Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris had talked throughout the offseason about making his team more physical, tough, violent, and being able to finish games and the season strongly. Morris set the tone for it with his first training camp practice being fully padded, and was a physical workout.
"First practice, we came out today and in our team meeting and stressed discipline, no excuses, and high expectations," said Morris. "Obviously the whole time we've been talking about the physical play, which I thought was displayed very well in that the 9-on-7 and it kind of set the temp for practice and how it was going to be. Today nothing was completely live it was all pro-thud. We didn't actually go live on them, but the threat of it was nice. To just have people walking around wondering if were they were like man this dude is nuts. He is going to make us go live right out of the shoot. It was real cool to have that feel, so when I let the pressure off of them in the team meeting it was better. We explained how we wanted to work with our pro-thud theory, tagging off down the field, and we did see great pad-level and great physical play. When they have those pads on out in that heat."
In past seasons under former head coach Jon Gruden, the Bucs waited a few days before pudding on pads and having physical practices. Gruden also had more walk-throughs, held veterans out of practice regularly, had a cool down tent, and had an indoor bubble to practice in the afternoon. Morris vowed to make training camp more vigorous, and believes that it will pay-off for Tampa Bay in the regular season.
"For me and for our team I believe that pads is going to be our winning edge," said Morris. "There is no other place like Tampa, where you have to come play at one o'clock in the afternoon, and try to win. The schedule makers, many looked at negatively that we don't have a night game, I looked at as with the one o'clock games people are going to come down here and get tortured. It is going to be hot, and we are going to be used to it. We are going to embrace it, and love it. Going out and running around in pads is the difference. You can try and simulate with weight vests, but until you put on the helmet and shoulder pads it is a big difference. You can ask the wideouts and [defensive backs] they won't have that same bounce this afternoon. Well they might for the night stadium practice. The lights will get them going a little bit."
Morris was asked about the cool down tent specifically.
"There isn't one, we fired it," said Morris. "We want to embrace this thing. There is no cool down tent on Sunday. We go in the locker room and it is not that cool in there. It is pretty tight in there, and we are all together and people are bleeding and screaming. That is why we want to create (a tough) environment. We had a couple of breaks. A few four-minute breaks, I want to flush the fluids I want them to be safe. At the same time I don't want a place where they go in there and it is 50 degrees and cool, and the linemen come out during special teams and everything is hunky-dory. No we want to stay out in the heat and embrace it, so when Green Bay comes, or whatever team, I don't want to call out Green Bay, but whoever, they have to suffer in it." BARBER ADJUSTS TO NEW SCHEME Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber spoke with the media on Saturday after the first practice of training camp, and his first contact practice in a new defense. Barber is adjusting to the new defensive scheme under defensive coordinator Jim Bates after playing his entire career for legendary Bucs coordinator Monte Kiffin.
"It's on the line of scrimmage intensive," said Barber of the new defense. "You have to succeed at the line of scrimmage. I will tell you all this, there's a lot of misconception about playing man. This is a leverage defense. It's not so much playing man to man every snap, but we're really playing quarters. It's different, something I'm currently getting used to, but I think it's something we can handle, something good."
While Barber has to adjust to a new defensive scheme for the first time in his NFL career, Barber believes that a change in defense has benefits as well.
"Monte's scheme was great for years, " said Barber. "It really was, but it had some weaknesses and it was exposed a little bit, there's no doubt about it, not that it wasn't good because we were really successful for years. Some of the stuff we're doing now we would've liked to have gotten to in the past, but we couldn't. We're committed to it now and we're going to roll with it.
"We'll still do stuff that I've done well over the years. No defense is single dimensional. I've got strengths, I'll just have to change some of them. Figure out a different way to play football, but I'm alright with that."
Morris said that Barber has been focused and driven this offseason to prove doubters wrong. Morris talked about how some in the media have labeled Barber as being a system cornerback that could only thrive in Kiffin's defense. The Bucs rookie head coach believes those views are misguided and Barber will prove it this season.
"Ronde is at the point of his career where he has been called a system corner," said Morris. "He is out to prove people wrong. If he is a system corner than I don't know any other Cover 2 corner that has his kind of numbers, so if you keep producing that kind of corner than maybe you could call him that. Right now he is in a new system. He has a great mindset. He enjoys being here. We enjoy having him. We look forward to the new challenge."
Even after one practice with the 2009 Buccaneers, Barber said there were some notable changes and improvements.
"We're going to be faster, that's for sure," said Barber. "I can already feel it. Definitely more physical. A youthful exuberance in the locker room. We were definitely a team run by our veterans in the past, that's all well and good when you drive a team from the top down, but I think really, really good football teams are driven from the bottom up. We're only as good as that 53rd guy. "
SELMON PRESS CONFERENCE ON MONDAY The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that on Monday they would be holding a press conference to announce Lee Roy Selmon as the first inductee of the club's Ring of Honor. PewterReport.com first reported Selmon being the first player to be honored in the team's new Ring of Honor on July 22nd. Selmon's induction will be during the Bucs November 8th game against the Green Bay Packers. INJURY UPDATE The Bucs had one injury in camp on Saturday morning with Louis Holmes going down with a lower leg injury. Morris did not believe it was serious, and thought that Holmes would be day-to-day. QUOTES OF THE DAY Defensive end Sylez G. White was asked about a massive hit that he put on Bucs running back Clifton Smith.
"That's my man there. Clifton told me to lose his number after that, but he's still my man. I didn't realize how hard that hit was because I closed my eyes on it. That's my man. I don't really get pleasure in doing that. I was just doing my job. I got the best of him on that play, but I'm sure another time he will get the best of me. I just want to go on record as saying he's still my man because he's mad at me right now."