Playoffs? Clinton McDonald optimistic for Bucs as camp nears
We're wrapping up a summer stretch of nearly six weeks without general media access to Bucs players ahead of the start of training camp, so any player interviews are interesting to hear, even if they echo the sentiments from minicamp and OTAs.
Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald was on the radio Wednesday with Fox Sports Arkansas, and he continues to show great optimism for what the Bucs can do if healthy in 2016. McDonald was limited to just six games in 2015 before a season-ending pectoral injury, but he piled up 31 tackles in those six games.
"Last year we got stagnant with injuries, got stagnant with being a young team, fell short in a long season, but this year, I think with our camaraderie, with our togetherness as teammates, as coaches, as a whole organization, will (help) us to go further into the season with more wins and bring us about a playoff berth," McDonald said on the show Wednesday.
McDonald was part of a Super Bowl team in Seattle before coming to the Bucs, and said while every NFL team has talent, he thinks the attitude throughout the locker room can be what changes the Bucs in 2016.
"One thing I've noticed is the attitude of getting tired of losing, tired of being last and being kind of like the stepchild in the South Division in the NFC," he said. "We're getting together collectively as a unit and saying we're tired of being in last place, tired of being a pushover. It's time for us to make our mark, to take our step in order for us to be a competitor and eventually (get) a championship in this division."
Asked about the Bucs being 6-6 last season and in playoff contention before fading and losing their last four games to finish 6-10, he said he sees a different approach from Dirk Koetter and his staff and thinks players will have a stronger mentality down that stretch.
"On the coaching side, I think we kind of learned if you beat the guys down, they can't work too much harder for you on Sunday," he said. "It's always a learning process. Nobody has a correct formula ... it comes down to the commitment of the players. It comes down to are we buying into what the coaches are teaching us, are we buying into what they're trying to get across to us as a message. A team is only as strong as its soldiers, the group of guys that are going to buy in and preach the message. We learned down that stretch that if we're more cohesive and more together, then we'll have more success later in the season other than feeling like we're tired and beat down. All of our teams go through the same stress and same injuries as other teams. The teams that are able to make that leap over that hump, over that speed bump in the road are the teams that stay together and say 'We're all tired. But guess what: If we fight harder, fight smarter, fight longer, we're going to be a more victorious team."
-- On the evolution of QB Jameis Winston: "Last year, when he first came in, you could tell this guy was young, a little green, but he was very attentive. He took notes, paid attention a lot, saw what he needed to know ... I've seen him grow tremendously. It seems like he went from Year 1 as a rookie to Year 5 as a veteran. He made the change mentally, and then physically with his body. He looks like he's 15 pounds lighter and more chiseled. He hasn't really lost too much weight, but the distribution of his weight, he's really coming into himself as a pro."
-- On the strength of the Bucs' running game on offense: "One thing that made us successful as far as our offense was our run attack. Our offensive line was able to generate yards on the ground along with Doug Martin running the ball ... Dirk Koetter our head coach always preaches to the offense: we're a run-first team. When you have a team that can run first and attack on the ground, it makes it easier for a quarterback to sit back in the pocket when it's time to throw and make those deep passes ... now everybody is playing up close for the run. It's a balanced attack, but it's something we used to do in Seattle in 2012-13 with Marshawn Lynch running the ball. There was not a lot of pressure on Russell Wilson."
-- On whether there's an extra motivation for him facing his old team when Seattle comes to Tampa: "No matter if you're an employee at Wal-mart and you went to Target, or you're an employee at Ford and you go to Chevy, you're a competitor. The competition level inside you always wants to see you do better than where you came from. I don't want to get too emotional or too above myself ... at the end of the day, it still boils down to it's a game to play and I can't let my emotions get away from me. It's still a high level of focus, a high level of intensity. I'm excited about playing all 16 games."