Mike Glennon barely played in his last two seasons as a backup with the Bucs, but as he returns to Tampa on Sunday as the Bears' starting quarterback, he's up against the same Bucs defense he faced constantly in practice.
"I'm definitely excited to get back to Tampa," Glennon said Wednesday in a conference call with Tampa reporters. "(It's) a place that was home for me the past four years, a lot of friends and relationships built there, where it'll be fun to go against them for sure. Really good defense, obviously one I've gone up against with scout team. To go against them in a real game, I'm looking forward to it."
Glennon had a solid debut with Chicago on Sunday, falling just short of a major upset against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Glennon had a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to pull within a score of Atlanta, then had four shots from the 5-yard line for a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute, only to throw three incompletions and take a sack on fourth down in a 23-17 loss.
Glennon could have returned to Tampa as a backup to Jameis Winston, but got a three-year, $43.5-million deal from Chicago, only to see the Bears trade up to No. 2 and take North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky as their quarterback of the future. He's again competing against a top young quarterback, but trying to make the most of his window as a starter for now.
"This whole time, the past two, two and a half years when I was in Tampa, in the back of my mind, I was always preparing for this moment and to be a starting quarterback again," Glennon said. "I tried to soak up as much as I could from coaches, from Jameis, every little experience to prepare for the time when I would play again."
The Bucs defense has a healthy respect for Glennon, aware that he knows their strengths and weaknesses from all those practices over the years.
"Mike is a smart guy," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Seven-foot-seven, can see everything in the defense. If you give him time, he will kill you. That's why I love Mike. I am not going to love him Sunday, but I'm going to love him up until the national anthem and kickoff. ... As soon as they start, I hate you. As soon as the clock ticks zero, I love you again."
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said he remembers days when Glennon got the best of his defense in practice, so the priority is making sure Sunday isn't one of those days.
"There were days where I would come off the field and think 'Man, we aren't going to be able to stop anybody. Mike just cut us up in practicing today,'" Smith said. "Mike is a really fine thrower of the football ... Mike has a good understanding of our defense, so it's going to be a challenge ... a fun little chess match."
Glennon said he has high expectations for his old team, so while he's hoping to beat them Sunday, he's pulling for them to do well this season and moving forward.
"There's a lot of good in both places," Glennon said. "I have a ton of respect for what Dirk's doing there, what Jameis is doing there. They're in real good hands for the future. I think Tampa is a great place and I definitely miss the people there."