With everyone at One Buccaneer Place ready to get rid of the bad taste from last Thursday night's loss to the New England Patriots, the Buccaneers put the finishing touches on preparing for the Miami Dolphins. Raheem Morris took to the podium Thursday afternoon to discuss a wide variety of subjects revolving around the third preseason game Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Morris opened his press conference discussing Thursday’s practice.
“Good practice today,” Morris said. “Friday fast-tempo practice. We are getting better at what we need to do. Some of the things that we have got to improve on is with our tempo and starting fast; some of those things have got to start on Fridays. It's about the speed, it's about the timing, it's about precision. [It was a] very organized team activity day like on a Friday with the speed: short, fast and sweet. Get them on, get them off [and] get some situational ball at the same time and then get them into the building. This week [and] this game, we are looking to take off some of the rust. We got [Brian] Price going out there for the first time [and] Luke Stocker [and] Kellen Winslow … a bunch of guys going out there to shake off some rust in that game-day experience.”
As healthy as he has been since he became a Buccaneer, Morris commented on Kellen Winslow and his first playing time so far this preseason.
“I don't know when Winslow is not ready,” Morris said. “That is his Friday ritual. We go helmets [and] the first one I saw [on] him kind of shocked me. I guess it shocked everybody when he came out [with] full gear. He likes to run around in his pads. He likes to get a feel in the red zone in his pads [and] move around [and] bounce around. Just kind of who he is, and we accept him for it. It is fun to watch him come out there and do that.”
While Winslow has been a favorite target of quarterback Josh Freeman in camp, Morris explained that, even when not the first read, Winslow adds other dimensions to the red zone offense. Morris also talked about the relationship he and Freeman have developed over the past two seasons.
“I think he has practiced every single day,” Morris said. “He might have missed; [we] might have made him stay out during a walk-through. I gave him the Ronde [Barber] rules. He's really been out there every single day. He's been working hard. He's been feeling good. He's got a lot of energy [and] a lot of bounce to his step. [Winslow] and Free are like best buddies. They really want to work together and do a bunch of stuff. They demand a lot from each other. He had a great camp and I now look forward to getting some game action. He is a tempo setter. He's certainly looking to set the tempo this week.
“The red zone for us is touchdown check-down kind of rules for Freeman. He is definitely a guy you want to use all over the field, but certainly in the red zone because he has got great hands, great mittens. Those guys set up schemes every week to beat whatever the coverage is of the team [and] whatever we need to do. Preferably I like to run the ball in the red zone and score touchdowns that way, but when you need to use Kellen [Winslow] you know he is certainly a great option. He's certainly out there with those guys opening up other windows for other people as well. He'll certainly demand some doubles down there and do some different things.”
Former Tennessee star tight end Luke Stocker will also see his first action of the preseason after sitting out the first two games while recovering from a hip injury suffered early in camp.
“Stocker has really been fun to watch,” Morris said. “He is like that new present you get at the end of the day on Christmas. We finally got a chance to gift wrap him last week and this week. Looking at him go out there, he's a big blocker type, but he also has some foot quickness. We [are] really starting to see the stuff that we fell in love with at the Senior Bowl come alive for him. He is an exciting young player that is looking to go out there and take some of the rust off him, as well. I am really fired up about that young man. He brings a lot of excitement to that tight end room with Kellen Winslow - the compliment guy that will be with them. That will be a lot of fun to watch those guys go out and play.”
The third preseason game is where coaches usually play their starters longer and Morris talked about what he has in store for his first-teamers.
“I told those guys I am not telling them,” Morris said. “They are not grown enough to respond to the amount of plays that they are going to play. I am going to leave them out there until I get tired of looking at them. The plan is about half time and sometimes you like to come out of the tunnel whether it is offense or defense - whoever gets the start first. I get a feel for that once it gets to the game. Sometimes you want to pull them out of there because they got good enough work.”
Wednesday, rookie linebacker Mason Foster was notified by the NFL he was being fined for his hit on Chad Ochocinco in last Thursday’s game with the Patriots. Morris addressed the fine and what he expects from Foster in the future.
“I guess I can say I was honesty surprised by the amount,” Morris said. “First offense, if it was an offense, and I am sure they have to go through the appeal process and all that type of stuff with the league. I am sure he will do that with his agent and I am sure they will get it right at the end of the day. It is the NFL. We always get it right.”
“There's always a fine line you got to walk there with the defenseless receiver rule. You don’t want to take shots on a defenseless receiver and also hurt your team with a 15-yard penalty. The thing you have to do is ball search. You got to go in there looking for the ball and not necessarily with the normal style that we all are accustomed to and used to. You got to go in there with your hands and you got to try to knock the ball out with your hands on a defenseless receiver. You do not want that to slow down his tempo with a guy running the football or a guy that is able to take that strike. It is a fine line. We all got to walk the same line so I feel good with it. We will coach it up and get it right.”
Much has been written and discussed about former second-round draft pick Brian Price and the injury he sustained last season. According to Morris the plan is to get Price his first game action since early last season.
“Saturday night I want to get him out there into his normal role,” Morris said. “Right now it's looking like it's going to be that pass rushing nose tackle for us or a pass rushing interior guy - however you want to look at that. Get him out there to that normal role with the first group and possibly with that second crew [and] get him out there in some of those run downs. Get him in some of his rotation that we want him to be in for this season. I want to do that this weekend for him. He looks healthy. He's really coming back. He's excited to be back, first of all. You can just see it in his face he's a different kid. You guys know what I am talking about. He is out on the practice field, going hard and playing. I'm excited to see him out there this Saturday. I cannot wait to get him out there to get into that role.”
-Victoria Horchak contributed to this report