The Buccaneers have altered their practice schedule for Thursday, canceling the afternoon workout in front of the fans at One Buccaneer Place and taking the action across the street to Raymond James Stadium for a preseason dress rehearsal in a closed workout that will only be open to the media from 4:55 – 7:00 p.m.
“We’re going over to the stadium,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said. “Brand new staff, brand new players, brand new team, brand new head coach – we have to get used to going to the stadium, going through our communications system and having the guys go up in the press box.
“All the basic stuff you do on game day, we don’t want the first time you do it to be on a Saturday, so we’re going to go out there and do it (on Thursday). It’s going to be done from the box with the calls over headsets instead of using the walkie-talkies right next to each other.”
The Buccaneers still plan on having a morning special teams practice at One Buc Place that will be open to the fans. That session will be from 10:20 – 11:30 a.m. as originally planned.
Tampa Bay will travel to Tennessee to play the Titans in its preseason opener on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.
The Titans beat the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, 21-18.
QB COMPETITION STILL INCLUDES FREEMAN Despite getting limited reps in practice during the 11-on-11 periods this week, Josh Freeman, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2009, is still in the thick of it for the starting quarterback position, according to head coach Raheem Morris. However, Morris admits that veterans Luke McCown, who is currently atop the depth chart and will start Saturday’s preseason opener at Tennessee, and Byron Leftwich have the inside track.
“Josh is right in the hunt now. I don’t want to count Josh out,” Morris said. “The front-runners right now, you’ve got to say are two older guys who are getting the most snaps. They’ve both stepped up, accepted the challenge and they’ve been playing, but Josh is right there. Josh is going to have that opportunity. He’s got to go out in these games – because it’s no secret he’s going to play a lot – and take control of the huddle and make his moves in the game. That’s possible and I look forward to seeing him do it.”
Freeman struggled in Monday’s practice, throwing an interception, having a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and having two consecutive false starts, but Morris was steadfast in saying that the rookie signal caller is improving.
“You have to say he’s doing really well,” Morris said. “For a guy to come in here and run a no-huddle offense as a rookie and feel comfortable about and make one or two mistakes, but for the most part be sharp … for a guy to come in here and flip pretty much every play you give him, you’ve got to feel pretty good about it.”
Morris said he’s anxious to see Freeman play against Tennessee and learn from the mistakes that are bound to come from his first NFL action.
“This young man is ready to play a game. He’s prepared,” Morris said. “Now will he make mistakes? Yes. There’s no doubt about that. He’ll go out there and make a mistake, but when he comes to the sideline it’s not like a deer in the headlights. He’s like, ‘I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that,’ which is really good.”
Morris also indicated that the loss of wide receiver Antonio Bryant to knee surgery and fellow wideout Michael Clayton to a hamstring strain should not hinder the team’s evaluation of McCown on Saturday.
“I don’t think it affects you at all,” Morris said. “It’s more about timing and precision and where the ball goes. Was it thrown in the right spot? Whether or not that guy makes the play isn’t on the quarterback. The quarterback has to put them in position to make the play. I’ve seen guys throw a flare pass to Steve Smith and he runs it 90 yards. Was that a great throw by the quarterback? No. It was a great play by Steve Smith. You can’t judge him on that. You have to judge the decisions. Was the ball in the right spot? Did he go through the right progression? Did he have tempo? Did he have his offense rolling? Did he hit anybody else in the face that had the wrong colors on? A lot of the stuff is going to be determined on that.”
MILLER CONTINUES TO IMPRESS If the season were to start right now, rookie Roy Miller would be the third man in the defensive tackle rotation, according to head coach Raheem Morris. Miller, the Bucs’ third-round draft pick, stood out during the team’s goal line defensive play on Tuesday morning, making several key stops as part of the Bucs’ five-man line.
“If I had to make decisions based on OTA days and these first couple weeks of camp, I’d have to say Roy Miller is going to be our third tackle in the rotation. He’s really stepped up, he’s really played well. Every time you start to talk about the grunt work – the 9-on-7, the goal line periods, live period – you start to see Roy.”
Despite having several injured players, Morris rolled the dice and decided to go with a live tackling period near the goal line because he wants to forge a mentally and physically tough football team.
“It can be easy when you are a young head coach and you’ve got a couple nicks on your team and you are worried about people and getting close to the game you might not go live, but I chose to go live anyway,” Morris said. “This group is a pretty tough group. You’ve got to love how they practice and love how they compete. Our defense stood up again on goal line. They look tough again.”