The Tampa Bay Buccaneers concluded their three-day mini-camp Thursday after a morning meeting and practice session. The spirited practice was highlighted by a fight involving tight end John Gilmore and an unidentified backup defensive lineman. Head coach Raheem Morris discussed the first three days of working, and had no problems with small altercation.
“It is early, there is a long way to go,” said Morris. “It was a fun practice, a nice start. Getting the guys running around bit, we feel good about it. We had a lot of energy. Anytime you invite the media to the practice you get a fight. It is always fun to get some extra juices. You guys become the crowd. You become the fans. Nobody wants to look bad on TV. I always tell them however you finish at the end of this practice is what they are going to write about until training camp, so nobody wants to look bad.
“The fight was perfect timing. It was the last play of a period. It happened real quick. Everybody got up and practice went on. We moved on. We didn’t encourage it and we don’t want it obviously, but it happens. These guys are highly-tempered dudes. They want to win in front of the cameras.”
There were some notable absences from the last day of the voluntary three-day mini-camp. Among them were cornerback Ronde Barber, tight end Kellen Winslow, defensive end Stylez G. White, and left tackle Donald Penn. Some injured Buccaneers were at practice observing. That group was comprised of: center Jeff Faine (back), running back Cadillac Williams (knee), cornerback Torrie Cox (knee), and linebacker Angelo Crowell (knee).
“No not at all. A lot of them had previous engagements for the most part,” Morris said of those players skipping the workout. “I’ve talked to everybody. I’ve excused everybody that needed to be. You don’t really have to excuse them but they just come to me as a general courtesy to be honest with you. We had a great turnout. A lot of the guys came. I’ve seen most of them, most of them have been here working hard, we had live enthusiastic practices and that is what you want.”
With two new offensive and defensive systems, the Bucs spent time installing the new systems and playbook from their new coordinators. Jim Bates, 62, has 14 years of NFL coaching experience and he is succeeding legendary Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski is installing a new offense for Tampa Bay.
“You have to say pretty good. Anytime you come out here and execute that many plays three days in a row you got to feel good about it,” Morris said. “There were very few mistakes. There are always going to be mistakes. That is a part of growing as a team. For the most part you come out here and execute as many plays as we did today you feel good about it.
“The first day we came out with a nice base installed and kind of added a little wrinkle here and there, just pieces and segments right now. You always want to practice things in segments especially right now. It is always a little bit easier that way. Hopefully one of these days we get to an anything goes period and then play some football, and some situational football and be pretty good.”
While the players got their first experience running the new plays in practice, it was also the first time for many of the assistant coaches to work with their players in scrimmages against an offense or defense. Morris talked about how that experience would lead the coaching staff into the next phase of the offseason.
“Right now that was a preview of the guys that we have on our team,” said Morris. “The next time we are out here we will have a bunch of rookies. They will be out here working their butts off getting ready to go to the May OTA days. Once that happens we will get them all together and let the pieces fall where they may in training camp."
The Bucs will not hold any other organized team activities until May, and has another three-day mandatory mini-camp scheduled in June.
Morris said he would now put his focus on the NFL Draft. The Buccaneers hold the 19th overall pick in the first round. Tampa Bay is without its second-round pick after trading it to the Cleveland Browns for Winslow. The 2009 NFL Draft is on April 25t, and due to the late start and the time between picks, the Bucs are likely to be picking in prime time on Saturday evening.
“We have some obvious needs,” said Morris. “We need some defensive tackles. We addressed a lot our needs during the offseason in terms of offense, and we feel good about those positions. We want to add defensive line, cornerbacks and some players to those positions. But you’ve got to get the best player at the time, man.”
It will be the first draft in charge for general manager Mark Dominik as well. Director of college scouting Dennis Hickey and his scouts have been meeting and traveling to prepare the Bucs’ draft board. Morris was asked about how the pick would be made.
“It will be a collective decision. Mark and I will never disagree on anything,” said Morris. “After it’s said and done it’s over. It’s never going to get to the Glazers. If it gets to those guys there’s an issue.”
MORRIS DISCUSSES QUARTERBACKS The quarterback competition between Luke McCown and Josh Johnson received a lot of attention over the three days. McCown is believed to be in the drivers seat for the starting spot. Morris was asked how McCown looks in the Bucs new offense after spending four seasons as a backup in Jon Gruden’s system.
“He definitely looks comfortable, there is no doubt about that,” Morris said. “It is just a feel of being that guy, being able to step up and deliver passes on time with precision. That is what I stay on Luke about, and it has been a lot of fun to do that.
QUOTE OF THE DAY Morris when asked if McCown can block out the rumors of the Bucs being in the trade market for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.
“I hope he can. Rumors are what they are. They’re rumors. If he’s worried about that then he’s not ready to be the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m proud of how he’s handled it and how the whole team has handled it.”