Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris weighed in on some of his players missing the organized team activity (OTA) on Wednesday. It was the second OTA of the offseason with the first one coming on Tuesday. A number of players were absent from Wednesday's practice including: tight end Kellen Winslow, linebacker Barrett Ruud, wide receiver Maurice Stovall, guard Arron Sears, and quarterback Brian Griese.
"No question, I have about 80 guys out there, and 86 guys on the roster," Morris said. "I think we got a good foundation of the team here. The guys that are not here, everybody has personal problems and personal issues they have to deal with. This is voluntary guys. I can't wait to see them when it counts."
Winslow's absence received the most attention this week, and was the catalyst for the questions that Morris answered on the subject. On Tuesday, former Buccaneer great Warren Sapp called Winslow out for not being with his new team and practicing at the start of the OTAs. The Bucs organization rewarded Winslow with a lucrative contract extension despite the veteran tight end having two years remaining on his contract. Morris was asked specifically about Winslow's absence.
"Obviously people have personal issues. All the guys, not just one particular guy," Morris said. "For whatever reason this thing is voluntary. The guys are out here volunteering to work out. They are out here giving their time. We'll see all the guys shortly.
Among those not present were all of the Bucs rookies drafted and undrafted. Per NFL rules, those players are not allowed to participate in OTAs until their school year ends. Morris said the rookies could participate in OTAs starting next week.
"Everything you do in football is important. It is just like everything you do in life. In your attendance, how you work, and how you perform, how you deal with the offseason program and how you deal with the in-season program. All that stuff is important. You don't want to lack anything being away from it, but again, that is why we have an agreement set up with the players that this thing is voluntary. When they come we appreciate it, and we coach the guys that are here.
"They know they are missing something. Trust me, they all know that. Like I said it is voluntary. It wouldn't be right on my part to call anybody and let them know they missed a voluntary workout. That wouldn't be fair to the agreement we have set up with the NFL."
STORER HAS SERIOUS INJURY A few of the Bucs players were not practicing or were limited in practice due to injury. Cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Stylez G. White were held out of the OTA session with minor injuries. Morris did indicate the Bucs did suffer a serious injury this offseason.
"We have some minor injuries, the only significant one we have is Byron Storer," said Morris. "We may miss him for a good amount of time. Other than that the other guys are here, but are not practicing because of some minor injuries."
One player that is working his way back to participating fully is linebacker Angelo Crowell. The veteran of the Buffalo Bills missed all of the 2008 season with a knee injury. Crowell was the only defensive free agent of note signed by the Bucs from another team.
"Crowell is going through a couple of the drills. He is limited in some deals," said Morris. "We hold him out in some stuff. He has been out there in [individuals]. He's been out there in some team stuff. He's coming along great, and I can't wait to see what he is going to do as he progress."
MORRIS DISCUSSES QUARTERBACK COMPETITION On Tuesday veteran quarterbacks Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich spoke with the media about the competition to be the Bucs starting quarterback. Wednesday Morris was asked how the competition is going.
"They are out here working," Morris said. "They are out here competing every day. They are getting better. I see both of them getting more confidence. With that being said with both of them I mean all of them. I saw them all gain confidence today. They really are starting to understand the system. That is one part of it. You see the guys getting better and better every week and that is what you look for."
Also in the competition is first-round pick Josh Freeman, and second-year pro Josh Johnson. Veteran Brian Griese has not attended offseason workouts up to this point. Leftwich signed on in mid April after the team's first mini-camp. This week marked the first team practices with him in the competition, although Morris said Leftwich had been working out with the team over the past few weeks.
"I wouldn't say it was his first couple of days because of the voluntary offseason program. He attended a couple of those and he was here starting to get the offense, hanging out with the offensive coordinator, he is picking it up well. Those guys are all competing. Like I said when I talk about the quarterbacks starting to understand the system and put it all together, and gain confidence, he is part of that." BUCS HOST PICK A SEAT EVENT The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be holding a season ticket Pick A Seat event at Raymond James Stadium this Saturday and Sunday, May 16-17, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 pm. Fans will be able to choose their seat for the 2009 season.Parking for the Pick A Seat event is in lot B off of Himes Avenue and opens at 9:00 a.m.
The 2009 Bucs' home schedule at Raymond James Stadium includes contests against Dallas, Green Bay, the New York Giants and New York Jets, as well as NFC South rivals Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. The Bucs also are the home team for their game against the New England Patriots that is being played in London, England.
BUCS SIGN FILANI Tampa Bay signed wide receiver Joel Filani on Wednesday. Filani was a sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2007 NFL Draft. Filani played college footbal at Texas Tech. Since entering the NFL, Filani has also been apart of the Rams, Lions, and Seahawks. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Filani was an All-Big 12 selction in 2005 and 2006 with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Morris on the competition for the starting quarterback:
"Ground zero here we go. One bone, five dogs. May the best man win."