In the moments after he became a rich man Sunday, the Bucs asked Lavonte David to take a few minutes to take a few photographs. David declined.
“I need to get back to my meeting,” he said.
And that story, told by Bucs’ general manger Jason Licht, illustrates as much as anything of why David will remain hungry despite achieving wealth. “Football matters more to me than anything,” David said.
So David went back to work, and the Bucs congratulated themselves for having David and teammate Gerald McCoy both tied up until the year 2020. Now, everyone concerned said, it is time for the winning to begin.
Think about it: Most of the great linebackers you can name, for all the teams in all of the seasons, came from winners. Oh, there was Dick Butkus, who played on terrible Bear teams, but most of the linebackers who are considered essential played in Super Bowls, and people paid attention to their fierceness.
David? His Bucs’ teams have won 13 games in the three years he’s played. Why should anyone watch?
“Winning is the main thing,” David said, a day after signing a five-year, $50-million extension. “You get known for winning. If you’re winning, people will look at the things that you’ve done. That’s what we want to do here. We have the right coaches in place, the right management. I honestly believe it’s going to happen real soon.”
For instance, his coaches have pled Davis’ case for the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, but he hasn’t made it. It’s hard for a linebacker to register when he plays with a two-win team. Ah, but if the team is a playoff team, more people pay attention, and more accolades are given. It’s the nature of the beast.
“He has everything you’re looking for in a great linebacker,” coach Lovie Smith said. “The standard is high here. We have a Hall of Famer (Brooks) that sat and watched video with me (Sunday) and critiqued Lavonte.
“Lavonte can do it all. We want a linebacker who can blitz, he can blitz. There is no better coverage linebacker. His tackle total has been consistent every year. What we want is for him to make more impact plays. The great players who have been here, what they did ultimately was win a championship.”
Look, it would be silly for the Bucs to pledge this kind of money to David and McCoy if they didn’t plan to build this defense. And the truth is, there are still too many Band-Aids, too many second-teamers playing first team.
But this is the time. It is reasonable to expect – even with limits on the pass rush – for this to be a defense in the top half of the league. The development of Bradley McDougald, the improvement of Johnthan Banks, the signing of Bruce Carter and the trade for George Johnson should help make that happen.
David was asked why he didn’t consider a holdout during this training camp.
“How would it look to my teammates if they voted me captain and I wasn’t here working beside them?” he said.
In the coming year, David has talked about making more impact plays. Coach Lovie Smith has mentioned him for “55 club,” a club of linebackers with five sacks and five interceptions. David talks about being more of a leader.
All of that, he hopes, will contribute to the winning.
And then, more people may pay attention.