A little less ego and a lot more anger is a good way to build a football team.
It was part of the message Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy sent less than 24 hours before the Tampa Bay Bucs open camp on Thursday.
Both say they have a lot of reason to be angry and it all starts with losing. David has won everywhere he has played until he came to the Bucs. Despite a stellar seven-year career, McCoy has never made the playoffs.
The Bucs have finished in the NFC South basement in all four of David’s NFL seasons, though it certainly hasn’t been his fault.
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During that time the linebacker has registered more than 500 tackles and in his second year had 144 tackles and seven sacks. He was a first team All-Pro in 2013 and Pro Bowler last season. McCoy is considered one of the top three technique defensive tackles in the NFL.
David said there is a silver lining in the 19-45 record the Bucs have recorded since his arrival. He has learned what it takes to win and says 2016 has those ingredients.
Both are believers that talent isn’t necessarily the most important thing and neither is maturity. They put a lot of value in team chemistry, unselfishness and players leaving their egos at the door when they show up for games and practice.
That hasn’t always been the case at One Buc Place in recent years.
“I’m tired of losing,” David said. “Gerald always messages me your whole career you have always been winning and you come down here and are losing. But after every game Gerald sends me a text and when we lose you never hear anyone so angry. It shows what type of leader he is.”
David, 26, and McCoy, 28, feel it’s their responsibility to change things on defense and they like what they are seeing from the defense, especially with the young guys and some newcomers.
“This is one of the closest groups that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” McCoy said. “Not many egos and that goes a long way with on a winning football team. We have all the pieces in place, just have to put it together. The maturity level of the team is much different than in the past. We have a lot of maturity with those young guys.”
One of those guys who seemed anything but mature in college is Noah Spence, who has talent but a checkered past that got him thrown out of Ohio State before finishing his career at Eastern Kentucky. The Bucs got him in the second year and he could turn out to be a steal if you listen to David and McCoy.
“Noah is a guy he gets after the passer really well and on the next play he does it again. That is something we needed. In meetings he is very interactive. He asks questions and knows what he is doing,” David said.
David is excited because under new defensive coordinator Mike Smith his role will be expanded to take advantage of his multidimensional skill, which were so evident at Nebraska in his senior year, when he led the team with 133 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, sacks (5.5), interceptions, fumbles caused and fumbles recovered.
David believes you can’t underestimate the bonding between players and he sees this group embracing that role. He was also glad to hear that former Bucs linebacker great Derrick Brooks told McCoy him and David need to bond like Brooks and Warren Sapp did.
“Every day through workouts I thought about the negativity people throw at this program. But in camp we can set us up for a great year and prove the doubters wrong,”
David said, “This is the most confident I’ve been about this team (since I’ve been here). The younger guys are confident and getting real comfortable.”