Every NFL team, including coaching staff and players, has respect for the other 31 teams in the league and that was again evidenced Tuesday, when Falcons players spoke highly of their Thursday night opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before the Bucs returned the favor, via conference call.
Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith on Falcons QB Matt Ryan: "Matt is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, since he came into the league, pretty much. He's a great leader and when the game is on the line, you want a guy like him in charge. Personally, he's caused me a lot of long nights."
Smith on facing his former player, Falcons WR Devin Hester: "I'm not really looking forward to that in one sense. I went and worked out Devin Hester at the University of Miami personally, and of course, from the first moment there, I knew what we were going to get from him. He's a lifetime friend; I feel like he'll be a part of my family forever and he's the greatest returner of all time, so when you're on the opposing sideline, you're not really happy about that, but it's been great that he got an opportunity to really play wide receiver, because he's just a special player with his hands on the ball." Click here to see what Hester said about facing his former coach.
Bucs LB Lavonte David on facing the Falcons: "It's an explosive offense, especially when they're at home. They have playmakers that can break the game away. They have great receivers, obviously, and a stable of backs in the backfield, led by Steven Jackson. Matt Ryan is the cornerstone of the team; he's a great leader and we always have to be on our p's and q's, when we face the Atlanta Falcons, because one play can turn into an explosive play, with all those weapons." David on the extra attention to WR Julio Jones: "With Julio back, it's going to be even more of a task on our behalf, because he's a great playmaker and Matt Ryan is going to find a way to get him the ball."