A few minutes with … Gerald McCoy

Gerald McCoy of the Buccaneers recently stopped by the NFL Network studios in Culver City, Calif., so we spent a few minutes catching up on what’s happened since his last visit a year ago:

What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘Josh Freeman?’
GM: Huge! Freeman is a big guy. But if I didn’t know him, and you just said his name, the word “promising” would come to mind. If you watch what he did at 22 years old and how he led the team and how many fourth-quarter comebacks he had … it’s crazy if you think about how promising his career will be and all the potential he has. He could be one of the greats.

Finish this sentence: Next year the Buccaneers will …
GM: Make the playoffs. Yep. We definitely will. I know, personally, I’ve been putting in all the work necessary. Training, trying to stay in shape, getting stronger and faster, improving my knowledge of the game. You see the big jump Freeman made last year from his rookie season, that’s because of the work he put in during the offseason. The goal is to get into the playoffs.

What did you learn last season by having to sit out with the injury?
GM: You can’t take it for granted. You have to love it, enjoy it and cherish it while you have it. It’s that quick. One minute I’m trying to make a tackle, and the next I’m out for four games. You have to enjoy the game while you have it.

Tell us something about Raheem Morris we don’t know …
GM: I know he’s a fiery guy, but he loves his players. He absolutely loves his players and will put himself out on the line for his players. The example is when he said we were the best team in the NFC. A bold statement like that, because he loves his players, trusts his players, he believes in his players … he’s a great player’s coach. That’s who he is.

What’s a truth you learned about the NFL as a rookie?
GM: It’s a tough game. It’s hard. It’s a grind. It is hard, the NFL is a hard game to play. That’s why the guys who stand out in the NFL get praised so much. I’m a professional at what I do, but there are some professionals who are better than others.

OK, so who are some guys who are better than you thought?
GM: From the opening week, Joe Thomas is good. Beyond good. That’s why he’s been a Pro Bowler. Jake Long is very good. Both of those guys are good! Matt Ryan, he’s good. He’s really good. Drew Brees, he’s beyond what everyone thinks. He’s better. You guys think he’s in the argument for the best quarterback in the league, he deserves it. He’s beyond what everyone thinks. Brees is that guy.

What’s the last movie you saw?
GM: Oh man. “Scream 4!” I grew up on the Scream series. These young kids, and I can say that because I’m 23, they don’t even know what it is. I grew up on it! So it took like 10 years for them to come out with this one. I had to see it. Hayden Panettiere, that’s my girl. I’m in love with her.

This is now public, Gerald …
GM: That’s OK. I hope you read this Hayden! But I’m not messing with Hayden. Her boyfriend is professional boxer Wladimir Klitschko.

Would you step in the ring to prove your love?
GM: No! Noooo way! … I would like to meet her, though. Maybe one day.

Favorite movie of all-time?
GM: If I have to pick one, it’s “Moonwalker” about Michael Jackson. That’s my favorite. And it is a movie. If I have to leave the country and take only one movie with me, that’s the one. I’m the biggest Jackson fan you’ll ever find. I look for online auctions where I can buy his stuff, I want to go to Neverland Ranch, I have Jackson bobblehead dolls, wash cloths, posters, paintings, both his video games, all of his movies and videos. I got it all.

Which celebrity have you been most excited to meet?
GM: Warren Sapp, hands down. I even got to meet Steve Martin. It has to be out of those two. Or, John Randle. I grew up on Martin’s movies. I just watched “Father of the Bride” the other day.

There you have it, from Josh Freeman to Hayden Panettiere to Michael Jackson to Steve Martin in a few minutes with Gerald McCoy.

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