Vincent Jackson on Signing With the Bucs: “I Had to Start at the Top”

One of the biggest names — and frames — on the free-agent market was also the first man to put pen to paper. Vincent Jackson jumped from one coast to another, leaving San Diego to sign a five-year, $55.6-million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson should immediately make life easier for quarterback Josh Freeman,who struggled in 2011, as well as the rest of the offense. He’ll also be plugged into a young roster in general, with a brand-new coaching staff presenting him and his teammates with a chance to start from scratch. Vincent Jackson joined WDAE in Tampa to relay his enthusiasm about arriving in Tampa (even if his arrival was earlier in the morning than expected thanks to the tailwinds), and how he was the first free agent to sign with a team this year. He also elaborated on why he chose the Bucs, talked about his new head coach, and was asked to list his greatest strength as a receiver.

On Tampa not quite being South Beach, but close:

“Very excited about it, man. This is plenty close enough for me. I’m very happy to be here on this organization and obviously in this great city.”

On his ear-to-ear smile on NFL Network and it being a very good day in his world:

“Oh very genuine, man. I’ve had some good years back in San Diego, but what they’ve got going on here is exciting, just from the moment the coach came in and picked me up this morning off the red-eye, took my bags out of my hand and embraced me. I know what it’s all about here — it’s about family, it’s about putting out there the Buccaneer way that we want to represent in this league, and I’m really happy about being a part of that.”

On his 4:00 a.m. arrival in Tampa:

“I can’t complain. Not much sleep needed anyway in the last 24 hours with what’s been going on, but very happy the way it’s worked out.”

On if this was always part of the plan:

“No, I mean, this is obviously — you know as much as people believe it or not, how you get to free agency — we don’t have as many open rights as a lot of people believe, and obviously I just had the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat where I get to choose where I get to go and have teams actually bid for my services, so it was an opportunity. I didn’t know if I wasn’t going to get it this year again — obviously San Diego had the opportunity if they wanted to franchise me and they chose not to do that. So me and my representatives were happy, we thought it was a good time with this year and this market. There’s some great teams out here that would definitely want to participate in getting me involved.”

On if it feels especially good being the first free agent to sign:

“It does. Obviously it’s a culmination of a lot of years and a lot of hard work and time put in, but for me it was about trying to focus on getting in the right location that’s gonna be best for me and my family and an organization that’s obviously gonna have the same attitude that I have about winning and playing this game the right way.”

Why Tampa?

“I had to start at the top, man. Just with the ownership and the general management, just the way that they’ve approached the process with me this year. They’ve been 100 percent professional, on board. Treated me with a lot of love and respect. I knew how serious they were about it and you just go down the line and you look at the team that they have here and things haven’t worked out the way (they’ve wanted them to) in the past few years, but I think they have a lot of the right pieces in place to make the next step, and adding some free-agent guys like the guys they brought in today. With me and Eric (Wright) and Carl (Nicks), we’re just gonna help make this team a little bit stronger, continue to move in the right direction. Obviously if you have a conversation with Coach Schiano, you know what he’s about, and I love it. I love what he brings to the table, his hunger, and the new staff that he’s brought in, new faces around here. We feel like it’s a clean slate for us, it’s gonna be a fresh start for all of us and we’re gonna start this season 0-0. What has happened in the past doesn’t matter — we’re gonna be a strong team and we’re gonna do good things.”

On if he spoke with Greg Schiano before signing:

“I spoke to him shortly after, and we were getting set up for me to come out here. And he’s a guy who shoots straight from the hip, man. And I could tell right off the bat that we’re gonna have a great relationship and with the other guys they brought in and just the way we’re interacting already. I know this is a the best choice for me.”

On getting to know Schiano:

“That doesn’t surprise me that you haven’t been able to get a hold of him because he is business first and he’s gonna take care of his priorities. Again, the big word I keep hearing around him is family. It’s family and keeping things together and respecting and taking care of each other, and I’m all about that. And I think that’s what this coaching staff is gonna breed and that’s what we’re gonna do as veteran players with these young guys here. And I think that we’re gonna bring a new flavor to the team.”

On his biggest strength as a receiver:

“Obviously you look at, statistically, being one of the top guys as far as yards per catch and all those things, catches over 40 yards, I’ve been there the past four, five years. But I’ve always had the mentality to be as dynamic and as complete a receiver as possible. And I think I’ve kind of been up there as far as third-down percentage goes as far as my catches. You know I catch quite a few balls over the middle and some of those intermediate routes. So that’s what I’m gonna continue to work on is just be as complete a receiver as possible, do whatever’s asked of me — crossing routes, underneath routes, draw some attention sometimes to draw tight ends out or help other receivers get the ball — but I feel after talking with P.J. Fleck, the receivers coach here, and some of the offensive coaches that they’re going to allow me that freedom to do a couple different things, and you know I’m always gonna wanna go to my bread and butter and definitely wanna take the top off the defense now and then. And the red zone, that’s something I think has been a strength of mine. I really love going up and attacking the ball being a former basketball player, and I think maybe sometimes in San Diego I didn’t get the opportunity as much.”

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