FLOWERY BRANCH — Tampa Bay starting center Joe Hawley spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a conference call on Wednesday.
The Bucs (5-6) are set to host the Falcons (6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Here’s what Hawley, who was cut by the Falcons in favor of Mike Person and James Stone, had to say:
Q: How are you the Bucs hoping to rebound after losing to the Colts last week?
A: We are right in the thick of things. That’s right where we want to be. Got a big match up this week against the Falcons, obviously. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: How’s the transition been for you after being cut by the Falcons?
A: It’s been great. Obviously, I was familiar with the system after working with (offensive coordinator) Dirk (Koetter) in Atlanta for the past three years. I jumped right in. It’s a great group of guys. It’s a great room with a lot of good guys I fit in really well with. It’s great being a part of a good team like this.
Q: How has Jameis Winston been developing?
A: It’s been very impressive to watch him grow so dramatically over the first two-thirds of the season. He’s very smart. He knows the whole playbook. He knows all of our protections. He’s gotten more confident every week. He’s turning into something special for sure.
Q: Is the offensive line proud of its running blocking for Doug Martin?
A: Yeah. Doug has been running hard. He’s a great running back. He’s an easy guy to block for. He makes a lot of guys miss. We just have a good group of guys who enjoy playing together. We play hard. We kind of enjoy our physical still of play. As an o-line its definitely good to have (one of) the top rushers in the league.
Q: What’s it been like playing next to six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins?
A: The experience that he has is invaluable. He’s a great guy to play for. He’s got a nasty style. Kind of the way I like to model myself after. Being able to play with him, he’s been in the league a long time, I’ve learned a lot from him already. Just how to carry myself. I have a lot of respect for the way he plays and the way carries himself.
Q: Can the Bucs really make a playoff push?
A: The playoffs pretty much start right now. If we can get to 10-6, taking it one game at a time, I think we have a pretty good chance of getting in there. We just need to win one game. Win the next game. So, it’s all about this one and getting back on the right track.
Q: How tough was it leaving the Falcons?
A: It was difficult. It was the only place I’d played. I’d played there for five years. I had a lot invested in that team. I knew all of the guys, but after stepping away and being able to get in with a new team, I’m just happy to be with someone who wants me and have my presence in the locker room.
Q: Did the Falcons give you enough time coming back from the injuries to win the job? Did you get a fair shot at the job?
A: Uh, honestly. No. I think they kind of used it as an excuse. When I got here I wasn’t 100 percent yet. But they gave me a chance. Now, I’m feeling like the knee is back to new. But it just took four or five more weeks that I thought it would. Yeah, I think they kind of cut me short of that.
Q: Any hard feelings toward the Falcons?
A: That’s the business side of it obviously. When it happened I was feeling a little bit emotional about it, but after getting plugged in with a new team and being here, I just feel like a part of a new family. It’s not as much as what that team did to me, but it’s more about the opportunity that this team gave me. I’m just real thankful to have another chance of playing, especially with such a good locker room.
Q: Are you aware of the bad snaps the Falcons have had from the centers they tried to replace you with?
A: Yeah, that’s part of the business I guess. That’s the decision that they made. Stuff they have to live with. I’m just happy to be on a new team that really wants me.
Q: How did it feel to beat the Falcons at the Georgia Dome?
A: That was a great feeling. That was my first time back in the Dome. Coming away with W, beating the team that let me go, that felt really good. It happens every year. People get let go and go to new teams, but coming away with a W in the Dome was certainly something special.
Q: What are the keys to moving the ball on the Falcons?
A: They have a great defense. Dan Quinn has them playing really hard. You can tell on film. They play hard. It’s night and day from last year, the way they are playing. They are running to the ball. They are swarming to the ball. We have to get the run game going. Create holes for Doug. We have to play our style. Finish to the ball and play hard. It’s going to be a dogfight. Whoever plays more physical is going to come out on top.
Q: Have you talked to any of the guys up here? Have they said anything about what’s wrong with Matt Ryan?
A: No. I haven’t really talked to them in a couple of weeks. We keep in touch a little bit, but it’s not really about football.
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