Bucs head coach Raheem Morris addressed the media after Friday's rookie mini-camp practice. Here is a condensed transcript of his Q&A session with the media.
Any reason why the offense was in the red jersey today and the defense was in the white?
“No. No reason at all. Just switching it up a little bit. My equipment manager is getting a little bored, so he decided to switch it up a little bit.”
What did you think of Josh Freeman today?
“Josh went out there today and took control of the huddle. I don’t believe he had one bad snap except for the guard tripping him earlier in the walk through. Other than that, he got every snap, delivered the football, controlled the huddle well and made some nice throws. He did some things we liked today, so we were pretty excited.”
What are you looking for from this rookie mini-camp?
“You’ve got to get the guys that have the best conditioning, and the guys that can pick it up, retain it and take it to the field and do it. We’re looking for those things right now. Anybody you can pick up – we’ve got an opportunity to sign a couple of free agents out of this camp. A couple guys out of here that can excite you. We got three guys from this camp last year. A guy like Peanut [running back Clifton Smith] came in here from this camp last year on a tryout basis. He turned into a free agent. Then he made the team and went to the Pro Bowl. We’re just evaluating talent.”
What can Freeman learn from this group at rookie mini-camp?
“I don’t know how much he can learn from this group. What he can do is start to develop how he catches up. He’s starting to get the offense, starting to get the calls – so it won’t be foreign to him. It won’t be a different language. When he gets in, he’ll kind of know what’s going on.”
Sammie Stroughter was talking about Freeman’s presence and his eyes today. Did you pick up on that?
“When a guy like Josh walks on the field being 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, you can’t help but feel his presence and his eyes and all that jazz, especially when you are a wide out. You can see him in the pocket. I felt it. I saw it. I saw the confidence. He’s already yelling at me about the officiating. It was awesome.”
What was your impression about Sammie?
“Sammie was impressive. Sammie ran a bunch of good routes. He caught the ball well. He’s got to learn how to finish. It’s not college anymore where you can make seven or eight moves in one spot and make the crowd go ‘Ooh and ahh’ because those guys hunt in this league and they hit you from behind. We have to get some of those things cleaned up, but other than that, he did a good job.”
How do you think Josh will handle the spotlight as a first-round pick?
“The spotlight for a quarterback is not a big deal for the most part. You are talking about a guy who 6-foot-5, 250 pounds who is part of the elite quarterbacks and has been to the Combine. He’s been in the bright lights and the big games playing against Texas. I’m not worried about the spotlight. I’m more worried about him picking up the offense, him going out and being around his team and him developing himself as a leader. Then we can go out and win some games.”
Morris on his offseason approach:
“The offseason was more about conditioning. Let’s talk about the weight training and things of that nature with Kurt. Right now we are talking about the timing and precision with the OTAs. When we get to training camp, we’ll talk about physical toughness, talk about mental toughness and talk about being a violent football team. When you put all those three things together and you get to the games, then you’re ready to play.”
Is it a really good time to be a rookie in Tampa Bay with so many opportunities to come in and make the team?
“The competition we have created speaks for itself. Those rookies when they come in and they see open spots or they see people untested, they want to challenge those people. And those people that are being challenged are going to want to step their game up. It just creates a great environment and one that I love. I thrive on that.”
Can you mistake Freeman for a defensive end due to his size?
“No question. There is no doubt about that. He is an impressive looking guy. When you look at him, you can mistake him for anything. He is just an athletic, big, giant human that is walking the planet. I am just glad he is on our team.”
If everything goes optimally for you this offseason, who is your starting quarterback in 2009?
“The starting quarterback? I’ll let you guys know the third preseason game. I want these guys to compete. I’ve got Luke McCown. I’ve got Byron Leftwich. I’ve got Josh Johnson. I’ve got Josh Freeman and I’ve got Brian Griese still on staff right now. I need these guys to just get in here and compete. I want to play the best one out of those five guys. Now obviously we are going to camp with just four, but I want to play the best one out of those guys.”
What’s the best way to get Josh Freeman up to speed with Luke McCown?
“That’s Josh. He’s got to grind. To catch Luke you have to work pretty hard. Luke is a hard worker. I’m sure you guys know him. He’ll be here every day. He’ll grind it out now. Josh has a ways to go to catch up to Luke. He better grind. He’s five years behind him. He better get going.”
Have you spoken to Brian Griese since Freeman was drafted?
“I have not. I have not. He actually left me a message today, so I plan on giving him a call back.”
Is there a possibility Derrick Brooks could wind up back on this football team since Tampa Bay didn’t draft a linebacker?
“You never want to say no to anything. You never want to be that way, but we’ve made plans. We’ve moved on. We went out and got [Angelo] Crowell. We moved Jermaine Phillips to linebacker. We’ve got Barrett Ruud playing [middle linebacker] for us. We have some guys in the stable like Quincy Black, Geno Hayes. We went out and got Niko Koutouvides and Jammall Johnson. I don’t want to miss anybody, but we’ve got guys stacked in the room that we want to let compete before we make decision as far as Derrick Brooks or any other ‘backer is concerned. We felt pretty good about our ‘backers going into the draft. We just want to see what we’ve got going on.”