TAMPA — Coach Raheem Morris has said the Bucs want to embrace the heat of the Tampa Bay area, believing they may have an advantage over opponents who aren't used to it.
But after watching film of Wednesday's practice, Morris said he called a late "audible" to move Thursday's workout indoors to Tropicana Field to "beat the heat."
Morris had noticed the Rays were on the road in Boston and had Bucs officials contact the baseball club Wednesday night. He was very appreciative that the Rays allowed them to use the facility on short notice.
The Bucs, practicing in helmets but no pads, worked out in leftfield, with cones serving as a boundary.
"You want to embrace the heat. You just don't want to have it be a factor on your body, have it be a factor on your players," Morris said. "(Wednesday) was a rough practice for those guys; they went hard. You've got to scale where your team is and what you can do for them."
Morris said he doesn't know how much impact the heat has on players, nor if he'd look at using the Trop again. "It all depends on how this week plays out," he quipped.
Though the Bucs don't have an indoor practice facility, they sometimes use a cool-down tent.
Morris said they have to be "willing to try different things to give yourself an opportunity to find out" what works to give players relief in hot weather.
UP IN AIR: Though rookie P Brent Bowden was waived last weekend, Morris acknowledged there's a chance he could be the Bucs' punter Sunday in the opener against Cleveland.
The Bucs signed Australian P Chris Bryan this week, but they also added Bowden, their sixth-round draft pick this year, to the practice squad. Morris said the two are competing and could be for some time.
"Brent is not going to let the job go easy," Morris said. "We drafted this kid to come in here; he did a pretty good job with his inside-the-red-zone punts. We'd like a little bit more punch, and if he's able to come in here and provide that, you never know."
BACK IN GEAR: As expected, QB Josh Freeman returned to full participation, wearing no bandage on his fractured right thumb and throwing with no problems.
Freeman was limited in Wednesday's practice, which the Bucs had planned in advance due to the longer practice week and to rest him. Freeman is expected to start Sunday.
"He looked great (Thursday)," Morris said. "Going full speed, full bore."
STEPPING UP: Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said 2010 second-round draft pick WR Arrelious Benn has come on really strong recently and is competing with WR Maurice Stovall for playing time against the Browns.
"I think he can help us," Olson said.
That may not have seemed as likely several weeks ago. Benn didn't get off to as strong a start as fellow rookie WR Mike Williams, who earned one starting spot.
But as Benn has gotten a better understanding of the offense, he has been able to show more on the field, including two touchdowns in the preseason finale against the Texans.
"I'm way, way, way ahead of where I was at first," Benn said. "It's pretty much me grasping the offense and feeling comfortable as far as what I'm doing. I'm just going out there and playing and displaying it on the field."
Stovall, who started seven games last season, missed the final three preseason games due to an ankle injury. But Stovall said he's close to 100 percent, is at full participation in practice and is ready to compete.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]