On Thursday afternoon, Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris held his regularly scheduled press conference in the hallway of the Hyatt Regency Hotel at downtown Tampa after attending a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Morris opened up by speaking on the support from the community that Tampa Bay is receiving from area fans. The coach likes where his football team is at right now.
“Oh, it is awesome,” Morris said. “It has always been there. It's hard to believe in the beginning when you start over -- you've got to expect that. We kind of knew that. You've got to have huge shoulders when that kind of stuff happens and myself and Mark Dominik and our ownership did. Right now we are in [a] position where we want to be. We want to go play and compete. We got a really good Lions football team coming in here. They've got young talent, as well, and we look forward to going out and playing a great, fast game against those guys.”
Morris knows that the community has certain expectations from this young football team. However, he is more concerned with the team's goals and meeting them during the season. Morris believes that once the season starts the community will be right there supporting their football team.
“Not to be negative from me, but it's about our expectations and what we are going to do,” Morris said. “Those guys are there to support us and those guys are there to jump on board with us. Like the signs say all around town, ‘Climb on Board,’ and I think they will after we get rolling here.”
When asked if people in the community are expecting the team to compete for a playoff spot, Morris’s answer was simple.
“I hope so,” Morris said. “And I will tell them everything else is gray matter if we don’t go out and compete to win a championship. That is what we want to do.”
The Buccaneers have chosen their team captains for this year and Morris praised them. He is pleased with the maturation of the 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker out of Portland State, Adam Hayward.
“Adam Hayward, proud of that young man,” Morris said. “You talk about coming from the bottom [and] working to be a linebacker for us to make the team, to becoming a linebacker, to playing part time duties on defense, [and] to really thriving into our special teams captain. It's been awesome. He's earned himself a new nickname today. He's got so many hammers at home - we give out hammers for special teams player of the week - that we call him Thor. Right now we got Captain Thor on our team and we are fired up about it.”
Morris also mentioned how linebacker Quincy Black quickly took advantage of the leadership role as soon as he had the opportunity.
“Quincy Black, he came on the scene and he was always a serious demeanor guy, so we tried him at Mike first,” Morris said. “We ended up moving him to Sam to get him on the field [and] getting him to play faster. Now he's got the ability to play nickel Mike and play base Sam for us. He's a serious demeanor guy, takes care of himself and loves the game. I'm looking forward to letting those guys go play and he certainly assumed the leadership role immediately when he had the opportunity to.”
Even though Josh Freeman is just 23-years old, Morris believes that his maturity level and ability to be a leader on this football team has always been there.
“He's been the captain since he walked into the building,” he said. “He's our guy and he's been our leader for a while.”
Morris intends to let his defensive line determine how long each plays as an individual based on their play during the game. He wants to keep the unit fresh, but at same time wants to keep the players on a roll in the game.
“You know D-linemen [are] always easy,” Morris said. “Those guys go every couple series. I never really put a number on it. If a guy gets hot you leave him out there. For the most part, those guys play equal snaps. It would not be shocking to me if they played a very similar number of snaps. There's no real number count like there would be in a preseason game. You got to let those guys go out there and determine how much they play based on their play. You got to get a feel for it during the game. Bowers is the young guy on our football team right now earning his right to be out there. I'm sure he's going to go out there ready to go - hungry and willing. That's the part I love. That's the part that excites me.”
The Buccaneers plan to use their big-body players such as Bowers on plays that are must-win situations for the defense.
“It's always series-to-series with stuff like that,” Morris said. “You have situational football plays they will be a part of and I am sure Bowers and those big bodies will be part of a goal line package or something like that, or on a short yardage type of a deal. You want to get those guys series of equal amount of reps. Not to say that they will be equal, but just to say that you want to get the guy out there and let him get hot.”
The Buccaneers plan on paying tribute to the late legend Lee Roy Selmon throughout their season by wearing patches on their helmets. Morris hopes that some type of memorial will be used for the coaches, as well, since he would like to be part of the tribute.
“That's special,” Morris said. “I'm sure everybody in our community has been touched in some way. He [was] a special guy; certainly a credit to what his family has meant and what he has meant to the game [and] what he has meant to the Buccaneers community. You cannot beat that. That's the ultimate honor in our game when that happens - to wear his patch on our helmet. Hopefully we get something for the coach’s uniforms, as well, because I certainly would love to be a part of that.”
Morris knows that Selmon was a major influence on his young players by leading with a quiet influence, but also by being a huge leader at the same time.
“You hit it right on the head,” Morris said. “You really cannot explain the kind of influence he had on some of the young players or the people that really got a chance to know him. He [was] such a leader and such a pillar of our community. He was the ultimate pro on what you're supposed to do and how you do after you are done playing. He was just a great man all around. He helped as many people as he could. He was a part of all kinds of charities. He just did a great job in our community affecting as many people and everybody that he got a chance to touch or speak to or see. I am just proud to be able to say I knew him.”