TAMPA — During Lovie Smith’s nine-year tenure as Chicago’s head coach, the Bears’ defense ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in takeaways — finishing first in that department in two seasons.
Smith, now Tampa Bay’s head coach, is hoping that penchant continues with the Buccaneers. To push the team in that direction, he has instilled some rules for the players to follow during practice.
One requires defensive players to pick up any incomplete pass that falls to the ground. Smith’s belief is that the practice will help his players get into the habit of jumping on loose balls.
“I don’t think you get takeaways by chance or that they just happen,’’ Smith said in explaining his strategy. “It’s got to be a mindset, so we treat an incomplete pass like it’s a fumble.
“That way we’re getting something out of that. I want our defense to constantly be thinking about the ball, picking it up and running with it. That should be just a standard (practice).
“If you don’t see us doing that in practice then we aren’t doing our job.”
Smith was the Bears’ coach from 2004 to 2012.