Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Despite reticent Dirk Koetter, word's out on Bucs' 1st practice

 Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (in orange) speaks to teammates on the first day of training camp at the team’s training facility.


Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (in orange) speaks to teammates on the first day of training camp at the team’s training facility.

TAMPA — On the eve of the first training camp practice Wednesday night, Dirk Koetter stood in front of his team and talked for 27 minutes. But ask him to recall one line of that speech and he is reluctant to spit out a syllable.

"Do I have to go over the whole thing?" Koetter asked after the Bucs' first training camp practice Thursday. "I thought about it over the summer. A lot went into those 27 minutes. That's probably stuff we should probably keep to the team. It's all the stuff you would expect a coach to say to his team."

What makes Koetter popular among players and coaches is his unabashed sincerity and disdain for self-promotion, kind of what you would expect from a guy who spent the first half of his life near his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho.

At 57, he got a head coaching job in the NFL long after he probably thought that ship in the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium had sailed. He had been a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, but that was a decade ago.

Koetter's success with quarterback Jameis Winston as the Bucs' offensive coordinator is a big part of why the Bucs tapped him on the shoulder to replace Lovie Smith. But now all eyes are on him, as they were Wednesday night in the auditorium at One Buc Place.

According to players, Koetter talked about competing hard every day but also understanding there are no winners or losers on every play. The idea is to make each other better, make the team better.

He talked about a lot of stuff first-time head coaches discuss. Be on time. Focus. Eliminate mistakes.

Then he told his players to feel good about the rope-a-dope they were about to put on the rest of the NFC South.

"Dirk basically said we're striving for a championship around here and we've got some good, good players," tackle Demar Dotson said. "We've got a young group of good players, and the outside world doesn't know how good this team is going to be. He stressed that we know it. It doesn't matter that they don't know it right now.

"We've got to keep building because we're not where we're supposed to be yet. But he said we're going to come out of that tunnel, Lord willing, when we play Atlanta Sept. 11 and then we're going to show the world."

Winston worked more closely with Koetter than any player on the team last season. And let's face it, you don't need the Russians to hack emails to know providing continuity for Winston is the biggest reason Koetter is the Bucs' head coach.

"I just love his mentality," Winston said. "He's a fierce competitor, and that's how I view myself when being a fierce competitor. And the team sees that, when he steps up and takes charge in front of us in team meetings, we're just like, 'That's our coach'. He sets the tempo for us."

During the first practice Thursday, Koetter was more of an observer than pulling all the strings, even on offense.

"I'm a little bit less involved" in the offense, Koetter said. "I try to stay involved out there, but we have a lot of good coaches. Todd Monken and George Warhop did the install for the offensive meeting (Wednesday) night (and) they did a great job. I sat in there and shoot, I was thinking, 'They don't need me in here.' I love offensive football, so it's hard for me to separate, but my role (has) definitely changed right now, and I'm learning as I go."

Occasionally, Koetter wandered over to the defensive side of the ball before retreating. His ability to hire a very experienced coaching staff, including former Falcons head coach Mike Smith as defensive coordinator, will allow him to continue to call offensive plays this season.

"I go over there because I like to watch some of the drills, but then I see Smitty over there and I go, 'Why am I over here? That's Smitty's job.' You've got to let your coaches coach. We've got a great coaching staff here."

Players seem to like Koetter's direct approach. He holds them accountable, and you don't have to be a mind reader to know where you stand.

"Dirk has that player-coach feel, but you've got to respect him because he tells you what he wants and he demands it out of you," Dotson said. "But also he keeps it loose around here. Nobody is tight. You're not walking around here scared to do something. He lets you be a man, he lets you be a pro but he demands that respect from you."

That may be true, but unless you are a player, getting Koetter to talk about his team speech Wednesday night was a lost cause.

"I've got a lot of ground to cover with these guys about training camp, where we're trying to go and how we plan to get there," he said. "That's something I don't need to be tooting our horn on that. That stuff will work itself out."

Okay then, if it's not too much trouble, maybe you can tell us how the first day went?

"Day 1 was fine. Are you kidding me?" Koetter said. "Everybody is excited on Day 1. Great to be out here. Awesome to have the kids out. It's a start. It's the start of the journey."

Keep talking to us, Gerald

Jameis Winston encourages Gerald McCoy to be even more of a vocal leader. 5C

Despite reticent Dirk Koetter, word's out on Bucs' 1st practice 07/28/16 [Last modified: Friday, July 29, 2016 9:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, with Cobb pitching with a purpose


    The Rays are looking to win a fourth consecutive road series today when they wrap up a three-day holiday weekend set with the Twins, first pitch at 2;10.

    RHP Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Rays, and pitching on Memorial Day weekend is personal for him since his brother, R.J., served in the Army and …

  2. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  3. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  4. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  5. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”