After a rain adjusted practice and walk-through on Tuesday, Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris discussed a number of topics regarding his team.
Morris said he plans on playing a lot of his younger players in Tampa Bay's final preseason game of the year. Newly named starting quarterback Byron Leftwich, and backup quarterback Luke McCown may not play at all, according to Morris. The Bucs could potentially start quarterback Josh Freeman vs. the Houston Texans.
"He could come out of the tunnel," said Morris. "That would be nice, he can run out of the tunnel with his curly hair going."
Morris said that a number of the Bucs veterans would see little to no action Friday. In that group, he mentioned the starting offensive line, and the veteran running backs like Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams and even Clifton Smith. The Bucs will lean on halfback Kareem Huggins, fullback B.J. Askew, and fullback Jameel Cook in running game. Huggins missed the last game with a knee injury.
Two veterans who will not play against the Texans are starting wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Bryant has missed all the preseason games after recovering from minor knee surgery. Clayton played in the Bucs' second preseason game at Jacksonville, but missed much of training camp and the other two preseason games with a hamstring injury.
"[Bryant] did not go today because of the scheduling conflict," said Morris "There wasn't enough time to warm-up and that type of thing. Same with Clayton. Those two were held out again, but they are fine. They looked good and felt pretty good yesterday. I just didn't feel it was smart to rush them."
The injuries on the Bucs' roster could cause the team to make adjustments to their final 53-man roster. Tampa Bay must trim its roster from 75 to 53 players by 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.
"It's never easy. It's probably the hardest part of my job – cutting a player or firing a staff member," said Morris. "For the most part we feel like a guy cuts himself. We haven't had to make a tough one yet, getting down to 75. When we start making the tough cuts – that's when we become a really good team."
The Buccaneers' last preseason game will be the final chance for many players on the bubble to make their case to remain on the roster. Morris said that was what happened last year, and thinks it could happen again in 2009.
"This game is where people make big pushes," said Morris. "Last year, Clifton Smith made a big push. He didn't quite make the team then, but he landed on our practice squad and showed up [on the active roster] a few weeks later. [Cornerback] Elbert Mack made a big push this time last year. It's a big-time push for guys this week."
One player that is not expected to be activated for the 53-man roster is guard Arron Sears. The third-year guard was placed on the reserve did not report list at beginning of training camp as he deals with a personal issue. Sears avoided offseason workouts, and has not practiced with his teammates since the team's first mini-camp in early April.
"That's completely a personal issue," said Morris. "That is at the same spot it was. There has been no new dialogue as far as my part. I have to coach the 80 men that are here, now the 75, and we have to get down to 53."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris on whether injured kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring) will kick on Friday night.
"I don't know. In my opinion, Matt Bryant has got to do what he can do. When you talk about injury, you don't know. You can't make a guy do anything he doesn't want to do when he's injured. You don't do that. We don't. If you guys don't go to work tomorrow, or for the next month, I've got to make a decision. You have to go with the guys that go to work and can help you. I can't make a decision on a guy that isn't at work right now. I hope he gets back. I really do."