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Bucs' Gerald McCoy eager to lead by example

TAMPA - In Gerald McCoy's perfect world, the third-year defensive tackle of the Buccaneers will be disruptive on game day and an ambassador for new head coach Greg Schiano off the field. Since being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft, McCoy has struggled to stay healthy. A biceps tear in each arm cost him 13 games in his first two NFL seasons and Tampa Bay is 3-10 without McCoy in uniform. With McCoy suited up, the Bucs are 11-8. "I feel great," McCoy said after Wednesday's workout session. "I put in a lot of work this offseason. I went back to San Diego and trained with Todd Durkin and it got me right. I'm getting there. I'm practicing already and by training camp, I'll be 110 percent."
McCoy was an observer for most of Tampa Bay's 10-game losing streak that ended the 2011 season, prompting the dismissal of Raheem Morris. Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said Schiano's arrival ushers in a "culture change" at One Buc Place and McCoy already notices the difference. "He's definitely re-established order," McCoy said. "You can kind of tell we lost a little discipline and order around here, but he's re-established it very well and he's made it very clear that there will be order. Nobody in the building is exempt. If we're going to turn this thing around, it has to be the whole organization, not just players and coaches." Schiano's focus on accountability is welcomed by McCoy, who is eager to help by defusing potential issues in the locker room before they reach the command center. Even at the age of 24, McCoy openly embraces a leadership role. "This is nothing new to me," McCoy said. "I came from the University of Oklahoma and coach (Bob) Stoops. There's nothing but order there. This is what I'm used to, so I love it. When they drafted me, that's what I was brought here to be and that's what I love being. I'm not really a follower-type guy. … I'm just a natural leader." McCoy's first job is to lead by example. En route to a 4-12 finish, the Bucs were last in the league in rushing defense. Given Schiano's background as a defensive coach before going to Rutgers in 2001, stopping the run looms as a top priority. "It really takes discipline to play this defense and it's going to eliminate a lot of the mistakes we've had in the past," said McCoy, who has 39 tackles and four sacks heading into his third pro season. "We can't get a real view of it yet, but I think it'll be great for us." McCoy and fellow defensive tackles Brian Price and recent free-agent pickup Amobi Okoye will be asked to shed blockers and knife into the backfield, making it easier for teammates to make stops near the line of scrimmage. A year ago, Tampa Bay opponents averaged five rushing attempts per game that gained at least 10 yards. "It's not that every gap is filled, it's like every gap is destroyed in some way," McCoy said of the emerging defensive scheme. "People running the ball on us — it's not going to happen. That's his (Schiano) mentality and that's how our defense is set up. I'm just going to do what I do, get up the field and mess something up."

ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833

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