This week's organized team activity was less controversial for Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris. Last week a team fight caused headlines, and Morris put his team through some conditioning as a result. While Tampa Bay did not have any issues this week, Morris was asked about a controversial player in free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
"Plaxico has got to deal with his issue with the league," Morris said. "We'll see how that plays out. We'll see how that works out with us and their timing and everything of that nature. But he's a great player."
Reports surfaced last week that said the Bucs inquired about the health status of Burress. The veteran wide receiver shot himself in the thigh during the 2008 season, and is facing a potential prison sentence for possessing an unlicensed hand gun. Aside from Burress facing potential jail time, the NFL could discipline him further.
"You don't want to defend Plaxico, but if he's cleared through his legal issues and the NFL grants him back, I don't want to be the guy to pass judgment," said Morris. "You've always got to look at character. You've always got to make that judgment when you meet a person. I've never met Plaxico, so I can't judge him right now.
"He's a great player and anytime you have an opportunity to get a great player, you'd love to see a great player come to Tampa. We're really talking about ghosts as we speak now, we're talking about a suspended guy."
Morris' comments focused more on how his team was progressing as the Bucs continue to hold their offseason practices.
"I don't if it is a feel right now, but it is more of a vision. I have a vision of what I want to work with," Morris said. "As we go through the process we can slowly get that to Jags and we can slowly get that to Bates. We'll get it to the position coaches and go out and execute it. If it works you guys will love me. If it doesn't it'll be a bad vision. Re-do it."
AS QUARTERBACKS COMPETE, JAGODZINSKI SEEKS BALANCE
Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski met with the media after practice on Thursday. Jagodzinski said the team is progressing well with picking up the offense. He has been pleased with the play.
"We don't have a lot of mental busts with guys going the wrong way," Jagodzinski. "The terminology is easier, a little less words in it, I think the guys are picking it up really well."
While Jagodzinski said the offense is developing well, the Bucs are approaching the final few weeks of their offseason program without a player designated the starting quarterback. Veterans Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich are the most discussed options to be the starter, but the team also spent a first-round pick on quarterback Josh Freeman. Second-year player Josh Johnson has been competing, while veteran Brian Griese has not been at any of the offseason workouts. Jagodzinski said the open quarterback competition was not something he worries about.
"I have anxiety about finding a house right now," said Jagodzinski. "I think there is going to be great competition. Luke has done a good job. Byron has done a good job. We're making plays. Both guys are making plays out here. If something is not right they go ahead and fix it, and get on the same page."
Jagodzinski spoke about the competition primarily being between McCown and Leftwich. McCown had a head start of a few weeks in the offseason program as the Bucs signed Leftwich in the middle of April after the first team mini-camp.
"Leftwich has picked it up really well," Jagodzinski said. "Their (Leftwich and McCown) recall is really good. (Quarterbacks coach) Greg Olson is doing a fantastic job with both those quarterbacks and I expect a great competition. That is good. Having good competition brings out the best.
"They are both making plays out here and they both running the offense efficiently. I'm real pleased about that."
While Jagodzinski and Morris are asked regularly about the starting quarterback competition, Jagodzinski wants to have a balanced offense that features a strong running game.
"I think so, if you have a good running game then you have the play-action off of it, and movements off of it," said Jagodzinski. "Sometimes you can do the pass to get the run, too, in your keeps (quarterback bootlegs) and all that. Our keeps are runs for us. We consider them runs. It is misdirection runs is what they are."
"If the run is working, run it, and if the pass is working, pass it, but I think we need to be balanced. But balanced is running what you are doing well. If we can run it 30 times a game, and pass the ball 30 that would be great."
Jagodzinski will have plenty of options to use in his offense. Wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton, and tight end Kellen Winslow have all had 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Tight end Jerramy Stevens has been a receiving mismatch in his career, and the Bucs have two established running backs in Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward to run behind a talented, young offensive line. The Bucs new offensive coordinator said which player gets the ball will depend on how defenses are playing Tampa Bay. Jagodzinski acknowledged the challenge in getting all the players involved in the offense.
"I think so," answered Jagodzinski when asked if it will be challenging. "The thing that we are going to do sometimes is we are going to have matchups with our receivers, backs, and tight ends. We have talent where we can spread the ball around and we can have plays for specific guys, but if they take one thing away say if you have a go-to guy than somebody else has to step up, so there may be a time when a receiver gets two catches one week, and the next week he'll get eight because they are going to double team somebody else. I think we have a good problem, and that is a problem."
MISSING PLAYERS PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES
Several players were not on the field for Thursday's voluntary practice, including quarterback Brian Griese, kicker Matt Bryant, punter Josh Bidwell, tackle Donald Penn, defensive end Stylez G. White, linebackers Barrett Ruud and Angelo Crowell, running backs Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams, wide receiver Maurice Stovall, guard Arron Sears, cornerback Torrie Cox and guard Julius Wilson.
Rookie offensive lineman Xavier Fulton and veteran DE Jimmy Wilkerson left the field after the stretching period to receive treatment for their respective ailments. Some of the other missing players, including White, Williams, Stovall and Sears, were also believed to be receiving treatment inside One Buc Place during the practice.
The absences of Ruud and Penn are believed to be contract-related. With Ruud not practicing the reps at his middle linebacker position have been spread around. One player who has benefited from the opportunity is linebacker Rod Wilson. Tampa Bay signed Wilson, formerly of the Chicago Bears, this offseason.
"I don't know if the silver lining is for Wilson, but the silver lining is for me," Morris said. "I don't know who is going down in what week, or what time, or what tempo. I can't blink as a head coach and I'm not going to. The guy in the shoes right now is Wilson, and I'm loving it. Let him go out there and play. I don't know what is going to happen. Unpredictable, learn how to deal with it, so I can stand up to you guys and be decimated by injuries. I can learn to embrace it and play the next guy.
"He's going great. He's locked in. He's dialed in. He's a sharp, young man. He is here every day. He works hard. I can't say enough good things about him."
Wilson had primarily been an outside linebacker in Chicago, but has been playing in the middle for the Bucs.
"Those type of players you can ask them to do anything you want," Morris said. "He is like the Jermaine Phillips-type. They just want to play football, and they want to do everything they can to win."
JOHNSON THE FORGOTTEN MAN
With the re-signing of McCown, the signing of Leftwich, the drafting of Freeman, many observers have been neglecting the Bucs second-year quarterback Johnson.
"Josh is the forgotten man," Morris said. "Everybody has seemed to phase him out. No one wants to count him, but he's going to get his snaps in the preseason. The forgotten man will get his opportunity. He'll get the same opportunity that Luke gets, the Byron gets and the other Josh gets. I can't want to see him perform out there. Of course you get a lot more mental reps than you get physical reps being a young guy. That's just the case across the league."
Jagodzinski was complimentary to the 2008 fifth-round pick.
"He's done a great job every time he gets into the team situations," said Jagodzinski. "In our 7-on-7 pass skeleton we are going back to back with the first- and second-team guys, and than the young guys go back-to-back running it the other way. Both Josh [Johnson and Freeman] are getting lots of work right now."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Jagodzinski was asked what he wants the personality of his offense to be.
"Downhill, never give up, here they come again. That is the way we are trying to approach it. That is the way we are practicing it. That's the way we get up to the line of scrimmage. That's the way we teach it. That is what I'd like to see, an aggressive up tempo offense."