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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Morris' team will be tougher, practice more in pads



All new head coaches are anxious put their handprint on the team. Raheem Morris would rather put his shoeprint on the backside of his players next season.

The Bucs 32-year-old head coach insists his team needs to become tougher to avoid the late-season collapse in 2008 that led to his hiring.

To emphasize that point, Morris said the Bucs will practice a lot more in full pads than they ever did in seven seasons under Jon Gruden.

It's an approach utilized by Mike Tomlin, who had the Steelers in pads for 16 weeks his first season in Pittsburgh.

"I'm a pad guy. I want to be in more pads,'' Morris said Friday. "I believe that's how you get back to your core beliefs, your fundamentals, your pad level, your tackling, your blocking -- things of that nature. So I'd like to be in pads, more.

"No knock against coach Gruden, I'm sure he wanted to, also. But at the time we were older, we were a little beat up, so he had to make decisions and he made his decisions based on what he thought was best for the team at the time. You don't second-guess those things. You don't second-guess those decisions. You just do what you thinks needs to be done the right way.''

Morris points to the Bucs' four-game losing streak last December, a late-season collapse that cost Tampa Bay a playoff spot, as proof of a lack of physical and mental toughness.

Tampa Bay's defense was dominated on the ground at Carolina on Monday Night Football and several weeks later failed to handle the pressure of a must-win game against the Raiders in the season finale.

"When you lose a game like we lost to Carolina on Monday Night Football, that was a toughness game,'' Morris said. "They out-hit us. They were a tougher team that night and that's the team that usually wins.''

"In this game, the physical team always wins. The more physical team, the team that can run the football, the team that tackles, the team that hits is always going to be better.''

Morris also indicated he won't tolerate some players taking scheduled days off during the week while the rest of the team receives no such benefit.

"Everything has got to change as far as that,'' Morris said. "It's my job to relate to those guys what I expect out of them, what I need them to give me and then hold them accountable doing it. Once I get a chance to do that, it will be fine.

"You're looking for 53 guys who are going to buy in and then go to war with those guys. If it's only 40 at the time, then you play with those 40 until you can develop the other guys and you tolerate the rest until you can replace them.''

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:25pm]


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