Raheem Morris likes to joke that he's the only defensive coordinator in Bucs history who has never given up a single yard or been scored upon. Morris' meteoric promotion from coaching defensive backs to defensive coordinator to the NFL's youngest head coach in the span of 23 days is part of team lore. But his rubber-meets-the-road moment starts today when the Bucs hold a three-day, voluntary minicamp at One Buc Place (closed to the public). How will Morris approach his new duties?
"Call it naive, call it young, I don't know," Morris said, "but this is how I'm looking at it: I had 15 (defensive backs) before. Now I've got 66 DBs sitting in front of me, and I'm going to approach it like that. All my DBs have always been competitive. They've always done what I've asked, I've always messed around with them in the locker room, I've always been demanding, and they've responded. You tell Ronde (Barber) the same thing you told him before: 'I'm going to tolerate you until I can replace you.' "
Some changes Bucs players will notice starting today:
It's no health club
During the past few years, it has been easy to confuse One Buc "Palace" with L.A. Fitness. And minicamps cannot include any contact, so no pads. But you can bet Morris will find a way to let his players know that the country club atmosphere has changed.
"In order to get your team to be a violent team, you have to practice a little bit violent," Morris said. "In order to get your team physical, you have to practice physical. It'll be easy for some because some guys like that. It'll be hard for others.
"The only way you finish strong in this league is if you make yourself miserable early. You learn to love to be miserable."
Morris was 18 the first time Derrick Brooks attended a Bucs minicamp. But Brooks, along with released veterans Warrick Dunn and Joey Galloway, won't be around today.
So who will lead the family? Barber can't do it alone. It's time to see if Barrett Ruud will have a louder voice.
But Morris will be watching players such as Gaines Adams, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib, Kellen Winslow and Quincy Black.
"In each (meeting) room, you've got a guy," Morris said. "You've still got young guys who have been around those (veterans) for years and have learned how to do that."
Teams with new coaches get an extra minicamp to implement changes. That benefits the Bucs, who have a new defensive coordinator (Jim Bates) and offensive coordinator (Jeff Jagodzinski).
On defense, there will be changes from the Tampa 2 scheme made famous by departed coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Bucs keep the 4-3 scheme, but with more man-to-man, press coverage on the outside with more blitzing and defensive tackles who play more heads-up on the guard and center.
Players who struggled in Kiffin's scheme might thrive. There's competition at every position, particularly linebacker.
Offensively, the biggest change is a zone blocking scheme that should help running backs Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward.