Tomlin on teaching, believing 'next man up'


Q. The "next man up" mentality – is that something you actively teach your players?**

A. Absolutely, absolutely. I just think that in the overall big-scheme of things, there is very little difference between being a core special teams player and a Pro Bowl player at this level, relative to the number of people who aspired to be here who played high school football and so forth. We're talking about the tip-top of the pyramid of football players. To discount those backups as anything less but capable, I think you're selling them short. I don't want to sell them short from an expectations standpoint, and I sell that to the guys. I want them to know that not only do I expect them to excel and play winning football, but they should expect that of themselves.

Q. Who taught you this?

A. I just think at the early stages of my career in the NFL as an assistant, I watched guys step up and play for injured people and we were always saying, "Boy, that guy played better than we thought he would." And I thought critically to myself, maybe we're selling them short in terms of what they're capable of. The more I looked at it, I saw that there's a fine line between being a backup and being a really good player in this league. And sometimes, it's just about being right-minded and being in the right place at the right time. When you're at the top level of football, that No. 1 cornerback and that fifth cornerback – there's not a lot of difference between them from an ability standpoint a lot of the times.

Q. You have said you talked to Le'Veon Bell about his weight prior to him being drafted into the NFL and one of the things you told him was that this was "a highly conditioned man's business." What does that mean?

A. That this season, this journey that we're on, is a marathon. And the bottom line is you have to have an extreme level of conditioning to be able to dominate situations over the course of that journey. The great players I've been around are all smart football players and they're all highly conditioned football players. You think about some of the guys who really are excelling on our team right now and have played at a consistently high level over the past couple of years – Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, and guys like that – they're highly conditioned football players.

Q. How do you determine what is an optimum playing weight for a guy?

A. I don't, until I get to know him and spend a significant amount of time when him. I don't think I had an end result in mind when I had that initial conversation with Le'Veon, but I was just letting him know that his optimum professional weight is probably lighter than his optimum college weight. I didn't want him to be disillusioned that this is a big man's game. This is a highly conditioned man's game.

Q. How do you coach a defensive back whose assignment is going to be a wide receiver who's significantly taller?

A. One of the simplest but probably most appropriate messages to relay to them is: in a tie the defense wins. Meaning that if you break the ball up, you live to play another down, particularly if you're down the field. That's a win for us. It's the offensive player's job to catch the ball, it's not necessarily the defender's job to catch the ball. It's the defender's job to stop him from catching the football. I always lead with that perspective. If the defensive back is in any position less than a comfortable one, it's OK to play for a tie, because a tie is a win for the defense especially down the field. That's their job – to prevent that guy from catching the football.


Q. With Josh McCown out of today's game with a thumb injury, how would you describe Mike Glennon, who will be Tampa Bay's starting quarterback?**

A. He's got 13 games of starting experience from last year, and you can't sweep that under the rug. I'm sure he's gained a little perspective on this opportunity, after having been on the sidelines for the first three games of this year. I'm sure he's ready to take advantage of it. He has a strong arm. He has a real rapport with Vincent Jackson, who's their talented, big-play wideout. We have to work to minimize that tandem.

Q. Even though starting running back Doug Martin has been injured, the Buccaneers are averaging 5.0 yards per carry. How have they managed to do that?

A. Bobby Rainey. A good, solid running back, a third-year man from Western Kentucky. Like a lot of guys in this business, you don't hear a lot about him, but he ran for 1,900-2,000 yards in each of his last two years at Western Kentucky. He's worked hard. He came off the bench to relieve Martin last year and ran for over 500 yards. He's a legitimate football player.

Q. How do Rainey and Martin differ as runners?

A. They really don't. They're more similar than they are different. They're both efficient, one-cut running backs. They run with good pad level, and they're determined runners. You have to hit and wrap.


Q. How do plan to use Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount through the rest of the season?**

A. I think that will unfold differently inside the stadium, depending on game situations. The one thing we know is Le'Veon is a very versatile guy and is able to excel in all situations, and Blount is more of a predictable weapon, if you will.

Q. Cody Wallace started last week for the injured Ramon Foster at left guard. What does Wallace give you?

A. He gives us a consistent level of play and a definite play demeanor. He plays with an edge, whether it's at guard or at center. He's a valuable member of our unit. He's a guy who plays at a starter-capable level. We were glad we were able to re-sign him during the offseason, and we weren't surprised by the way he played last week.

Q. How many snaps might James Harrison play against Tampa Bay today?

A. It really just depends on game circumstances and his overall level of conditioning. He had a good, solid week of work, not to be confused with an easy week of work. We're excited to have him back, and today will be a good start.

Q. When you brought Brett Keisel back, similar things were said about his participation. He played 22 snaps the first week and 50 the second. Can Harrison follow that same pattern?

A. Brett went above and beyond maybe what our expectations were. We'll handle James with the same mentality, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same result. Brett was uniquely ready under the circumstances.

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