TAMPA — Bucs coach Raheem Morris went to work with a heavy heart after learning of the death Wednesday of former Hofstra football coach Joe Gardi.
Morris played defensive back for Gardi at Hofstra from 1994-97 and credits him as a mentor in football and life. Gardi, 71, died Wednesday following a stroke he suffered last week.
"My entire family — my whole football family, I should say — is deeply saddened today by the loss of our beloved coach Gardi," Morris said Thursday. "He was a father figure for me, a passionate guy, one of the better teachers and one of the most influential people in my life. I just wanted to start out by saying that and I wish him and his family the best, as heartfelt as I can in this setting."
Gardi was 119-62-2 in 16 seasons at Hofstra, 1990-2005. Many of his players went on to play or coach professionally, including former Jets WR Wayne Chrebet and Saints WR Marques Colston. Morris began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Gardi.
Gardi is survived by his wife, Audrey; two grown children, Joanne and David; daughter-in-law Michele; and four grandchildren.
"You're talking about a man who came to northern New Jersey — Irvington, N.J. — and recruited us, sat in my house and talked to my parents," Morris said. "He had the ability to come there when nobody else really cared or thought anything of it. He gave me a scholarship, brought me to Hofstra and taught me what it was like to be a man, raised me as far as dealing with all different types of ethnic groups and dealing with different types of people and how to behave in certain settings and certain atmospheres. …
"He's one of the guys who encouraged me to go into coaching, he's one of the guys who encouraged me to be the best teacher I can be in this profession, how to treat it, how to study other people. He's just one of those guys who will always be part of my life and part of my family's life."
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Following practice Thursday, Morris put his arm around CB Aqib Talib and redirected him to the weight room. Shortly after, strength and conditioning coach Kurtis Schultz emerged and Talib began running a series of sprints on an empty practice field.
Punishment for a blown assignment? Or just making sure Talib stuck to the offseason program?
"This is voluntary work … but when I have him in the building, I want to try to help Aqib make it a 16-game season," Morris said. "There's no secret he's had some hamstring issues his first two seasons in the league. You try to find ways to prevent those from happening and recurring every single year.
"It will never be his idea to go out there and run. I'm not going to kid you. But it's going to be the organization's idea. … Now you tell him to go out there and get some extra one-on-ones with a receiver? It's probably his idea.
"He was confessing that he played basketball (Wednesday) so he thought he had some running and got a little extra in. I just let him know, that was great, I was so proud of him. And I was so proud that he and Josh Johnson went and played basketball last night and got extra running in for his hamstrings. I was really fired up and that was awesome. Now I was going to just walk him down to Kurtis to talk with him and do whatever small negotiation Kurtis had to do to encourage him in our voluntary workouts to go run a little extra."
BUCS BIT: RB Derrick Ward, S Tanard Jackson, TE Kellen Winslow and T Donald Penn did not attend workouts.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.