David needs winning to cement his reputation

by Gary Shelton on July 28, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

David ,McCoy are hungry for the Bucs to win.

David ,McCoy are hungry for the Bucs to win.

Thursday, 6 a.m.

The player is right. The position is right. The team is right.

For Lavonte David, however, the timing is all wrong.

He is a linebacker of another era, a swift, relentless tackling machine from the days of eight-track players and pet rocks. David is a linebacker who plays chase, a player who roams from sideline to sideline.

He is not a hulking linebacker like Dick Butkus or Willie Lanier, Jack Lambert or Ray Nitchscke, a beast designed to take away the inside running game from an

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opponent. He is not a pass-rushing specialist like Lawrence Taylor or Derrick Thomas, Justin Houston or Khalil Mack, the guys who are glorified defensive ends.

David is a tackle-the-man-with-ball guy. Think Derrick Brooks. Think Jack Ham. Think Jamie Collins. You do not measure such linebackers by stats. You measure them by plays. Since he entered the NFL, David is first in solo tackles and second in total tackles.

He is 26 now, and he has 19 wins. For David, that isn't enough for recognition. How many heroes can there be on a team that has lost 43 of his 62 games? Frankly, a lot of onlookers don't expect the Bucs to be very good this year, either.

“Hopefully in training camp we get to a point where we can set ourselves up for a great year this year and prove all the doubters wrong,” David said. “You know, not even just the old guys but the younger guys are real confident, they’re getting real comfortable. Everybody is walking around with big smiles on their face, and everybody is looking and feeling great, and everybody is ready to go.”

David said he is already comfortable with his role in the new defense of coordinator Mike Smith.

“I’m always comfortable, that’s just me,” David said. “This defense it has some areas where I have to learn different things more but that’s why some of us keep our things to take home, our notes or whatever, and go over that. For the most part, making a lot of communication, guys been communicating during the offseason asking questions helping each other out, so that’ s a positive sign.”

Smith will be the third defensive coordinator for David, still only 26.

“It’s difficult just trying to build relationships with different guys,” David said. “I went from my rookie year until now just trying to build different relationships. But everybody is different, their own personality, the way they coach, and how they do different things and how they see things. But the great thing about it is these coaches they really like to interact with you, asking you what you see out there, like ‘What’s wrong, what you don’t like, what you do like,’ things like that and try to make you comfortable the best way they can. So me and a lot of guys really appreciate that and like that.”

David will go as far as to talk about playoffs with the Bucs this season. For a team that hasn't been there for eight straight seasons, that's fairly optimistic.

“Yeah, I think so, I can agree with that,” David said. “Every year I’ve been here we were always one piece away, one situation away to where we could turn a losing season to a winning season. But the way Coach (Dirk) Koetter did everything in OTAs, what he made an emphasis on, I think those guys got a good grasp of what he wanted us to do and how he wanted us to be on and off the field. And as far as offensively, those guy got their thing going. hey know their offense already, but it’s just us on defense. Like I said, we feel real comfortable but training camp is an extra way to get us to where we feel like we want to be.”

Through the seasons, the Bucs have had some decent linebackers. Brooks, of course, was the best of the them. But there was Batman Wood and Shelton Quarles, Hugh Green and Hardy Nickerson.

The truth is that those who played in winning seasons tend to get noticed. Those who don't play their careers in the shadows.

“We’re tired of losing, tired of losing. Gerald (McCoy) always messed with me like, ‘Your whole career you’ve always been winning until you got here to the league,” David said. “He’d be like, “I see why you’re very mad, I see why you are always mad after a loss,” and I’m like, I mean, I’m not used to this. But Gerald, he’s one of those guys after every game he’d send me a text message. I’ve never seen somebody so angry and it shows the type of leader he is. He put everything on himself, he put everything on his shoulders. Me and him feel like we have to put it into our hands and change everything because we are kind of like the older guys on defense. Our main thing is just get everybody on board and I feel like we’re doing that.”

McCoy, too, knows that the legacy of the two depends on how good the Bucs' defense becomes.

“Well, I said this in prior interviews,” McCoy said. “I talked to (Hall of Fame linebacker) Derrick Brooks and he told me the best way for your defense to be successful is for you to get as close as you can to Lavonte. That’s what him and Sapp did, and after that I called Lavonte and told him what Brooks told me and ever since then – we were already growing close – but ever since then we really have a bond and we talk a lot.

"When he was going through the situation with his mom, I flew down to Miami to be with him in the hospital. We have that type of relationship, and it’s only going to grow. We have a lot of private, intimate conversations involving this team and what we need to do moving forward. So, if he says he’s tired of losing, most likely that’s coming from both of us.”

Time was, the Bucs had Brooks and Warren Sapp. David and McCoy haven't quite reached that level, but it may be because there is no approximation to John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Simeon Rice or Shelton Quarles.

If David and McCoy are going to be remembered as great players, in other words, they'll need some help.

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