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Dirk Koetter: Roddy White Single-Most Competitive Player

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Dirk Koetter: Roddy White single-most competitive player

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Dirk Koetter has been in the NFL since 2007, so he's acquired a good feel for the players he's coached and coached against.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator makes reference to toughness, only one player comes to mind. It's the same player who was an integral part of his offenses for three seasons in Atlanta.

"I tell friends of mine all the time that Roddy White is the single-most competitive football player I've ever met in my life," Koetter said. "I've just never been around a guy that his desire to win and compete would let him overcome injuries. He would do whatever it takes -- whether it be blocking, catching, running with the football -- just whatever you needed to help you win a game, Roddy would try to do it."

Koetter used an anecdote to illustrate his point. He recalled a ritual the Falcons had during their 13-3 season in 2012, when they made it to the NFC Championship Game.

"Every week, Smitty [coach Mike Smith] would have the offensive coaches pick a game-ball winner, and I swear to God I think Roddy got the vote 11 out of 13 times," Koetter said. "He didn't always get the game ball because we wanted to spread it around. But up in the coaches' room upstairs, we were saying, 'OK, who else are we going to give this game ball to besides Roddy?'"

It might be fitting for White to earn the game ball following Sunday's season finale against the New Orleans Saints. There is speculation that it could be his last game as a Falcon, though White in intent on playing out his contract through 2017 and playing his final year in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Although White's cap number is just over $6 million for next year, he doesn't believe financial matters will have anything to do with the decision to keep him.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan already is planning for next year, and it's been well-documented how White is not an ideal fit in Shanahan's scheme. But the 34-year-old White showed during last week's upset of Carolina how he could still be a reliable pass-catching threat with five catches for 67 yards, including four first downs.

Whatever happens, White appreciates the respect he's earned over the years from the fans cheering "Rod-dy, Rod-dy," to his teammates, to coaches such as Koetter.

"Dirk's my guy, but he's watched me and how I grinded over the years, just dealing with injuries and going out there playing football," White said. "He knows me in and out as a player; my strengths and my weaknesses. He put me in a lot of positions to make plays in his offense, and I had a lot of success. It's just kudos to him to say I'm one of the toughest guys he's ever been around, that he's ever coached. That speaks volumes of how I've just tried to come to work and be on my game to help our team win."

White, a 2005 first-round draft pick out of UAB, is the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (10,853), receptions (807) and total touchdowns (63). He had six consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards receiving from 2007-2012.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said White is "the best" and has been for a long time. Wide receiver Julio Jones said, "Roddy's definitely still a playmaker." Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he appreciates the leadership White has displayed here at the end of the season.

At the beginning of the year, some folks questioned White after he lobbied for more touches following a 5-0 start. He's never been one to bite his tongue.

That's an aspect Koetter always appreciated about White.

"I always liked players who could tell you the truth," Koetter said. "Sometimes after an emotional game, Roddy sometimes could say some things. But Roddy knows football, now. Roddy really understands football. If Roddy told me something like, 'We need to throw it more' or 'We need to run it more,' I'd have to give it a good hard look because a lot of times, Roddy was probably right.

"I felt like Roddy always was going to be honest with you, so you'd better be honest with him."

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