I do as commanded. Posted on behalf of JScott.
A lot of us have questioned the moves of new General Manager Mark Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris, specifically the decision to cut future Hall of Fame LB Derrick Brooks, the consummate professional in RB Warrick Dunn, and the Brooks-replacement-in-waiting in LB Cato June. It was difficult to come to grips with the loss of these guys (admittedly some of us haven’t yet) as we were told these moves were made in order to fit the system and that they had nothing to do with age issues. Rick Stroud of the St. Pete Times sheds a little light on what may be the true issue at hand: injuries. Raheem has talked about this team getting tougher from day one, for a team that was constantly injured under former Head Coach Jon Gruden, that didn’t bode well for the current personnel and so tough decisions had to be made.
With the younger bodies on the roster Raheem wants to practice in pads more as a way to become tougher:
"I'm a pad guy. I want to be in more pads. I believe that's how you get back to your core beliefs, your fundamentals, your pad level, your tackling, your blocking things of that nature. No knock against Coach Gruden. I'm sure he wanted to, also. But we were older, we were a little beat up, so he had to make decisions, and he made his decisions based on what he thought was best for the team at the time. You don't second-guess those decisions. You just do what you think needs to be done." – Head Coach Raheem Morris per the St. Pete Times
The great thing about Raheem thus far is that he’s not blaming injuries for the collapse late last season. He also acknowledges that there was a collapse and that his defense wore down. He envisions becoming a tougher football team will lead to long term success:
"In this game, the physical team always wins. The more physical team, the team that can run the football, the team that tackles, the team that hits is always going to be better. Everything has got to change as far as that; it's my job to relate to those guys what I expect out of them, what I need them to give me and then hold them accountable doing it. Once I get a chance to do that, it will be fine. You're looking for 53 guys who are going to buy in and then go to war with those guys. If it's only 40 at the time, then you play with those 40 until you can develop the other guys, and you tolerate the rest until you can replace them." – Head Coach Raheem Morris per the St. Pete Times
There’s been a lot of questions this off-season about whether Raheem is too close to his players and whether that closeness would eventually undermine his authority. Former Buccaneer in Chidi Ahanotu questioned whether Raheem could be enough of a dictator with his players. I think that quote above about replacing the players that don’t buy in bodes well for Morris’ ability to control this team and keep a stern line between friend and coach. Last year there were certain players that got preferential treatment in terms of participating in practice and by instilling more padded practices it appears Raheem will not play that game with anyone despite of the player’s status on the club. That’s good, those are characteristics of a leader and a coach that isn’t willing to be walked all over. At this point we can only take Raheem at his word, but if the previous roster cuts are any indication, it appears Morris is serious about changing the culture of this ball club. I look forward to the changes, with that said… Bring on the practices!!
Hat tip to Matt for the linkage…