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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Is Bucs middle linebacker position still an open competition?



Even while the Bucs have walked and talked as if Mason Foster is the regular-season starter at middle linebacker, coach Raheem Morris maintains there’s still an open competition between the rookie and veteran Tyrone McKenzie, a former USF standout.

Morris’ claims come despite Foster being essentially promoted to No. 1 over McKenzie just days into camp because, Morris said, he was outperforming McKenzie.

When asked today how McKenzie has handled that decision, Morris interrupted and said a final decision has not been made.

“If he feels like it’s not going to happen already, then I guarantee you it won’t,” Morris said. “That thing is wide open. You have to earn the right to start. You’re not given anything around here. You have to earn that in practice. You have to show me something that makes me start you.”

However, privately, the Bucs decided long ago that Foster would succeed Barrett Ruud as their middle linebacker.

McKenzie played with the second-team defense in the Bucs’ preseason opener and was credited with one tackle. Foster, who opened the game, had a tackle and a fumble recovery.

In the past, the Bucs have handled preseason position battles by allowing players to alternate starts in exhibition games. But that doesn’t seem likely in this case. Does that put McKenzie at a disadvantage?

“I’ve been around a bunch of rookies who started without playing with the (starters),” Morris said. “. . . If you feel like you’re disadvantaged, you have to go out there and handle your business. Whoever you’re playing with has nothing to do with your (responsibilities). Whoever you’re playing with has nothing to do with your business and how you physically approach the game.”

[Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2011 9:11pm]


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