TAMPA — Based on interviews with coach Raheem Morris and others during the first two weeks of workouts, if the Bucs played a game today, their four active receivers would likely be Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton, rookie Sammie Stroughter and CFL refugee Kelly Campbell.
No wonder somebody in the organization reportedly telephoned ex- Giant Plaxico Burress.
The conversation was exploratory. After all, Burress still faces 3½ years in prison on weapon charges in New York. He also could be suspended by the NFL after accidentally shooting himself in the leg last year at a Manhattan nightclub.
But it underscores the realization by the Bucs that they have very little experience or proven playmakers behind Bryant and Clayton.
If healthy, of course, TE Kellen Winslow could average 80 receptions and 1,200 yards.
But Maurice Stovall is hurt (again), struggling to recover from a back injury. Dexter Jackson is still trying to live up to that second-round grade. And Brian Clark has played 20 career games with five receptions.
The player who has everybody buzzing at One Buc is Stroughter, the seventh-round pick from Oregon State.
"The guy has great feet. He's caught every ball that's touched his hands," Clayton said. "He's a natural hand-catcher. He snatches it. He's a smart guy who's caught onto the offense really well.
"I told him the steps I took to get to know the offense on a day-to-day basis. Coach (Jon) Gruden's offense was way more extensive, so I had to spend a lot more time. I think that's what's allowing him to be more precise in the things he's learned. He's come along very well."
At 5 feet 9, 189 pounds, Stroughter has been lining up in the slot with the No. 1 offense. He was highly productive in college with two 1,000-yard seasons.
In fact, he used to go one-on-one at Oregon State against Bucs S Sabby Piscitelli.
"I don't want to overhype anyone. But this kid can definitely contribute and help this team win," Piscitelli said. "That's just my opinion. He definitely brings something to the table that some don't. It's something you can't explain.
"He's a competitor. I'm excited for him."
Morris said Stroughter has not been intimidated while going against the veterans.
"You want to talk about a guy developing habits and picking them up pretty quickly just by watching them from the vets? You're starting to see it," Morris said. "You're starting to see him put his pads down and start to finish; how to run a route; listening to everything the older guys do and taking it from them and stealing it."
Taking blame: You have to like the fact Morris took some responsibility for creating the tempo and environment during Wednesday's workout that spawned the fight between CB Aqib Talib and T Donald Penn. But there's no excuse for Talib using his helmet as a blunt instrument that inadvertently struck CB Torrie Cox.
C'mon. Peewee players know not to cross that line.
But Morris was smart to bring the squad together the next day during a 30-minute sprintathon.
"You want to get to your block, and you might go … by any means necessary," Morris said. "And when you speed up, they speed up. And when you speed up a little more, they speed up a little bit more.
"And then there's me as a head coach. I've got to control my tempo a little bit better. I'm a rookie, too. I've got to get them going and slow them down at the same time."
Quote of the week: "I remember the days when I would catch one ball every two days … in regular practice. Coming in, I did all that work, and I didn't catch one ball. And now I've got to watch this hour film, and I ain't on it. It's not a good feeling." — Clayton.
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.