Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris addressed the media after practice in London Thursday afternoon and responded to an array of questions ranging from the cool weather to the status of RB LeGarrette Blount (knee) and DT Gerald McCoy (ankle).
With game day quickly approaching, it appears backup RB Earnest Graham will once again be called upon to carry the load in the backfield for the Buccaneers.
“[Graham] and [Kregg] Lumpkin are probably going to split the load,” Morris said. “LeGarrette Blount was not in practice again today so we don’t know where he’s going to be for the game. We just have to go out there and keep working, but [Graham’s] preparing to be the lead dog guy again and take that on for us. We’ve seen him do it before, we’ve seen him do it for a season, we’ve seen him do it at different spats and different times of the year, and he’s the best guy to do it for you because we call him Insurance Graham for a reason.”
Graham stepped up for the Bucs during last week’s 26-20 win over New Orleans as the team’s featured back, rushing for 109 yards on 17 touches.
McCoy also missed last Sunday’s game against the Saints but showed signs of progress by practicing again on Thursday after returning to the field yesterday. Morris didn’t elaborate on the likelihood of his second-year tackle returning for the Chicago game, but did say he liked seeing McCoy back out on the “He was excited today to get out there,” Morris said. “He looked okay. He had limited participation. So we’ll see where he is as we get closer to this football game, but I’m really excited that he’s back that fast. That just tells you about how much these guys care about their teammates and care about playing each and every game. For him to even to be thinking about playing this week is awesome. The speedy recovery he’s had is a credit also to Todd Toriscelli, our head trainer, and his staff and what they’ve been able to do.”
Along with injury updates, Morris was also asked about what affect, if any, London’s cooler climate in comparison to Tampa Bay may have on his team. According to The Weather Channel, temperatures in London hit a high of 58 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday and dipped to expected lows of 46 degrees.
“The weather’s been awesome. It was a little chilly this morning and then after that we went out and got it going. The sun came out, it was a beautiful day and I caught myself in practice looking around at how beautiful the facilities were. I had to refocus because I haven’t seen the changing of the leaves in a while.”
“That stuff is really gray matter,” Morris said of if a warm-weather team traveling to a cooler climate will be affected. “That’s just something for you guys [the media] to talk about for the most part. For football players, you’re a football player. You go out and you play and you play in whatever element there is. We really don’t care about that stuff.”
Far more concerning to Morris is the challenge presented by the 3-3 Chicago Bears, a team coming off a lopsided 39-10 win over division-rival Minnesota last Sunday. Tampa Bay and Chicago are both six games into their respective seasons and come into the London game having played four similar opponents. The Bears have beaten the Vikings and Atlanta Falcons, as have the Bucs, and lost to Detroit and New Orleans. Tampa Bay lost its season opener to Detroit but beat the Saints last Sunday.
Although Tampa Bay beat Chicago in terms of getting over the pond to the United Kingdom by arriving on Monday, Morris said he certainly isn't preparing as though the Bears are going to come out lethargic and jet-lagged on Sunday.
"Lovie [Smith] has a talented football team that's been together for a long time that may not need to experience what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to get when we got over here," Morris said of the Bears and their head coach. They'll come over and the Chicago Bears are going to show up and play hard and play fast and play physical and play smart. I know a lot of their coaches and I know how they teach and how they practice and prepare. All this stuff in London is gray matter and they'll treat it that way."
While introducing the London media to one of his favorite quotes -- "stats are for losers" -- Morris said he took notice to the Bears' improved running game after last week's win in Minnesota. Chicago rushed for 119 yards to help keep oft-pressured quarterback Jay Cutler upright throughout the game.
"For me, stats are for losers," he said when asked about the recent numbers posted by Chicago. "I just know they go out and execute their game plan each week. Every week you go out and try to execute something different. I know last week their game plan was hot. A couple weeks ago they got their running game going with [Matt] Forte. Forte's leading their team in receptions and he's also leading in rushing. He's a dynamic player and we've got to go and play that game because the only one that matters is the one that's coming up on Sunday."
Forte totaled 123 total yards of offense last week and is leading the NFL with 908 yards from scrimmage.
Morris also briefly addressed the man responsible with getting the ball in Forte's hands and putting him into position to get yards after the catch.
"It's easy to say, but I've seen Cutler get hot," Morris said. "I've played Cutler in Denver before and he came out and was ready to play and dealt with us. So we've got to go out there and try to do what we want to do which is play fast, play hard, play smart and play together and play consistent as a team and that's going to help us win this football game."
Cutler will enter Sunday as the NFC's seventh-rated passer (87.8) and averaging 246 yards per game through the air. He currently owns an eight-to-four touchdown-to-interception ratio and has been sacked 19 times, the second-highest total in the NFL behind St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford's 21.