By Leo Haggerty


The Pewter Pirates are winding down into the final stages of training camp with a trip to Houston to take on the Texans at NRG Stadium on Saturday night.  Then, it’s a dozen days before the Buccaneers open defense of their Super Bowl Championship when the Cowboys gallop into Raymond James Stadium on Thursday, September 8th for the initial tilt of the 2021 National Football League regular season.

Had a chance to not only attend practice on Thursday but talk to coaches and players.  That’s a first since December of 2019 and I am grateful that we are starting to move back toward some level of normalcy.  Personally, I don’t believe we will get back to where we were pre-Covid when it comes to access to the Buccaneers or any other NFL team, for a long while.  I’m elated just to be able to talk face-to-face with another human being and not to a computer screen.

Saturday, Tampa Bay dispatched Houston by a count of 23-16 in a turnover filled contest.  The Buccaneers were guilty of losing the pigskin three times while the Texans lost the football five times.

Offensively, after an inauspicious three-and-out start, the Bucs threw it into high gear putting together two impressive scoring drives.  Defensively, the Pewter Pirates allowed a long and time consuming drive but, when The Lone Star guys marched into the red zone, stiffened and kept the home team off the scoreboard.

Below is the conversation I had with Bucs Assistant Head Coach Harold Goodwin and LB Grant Stuard. As you’ll read, Coach Goodwin has a humorous side.  Enjoy.

LH : To say that Tristan Wirfs had exceeded expectations is the biggest understatement in the world.

HG : Great coaching (much laughter).

LH : Obviously but he set the bar so high for himself.  What can he do to improve this year?

HG : Just get better.  Work hard every day like he does.  The thing about Tristan is that he loves football.  He gave up that one sack early in that preseason game.  He gave up that sack because he was oversetting the guy.  It will give me something to harp on him about moving forward.  I expect him to be even better.  I thought he was an All Pro player last year.  Hopefully, he can make it this year.  I’m excited to see what he grows into.

LH : Normally, when you win the Super Bowl, you have a massive coaching change.  You lose one guy.  How nice is it to come back to a staff where you know everybody and the players know everybody?

HG : It’s good. It’s fun. Unfortunately, we lost Randle El but he got a full-time job so good for him. For us, it’s business as usual. Everybody knows what we’re doing day in and day out. We just have to make sure we pay attention to the details, make sure we’re coaching these guys the proper way and get the job done. Hopefully, we can have a lot of success moving forward here.

LH : Are there any rule changes you’re concerned about this year?

HG : No.  The only thing that concerns the lineman is cutting out on the perimeter.  That’s the biggest thing.  Usually on a screen or a toss, you go to the ground to try and get people on the ground.  The NFL nixed that but we’ll be all right.

LH : I asked Fournette last year about pass blocking and he said it was a five second fist fight.  Is that pretty much the case?

HG : Yeah.  That’s pretty much too much time in the real world.  It’s more like a three to four second fight.  It is violent and there’s a lot of contact.  The backs have been doing a great job of that all through camp.  I hope that they continue to do that when the real games show up.

LH : The big thing is putting positive things on film, correct?

GS : Right, yeah.  For me, I’ve just learned some new stuff.  Moving my position around and challenging me.  Really, just taking the coaching, and showing them, is the biggest thing that I am able to do.  That I’ve improved from last week to this week from my kick slide to making sure I get my hands in the right place.  Stuff like that and, like you said, putting good things on tape.

LH : Everybody talks about how you have to have your head on a swivel.  With special teams, you not only have to do that but you have to be going at full speed.  How hard is that to learn?

GS : I think it’s something that I naturally do.  A lot of times you can get focused on ball carrier, ball carrier, ball carrier and you might get a new block.  You might be getting double teamed.  It’s important for you as as a kickoff player to identify what your block is before the game.  That’s so, as you’re running down there, you’re not just looking at the ball but at your block through the ball.  Like a little triangle. If you’re doing that, you shouldn’t get snuck up on, hopefully.

LH :  Coach Arians is noted for not mincing words.  You came from a program at the University of Houston where the head coach was the same way.  What’s it like for playing for two coaches that let you know how they feel on no uncertain terms?

GS : I can appreciate both of these coaches.  There may be some guys, when they get here and coach may speak to them a little harshly or strongly and they take offense to it.  They take offense to it and feel a need to talk back.  I feel, with both of those guys, you don’t feel the need for that because you understand their motivation and what their intend is.  Everything is to make you better and everything is to make the team win.  That respect was already there before I got here.  Coach Arians has been my favorite coach for, like, forever. I was used to that.  I was very used to that.  The first interaction I had with Coach Holgorsen we were going back and forth with the same language.

Now, it’s hurry up and wait for the season to commence.  This week will be a prep week, similar to the bye week, for all 32 NFL teams and the Bucs are no exception.  Don’t look for a lot of new information but, that following week, the games start to count for real and the chatter coming out of of One Buc will ramp up.

We’ll be changing the batting order with our columns and articles starting Monday.  Let’s get ready for some football.