’s the other part of the equation? I know these guys, and I know these coaches, and I know myself, and we’re trying to win every week and that’s our only goal.
CB RONDE BARBER
Q: What was it like being honored for your streak last week?
A: It was a pretty nice gesture by the whole organization. I’ve been doing this a very long time now, for 250-something games. To get 200 straight starts, and have the whole town embrace it was a pretty nice day for me.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face switching positions this season?
A: Yeah, there’s a lot of new learning, a lot of new technique stuff. I have some in-the-box things that I’ve never had in my fifteen years. Nothing that I’m too uncomfortable with, I’ve had a whole off-season, and I’ve done some of it in the past, and some of it in other regimes. It’s something that I’ve embraced. Coach came to me with it in OTAs, and I really just embraced my role. I think it’s been good so far, I felt comfortable in the preseason, particularly the one game where we played a lot. I felt comfortable this past week so I intend to keep moving forward and I expect it to be smooth, and keep playing the way I’ve always played, just from a different position, different alignment or whatnot.
Q: How have you been able to play so long in the league?
A: I’ve been very fortunate. You don’t play long in this league unless someone wants you to play long in this league. I’ve been well my entire career. I haven’t had any injuries really that have kept me out of games. I have an organization and a GM in Mark Dominik that’s wanted me around, and I still like football. I take care of myself in the offseason, I try not to beat myself up too much, and take care of myself during the season. I have a lot of modalities that I use on a weekly basis that keep me healthy and keep me feeling like I can still do this. I’d be remiss to say that I wasn’t blessed, my mom gave me some good genes, so I’m still able to do this.
Q: When Greg Schiano was at Rutgers he was a big control freak. Is he still the same kind of guy?
A: Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He’s very specific and very detail-oriented. You can call it whatever you want to, but we are a very attention-to-detail organization all the way down to the players. It’s working for us. He was successful turning that program around. I didn’t follow Rutgers all that much, they were in the Big East, and USF was in the Big East, so I crossed them every once in a while when they played our guys down here. I don’t see why what he did there to make himself successful couldn’t translate to the league, and so far it seems like he has.
Q: He’s obviously trying to establish a tone with a young team. What’s it been like for you, as a guy who’s been around this long, to deal with a guy bringing that kind of intensity in?
A: We’ve had some coaches. Jon (Gruden) wasn’t very lax, Tony (Dungy) wasn’t very lax. He’s unique in his own way, but I think all coaches are. For me, I’m a guy, just like anybody else. Obviously, I have a lot more experience than other players on this football team. His way is a good way. It’s really translated well to the players. It seems like the guys want to buy in. I can’t say it was easy. We had a hard training camp, we had a hard off-season, and he expects a lot out of guys and I think me, along with everybody else, just tried to buy in. We’re a team that was very disappointed with our season last year. So, whatever he brought in, I think guys are going to try to embrace. You play this game, you want to be successful, you want to win, and he seems like he’s very, very dedicated to doing that.
Q: When he was at Rutgers, he used a lot of speed and movement up front on the defense. Is that what you guys used to do? Or is it totally new?
A: No. It feels a lot like what we used to do. We were always a team that was really, really fast. The tape always looked faster maybe than what people have expected. That’s what he’s been preaching. You play fast; you get your assignments down, obviously. He has a way of making sure every detail is taken care of, and that you’re very prepared. When you have that feeling as a player, you can go out and play fast. We look forward to that every week. Just going out, playing fast, playing fast, playing fast. Doing your job as you say, over and over again, and that’ll translate into wins.
Q: How much of your longevity do you think is a function of you just having a passion for the game? Obviously, six years ago, Tiki decided he did not have that. Is that something that’s been a part of your longevity?
A: Yeah. I think so. I’m definitely a football player. I love what I do. I like coming in the building, I like going to work. Like I said, I’ve been around some guys in this building that share that passion, and it really lit my fire. (Schiano) came in and did the same thing. He challenged me right away. Telling me that I was going to have to earn my spot, earn my role on this team, and I’m certainly up for it.
Q: As you’re studying the Giants on film, do you see similarities to what you practiced against through training camp?
A: Oh yeah. Yeah, there are some things that have crossed over so far. Obviously with Mike (Sullivan) coming over here and being our offensive coordinator, there are a lot of similarities looking at the film. Obviously they do some different things and
Q: Can Mike and Bill help a team being former Giant coaches?
A: Yeah. I imagine so. Bill was there like three years ago? I’m not even sure when he left New York, so I know he was there for the Super Bowl run. He at least knows some of their personnel. Bill is a very heady guy, very intelligent guy. Those two factors, I don’t know if they give us an advantage at all, but we do have some familiarity with what the Giants are trying to do and I think that will translate come Sunday.
Q: Does it bother you how things ended for your brother and that the relationship between the Giants and Tiki is still fractured?
A: That’s between Tiki and the Giants. I, fortunately, don’t have anything to do about that. There’s no doubt that he was a great player for them and he’ll always be. Those records will never go away, so it is what it is. He’ll bounce back into there hopefully, hopefully on the good side of that relationship sooner or later.
Q: Do you have any advice for Michael Bennett on playing his brother?
A: Well, we played him before. There’s really nothing to say for those three hours or three and a half hours or whatever it is. He’s an opponent and you’ve got to treat him as such. Obviously the person that’s probably most conflicted are his parents sitting in the stands… want both of them to succeed, but knowing one of them is going to lose. That was always tough on my mom, so I imagine he’s going through a little bit of that himself right