The Buccaneers finished their rookie mini-camp, and Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris was pleased with what the team was able to accomplish over the weekend. Morris got a look at the Bucs rookie draft class, some undrafted free agents the team signed, and over 40 try-out players.
"We had another really good practice. Got a chance to run around and evaluate for the last time," said Morris. "See some of these guys for the last time, some of these guys hopefully we can bring them back. Some of these guys get put in the hopper as far as when we need things and when we need people. These camps have been really good to us for years."
Morris said that he would meet with the coaching staff and general manager Mark Dominik to choose some of the try-out players to sign to the team. The Bucs are likely to make their decisions and announce the signings on Monday.
"The correct number is 80ish that you can take," Morris said of the offseason roster limit. "So you want to get as many as you can to get as many opportunities out as you can. The draft picks don't count, so that's always helpful. We can get extra guys and extra bodies, just going on average, we've always signed about three or four guys out of these things. Some of them stick, some of them make it, some of them make it all the way to the end. Some of them go to training camp. But you know this camp to me has always been successful. There's a couple of guys we've got in mind, couple of guys that have done a pretty good job all throughout camp. We've just got to make sure that we've got spots for them."
The coaching staff continued to hold out the majority of the draft class. Second-round pick defensive tackle Brian Price and seventh-round pick linebacker Dekoda Watson both have pulled hamstrings. Third-rounder cornerback Myron Lewis was sitting out with an abdominal strain, and seventh-round pick defensive end Erik Lorig was out with a pectoral injury.
"Yeah you know the minor injuries are more precautionary by me, it's probably me being a bit of a punk," Morris said. "You want to get them out there, you want to see them but you want to get them into your camp, get them into your preparation and get those guys ready to go. I'm not worried about anybody's particular injury."
The only injury that is expected to carry over into the organized team activities is Lorig's. Morris said that the timetable for Lorig to come back was not clear, but he thought he should be back by training camp. Morris thought that Lorig might be able to start practicing by the end of organized team activities and the mandatory mini-camp. When asked if Lorig is a project, Morris felt that the Stanford product's versatility makes him a potential impact player that can help on game-days.
"It's fair to say that he might be a luxury," said Morris. "You know I like to look at it as we've got a guy that's played tight-end for years, talking about a guy that played d-end. Showed maximum hustle, showed effort, showed all of those things on tape so you never know. Who knows that Lorig won't show up playing at tight end or possibly playing d-end so rather than project, I choose to use luxury. That sounds better."
FREEMAN TAKES IN PRACTICE
The young players had a team leader making an extra effort to watch some new teammates. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman came to practice to get an in-person look at some of his teammates. Freeman said he was eager to see his new receivers live after watching them on film in the lead up to the draft. Tampa Bay selected Illinois product Arrelious Benn in the second round, and Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams in the fourth round.
"Yeah for sure that was my reason for coming out here. To see these guys in real life running routes and making plays," said Freeman. "I like what I saw. Those two are explosive guys with great hands and it is good to see how they blend into this system and our team."
Williams (6-2, 212) and Benn (6-2, 214) both were big-play threats in college, and the Bucs receiving corps was in need of players that create splash plays. Morris was ecstatic to see his franchise quarterback coming to watch practice on a Sunday morning, and taking an interest in his new teammates.
"Freeman, you can't get him out of the building right now," Morris said. "You love that, he's the quarterback of this is his team, he's letting everybody know. He wants to come out and see these guys run around and catch a ball and see the defensive line and how they're going to grow. How they're going to help him get the ball back, so him showing interest in his team is what you love. You've got to feel great about seeing it happen. Nobody called him and said come into the building and check out these guys. He's been here the last two days so it's been great."
Freeman played against Bucs first-round pick Gerald McCoy in college. Starring at defensive tackle for Oklahoma, McCoy was a big-time presence in the Big 12. Freeman and McCoy went against each other once in college on Oct. 25, 2008 at Kansas State. McCoy sacked Freeman in that game and Oklahoma beat Kansas State 58-35. In that game Freeman completed 29-of-51 passes for 478 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Freeman was happy to see the Buccaneers address the defensive line and wide receivers in the draft, and approved of the front office's draft.
"I feel good. It all starts up front on the defensive side," Freeman said. "I like what they did with the next two picks getting receivers better, but I think Gerald is a great competitor. I played against him in college. It is exciting to have a few new targets."
WILLIAMS AND BENN COMING TOGETHER
Morris was asked if Williams and Benn were bonding and pushing each other in practice.
"I hope that those two are coming together," said Morris. "Those two come here really to take the pressure off of each other, really to get each other to go out there and compete against each other. And they have and they've definitely been bonding. It's kind of fun watching those two walk around and watch them go out today both sitting there heating up their hamstrings in the training room. It was nice to watch."
Apparently the rookie receivers feel the same way.
"Oh yeah, it's like it was a bond when we first met," said Williams. "We're going to be together for 10 years, that's what we said so that's how were going to practice."
Kelli Haemmelmann contributed to this report.