Several Buccaneers returned to practice on Monday after missing significant practice time and Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee. Wide receivers Michael Clayton (hamstring) and Joel Filani (hamstring), center Jeff Faine, linebacker Angelo Crowell and tight end Jason Pociask were among those Bucs on the mend participating in practice.
"Crowell is back this week so we've got more competition there [at linebacker]," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. "Quincy [Black] played really well last week. I'm really excited about his role. He's developing at strongside [linebacker]. I think he's really excited about it because he knows what he's doing, he knows what he's got to do. He knows what he expects. He's really running with it."
The glowing praise for Black, who also played some left defensive end in the Bucs' nickel rush package, means one thing for Crowell – he has step up quickly in order to make this football team.
"It's going to be tough," Morris said. "It's going to be an up-hill battle. He's obviously missed a good portion of OTAs (organized team activities). He's missed a good portion of training camp here. He's had to overcome a hamstring, but to his credit he's been mentally tough. I told you guys about a couple weeks ago, I thought that I was losing him. I thought he was staring into space, but he gave me that call and said ‘I'll be back. Don't give up on me yet' and I haven't. Here we go. Let me go see what he can do. He'll get an opportunity this week. I'm fired up and I wish him the best."
Wide receivers Antonio Bryant (knee surgery), Dexter Jackson (ankle), Kelly Campbell (quad), kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring), safety Will Allen (shoulder), linebackers Matt McCoy (leg) and Rod Wilson (undisclosed) and cornerbacks Aqib Talib (family matter) and Kyle Arrington (groin) did not practice on Monday.
"Aqib Talib is excused today for a family matter," said Bucs head coach Morris. "He's fine. He'll be back tomorrow."
Morris said he will re-evaluate Matt Bryant's hamstring injury on Thursday, but did not rule out Bryant kicking in this Saturday's game at Jacksonville.
HUGGINS MAKING A FAVORABLE IMPRESSION Morris makes no secret of the fact that he's a Kareem Huggins fan. Huggins, who not only went to Hofstra, which is Morris' alma mater, but also is from Irvington, N.J., which is Morris' hometown, was the Bucs' leading rusher among running backs on Saturday night. He tallied 43 yards on nine carries (4.8 avg.) and caught three passes for 14 yards.
When asked what he thought about Huggins' game against Tennessee, a grinning Morris said, "He's from Hofstra – he's making it."
The reality is that with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams and Pro Bowl return man Clifton Smith ahead of him on Tampa Bay's depth chart at running back, the odds are stacked against Huggins making Tampa Bay's 53-man roster this year despite Morris' proclamation. Yet that doesn't stop Morris from glowing with pride about the diminutive Huggins.
"Guy comes in at freebie tryout, we beg to sign him because of the effort," Morris said. "You see him finish every play, he runs to the end zone. I tell him to go 25 [yards] and he completely blows off my coaching, but I'm okay with that. He runs to the end zone every snap. Then he gets to the game and I look at him and say ‘Hey, do you need to get out of there and put in someone else?' ‘No, I'm good coach.' You talk about a man playing to put a shield on his chest – he loves football. I can't get him out of the building. That's the kind of guy you want on your team. I told him when he got here, ‘Don't look at the numbers. Just go out there and be yourself.' That's what he's doing."
BUCS ALUMNI IN THE HOUSE Close to 50 former Buccaneers alumni attended Monday's training camp practice at One Buccaneer Place. Among those attending were former wide receiver Horace Copeland, former tight end Tyji Armstrong, former guard Jorge Diaz, former safety Mark Robinson and former linebackers Batman Wood and Scot Brantley as well as dozens of others.
"It's great. We've got all of our alumni out here today," said Bucs general manager Mark Dominik. "We thought it would be fun. [Buccaneers alumni director] Jill Hobbs put it together. We got a lot of guys to come out. Coach [Raheem] Morris and I just talked and wanted to get them out on the football field. We thought it would be great, so they're out there on the football field with all the players."
BUCS WILL CONTINUE IN PADS Tampa Bay didn't practice in pads on Monday due to Saturday's physical contest at Tennessee, which the Bucs lost, 27-20. But that doesn't mean the days of padded practices are over.
"I'd say no. Tomorrow we'll probably come out with pads in the morning and maybe some in the afternoon," Morris said. "The guys actually like the pads.
Morris said that his players have actually come to him on days in which there aren't scheduled padded practices and asked to wear pads. Tampa Bay also plans to have some padded practices during the regular season, a practice they did not undertake during the Jon Gruden era.