TAMPA — To say LB Geno Hayes "can't wait" to play Sunday is an understatement.
Hayes, 24, the Bucs starter at weakside linebacker the past three years, was benched last week against the Saints, with coach Raheem Morris hoping it'd be a "wake-up call" to make him more consistent.
Relegated to just special teams in New Orleans, Hayes said it was tough to be on the sideline as the Saints rushed for 195 yards. Though he has not earned his starting spot back, the former Florida State standout has played well enough in practice to get more reps against the Texans.
Hayes said the experience motivated him.
"I've got to step it up to another level," Hayes said. "I think it's more of big plays, I haven't really made any big, big plays. I see it coming and I don't react like I should. Instead of being kind of cautious, just let go and just do it."
Hayes ranks second on the team with 48 tackles, including five for loss, tied with CB Ronde Barber for the team high. The third-year pro said he needed to work on a few little things as far as technique and reading his keys "and I'll be good to go."
LB Quincy Black will start at weakside Sunday, with LB Adam Hayward at strongside. Morris said Hayes will play part time and hopes a competition will grow among all the linebackers.
"You need impact plays across the board," Morris said. "It starts up front, but you want impact plays from impact guys, and Geno was definitely a splash-play guy for a couple years, and then you don't (see those plays). And then when you don't get splash plays, you get inconsistent play and you got to wake him up somehow, and that's my job as a coach."
EASING IN: Morris said recently-acquired DT Albert Haynesworth has looked good in his first two days of practice and has picked up things pretty quickly. How much Haynesworth plays Sunday, however, was still up in the air.
"We'll see," Morris said. "Just got to get him out there, let him go play. He's done a nice job in practice this week, taking all the reps we require him to take. He's done a nice job of going out there, being physical. Looks to be in pretty good shape as far as a man that size."
HIGH PRAISE: Texans QB Matt Schaub said planning against Barber is a significant — and somewhat different — challenge.
"The fact he's played so much football and seen all the looks, he can anticipate things and sees things happen before they really do," Schaub said. "His ability to recognize those looks sets him apart from many other guys, so you really have to understand where he is presnap, where he could be after the snap with what you're doing and be able to anticipate."
MEDICAL MATTERS: LB Dekoda Watson (groin) is questionable, with DT Frank Okam (calf) doubtful, Morris said. G Jeremy Zuttah (knee) is healthy again and will likely start over Ted Larsen at left guard. WR Mike Williams (thigh) and S Tanard Jackson (hamstring) are expected to play.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.