Head Coach Raheem Morris surprised his players Thursday with a drill focusing on a game-deciding play
Raheem Morris painted a scenario that would thrill any fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Trailing 35-28 and with just seconds to play, Jeff Jagodzinski's offense produces a long touchdown pass. The Buccaneers need just the extra point to send the game into overtime, but Morris makes the gutsy call, leaving the offense on the field for a two-point conversion. Win or lose on the spot.
The score, probably not by accident, mimics the memorable Tampa Bay win over the Washington Redskins in 2005. The Buccaneers scored a last-minute touchdown in that game to make it 35-34, and successfully pulled off a two-point conversion (a Mike Alstott run) to win the game. The team actually lined up for a traditional extra point first but then changed strategies after a penalty halved the distance to the goal line.
In this case, Morris told the 2009 Buccaneers kneeling around him on Practice Field #1 behind One Buccaneer Place, there was no penalty to help them out. This was a full-on roll of the dice, and Morris wanted the first-string offense to battle the first-string defense.
No, it wasn't a real game, so it wasn't truly a display of guts. It was a scenario, one of the many that Morris is trying to present to his players during these organized team activity (OTA) practices of May and June. Thursday morning marked the last of the Bucs' 14 OTAs, and Morris had scheduled one very special scenario to throw at his players.
Moreover, this was a "sudden change" period, a short segment on the practice schedule that is sprung on the players without a warning. The various position groups were in individual drills about 45 minutes into Thursday's workout when Morris called for the air horn that would signal the sudden change. Unsatisfied with the swiftness of the players' response to the horn, the intense coach made them run back into place twice before he announced the substance of the drill.
What Morris wanted was a matching intensity out of the players. This wasn't a game, and little more than offensive/defensive bragging rights were on the line. But Morris wanted the play run as seriously as it would be on a fall Sunday, with a critical game on the line (albeit with no contact, here in the voluntary days of June).
The offense responded. Tight end Kellen Winslow lined up in the left slot, crossed over the top of the outside receiver on the snap and ran a fade to the back left pylon. Luke McCown threw a perfect lob that cleared the hands of the defender, and Winslow caught it and barely got two feet in. (The defenders watching from the sideline disputed the call, but the referee on the spot signaled the touchdown, ending the argument.)
Morris appreciated the execution of the play but wanted something more out of each side. From the offense, he wished to see more excitement over their success; from the defense, he wanted to see them rise to the challenge on the next snap. The second-string units came on for the next play and the defense won this one, as a fade to wide receiver Maurice Stovall to the back right corner just took the passcatcher out of bounds.
Sudden change drills are usually quite brief, and after this one the team went directly into a group install session, returning to a normal practice schedule. There were two more specific-situation drills scheduled for the whole team later in practice, one a four-minute period (the offense trying to run out the clock with a lead) and one an "anything goes" move-the-ball exercise in the final two minutes of a game.
Those drills were scheduled to take the team to the end of its two-hour practice, and the end of the OTAs overall. A three-day mandatory mini-camp next week will end the team's 14-week offseason training program. Buccaneers.com will have more in-depth coverage of Thursday's work, complete with Coach Morris' thoughts, later in the afternoon. As always, the site will also provide a video peek at the action through the daily Buccaneers Insider, OTA edition.