The Tampa Bay Buccaneers convened this week for the start of optional team activities (OTAs) and for many of them, it was the first opportunity to get acquainted with new head coach Lovie Smith.
It was the first opportunity Smith had to address the team as a whole since his hiring. Teams with new head coaches were permitted to begin OTAs as early as April 7, two weeks before the rest of the league.
“He came in, he told us he wasn’t a ‘rah-rah’ guy,” said linebacker Lavonte David to a group of reporters Tuesday. “He just laid out what we’re going to do from here on, all the way to June 16 when this thing is over. When it’s time for camp, it’s going to be a whole new process.”
That new process of transforming a 4-12 team from last season into what will hopefully be a contender has already begun, even if these workouts aren’t required and no on-field work can begin for another couple of weeks. Smith’s frankness and honesty was a good place to start though.
“He said we didn’t have so good of a year last year. That’s behind us. It’s a new era right now. We’re just going to try to build on what we’ve got right now.”
David said the most noticeable difference between Smith and Schiano is temperament.
“[Coach Smith is] a quiet guy. Laid back-type guy, cool, he’s all about respect. When you give respect, you’re going to receive respect.”
Kicker Connor Barth agreed when he spoke to reporters. “I think he treats us like men. That’s the main thing. He said he treats us like men, and that’s awesome.”
Barth said he met Smith a month and a half ago and admitted he already started thinking big picture.
“I was like, ‘Man, it’s my seventh year and I’ve never been to the playoffs, so it’d be awesome to go to the playoffs and finally experience that.”