TAMPA — Maybe one of the best things about Friday was that the Bucs weren't trailing anyone in the standings.
A sense of optimism ruled the day as players reported for training camp, with some going so far as to talk about goals few would associate with a team that was 3-13 last season.
"I have high expectations, honestly," LB Barrett Ruud said. "I expect us to contend for the playoffs. Three-and-13, that was a bitter year. I think everybody has a lot more confidence going into this year."
Coach Raheem Morris has heard the predictions that the Bucs will finish last in the NFC South and be among the worst teams in the league. But Morris has not let it influence his message to his young team.
"We're 0-0," Morris said. "By the same token, '02 doesn't matter. You can't go back and dig up championships, just like you can't go out and dig up a bad season. You have to go out and form your (team).
"The message I give to these guys is, 'It's a race to 10 (wins).' Then, once you get there, you give yourself a chance to get into postseason play. Once you get in postseason play, start flipping coins.
"It's a bold statement. I know national (media) don't look at it that way. … But our mentality? That's what it is."
RB Cadillac Williams said: "It's always good to get a fresh start. I'm looking forward to training camp and continuing to build something great."
A NEEDED CHANGE: CB Aqib Talib was honest when asked about the difference in the defense before and after Morris took over as the play-caller late last season.
Among Talib's biggest gripes was the frequency with which he had to play press coverage against receivers at the line of scrimmage under former coordinator Jim Bates.
"I think … there were a lot better decisions (after the change)," Talib said. "A lot less man-press on the line. It's not 40 snaps of man-press on the line. With these receivers nowadays, you really can't do that. You're asking for it, to lose one battle and get a touchdown caught on you."
Talib tied for the team lead with five interceptions last season and began gaining a reputation as one of the better cover men in the league. Morris has vowed to find ways to play to Talib's strengths, perhaps positioning him for a breakout season.
PACING: Morris said he will be sensitive to the physical needs of certain players, reducing their workloads at certain times.
Among them, he said, is TE Kellen Winslow, who was among the first players at the facility Friday. Another is CB Ronde Barber, who will sit out some workouts "because he's 92 years old," Morris joked. Barber is 35, the oldest player on the roster.
FILLING IN: If first-round draft pick Gerald McCoy misses today's workouts, the Bucs are prepared to use a combination of defensive tackles Brian Price and Roy Miller at under tackle, a position considered more of a pass rusher than a run clogger. The pair is expected to play there at times regardless because "we never expected McCoy to play all 70 snaps anyway," Morris said.