Against the backdrop of cornerback Aqib Talib's trial this summer on a felony gun charge, Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said Tuesday that new head coach Greg Schiano will initiate a "culture change'' in the locker room to make players more accountable.
Glazer spoke on a wide variety of topics at the annual spring meeting of NFL owners, saying the club has generated a spike in season-ticket renewals and new season-ticket sales since signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright two weeks ago in the early stages of free agency.
Asked about ownership's view of Talib's off-field issues, Glazer said players and fans alike will notice the franchise's renewed emphasis on character.
"We don't want to read about our players when it's non football-related, negative items,'' Glazer said. "When we were looking for a new head coach, one of the key aspects of Coach Schiano is his view on integrity and his expectations of players, on and off the field. He's going to come in and there will be a culture change, I think, in the locker room.
"People will know very quickly on our team that certain things will not be tolerated. What's happened in the past is in the past and everyone comes in with a clean slate, but that clean slate only lasts so long.''
Talib faces a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from his role in a March 2011 shooting incident in Garland, Texas. His trial is scheduled for June.
In his 11 years as head coach at Rutgers, Schiano was often credited with helping student-athletes develop as good citizens, as well as football players.
"He talks about Buccaneers men and what they should stand for,'' Glazer said. "That's not going to be just lip service for him – that's going to be real and meaningful. He has core beliefs that he feels strongly about and over time, people will understand those and appreciate that our players will, too.''
Here is Glazer's annual state-of-the-Bucs session with The Tampa Tribune NFL reporter Ira Kaufman:
Q: Why was this the right time to strike big in free agency?
A: That's simple. This was always part of the plan, once we set out on the road we chose. We said we're going to draft and develop, keep our own players and, over time, add free agents. When you're building a house, you don't buy the furniture first. We felt this was the appropriate time to add these players. It wasn't just adding free agents – it was the players who were available. These were unique situations with Vincent Jackson, who the Chargers still made an effort to keep at the top of his game, and Carl Nicks, the same situation with New Orleans.
It was a combination where part of a plan coincided with these particular players for a perfect storm. We were starting over, rebuilding, putting seeds in the ground, letting them grow, and then at the appropriate time, adding pieces of the puzzle that will help this team take the next step. These are quality players who historically speaking are not available in free agency at their age.
Q: Did the opportunity to please alienated fans play any role in being more active in free agency?
A: You've got to do what you think is in the best interests of winning. That's what we've been doing for the last couple of years, for the long term. That's something we've been emphasizing. We took a step back last year, things looked good two years ago. Our No. 1 goal is sustained success.
Q: What are your expectations for 2012?
A: I'm very excited about this season. I feel a lot of excitement from the community, especially the more they get to know Coach Schiano and what he stands for. We have some young players who I feel he will help get to the next level with his teaching and developing skills. The more I'm around him, the more excited I am.
Q: What are you hearing from the ticket office?
A: We've seen great response from our season-ticket holders with the hiring of Coach Schiano and the moves we made in free agency. People are excited. Most importantly, we're getting renewals, and we've also seen strong interest in buying new season tickets. I think people see the commitment and they like what they're seeing in Coach Schiano. With those two things combined, there's an optimism about the future that I haven't felt from our fans for a long time.
Q: Why couldn't the Bucs avoid blackouts last year, coming off a 10-6 season?
A: You never quite know why. I'm trying hard not to look back. I'm happy where we are in this offseason. I'm very happy with the staff Coach Schiano has put together. We've added some players, we're excited about being well positioned in the draft. I think Coach Schiano's leadership will turn some heads in our locker room.
Q: How's your father, Malcolm, doing?
A: He's doing all right, thanks for asking. Nothing really new to report.
Q: How would you assess Mark Dominik's first three years as general manager?
A: Mark has done a good job. We've had a plan and he has managed, through some tough waters, to stick with that plan. In any situation, you're going to have some negatives to point to, but I think that's the case with any team in the NFL. He knows what he wants to accomplish and he has stuck with it. The coaching process was not easy and he did a great job helping us navigate through that. In free agency, it's not easy to come out of the blocks and get all the guys signed up. I'm very pleased with the direction we're headed.
Q: Any regrets that last year Raheem Morris added only a punter in free agency, compared to this recent haul of starters?
A: I have great respect for Coach Morris. I miss him very much. This was the time to do it. Last year was a different time and a different situation. These particular players were available this year and you can't revisit the past.
Q: How does the franchise plan to re-connect with its fan base?
A: That's a huge priority for us. We've focused more and more with re-connecting. We've got a lot of good initiatives that I think will be well received by our fans. We've lowered ticket prices again. We now offer pricing for everybody and we're reaching out to all corners of the community. I have great confidence the Tampa Bay community will respond. They've always responded in the past and we know they love the Buccaneers.
Q: What's ownership's stance on the NFL's blackout rule?
A: There's a lot of mixed views on that. That's something the NFL has had for a long time. They handle it, they implement it. We live in a different world, but there are reasons the rule exists. People have different views on whether it's right or wrong, but it's something we have to live with today.
Q: How do you feel when a Bucs home game is blacked out?
A: Our goal is to not have to worry about blackouts. We're working hard to make sure our fans can watch every single game. We're rolling up our sleeves to get that stadium rocking.
Q: What was your reaction to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's decision last week to levy sanctions on the Saints for their bounty program?
A: I'm in support of the commissioner, no question. We had a focus group of fans come into this owners meeting for the first time and overwhelmingly the message from them is the integrity of the game is paramount to everything else. That's the way all the owners feel.
The commissioner has done a fantastic job of making that a priority. I think the commissioner handled it very well. Sometimes people may not like the consequences. It's not an easy job, protecting the integrity of the game, but player safety will always be paramount in the NFL.
Q: A year ago, you said 2010 was one of your most enjoyable seasons as an owner. Did 2011 leave you the most miserable?
A: Last year was tough, no question. It was very, very difficult. But I quickly put it behind me and our job is to make sure 2011 never happens again. That's what led us to Coach Schiano, his background, all the things he stands for, what he brings to the table. I think his staff has a great mix of experience and people from college who are great teachers.
Q: What are your expectations for QB Josh Freeman?
A: I expect to see much more of the 2010 Freeman than last year's Josh Freeman. Last year was frustrating, but I know nobody is going to work harder than Josh. There's no question we have full confidence in Josh Freeman and we've surrounded him with more talent to help him out.
Q: How do you respond to fans who say they won't spend money on Bucs tickets because they aren't convinced ownership is committed to winning?
A: We're as committed as any owner in this room. Winning is the No. 1 priority for this franchise and we will always do what we think is in the best interests of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to attain our goal – a Super Bowl championship and a team that is able to compete year-in and year-out to win it. Anything less is not what we are looking for. It's a new year, a new coach and we've got a lot of talented young players on this football team.