Bucs' Morris is a student of the game
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris may look like a college student, but he's not a slacker. He's been taking notes.
Peek in his desk drawer and you'll find some composition notebooks with plenty of material from teachers such as Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Mike Tomlin, Herm Edwards, Jon Gruden and, yes, Rod Marinelli.
"I use a lot of 'Rod-isms,' like we like to call 'em -- 'see a little, see a lot,'" said Morris. "Talk about Coach Dungy, 'no excuses.' Mike Tomlin, 'mentality before reality'; Herm Edwards, 'respect for the [NFL] shield.' Talk Coach Gruden, 'you're either getting better or you're getting worse.'"
He will not apologize for using Marinelli as a role model, despite Marinelli's record as head coach in Detroit, punctuated by an 0-16 season in 2008. Morris was a fellow assistant with the Bucs when Marinelli served as the assistant head coach/defensive line.
"You're talking about one of best coaches ever in this great game we call football and anyone who has been around him will say the same thing," Morris said. "He's not to be judged by that 0-16, but by how he handled it. Great people and great men come out of situations whether you're riding high or you're riding low. If you know Rod Marinelli at all, he's always even-keeled. He never rides the emotional roller coaster."
Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber is the last remaining dinosaur with the Bucs after they purged the roster to make room for younger players. Whereas linebacker Derrick Brooks did not survive, the Bucs kept Barber, who is 34 and two years older than his head coach. He has been around all the coaches that Morris cited as mentors but does not see his new coach as a clone.
"He's definitely Raheem Morris," said Barber. "You can see some of those other guys in him, but he has his own mannerisms and there's a way about him that's a lot different from any of those guys. Obviously, he's most similar to [Tomlin], they were so close all those years before Mike left for Minnesota [as defensive coordinator]."
Barber added that Morris' youthful looks and energetic approach may leave the impression "that he doesn't have the potential to do it, but really, he's shown he's a great players' coach. I know it's a cliché, but he really can relate to a lot of players on this football team because we are a young team. He's not overly aggressive, he's not real passive. It's just the right mix. The youth thing, he's taken advantage of it by making us really feel like we're all in this together and I think the guys have bought in."
The Bucs better buy in because if a front-office, coaching and roster makeover isn't scary enough, just look at the team's opening seven games. Tampa plays the entire NFC East in the first five games with a Buffalo road game in Week 2. Then the Bucs play their first NFC South game against defending division champion Carolina before they have a "home" game against the New England Patriots -- in London.
Morris' attitude about this most intimidating schedule? He smiles.
"You want to be best, you want to play the best," said Morris. "If you want to find out if you can win in December and January and whether you can play with the best teams or not, you might as well find out right off the bat."
That is probably in one of those notebooks within arm's reach at his desk.
Here's more of what I learned and observed at Buccaneers training camp, the 19th stop on my training camp bus tour:
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
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MORT GOES TO CAMP
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's 21-team bus tour of training camps is over. Mort's trip started in Arlington, Texas, where he met Dallas owner Jerry Jones at the team's new stadium and ended in Miami Gardens, Fla., for a visit with the Dolphins. Mort camp page