Thursday May 28, I was at Buccaneers camp to get some audio for ESPN1040 and got the opportunity to interview Michael Clayton. Below is a transcript of my questions and his answers. Check out the audio.
Did John Gruden’s firing have anything to do with you re-signing with the Bucs?
Yeah it had a little bit to do with it. You know it was just a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable after the things I was told year after year after year and the situations I was being faced with, it wasn’t all truth.
So going back getting an opportunity to have a second part of my career, I wasn’t really gonna risk it, you know I wanted to be with a team who really understood me as a player and wanted to utilize my talents and there was a lot of teams out there that wanted me and would have made me feel a better feeling uhh
Make you feel welcome?
Yeah exactly, so I probably wouldn’t have been here and it’s no disrespect to Coach Gruden but it’s a business and we all have to be men and make decisions but it was the hiring of Raheem that was a situation that I really wanted to be a part of, a young team giving me the opportunity to be a leader.
Raheem knows me, we’ve talked for the past five years, we’ve had great conversations, me and Mark Domenik have had great conversations, so I knew that I had a great chance of staying, getting a contract that I wanted that I can support my family and be happy.
I just knew that the pieces would fall together because of the relationship I had with Mark and Raheem.
With the offseason purge of veterans like Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn, do you feel a leadership role falling on your shoulders, having been with the team this long?
Definitely, you know I think more so it’s out in the open now, behind closed doors those guys are leaders in the locker room, they lead by example. I’ve been a leader to young guys coming in, been their voice, been a guy who invites them to my house and kinda show them the ropes and hang out and teach them things about Tampa, what to do and what not to do and interact more so with them.
So I’ve been that guy behind the scenes ever since I’ve gotten here. It’s been no different since Lac (Cadillac Williams) got here and I let him live with me, you know it hasn’t changed its only grown.
Now that all of the older guys who have had great success are gone, I’ve been here I’m one of the oldest guys in the locker room that’s been here for five years, I mean Jermaine Phillips and Ronde Barber and then I think it might be me third so I'm one of the older guys whose been here for a while so it kinda puts me in that position out in the open because of the years I have spent with the younger guys that they’ve grown and had success and the respect that I have in the locker room you know its kinda out in the open now, and it’s a good feeling, it feels good to be that guy.
I know the offense is similar to Gruden’s but do you feel his philosophy and the way he wants to utilize his receivers is a better fit for your skill set than Gruden’s offense was?
Definitely, Jags gives you the opportunity to do everything, catch a lot of hitches a lot of slants which is my forte, we also catch, digs, ins and go routes. You basically get a wide spread of everything.
Where in Gruden’s offense it could be geared to an X receiver or a Z receiver like my rookie year but in Gruden’s offense I think that it was more so you put that guy in the position whose gonna catch all the balls, it was one guy on the team that was gonna catch them all.
So he always had a key guy he moved around to get the ball?
Exactly, he had a lot of motions, a lot of shifts to put that guy in that position, so I think in Jags offense it’s a little more simple, we do a lot of combination routes so it gives both receivers the ability to a multiple number of routes and identical on both sides; it gives us more opportunities.
Do you think that simplicity of the offense is gonna make you guys less predictable, since you’re saying that Gruden moved around a key player mostly, think it will give you guys more variations and different looks you can confuse defenses with?
Well we may be predictable but we’ll be more efficient. That’s key, being able to be efficient and execute. I think that the calls the offensive line has to make have been cut in half.
We have a great offensive and if you simplify what they can do so they’re not thinking as much, which is what was done, we’re a zone running team now, so it's smash-mouth football and that’s what we do, so it gives us an opportunity to be more efficient but hence we’re just getting started.
Coach Jags is a very smart coach and don’t take the simplicity as an understatement, it gets better. I’ve seen some of his tape, they run a lot of creative schemes and routes and we’ll take the information from coaches like Richard Mann who’s been in the league over 25 years, who’s seen a lot of tape, coached a lot of receivers, and seen a lot of plays.
We’re all working together and I think that’s just a good thing, all the coaches are working putting their knowledge together and we’re putting it in the scheme, practicing it and its coming out well now.
You’ve had the opportunity to catch passes from all the quarterbacks in camp, in your opinion, who throws the best ball?
They all throw good balls man.
Which one has the velocity, that zip to it that you feel it when it hits your hands?
Well, Leftwich definitely has a cannon, you know he whines it up but he lets it go, and he can definitely make every throw on the field from any place on the field.
He has a lot more experience than Luke. He had a long up-and-down career as a lot of us had but he’s fought through it, he’s won a Super Bowl, his confidence is up, I really feel his aura out there, he’s got a lot of confidence, he’s a coach, he’s a quarterback, he’s a leader; he has all the tools man.
But at the same time you have Luke who can basically do the same thing, can make every throw but is a dynamic quarterback because he can run out of the pocket, so you take it for what it’s worth. You let the quarterbacks play in preseason you see who’s a better fit for the team and that’s when the decision is made.
So which quarterback do you like catching passes from the most?
A quarterback, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s coming and we a s receivers that’s all we want is just a little opportunity and a quarterback that can give you opportunity is a good quarterback indeed and we’ve been blessed to have some quarterbacks here this year who’ve been thrown in the fire had experience, know how to practice and let the ball go, it been good for us.
You were talking about taking some young guys under your wings, who are some of those young guys specifically is it rookie like Sammie Stroughter or mentor a guy like Dexter Jackson?
Definitely. I wouldn’t say mentor because at the same time we’re all grown men, it's just knowledge man about the things that I’ve learned and nobody comes in this locker room without me talking to them, to be honest.
I’m friends with everybody, I’ve counseled a lot of people in a lot of situations, Aqib, Tenard, everybody every young guy who’s come here and has really set his foot in the door because of his athletic ability I made it my mission really to go to them and give them everything I’ve learned because that’s what makes a team closer.
Man if I can keep someone out of trouble or help someone make a better decision you know really that’s what my calling is you know at the end of the day that’s what I believe in and being a leader is my responsibility, we’ve been good with it, and I think the young guys have been better for it and I’ll continue to do it.
What are the expectations you have for yourself and for this offense?
For myself, just having a successful season, I’m long overdue, my body feels good, my confidence is where it needs to be, great opportunity and just over exceeding anybody else’s expectations just nobody knows what’s gonna happen.
But personally man I really feel like its gonna be my year, you know I haven’t really felt this way in a long time, I just know I have the confidence of my coaches and with the scheme of the offense there’s gonna be a lot of opportunity.
You think the balance to the system is going to help?
Right, and when you have opportunity and good quarterbacks you’re gonna have success and successful wide receivers and I don’t have to be the No. 1 guy or have to be the No. 2 guy, just a guy with opportunity and I’ve taken advantage of my opportunities in the past, didn’t get a lot of opportunities but the small ones that I did, I didn’t get any praise for it but I made them count.
And this is the year that I’ll get more and I really look forward to that.