TAMPA, Fla. — Three days after Buccaneers safety T.J. Ward said he was at his “wit’s end” over his role in the Bucs’ defense, the three-time Pro Bowler said he wishes he would have handled things differently, going to the coaching staff instead of airing his frustrations out publicly.
“I should have kept a lot of my thoughts to myself,” said Ward, 30. “I’ve been in this league [for a long time]. This is my eighth year. I’m a fiery person and I wear my emotions on my sleeve. This is all brand-new to me.”
After the Bucs’ 30-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills, a game that was lost in the final seconds, Ward said, “I came here to be an impact player. I can’t do that if I’m not out on the field. …. I did not come here to rotate.”
Coach Dirk Koetter and Ward had a discussion last Thursday about some of the things Koetter would like to see from Ward. Koetter also spoke to the team about coming to the coaching staff with concerns about roles and playing time.
“It’s a new situation, new team and I’m just trying to take it as it comes and handle it as it goes so I hope everyone works with me,” Ward said. “My teammates know it’s nothing malicious. My coaches know it’s nothing malicious. I’m just a competitive guy.”
Ward met with defensive coordinator Mike Smith following his comments Sunday. Neither Ward nor Smith would elaborate on what that conversation entailed. Smith said it’s his personal policy not to discuss private conversations he has with players.
“We have to make decisions each and every week,” Smith said. “I’ve said many times, ‘We don’t have 11 starters.’ There are different guys who are gonna play different roles. The amount of times guys are gonna play is gonna be based on how people are trying to attack us. That’s where we are at in terms of how we’re trying to defend people. Obviously, our job as coaches is to put the guys that give us the best opportunity to win out there, in our opinion. And that’s what we do.”
Ward has gone from playing the third-most snaps last year and in the past three seasons on a dominant Denver Broncos defense to serving in a rotational role with the Bucs. He was averaging just over 60 defensive snaps per game with the Broncos. Through four games with the Bucs, he is averaging 31.5.
“It’s something we’re working out within this defense and this team. We’ve just got to see how this boat is rowing and get it in direction,” said Ward, emphasizing that he still wants to be out there more.
“I said what I said,” Ward said. “The facts — do I want to be out there all the time? Yes. Those still remain. But there’s a complete other way to handle it. I should know better.”