New coach Morris tries to set tone with hip-hop start to Bucs' workout

TAMPA, Fla. -- With hip-hop music blaring in the background, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field for the first time under Raheem Morris, who had just as much pep in his step as the players.

  -- Luke McCown 

"I need a little bounce," the NFL's youngest head coach said Tuesday after leading the Bucs through two of five workouts planned during a voluntary three-day minicamp.

Morris, 32, replaced Jon Gruden, who was fired in January after the Bucs dropped their final four games to miss the playoffs following a 9-3 start. Morris has presided over an extensive overhaul of a Tampa Bay roster that now features just four players who are older than the coach himself.

Morris' selection of music was more about helping set a tone for his regime than promoting a fresh attitude.

"I hate to use the word change, because Gru was a good coach," said Morris, who was part of the former coach's staff for six seasons. "It's not like I'm trying to change everything coach Gruden did. I'm just trying to make it Raheem Morris.

"The way I know how to do that is with hip-hop music. Coach Gruden played a little bit of hip-hop. He played his own type of music. He played a little bit of everything. Just trying to present your best self. So I'll go out there every day and treat it as a different environment. That's all."

Players like what they've seen -- and heard -- from Morris.

"He just wants you to go out there and compete and have fun," safety-turned-linebacker Jermaine Phillips said. "That's what he's pushing. That's what everybody's buying into."

In the scheme that new defensive coordinator Jim Bates is installing to replace the Tampa 2 the Bucs ran for more than a decade, Morris is experimenting with using Phillips in the weakside linebacker position that opened when 11-time Pro Bowl selection Derrick Brooks was released.

Meanwhile, two inexperienced quarterbacks, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson, are trying to take advantage of the absence of veteran Brian Griese to get a head start on learning offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's playbook.

McCown is a sixth-year pro who threw only one pass last season. Johnson was a fifth-round draft pick in 2008.

Griese, who stayed away because his wife is expecting a baby soon, backed up Jeff Garcia last season.

"I don't know if we've ever had just two quarterbacks at any camp since I've been here," said McCown, who has made seven career starts for the Bucs and Cleveland Browns. "But it's what we've asked for, just an opportunity, just a chance to prove ourselves.

"Coach Gruden's playbook was 6 inches thick. This one's 3 inches thick. There's still a lot to learn, to get good at. I feel like I had mastered Gruden's offense, so there's a lot I need to forget in learning a new system."

Since taking over for Gruden, Morris has talked about making the Bucs tougher and more physical. The team isn't in pads for minicamp, though, so this week is more about timing and precision.

And, of course, learning what Morris expects.

The coach said he spoke "truthful, to the heart, from the heart, right to their heart," and he even challenged some players before taking the field.

"Sometimes you have to hit with straightforward shots," Morris said. "And I hit a couple of people with some straightforward shots.

"We're a family. ... Most people like to do that in a one-on-one setting. I like to do it in a 66-man setting, or a 80-man setting or a 53-man setting, whatever the case may be. ... It's challenging a guy, it's inspiring a guy, it's leading a guy, whatever you want to talk about. You give them that message to end your meeting, and we went out and had fun."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
See all the Action

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.