TAMPA — The Bucs conducted a full-contact, goal-line drill during a recent practice that was lively and physical. It could have been described as "violent," a term embraced by coach Raheem Morris.
But even he got more than he bargained for from linebacker Quincy Black.
"I couldn't tell those were his teammates he was tackling," Morris said of Black. "When (cornerback) Ronde Barber tackles guys in practice, it's a lot different than it is on game day. With Quincy, I can't tell yet."
One never knows where one stands with Black. He is silent and stoic. When he does speak, he is curt and to the point.
He told a reporter Monday: "I have a camp mentality. … I'm sorry if I'm not the most exciting guy right now."
Don't mistake his demeanor as a sign he is not engaged. His intensity on the field makes it clear he is anything but.
"You need that guy who kind of causes some intimidation," Morris said.
Apparently, Black is just the man for the job.
But there was a time when this would never have seemed likely. When Black was drafted by the Bucs in the third round in 2007, he was nowhere near the forefront of anyone's mind.
Derrick Brooks was entrenched as the starter at weakside linebacker. Cato June was the Bucs' prized offseason acquisition and slated to start at strongside. Barrett Ruud was taking over in the middle.
Black quietly — how else? — took his place in the background and, perhaps, got too comfortable.
"I had two Pro Bowlers coming in ahead of me," he said. "Cato had just come off the Super Bowl (with the Colts). Brooks had just come off a Pro Bowl. Barrett was coming into his own. So, I went out on special teams and did the best I could."
After two seasons of Black doing just that, there came a time when it no longer was enough.
Said Morris: "He told me, 'Hey, I kind of coasted through those first two years, and it's my own fault. Then I developed just a hunger and an itch.' "
Then, Black acted on those feelings.
"When I became the defensive coordinator, and I was going to play him at that edge rush spot, it kind of lit a little fire under him," Morris said. "Now he's at that point in his career where he's going to ascend to greatness or he's just going to be (average). The decision he's making right now points to greatness."
Given all the plans the Bucs have for Black, he should have every opportunity to show what he can become. The strongside linebacker often is the least noticeable of the trio, but Morris' plans call for Black to be put in a unique position to make all manner of plays.
There are times Black might be lined up as a pass rusher in a three-point stance, as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 configuration or deep down the field in pass coverage. While the strongside linebacker typically leaves in favor of a fifth defensive back in passing situations, the Bucs are exploring opportunities to keep Black in the game and turn him loose.
"We did some things with him last year, moving him around and using some 3-4 type of stuff," linebackers coach Joe Baker said. "We feel good about moving him around because he's such a good athlete. And, especially when you get into some of the (passing) situations where you already have Geno Hayes on the field, we'd love to find ways to keep (Black) out there.
"It all depends on him. If he becomes such a good player that you don't want to take him off the field, then we'll find ways to keep him out there."
In college at New Mexico, Black played a unique hybrid role made famous by Bears star and former Lobo Brian Urlacher. Black was, in junior college, primarily a pass rusher. At New Mexico, he grew into a linebacker who could cover lots of ground and thrive near the line of scrimmage. Now Black thinks he can get back to his roots with the Bucs.
Black can handle a range of tasks largely because of his athleticism. Morris and teammates have used the term "freakish" to describe him, a reference to Black's impressive speed and menacing size (6-2, 240 pounds). His weight-room feats are famous around the team facility.
Morris recounted the words of cornerback Aqib Talib during a recent lightning delay.
"Aqib said, 'Hey, Coach, forget practice,' " Morris recalled. " 'Let's just go watch Quincy Black lift in the weight room!' "
All Black must do now is make a name for the feats that matter — the ones on the field.
"I think," Morris said, "he wants to be great."