Tomlin on slow starts, discipline for AB, Berry

Q. At your news conference last week, you mentioned starting the game slowly in all three phases was a contributing factor in the loss to the Chiefs. Is there something that can be done to combat that?
A. We just have to be thoughtful about what we ask the guys to do, the situations we put them in, and then they have to come out fast and be ready to play. Sometimes, it’s just how you respond to things, too. They had the big punt return, and the defense got put in a tough situation, but boy, if you hold them to three points there that changes the momentum of those circumstances. So it’s about responding to the natural adversity that the game presents, one unit supporting another unit and not allowing things to snowball in the manner in which they did.

Q. Is a slow start in a game more a mental issue or a physical one?
A. Sometimes it just has to do with the plan or the preparedness of the opponent. They hit us on some concept plays from an offensive standpoint. I’m talking about Kansas City’s offense, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. They came in with an awesome plan and they spread the ball around in the early stages and really got us off-balance.

Q. Are you a believer of scripting offensive plays to start a game?
A. I am.

Q. What is the script designed to do?
A. It controls the flow and the start of the game, and it gathers information about your opponent in terms of some things they may plan to do against you as you roll through different personnel groupings and structures. If gives you a sense of the matchups within the game. If you’re employing different personnel groups, who are they putting on who and things of that nature. It controls the flow of what it is you’re doing, it provides some thoughtful variety, but it also gathers information relative to your opponent.

Q. How strict is the script? Does it allow for situational football?
A. If situational football is scripted, it’s simply scripted separately. When I’m talking about a script, I’m talking about normal first-and-10, second-down football.

Q. How many plays in a script?
A. It depends. It could be eight, it could be 10, it could be 12, it could be 15. It depends on the buy-in. I’ve seen it be as few as eight, I’ve seen it as high as 15. I’ve seen units script the start of the first half and the start of the second half. I’ve seen units only script the first half, only script the second half. I think that element of it is what’s always moving because that’s part of the strategy of football.

Q. How would a script work in terms of the practice week? When would it be finalized? Which days would it be repped on the field?
A. Some of the scripted plays are fundamental plays in your offense that you run all the time. Some of the scripted plays are specialty plays, and so they may be added at the end of the week based on how those plays look during the course of the week relative to what you anticipate. It really just depends on the play. Some plays are base plays, and some plays are not. Some plays are game plan specific, and so when they’re included in the script is a moving target.

Q. Let’s say you have 15 plays on the script, and in your first possession you only get to four of them. The next time you get the ball, do you start with No. 5 on the script?
A. Or, you may say you want to take a look at something based on what transpired during the first series. So you might go off the script based on some information you gathered relative to that first series. It’s simply a list of plays that can and will be used in the normal flow of the start of a game or the start of a half to gather information or to attack.

Q. Earlier this week, you said you disciplined Antonio Brown for missing a team meeting on the Monday after the Kansas City game. You don’t announce that kind of punishment to the public, but when you do something like that do you tell the rest of the team?
A. Certainly. I call it housekeeping. It’s part of normal daily functions of our team. I think it’s important that they not only see clarity in terms of how situations are dealt with, but younger people in the room can learn. Smart professionals learn not only in terms of what happens to them, but they also learn from what happens around them. The same goes for discipline as it does for alignment, assignment, and execution. We ask our young people to learn from those around them – you learn your playbook by watching those around you execute, and so forth. It’s twofold why you address those things: you want the team to know that situations are being addressed and how they’re being addressed, but you also want to teach young people in the process.

Q. At your Tuesday news conference you were asked about punter Jordan Berry, and you said, “I’m not comfortable with the results I’ve seen thus far. It has got to be better.” What constitutes good punting in the NFL? What are you looking for from the punter?
A. Forty-yard net average, all things being considered, is the line. That’s not taking into account situational punting, red zone punting, and that’s something that Jordan really excels in. In the last couple of years he’s been one of the best in the league in red zone punting, as in the percentages between punts downed inside the 20-yard line vs. touchbacks. You understand how catastrophic touchbacks are to the field position element of the game, and so that’s not an element of the equation when I’m talking about a 40-yard net. But the thing with Jordan – and the point I’m trying to get across to Jordan and to everyone when we’re talking about everyone in the room getting an opportunity to learn – Jordan has punted very well and consistently at practice. He has to take that into the stadium. And that’s what we expect him to do, that’s what we expect all of our guys to do. We have a great deal of confidence in him because what we see day-to-day builds that confidence, but he’s got to maintain a certain level of consistency under certain circumstances inside stadiums that he hasn’t produced yet. Two games isn’t a large body of work, but I’m acknowledging what I’ve seen so far needs to improve.

Q. Tonight, Tampa Bay will be led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is playing his best football and playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL. And Fitzpatrick is in his 14th season. How does that happen, because 14 seasons in is usually when a player’s skills are in decline?
A. It’s very routine, to be quite honest with you. He hasn’t started all of those 14 years. Ben’s last 14 years have been very different than Ryan’s physical 14 years have been in terms of the physical wear and tear that playing every down does to you. So he has the experience of a guy who has been around professional football for 14 years, but his body doesn’t have the erosion and the wear and tear of a guy who’s been playing over the course of that time. He’s been a starter, he has been in starting situations, he has gained that experience, and he’s very comfortable in those shoes. But not so much so that he is carrying all the bags. And I think that’s part of the reason he’s playing at such a high level. That’s why you often see journeymen, guys in the latter part of their careers, maybe play above expectations because they’ve been around it. They’re capable of drawing from that experience, but their body from a real age standpoint is actually much younger.

Q. Part of the festivities surrounding tonight’s game will have Tony Dungy being inducted into the Buccaneers ring of honor. When it comes to football, what did you learn from him?
A. Patience. I wasn’t a very patient coach, or person for that matter, when he hired me. To watch him exercise patience and leadership, to allow people to solve problems, to allow things to play out. That discipline that he displayed was really striking to me. Often times, I’d watch him and I knew he had the answer. And he’d watch others discover the answer, or sort out the answer. It takes a certain kind of discipline to allow those things to happen, and I learned over time and even from asking him directly, “Hey, Coach, I know you knew the answer to that, so why did you allow us to waste an hour-and-a-half of our time and have us discover that answer. And he said, “Because when you’re a part of the solution, it sticks with you forever, as opposed to getting the solution.” That’s what you learn from him as a coach, as we address schematic issues and problems. I was a secondary coach, he was a secondary coach by trade, so to sit back and watch me struggle – the struggle that is preparation for play or the struggle that is adjusting to things that happen during the course of a game or a practice or a season – it was a cool thing and it really imprinted on me how important patience is in leadership.

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