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Buccaneers Team Report


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Buccaneers Team Report




Bucs coach Raheem Morris always has said he wants his team to embrace the heat of practicing and playing in Florida.

But after watching tape of his club labor through what amounted to an extra day of practice Wednesday, he decided to take the Bucs indoors.


So Morris loaded his team on busses and took them to Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, to practice in the air conditioning.

"You know you want to embrace the heat, you just don't want to have it be a factor on your body, have it be a factor on your players," Morris said. "(Wednesday) was a rough practice for those guys, they went hard. You've got to scale where your team is and what you can do for them.


"I was looking for the schedule to see what time (Rays manager) Joe Maddon was going to come on TV. I realized he was out of town and said, 'It'd be a great day to steal his facility.'"


Morris said he doesn't know for sure how much impact the heat has on players, nor if he'd look at using the Trop again, "It all depends on how this week plays out," he said.

While the Bucs don't have an indoor practice facility, they do sometimes use a cool-down tent, and Morris said they've got to be "willing to try different things to give yourself an opportunity to find out" what works.


The Buccaneers' regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium will not be televised locally because the game is not a sellout. It's the first time in 13 years that Bucs fans have experienced a blackout.

But at least the organization is no longer in the dark.

Coach Raheem Morris has returned the identity to the Bucs after taking over the defensive play-calling duties with six games remaining in the 2009 season.


Morris' version of the Tampa 2, or the Tampa 2.0 as Ronde Barber(notes) has dubbed it, includes more blitzing and an array of different coverages. But it's still built to prevent quick scores, and opponents will have to earn their way this season.

By controlling the defense, Morris has regained more control of his team and the franchise.


"Absolutely. That's what he needed to do," Barber said. "Being a head coach is administrative. It's push papers. Unless you're Jon Gruden and Jon Gruden was a hands-on head coach. Tony (Dungy) was kind of hands-on, but really, he was kind of an administrator handling his team. I think Raheem is better suited being the dirty guy, getting down and drawing up blitzes with Jimmy Lake, being able to call what he wants on Sundays. I think it suits him better. The guys that knew him before he became a head coach missed that from him in the building last year when he wasn't doing it. It was welcome to have him be back involved.


"We need to assume who he is. Great teams do that. They take what their coach says and who they are personality wise and they become that. They put his vision on the field. The best way to do that is to be involved."


It's funny, because most teams—even the Browns—probably have Tampa Bay circled on their schedule as a probable victory. But no team needs a faster start this season than the Bucs, who have lost 17 of their last 20 games.


Complicating matters for Tampa Bay is the health of quarterback Josh Freeman(notes), who missed the final two preseason games with a broken thumb on his right throwing hand.

Freeman has practiced and is cleared to play, but he only threw eight passes during the preseason and may have a little rust. Plus, his thumb is not completely healed and will be painful.


Another subplot of the game is tight end Kellen Winslow(notes) facing his former team. Winslow was held out of three of the Bucs' preseason games and downplayed the game with the Browns. But Morris says he knows Winslow will be even more motivated.


"I don't want to BS you, so I won't," Morris said. "I'm sure he has some fuel, I'm sure he has something hidden away. He has some articles stowed away somewhere or something that was said negative about this young man. But that's what gets him going.


"That's who Kellen is. He's a soldier. He goes out, he prepares, he practices, he plays, he loves the game. He'll use anything for motivation, that's just the kind of guy he is. He gets motivated to practice against my defense every day because he loves and enjoys playing the game. I'm excited about that for him."


Winslow called his time in Cleveland a "growing experience."


"It's going to be good. You know, it's really just another team," Winslow said. "It's a blessing to be here. It's where I want to be and I'm fortunate. Of course, man. Everything that went up there with Cleveland was a growing process for me. I really grew up and matured. It was hard up there because we weren't winning a lot and it was just frustrating at times. But I'm here now and I'm having fun."

On Sunday, the Bucs also will face an old nemesis, quarterback Jake Delhomme(notes), who is 9-2 in his career vs. Tampa Bay.


Delhomme is very familiar with the Bucs' defensive schemes and has managed to mostly avoid costly turnovers and interceptions against them.


The Browns will look to run the ball at what was the NFL's worst rushing defense a year ago. But sooner or later, they'll have to trust Delhomme to make a play.


Series History: 8th regular-season meeting. Browns lead series, 5-2. The Bucs have won the last two meetings. Their last game came in 2006 when the Bucs beat the Browns 22-7 at Cleveland.




Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber played a little defense for Aqib Talib(notes).

Barber, the only remaining member of the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII team, said Talib's one-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy was unfair.


Talib will miss the Bucs' season opener against the Cleveland Browns Sunday and was forced to forfeit two game checks stemming from his assault on a cab driver in August 2009.


"I don't know how the dealings with the league work all the time, but he's getting unfairly punished in my mind," Barber said. "But that's just my opinion. He's definitely made amends for his transgressions last preseason. I thought he had done enough. But they make decisions based on what they make decisions on and I'm not part of it. But we'll miss him this week. He'll be back. Hopefully, it's just another step in his learning curve."


The Bucs voted on their team captains during a team meeting Tuesday afternoon and here are the results.


On offense, quarterback Josh Freeman and center Jeff Faine(notes) were selected. On defense, cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Barrett Ruud(notes) will serve as captains. And on special teams, long snapper Andrew Economos(notes) is the captain.


Bucs defensive lineman Kyle Moore(notes), who played with Saints running back Reggie Bush(notes) at Southern Cal, was critical of reports that the Heisman Trust may strip Bush of his Heisman Trophy won in 2005.


"Everybody knows who the best college football player was that year when he won the Heisman," Moore said. "You can't take that."


By The Numbers: 17—Number of losses in the last 20 games by the Bucs.


Quote To Note: "They trusted me when I told them it wasn't going to happen again."—Former Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount(notes) on what he told the Bucs about his infamous punching of a Boise St. player.




The Bucs have to make one major change to their lineup Sunday because of the suspension of CB Aqib Talib for one game for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Second-year pro E.J. Biggers(notes) will make his first NFL start at left cornerback. Biggers spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. But he has played well during the preseason, and the Bucs believe he will hold up, particularly in zone coverage. It changes the game plan, obviously, without a lockdown corner like Talib in the game and minimizes the number of safety blitzes.


Player Notes


QB Josh Freeman did not wear a wrap Thursday on his broken right thumb and practiced at full speed, according to Morris. He will start Sunday against the Browns.


QB Josh Johnson(notes) took all the first-team reps Wednesday as Freeman sat out and has been included in the game plan in the event something happens to the Bucs' starter.

• P Brent Bowden(notes), a sixth-round pick who was released and re-signed to the practice squad, has a chance to be activated for Sunday's game as he competes with newly acquired P Chris Bryan(notes).


WR Arrelious Benn(notes) has come on strong in practice lately, according to offensive coordinator Greg Olson, and could factor in the Bucs game plan Sunday.


WR Micheal Spurlock(notes) is expected to handle both the punt and kickoff return duties against the Browns.


Game Plan: The Bucs are returning to their old Tampa 2 roots, which means they will try to prevent teams from getting much over the top in the passing game. The first order of business, though, will be to try and contain the Browns' rushing attack, including the possible WildDawg formation with Josh Cribbs taking direct snaps.


Tampa Bay ranked 32nd in the NFL last season in rushing defense. But having rookie defensive tackles Gerald McCoy(notes) and Brian Price(notes), along with second-year DT Roy Miller(notes), inside should be a huge upgrade over last year's tandem of Chris Hovan(notes) and Ryan Sims(notes).


The key will be to get QB Jake Delhomme in predicable passing situations, where the Bucs believe they can dial up some pressure and force an interception or two.


Offensively, the Bucs aren't sure what to expect from Josh Freeman. So the game plan will be to establish the running game, as usual, with Cadillac Williams and Kareem Huggins(notes). But Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has an array of blitz packages. Look for Freeman to utilize a lot of three step drops and quick hitters to rookie Mike Williams.


Matchups To Watch: Browns WR Josh Cribbs vs. Bucs CB E.J. Biggers: Cribbs has improved in every aspect of the receiving game and is an electric player with the ball in his hands. Biggers is making his first NFL start. It stands to reason the Browns will throw some bubble screens or smoke routes to Cribbs and see if Biggers can make open field tackles.


Browns QB Jake Delhomme vs. Bucs CB Ronde Barber: Delhomme is as familiar with the Bucs defense as any player in the NFL, having faced them for years in New Orleans and Carolina. Barber, at 35, is not the player he once was. But in nickel passing situations, he's still very disruptive as a rusher and defender.


Injury Impact: QB Josh Freeman did not practice Wednesday as a precaution to give his broken right thumb a break. Freeman will return to practice Thursday and is expected to start the game, barring any setback. But just in case, backup QB Josh Johnson got some valuable reps with the first team Wednesday. WR Maurice Stovall(notes), who missed three preseason games with an ankle injury, DT Brian Price (hamstring) and LB Niko Koutouvides(notes) (neck) all practiced.

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