Raheem Morris won't rule out a Barrett Ruud return
Whether he was being asked about Aqib Talib's presence in camp or Barrett Ruud's absence, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris had a consistent answer during his first news conference of the 2011 season.
"I coach the guys in the seats,'' he said repeatedly Friday from One Buc Place.
Morris said he would not close the door on the possibility of Ruud returning to the Bucs despite Tampa Bay moving quickly to sign third-round draft pick Mason Foster and GM Mark Dominik saying Tuesday that Foster and former USF star Tyrone McKenzie would compete at the middle linebacker spot.
"You never close the door on anything,'' Morris said. "All those guys are always in negotiations. That's all truly a Mark (Dominik) thing. With everything being this close together (following the lockout), it's a little bit different than it's ever been. I'm optimistic. I'm a coach, though. Whoever's sitting in those seats, those are the guys I'm going to coach. That's what we're doing right now.''
McKenzie took the starting reps during Friday's morning walkthrough, simply because he has been with the Bucs longer than Foster, Morris said. Derrell Smith, an undrafted free agent from Syracuse, also is in the mix.
"We're gonna let those guys go, and their fates will be decided in the preseason,'' Morris said.
Morris said he likes the youth, toughness and intensity McKenzie and Foster bring.
"McKenzie is a thumper,'' Morris said. "He's a big individual who's very good in the box. He has a demanding mike linebacker type of attitude. He's a no-nonese type of guy. He has a lot of similarities to what Foster brings. Foster was a very active guy in college, and he we'll look for him to be the same active guy in the pros. Hopefully he can bring some of that nasty thump and swagger.''
It would be unfair to expect McKenzie or Foster to be Ruud, who has six seasons of experience, Morris said.
"Barrett's got a bunch of games under his belt,'' Morris said. "(Foster and McKenzie) bring a wealth of inexperience, and they bring youth and they bring an eagerness to go out there and win football games.''
Asked about Talib being welcomed to camp despite facing a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, for which he is scheduled to stand trail in March, Morris said, "I coach the guys in the seats, and right now 25 is a very good football player. All that (legal) stuff is pending. ... It's great to be around him.''