Thursday’s practice marks the end of Tampa Bay’s voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) at One Buccaneer Place and Bucs head coach Raheem Morris is anxious for next week’s three-day mandatory mini-camp, which will feature two-a-day practices over three days. Morris is also hoping the mandatory mini-camp features left tackle Donald Penn, a restricted free agent who is holding out for a contract extension after being tendered a one-year contract close to $3 million for the second straight year.
Penn, who is working out in California and has lost 40 pounds this offseason and has his weight down to 325 pounds, has been staying away from One Buc Place this offseason to show his displeasure over his contract situation and to exert some leverage for a new deal. PewterReport.com has reported that Morris will see Penn at the team’s FanFest
at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, but whether Penn will stay in town and show up for mandatory mini-camp on Monday remains to be seen.
“We look forward to seeing him. I hope he is [coming to the mandatory mini-camp],” Morris said. “It would be nice to have him here.”
Don’t count on it. PewterReport.com has learned that Penn plans to skip mandatory mini-camp and perhaps even hold out of training camp over his contract dispute. Morris likely knows this too as he said he has stayed in touch with him this offseason.
“I’m in constant contact with Donald as far as text messages and whether or not I need to contact him,” Morris said.
Because Penn chose not to sign his tender, he is not subject to fines or penalties despite the Bucs suggesting that was the case a week ago.
“It’s a point that everybody needs to be here,” Morris said. “Of course I’m not going to give him a way out and say, ‘You don’t need to be here.’ We want him to be here. We want everybody to be here together. I hope he shows up.
HOW MINI-CAMP WILL DIFFER FROM OTAs
Two-a-day practices aren’t the only area that Buccaneers mini-camp will differ from the team’s OTAs. Morris said that while the OTAs were used mostly for play installation, the mini-camp will be scaled back and will be more gameplan-oriented.
“We’re looking forward to getting into mandatory mini-camp where the practices will be similar, but a little bit different from a play standpoint,” Morris said. “We’ll cut back some on the menu and make it more game-like with game-like situations. Such as the first 15 [plays] out of the box, and such as more two-minute [drills] and moving the ball more consistently throughout practice and scale it back with some more 7-on-7s to simulate going in and out of the halves and being able to deal with that.”
Morris said that his mini-camp practices differ slightly from the format used by previous head coach Jon Gruden.
“We used to have a walk through in the morning and we’ve made some of that different,” Morris said. “We want to get a little more juice going with a little more [individual drills], a little more 7-on-7s, a little shorter time and then come back to the house and be ready to deal with that again. The practices will be shorter and there will be two of them. For the most part, it will be what we’ve done now with a faster, game-like, simulated situation. Going inside and then going back out and dealing with the daily grind of training camp. It won’t be too much different.”SOME INJURED BUCS WILL MISS MINI-CAMP
While Morris would like to have a full complement of players on hand next week for the mandatory mini-camp, several Bucs are rehabbing injuries and will likely not be able to suit up. Tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), wide receivers Arrelious Benn (ankle) and Mario Urrutia (turf toe), cornerbacks Myron Lewis (abdominal) and Dennis Rogan (undisclosed) and defensive tackle Brian Price all have missed practice time recently or been limited.
Morris did not disclose which players would be ruled out with the exception of Winslow, who showed up for the first time this offseason at One Buc Place this week.
“Kellen, for example, is a guy that we’ve talked about,” Morris said. “We’re going to be smart for our organization. I don’t know if we need to see Kellen go out there and compete very hard against Barrett Ruud and very hard against Dekoda Watson. I think I want to see Kellen get ready for Cleveland, get ready for the preseason and get ready for training camp. He’s been around this week and it’s been great. We love to see his presence and love to see his influence around these guys and around his teammates.”
Morris was specifically asked about Price and Lewis, the team’s second- and third-round draft picks, but only spoke in general terms about their rehab and recovery.
“Those guys all practiced and I look forward to seeing them next week,” Morris said. “[Price] is day-to-day. He’s had the hamstring since rookie mini-camp that you knew about. Then he was away at school. He’s back and he’s doing well. He’s right on schedule with where our trainers believe he’s ready to go. He’s been able to get a little bit of an individual drill and do some of those things. You don’t want to push a hamstring because you can really mess it up.”
Morris did indicate that Price, who missed the first two weeks of OTAs because UCLA was still in session until this week, is behind but still has time to catch up.
“It’s a setback for a rookie who misses anything,” Morris said. “We want them fired up and ready to go right off the bat. Sammie Stroughter had the same thing happen last year. He was a rookie that came in and got a hamstring [pull], too. He missed the second half of OTA days, missed the mini-camp and came back to training camp and he was our starting Zebra [receiver] on opening day.”
Morris did not know whether Lewis, who along with Price, who did some individual work in practice for the first time this week, would be able to participate next week.
“I know [Lewis] is doing well and I know he’s getting back and getting better,” Morris said. “I have to go see [head trainer] Todd [Toriscelli] and we’ll talk and we’ll make smart rulings on all these guys.”MORRIS TO SIDE WITH DEFENSE DURING MINI-CAMP
While Morris occupies dual roles as Tampa Bay’s head coach and defensive coordinator, he admitted to having been the head coach at most of the team’s OTA sessions this offseason and could be seen consulting with offensive coordinator Greg Olson about the offense and game management situations. However, once the mandatory mini-camp rolls around on Monday, Morris expects to be thinking like a defensive coordinator almost exclusively and having his squad go full throttle against Olson and quarterback Josh Freeman.
“I’d like to see more competition [during the mini-camp],” Morris said. “I might have my defensive coordinator hat on a lot more next week than this week. I have been installing, Coach Olson has been installing and we are going to talk about situations and what we want to do. Next week there will be a lot of those situations where I’m going to try and go back and forth, but for the most part on going to try and torture him (Freeman) and I’m sure he is going to torture me because he is a competitive kid.”
Morris has spent the 2010 offseason adding some new wrinkles defensively, in addition to a few tweaks to the hybrid defense he installed last year that has Tampa 2 concepts, but also features some 3-4 and 3-3-5 packages.
“We have put some stuff in,” Morris said. “You guys have seen a little at the end of the year. You talked about the 3-4 package and different things. Talked about the nickel and different forms of blitzes. You see us pressure the quarterback more resulting in sacks for more linebackers, resulting in sacks for more D-linemen. [You feature] more one-on-ones. You have different players. You buy a Gerald McCoy – you better put Gerald McCoy in a position to win. You go get a guy like Quincy Black and have to put him in more positions to win. Playing a little bit more ‘under’ than ‘over.’ The more and more I see the more I am able to do.
“I’m the best thief in the world. I’m able to look at other teams and what they have done and what they’ve done successful, and steal it and put it into our verbiage. And put it into our techniques and what we want to do to make our team unpredictable, to have us become fun to watch and to have us entertain. This is an entertainment business, and everyday we go out there we are on a stage and I want to put these guys on a stage. We want to test them on that stage, and once you go out there your Michael Jacksons, Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants – they perform.”BUC SHOTS
• Morris, who will join Freeman, McCoy, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer and general manager Mark Dominik at two Chamber of Commerce events on Friday in St. Petersburg and Tampa,
is excited to attend the team’s FanFest
at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, June 19 from 4:30-9:00 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to FanFest this weekend and connecting with our fans and connecting with our media again. This will give [the media] the chance to see with the people who love us the most. We’re looking forward to it.”
• The Buccaneers have released the starting date for training camp, which will be held for the second straight year at One Buccaneer Place. The team’s rookies and veterans will report on Friday, July 30. Tampa Bay’s first practices will be held on Saturday, July 31.QUOTE OF THE DAY
In his enthusiasm to see former Bucs head coach John McKay be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor,
and to see his former boss and current Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, Morris had a verbal gaffe when describing Wednesday’s announcement at One Buccaneer Place.
“It was great yesterday to honor a legend and a coach and to actually see Coach McKay come back around and see Rich come back around – those guys and his family,” Morris said. “[Rich was] the guy who first hired me back in 2002. It was great to see Rich and to honor his father, who I heard so much about.”
No need to call Ghostbusters. Morris didn’t actually see Coach McKay, but he was probably there in spirit.
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