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May 2, 2009 @ 11:41 am
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Rookie Mini-Camp Notebook: Saturday

Written by Jim
Flynn
Jim Flynn

Jim
Flynn

Former Editor-in-Chief E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Tampa Bay made some changes to its rookie mini-camp roster Saturday, adding four try-out players. Plus, other news and notes from Bucs rookie mini-camp, including a progress report on rookie Josh Freeman and DT Dre Moore, and a status report on QB Brian Griese.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held their second rookie mini-camp practice at One Buc Place on Saturday.

Saturday's two-hour workout wasn't as smooth as the first, but Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said that was to be expected.

"When you're talking about the rookies it's always going to be worse than Day 1," said Morris. "They're tired. Arms get tired and legs get tired. Receivers get weary. The only thing that got better today was the walk-thru because they understand how to do that. We got everything accomplished in terms of what I expected and what I thought was going to come out of Day 2."

The Bucs made some changes to their rookie mini-camp roster on Saturday, adding four tryout players: USF center/guard Jake Griffin, Boston College tight end Ryan Purvis, Georgia Tech defensive end Adam Oliver and Florida State defensive tackle Paul Griffin.

Three try-out players from Friday's workout did not return on Saturday: Mississippi State guard Michael Gates, USF tight end Cedric Hill, Grambling defensive tackle Melvin Matthew and Akron defensive tackle Nate Robinson.

"We had a bunch of try-out guys, decided to switch some guys out today because we had some other guys we wanted to look at," said Morris. "This is our chance to look at these guys and we want to take advantage of that. We want o evaluate talent and give people some chances, so we decided to make some changes today."

Griese The Odd Man Out?
The Bucs plan to take four quarterbacks into training camp, but have five signal callers on their current roster.

So who is the odd man out?

Certainly not Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay's 2009 first-round draft pick. It's not Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich, either. They each signed two-year contracts with the Bucs this offseason.

That leaves veteran QB Brian Griese and second-year QB Josh Johnson as the players that could be released or traded before training camp begins.

The Bucs have a fifth-round pick invested in Johnson, who has been working out at One Buc Place this offseason. The same can't be said for Griese, 34, who has stayed in Denver to be with his pregnant wife.

Morris and Griese have attempted to talk to discuss his status, but to no avail.

"I didn't [talk to Griese yesterday]," Morris said. "I called him and left a message. We're playing phone tag, and right now he's it."

Some outside of One Buc Place believe Griese, who started five games for the Bucs last season and has spent the 2004, '05 and '08 seasons in Tampa Bay, likely is the odd man out at quarterback in Tampa Bay, but Morris stopped short of confirming that notion on Saturday.

"Nothing is safe to assume," said Morris. "The only thing I'll tell you is Brian is still on our staff and I'll let you guys know at the appropriate time when something happens to any of our quarterbacks.

"I'm sure [he'll ask what his status is], and I don't want to have that conversation with [the media] before I have it with Brian. No matter what it is, it's just not right for Brian or his family for me to talk to you guys before I talk to Brian."

Freeman Not As Sharp In Second Practice
Bucs first-round pick, quarterback Josh Freeman, was no exception to the Day 2 struggles Morris discussed after practice on Saturday.

"Freeman was just like any rookie today," said Morris. "Early on you could see - if you throw that many balls in your first day at your first camp you're going to be a little tired, so you aim and go in the dirt. But he picked it up in the last two periods and threw some nice balls. Early on he was struggling - it's a good thing you guys [the media] wasn't here or you would have been talking bad about him (laughing)."

Freeman is taking the majority of the reps in rookie mini-camp, but those reps will be reduced when the veterans join the rookies for organized team activities in a few weeks. However, Morris suggested Freeman will continue to get plenty of work in at quarterback.

"I'm one practice at a time, but he'll get a fair share of reps," said Morris. "We've been pretty good about splitting this up in terms of reps. Obviously you have to give the three guys that have been here working their butt off an opportunity. Josh will get his opportunity when it comes, and he'll be able to take advantage of it."

Moore Impressing Morris
One of the players in Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp is not a rookie. Defensive tackle Dre Moore is a first-year player that was Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

However, Moore's playing time, or lack thereof, during the '08 regular season allowed the 2008 practice squad member to participate in Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp this weekend.

According to head coach Raheem Morris, Moore is taking advantage of the opportunity.

"I was going to talk about Dre Moore in a positive light today," said Morris. "I'm starting to see flashes from Dre Moore and I'm starting to see things from him that I like. I'm starting to want to count on him. I'm not saying I count on him yet, but I want to count on him. The guy has done nothing but come to work everyday. He's working hard. He just doesn't know how to work really hard yet. He doesn't know how to lock in and be focused, but he's starting to do that. I'm feeling really good about him. I'm hoping to be able to tell you the next time I talk with [the media] that I'm starting to count on Moore, but right now I'm wanting to."

Although the players are learning a new system under defensive coordinator Jim Bates, Moore is expected to be ahead of Tampa Bay's 2009 rookie class at this point in terms of fundamentals and technique. When asked if playing with the rookies could be a negative for Moore's frame of mind, Morris responded.

"If guys are mentally weak enough to think about that it's their issue. I can't deal with that," said Morris. "This is an opportunity. You come out and you compete and play hard. You don't have many opportunities to do this thing. Every opportunity you get you should take advantage of it. That's what I hope he's doing."

Not only is he flashing on the practice field, Morris said the 6-foot-4, 311-pound Moore is in much better shape than he was when he joined the Bucs one year ago out of Maryland.

"I was here last year and watched the same stuff Coach Gruden watched," said Morris. "I wanted to fight him he was so out of shape. That's not even close to an issue right now. I'm worried about him finishing the last play in practice just like he does the first play. I just want him to maintain that mental toughness and go through it."

Morris Comfortable With Tight Ends
Still wondering why Tampa Bay opted to trade tight end Alex Smith, a 2005 third-round draft pick out of Stanford, to New England for an undisclosed draft pick earlier in the week?

Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said it had more to do with the team's current stable of tight ends, which includes Kellen Winslow, Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore, than it did Smith.

"We had four starters at tight end on our team, or at least we did in my mind," said Morris. "Usually you only carry three. Alex was going to be a valuable guy, and if he was going to remain on our team we would have carried four. That's how much we thought of him and the talent we have in that group. We had a chance to pick up a draft pick in the future and not lose anything at the tight end position with the three guys we still have, so we made the trade."

Quote Of the Day
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris on throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Tampa Bay Rays' 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday night.

"It was a slider, and I went hard. It hit the plate and bounced to the other side. Had a batter been up there it would have been a strike. But there was no batter and [Rays manager] Joe Maddon made a great scoop.

"I came out and threw a couple of balls to [Bucs director of public relations Jeff] Kamis. He was my catcher. That was the problem from the beginning - I had bad coaching (laughing). The mound was intimidating. But it was a lot of fun going to do that and seeing Joe Maddon scoop that ball up. I went over there and grabbed him and hugged him. It was awesome."



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