Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris had a regular practice scheduled for Thursday's organized team activity at One Buccaneer Place.
But Morris decided to change the script on Thursday morning just one day after cornerback Aqib Talib and tackle Donald Penn were involved in a fight that resulted in a facial injury to teammate Torrie Cox.
A 2008 first-round draft pick, Talib was in the act of swinging his helmet at Penn, and as it went behind him it struck Cox in the head causing lacerations. The medical staff gave Cox immediate attention.
"It was nothing but an argument," Penn wrote in a text to Pewter Report. "It's not a big deal. Everybody is good."
While Morris and general manager Mark Dominik planned to handle the incident internally, the actions of Talib and Penn obviously weren't condoned by the Buccaneers.
"We went out there yesterday and had a spirited practice," Morris said. "Actions happened that you don't like, but you take that and handle it in-house. It's a family affair. Then you come out here today and figure out how to change it. Nothing brings you together like ‘we-fense' and special teams practice.
"You always have to worry about different elements of your actions. We always handle family affairs internally – and it's been handled. [Talib] understands the consequences for his team. We understand the consequences for our team if anybody does anything. We handle it internally. We deal with it as a family and it has been dealt with."
"We-fense" was the theme of Thursday's voluntary workout, which was deemed a special teams session, but looked more like a conditioning program.
Morris acknowledged there was a little bit of both involved in Thursday's practice.
"That's why you have a practice like today," said Morris. "You look ‘em in the eye and say, ‘We need to come together. It's ‘we-fense.' That's what it's all about. We can go offense and defense all day long, but nobody understands the term ‘team" until you have to do it.
"That wasn't necessarily conditioning. It was a special teams practice. It just looked like [conditioning], but as all of you know special teams is a track meet. Some of those guys are conditioned for it. You won't see [guard] Davin Joseph covering a kickoff, but he looked good doing it today. They use it for what it's worth. There's nothing wrong with [tackle] Donald Penn running 100 yards. We may throw an interception and he might have to run back and tackle a guy by bringing his ankles down. That's what we were doing today."
Talib acknowledged to the media that Thursday's spirited – and wind sprint-filled practice – came as a result of he and Penn's actions.
"We're a family," Talib said. "We all got punished together. We went out and did our little running, so we all got punished together. It wasn't just me and Donald that got punished. We got punished as a team because we're a team."
Morris wasn't the only one disappointed in the incident. A few of the veteran leaders also made a point to talk to Talib about Wednesday's altercation.
"They gave me my slap on the wrist –
Faine and [defensive tackle Chris] Hovan – the guys who were supposed to come up and talked to me definitely came up and talked to me," Talib said. "It's behind us, though. It was a small altercation that got a little out of hand."
This isn't the first time Talib has been involved in a well-publicized fight. Last year at the rookie symposium Talib and seventh-round pick Cory Boyd got into a skirmish. Boyd was later released.
Morris said Cox is "fine and won't be on the injury report," but Cox was one of several players not out on the practice field Thursday, and his injury required stitches.
"We all have trouble controlling our emotions," said Morris. "Any time you play this violent of a game you're going to have some controlling your emotions issues. I have my own issues. That's where the coach steps in and helps them. He has to grow from it and learn. Each individual action you take you have to take something from it and learn. That's what I think he's doing, and that's what we're developing.
"You saw him grow. Last year was an off the field incident. This year was an on the field incident. If he grows as much as he did from the off the field incident then I'm going to love it. We're all going to love it."
Talib, 23, acknowledged that while he has done a lot of growing up over the last year, he must work on controlling his emotions better.
"I definitely have to work on it," Talib said. "It's a family, though. You're out here with your brothers – I'm sure a lot of us have brothers and sisters – you fight. That comes with being a family. We're all brothers out here. Me and Donald, we're perfectly fine today. It's behind us and we're ready to work hard and move on.
"Definitely, I let my emotions get the best of me. It is just something that happened in the heat of the moment and I apologized to the team, apologized to Torrie, and it is behind us now."
Morris, 32, is the youngest head coach in the NFL. If he didn't have his team's attention before Thursday's practice he certainly had it at the conclusion of the ‘we-fense' workout.
"Every day as a head coach is brand new for me," said Morris. "I was in my office today and that's what I felt. We had a practice scripted today, but I just felt like I needed something else for our team, for team development and team growth. We could have done X's and O's today and not gotten better. I feel like we got better as a team today."
JUST FOR KICKS The Bucs expect one of the most competitive training camp battles to take place at kicker, where Matt Bryant and Mike Nugent are fighting for one roster spot.
Bryant, 33, has spent the past four seasons with the Bucs. He has made 82.1 percent of his career kicks.
Nugent, 27, originally entered the NFL as a second-round pick with the Jets. He has made 81.5 percent of his field goal attempts, but is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2008 season.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said it would be fairly easy to determine which player will be kicking for the team in 2009.
"That goes back to our competitive edge. All these guys are out here competing," said Morris. "You line up the ball, you snap it, you tee it up and you let them kick. Whoever gets the ball between those two yellow bars the most wins. If they put it between those yellow bars then we win. You just have a competitive edge between those two guys. I'm looking forward to the competition. Those guys don't start really until the bullets start flying. We'll see that in training camp and the preseason."
WARD IMPRESSING IN RUNNING GAME The Bucs are in the process of implementing their new zone-blocking scheme under offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
While the concept is foreign to some offensive players, it is something running back Derrick Ward is used to from his playing days in New York, where he rushed for 1,750 yards (5.1 avg.) and five touchdowns for the Giants before signing with the Bucs as a free agent in 2009.
According to head coach Raheem Morris, Ward has been impressive thus far.
"D-Ward is a zone-scheme runner," Morris said. "His background, what he has been through, he brings stuff to us and he helps us. We are talking about the bash and bash with Earnest [Graham] and a D-Ward. You got the lightning with [Clifton Smith], and the Cadillac [Williams]. I can't wait to see Cadillac get in that mix. I don't know, I like the Horsemen. Whatever they want to call themselves. D-Ward has been positive. I can't really explain it, but I like the way he finishes. He has a nice burst, and he also has a professional throttle down. I can't explain it yet. You might have a young guy who sprints 100 yards to the end zone, but you don't see the burst. You see him hit the hole, and have patience, and you see him have vision and then go."
CADILLAC BACK FOR TRAINING CAMP? Bucs running back Cadillac Williams has missed organized team activities while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. The former first-round pick has sustained season-ending knee injuries two consecutive years.
Williams plans to be ready to go when training camp begins in August. On Thursday, Morris suggested that was a realistic goal for the 2005 NFL Rookie of the Year.
"I'm riding with Cadillac. If Cadillac said training camp then that is what I'm rolling with," Morris said. "Until he proves me wrong, and proves himself wrong, I'm going with Cadillac. I got my chips on Cadillac."
MIA In addition to cornerback Torrie Cox, some of the Bucs players not on the field for Thursday's voluntary workout included linebacker Barrett Ruud, wide receivers Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, tight end Kellen Winslow, quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Brian Griese, running back Cadillac Williams, tackle Jeremy Trueblood, safety Tanard Jackson, kicker Matt Bryant and punter Josh Bidwell.
BUCS ASK ABOUT BURRESS According to NFL.com the Bucs have asked about the health status regarding free agent wide reciever Plaxico Burress. The former Super Bowl MVP was cut by the Giants after the 2008 season. Burress shot himself in the thigh last November, and will be in court next month. He is facing 3.5 years in jail for having that unlicensed handgun.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Raheem Morris on rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter working out of the slot:
"I'll give you guys a preview of what I'm about to talk about in our team meetings. There are four guys playing well at wide out, that are really fighting their butts off. That has really got me wired in. I'm not going to tell you who those four guys are because I haven't told my team yet. Once I present that in a team meeting they'll probably come out bragging about how great they are. I'll tell you next week."