New Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris ran his first practices as head coach on Tuesday. The Bucs started their preparation for the 2009 season with a voluntary three-day mini-camp at One Buc Place. Morris started out the day with a team meeting that turned out to be very popular with his players.
"This morning's meeting, you try to make all your team meetings impactful," Morris said. "We are establishing something. I don't want to give away all the goodies, but it was nice it was truthful, it was from the heart, right to their heart I hope. The guys came out ready to play and practice."
A number of the players felt that Morris accomplished his goal.
"It was fantastic," quarterback Luke McCown said. "Just exactly what you would think of Raheem at practice. He was very enthusiastic. It was live and fast, and just out there ready to compete. That is the environment that coach Morris has set up for us."
Morris, 32, was asked about what he said to the team, but he did not want to get into the details. The rookie head coach spoke broadly about what he covered in his first speech to the entire team.
"I just wanted the guys to know what the program was going to be like," Morris said. "I wanted the guys to know exactly what we are going to do. Exactly how it was going to go. Our expectations. What we are looking for. Some things we want to get accomplished and some things we want to get done, and then sometimes you got to hit some people with straight forward shots sometimes, and I gave a couple of people some straight forward shots. We are a family. That is what I meant when I said I wouldn't give you all the goodies because some of the things said in that room are confidential. Most people do it in one-on-one settings, but I like to do it in 66-man settings, or 80-man settings, or 53-man settings whatever the case may be. Whenever you are giving messages like that it is to the heart. It is challenging a guy. It is inspiring a guy. It is leading a guy. Forcing your will on the opponents. Whatever it is you want to talk about, you give them that message to end your meeting. We went out and had a lot of fun today."
The former defensive backs coach explained why he prefers to handle issues in-group settings opposed to meeting one-on-one with a player.
"That's how it was with the defensive backs," Morris said. "When we had 15 guys in the room. It was all kept in the room. It was straightforward shots. Every man was accountable to each other. So you want to make 66 guys be accountable. I don't want anybody to feel embarrassed in a talk amongst family members. When we are at the house sitting around the table, we bring up all your dirty laundry."
From the feedback of his players, it appears that they are on board with Morris' approach. Wide receiver Michael Clayton had been at odds with previous head coach Jon Gruden at different times during his first seasons as a Buccaneer. Clayton sounded like a player that will have no problem playing for the youngest head coach in the NFL.
"I was excited in his first team meeting," said Clayton. "I think he got everybody's attention in terms of the discipline we're going to have and the character of the team and what it needs to be. From Day 1 he hit a homerun with that, and everybody is excited.
"Everybody wants to see him successful. He has worked as hard as we have, guys that have been drafted, trying to keep their jobs. We've seen him approach greatness. Now that he's been put in the driver's seat we're all a family now. He's leading the ship and we're all the workers on it. To see him successful means we're all successful. I think everybody wants that for him because he's so young, so in touch with the players, and to have a coach like Raheem it's a good feeling."
Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud also discussed his impressions of Morris after his day leading the team as head coach.
"I think how smart and sharp he is," said Ruud. "You obviously have fun, but he's a detailed guy. He's on top of everything. He communicates well. He's going to let you know what he thinks, show you his rules and ask for your input, and then come to a conclusion. I think he's a real intelligent guy and communicates real well. I think those are important for a head coach."
Less than a month after being named the defensive coordinator to follow legendary coordinator Monte Kiffin, Morris was promoted to head coach on January 17th a day after the firing of Gruden.
The speech hit home with more then just players as one of Morris most experienced coaches raved about the team meeting. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates, 62, has 14 years of coaching experience in the NFL. Bates earned a reputation as one of the top defensive coordinators in the league with the Miami Dolphins before moving on to brief stints with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos.
"He's good," said Bates. "Raheem brings a lot of energy to the team. He had a good talk with the team and set the tempo. He relates well with the team. I was very impressed with Raheem."
Morris also discussed the team's objective of the three-day mini-camp this week.
"Anytime your talking about being in the offseason in non-contact drills you are talking about timing and precision," said Morris. "We want the guys to come in get their timing down and be precise. Be ready to play football. The number one goal is to execute timing and precision."
Throughout his press conference Morris hit on his theme of timing and precision.
"Obviously, if you are looking for timing and precision, you are not thinking about a whole massive playbook," Morris said. "You are thinking about a few plays that you could run that you could go to in a game that you feel comfortable with.
"Right now it's about timing and precision. The next time I see you guys for training camp here, we will be talking about toughness, and physical, and violent."