Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris weighed in on some of his missing players after the first OTA (organized team activity) of the offseason. Among the players missing were tight end Kellen Winslow, running back Derrick Ward, and left tackle Donald Penn.
During the end of the 2009 season Morris stressed to his players the necessity for being at the offseason practices. On Monday when talking about his missing players, Morris said he would focus on the players that were in attendance.
"You never want to talk about a guy not being here. I'll just reiterate that this is a voluntary deal," said Morris. "You never want to bad-mouth a guy or anything of that nature on a voluntary workout. You know when a guy needs to spend time with his family, you can't knock him on the head for that vote but Donald Penn needs to see he's the left tackle for our football team. He protects the guy throwing the football. He's no different than any other left tackle in this league. Donald Penn's got to get his head right so when he comes in, he'll be ready to go. We're doing a different approach this year, we're going to coach the guys that are here. We're going to make sure the guys that are here are ready to play. And we hope that when Donald returns to the football team and when he does come back, whenever he comes back, he'll be ready to go."Penn is planning on sitting out all of the team's OTA practices and possibly the mandatory mini-camp because he is unhappy with his contract.
The Bucs are forcing Penn to play another season on a one-year contract worth $3.168 million. Penn wants to stay in Tampa Bay long-term, and wants a multi-year contract that pays market value. That could be around $10 million per season.
If Penn sacrifices $100,000 he could wait to sign his tender contract and holdout until the eve of the regular season. Morris said he tries to avoid getting into the contract problems of his players.
"You know, that's not my cup of tea," said Morris. "You know my job is to coach the football team. My job is to coach the guys that are in the building that are sitting in those seats and that's what I continue to do. Anybody sitting in the seat in front of me, just like now, I'm going to coach you guys up. That's the guys that are going to play."
As the left tackle Penn is charged with protecting the blind side of Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The 27-year old Penn has started 44 straight games for Tampa Bay at the critical position, and has not personally allowed the quarterback to get injured. Freeman was asked if he would like Penn to be practicing with the Buccaneers.
"Yeah, for sure," said Freeman. "I mean Donald's one of my good friends. I talked to him the other day and I mean he wants to be here. He just feels like he's got to work it out and do what's best for him and his family. So right now I'm just working with the guys we have here. That's all you can focus on."
Freeman was very happy with the blocking that Penn provided for him during his rookie season. Penn is planning on doing even better in 2010. Thus far in the offseason Penn has lost 40 pounds, going from 365 to 325 pounds.
"Oh yeah, he's a stud man," said Freeman. "He's one of those guys that I mean if someone takes a cheap shot he's going to be the first guy there trying to get a cheap shot back. And I feel like we've got a lot of passionate guys in the O-line. Donald's right up there with the best of them."
While Freeman does not have his left tackle to work with, he is also missing his leading receiver. Winslow led Tampa Bay with 77 receptions for 884 yards and five touchdowns in 2009. Tampa Bay is also without Ward, the team's backup running back. Ward disappointed in 2009 when he had 409 yards rushing with one touchdown and averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
"Those guys will be here," said Morris. "Obviously it is voluntary. Ward and Winslow have been around a little bit in the offseason program. We've seen them around. They are both working out through injuries, former injuries, getting healthy. I got a feeling you'll see those guys shortly."
Guard Davin Joseph (leg injury), wide receiver Mario Urrutia (right foot), defensive end Erik Lorig (pectoral), and defensive tackle Roy Miller (hamstring) were all out with injuries but were rehabbing during the practice.
The Bucs' first second-round pick in this draft class, UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, was not able to attend the practice due to NFL rules that force players to wait until their schools have completed the academic year to attend offseason practices. McCOY NERVOUS WITH VETERANS
The third-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft got his first exposure to NFL veterans on Monday. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said he was nervous for his first workout with the veterans.
"It is cool. Everybody has been welcoming me," said McCoy. "I know I have a lot to learn and I have still have the rookie syndrome of asking a lot of questions. I was nervous to walk here, nervous to take the chinstrap off, and they were just like, 'Relax.' It is a little more laid back here so that is cool."
McCoy gave an evaluation of how he fared going against the seasoned pros like center Jeff Faine.
"I think I did well. I was kind of getting the rookie treatment and was taking all the reps," McCoy said. "I expected it. At the rookie mini-camp I didn't take that many. So they were going to see what I was made of when I got here with the big boys. The heat wasn't the problem today. It was the reps. I'd go eight and rest for three, but there's no complaining. I'm a rookie."
Morris said he wasn't sure that McCoy had the correct math when it came to counting up his reps.
"You know I gotta go check his count," said Morris. "But I'm sure [defensive line coach Todd] Wash – you know is just like any other coach you go out there and you play with your new toy, you like to go play with it a lot. Until you put that little toy in the corner, then you go grab it out of there when you need it. Ronde Barber only took three. You got that little toy in the corner right now. So, I'll have to go check the count."
While McCoy is learning as much as he can, he has two teammates in particular that are helping him make the transition. Miller has been a friend of McCoy's for years and played against him in college when Miller was at rival Texas. McCoy was asked if Joseph was helping him make the same transition that Joseph made four years ago as a first-round pick out of Oklahoma to land in Tampa Bay.
"Yeah he is. Former Sooner. Fellow Sooner, he's showing me the ropes," said McCoy. "Even Roy – even though he's a Longhorn – it's okay. We all make mistakes! He's been helping me out too." JONES HAPPY TO BE A BUCCANEER
Newly signed safety Sean Jones also had his first workout with his new team on Monday. Jones was one of the few free agents that Tampa Bay signed this year. Last season, Jones started nine games for the Philadelphia Eagles and recorded two interceptions. There were multiple teams that Jones could have signed with, but he chose Tampa Bay.
"You know, I like all of the guys in this organization, my teammates are great," Jones said. "But most of all I wanted to get close to home, down south, I'm from Atlanta so I just want to come down here and play well. Just try to get a championship ‘cause I know that Tampa prides itself on defense. So we are just going to come out here and play ball."
In his career, Jones has been held back by injuries. In 2006 and 2007 with the Cleveland Browns, Jones started all 32 games and had 10 interceptions with 21 passes broken up. Right now Jones said his health is not an issue.
"I feel great, I feel better than I did in the last two years at least," said Jones. "I feel 100 percent. Like I said, [with the injuries] it's just a part of this game you just got to fight through them. Fortunately, I'm still young and I'm fully healthy and I got a lot of years in my belt. But I'm just going to go out there and have fun, and go out there and try and get a championship down here."
Jones is battling Sabby Piscitelli for the starting spot at strong safety. Last season, Piscitelli started all 16 games for Tampa Bay and recorded 91 tackles with two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. On Monday, Piscitelli took all the starting reps at strong safety while Jones was running with the second team.
"It's a good competition but if I worry about myself and I just go out there and do what I know I can do, then there's going to be great things for myself," said Jones. "But it's still a team effort so everybody's going to play no matter who's the starter, so everybody's going to play and get their shot to go out there and help this team get a win."ROSTER MOVE
The Buccaneers announced two roster moves on Monday. Tampa Bay made the signing of Minnesota center Jeff Tow-Arnett official, and also signed Penn State long-snapper Chris Mauriello. In order to make room on the roster the Bucs released wide receiver Damola Adeniji. Kelli Haemmelmann contributed to this report.
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