Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New Beat Music To Morris' Ears
TAMPA - The Bucs are definitely marching to a different beat these days. On the first day of their first minicamp under new coach Raheem Morris, the field-side stereo system that used to blast out Bon Jovi and AC/DC was blowing Tupac and Rick Ross instead. "You have to start to cater to your guys, so right now we're going with a little Raheem music," Morris said Tuesday. "It's not like I'm trying to change everything that Coach Jon Gruden did. I'm just trying to make it more like Raheem Morris." He seems to be achieving his objective. Most every player under Morris' charge came off the field talking of a different, more energetic vibe under Morris, who also was lauded for being a lot more affable than his predecessor. "I now have a head coach I can punch every now and then," safety-turned-linebacker Jermaine Phillips joked. "It was good today. There was a lot of high energy out there."There were a lot of players out there, too. Though the three-day, five-workout minicamp that runs through Thursday is voluntary, all but three of the 67 players on the roster showed. The only players missing were quarterback Brian Griese (family matter), running back Earnest Graham (family matter) and left tackle Donald Penn (absence unexplained). And of the 64 players who attended the non-padded practices Tuesday, all but running back Cadillac Williams (knee surgery) and linebacker Angelo Crowell (knee surgery) participated. "I was very pleased with the turnout," said Morris, who said he expects to have Williams on the field by training camp and Crowell on the field by May. "The guys that were here all worked hard and practiced smart. They worked on their timing and their precision. I was very pleased." Timing and precision are the buzzwords of this camp. The idea, Morris said, is to get the basics down - things such as the snap count, the snap of the ball to the quarterback and the quarterback's drop, set-up and release. "You have to start small," Morris said. "I can't go out and say, 'Hey, guys, we're going to start where we left off last year.' So right now, we're building timing and precision. "With a young group, you have to make it small. We all have short attention spans, so right now it's about timing and precision. If we can do that, we're one up on everybody going to training camp." The buzzwords will change once training camp begins. The Bucs will work there on being tougher, more physical, even violent. Morris won't wait until training camp to get tough with his players, though. He started that aspect of his program Tuesday as well, calling out during his initial address to the team a few selected players whose names he refused to mention publicly. "Sometimes you have to hit with straightforward shots," Morris said. "Most people like to do that in a one-on-one setting. I like to do it in a 66-man setting, or in an 80-man setting or in a 53-man setting. "That's what I did Tuesday morning. Whenever you deliver a message like that, it's challenging a guy, it's inspiring a guy, it's leading a guy. You give them that message and then you go out and have fun." It has been awhile since having fun was one of the head coach's top priorities at One Buc Place. A lot has changed in the last few months, though, and the changes seem to be for the better. "The camaraderie level has shot through the rough here," receiver Michael Clayton said. "I mean, everybody is excited to be here, and in terms of the new coach, everybody wants to see him be successful so everybody is putting his best foot forward."
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.