TAMPA — Raheem Morris' plan to move Jermaine Phillips from safety to weakside linebacker has drawn its share of skeptics. John Lynch may be among them.
"I'm interested to see how it goes," Lynch said. "I tried to do the same thing in New England, and it's more difficult than everyone thinks."
A year ago, the Patriots signed Lynch. Despite Lynch's nine Pro Bowls as a safety with the Bucs and Broncos, the Patriots wanted him to play closer to the line of scrimmage and help support the run defense.
Lynch made his reputation as a head-hunting tackler who would walk down from his safety spot and become the eighth man in the box against the run.
Of the Bucs' reasoning behind moving Phillips to linebacker, Lynch said, "The natural assumption is, 'Well, he's been a box safety all his life, and we'll put (Phillips) out there.' " He'll end up in the same spot, Lynch said, but the difference between lining up there and doing it from the safety spot is "a completely different deal."
"It's the hand-to-hand combat and all that. What's helped him is that he had a whole offseason to prepare for it."
Of all the things to watch during tonight's preseason opener at Tennessee, Phillips' play at linebacker may be the most revealing. Phillips has a history of broken forearms and plans to play with both padded this season. Although the Bucs have had some live tackling periods, this will really be Phillips' first test.
"This is it. This is what we have been waiting for," Morris said. "Here is another big test for Jermaine Phillips, and I think he is going to shock us all.
"I can't wait to see him go out there and do it. I've watched him in the box for years. I've seen him have the talent. I've seen him be able to do it. But you have to do it consistently, and you have to do it every snap now. He has great coaching. … So I am fired up about that."
Hamstrung: At least four players suffered hamstring pulls the first week of training camp: WR Michael Clayton, RB Clifton Smith, K Matt Bryant and LB Angelo Crowell.
When multiple players begin sustaining similar injuries, teams take a closer look at the training regimen. Kurtis Shultz is the Bucs' new strength coach. But Morris said the injuries are more likely a result of more taxing practices.
"What we have been used to around here is not having (hamstring injuries) because we have so many walkthroughs and stuff of that nature. So we always got the back tightening up. We have some of those injuries. We have the critical injuries, the knees and that type of stuff. But what I think is that it's me being tough on them, me putting the pads on them, me making them run. You are going to get more hamstrings. You're going to get more groins," Morris said.
"We have the best trainer in the world. He is very confident in getting all these guys back. You never had a hamstring that lingered. I can't remember actually one ever on this team. I can't remember one that has been a problem throughout the year."
In the booth: Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will call plays from the coaches' box high above the stadium tonight. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates will remain on the sideline.
For the offense, it will be quite a departure from when head coach Jon Gruden called plays and stalked the sideline. Jagodzinski will transmit the plays to quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who will relay the selection via helmet transmitter to the quarterback.