TAMPA, Fla. — There was actually one sizable group of fans from Buffalo who made the trip here for Sunday’s game between the Bills and Buccaneers who enjoyed themselves.
That would be the guests of Buccaneers rookie defensive end and Buffalo native Steven Means.
“There’s about 100 people from Buffalo that I know that were here,” Means said after the Bucs’ 27-6 win inside Raymond James Stadium. “It’s just been tremendous support. Even when I haven’t been playing, people from home are texting me – ‘Keep working hard, keep grinding.’ They all keep me up.”
Means, who played for the University at Buffalo, was active Sunday for the seventh time in his rookie season. He did not record any statistics, but simply playing against his hometown team fulfilled a dream.
“It was a real emotional game. I can’t even explain how I felt about it – growing up, rooting for those guys the whole time,” he said. “For me to not be able to play against my hometown team and not knowing the next time I will play against them, that would have hurt my heart. But you know, I just thank this coaching staff for allowing me to be able to play.”
Although the rookie’s time on the field has been sparse, the Buccaneers still think highly of Means, whom they drafted in the fifth round of April’s draft.
“Steven’s going to be a good player,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “There’s some things he’s really been working hard on. I think time is the only thing standing between Steven and being a productive player. He’s got the physical attributes. He’s learning as he goes here.
“The one thing you love about him is he’s got a great motor and just goes and goes and loves the game. That’s what we’re trying to do down here in Tampa is just build it with guys who love the game.”
Means said his coaches have been preaching a common message to him this season.
“What they keep emphasizing is consistency. You know, they see it in me and they keep telling me that,” he said. “All they’re asking me to do is be more consistent with the play-calling, not be tentative.”
Means’ transition to the NFL has been helped by another Buffalo native in Bucs receiver Mike Williams, who is currently on injured reserve.
“He taught me a lot of things about the NFL when I first got down here, kept telling me what to do to stay on the team – and what not to do. That definitely helped me a lot,” Means said. “I’m getting more and more confident as I study more. I’m staying late after practice, even after everybody leaves, to work on all the little things I need to.”
Means is listed as the team’s second-string right defensive end behind Adrian Clayborn.
“I think that to get where he wants to get to – and that’s more playing time – it’s more just developing and learning the system and all the nuances that go into playing the defensive end position in the NFL,” Schiano said.