Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Time Has Come

Friday Notes: After a long week of practice and months of preparation, the Bucs are ready to face the Browns on Sunday, according to Coach Morris


Videotape sessions in March; morning lifts in April; OTAs in May; mini-camp in June; training camp in August; the preseason stretching into September…all these were steps in a progression leading to one specific date: Sunday, September 12.

The 12th has been a very precise deadline for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since April 20, when the NFL's 2010 schedule was released.  The tasks above were all necessary steps to successfully meet that deadline.  And meeting the deadline means one thing exactly: Being prepared, by September 12, to beat the Cleveland Browns.

The Buccaneers held their last full-speed workout in that months-long endeavor on Friday, capping both a strong week of practice and an entire offseason of dogged preparation.  Now there's nothing left to do but prove they didn't leave any work unfinished.  The Buccaneers and Browns kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

"It's time to get out and try to set the tone for us," said Head Coach Raheem Morris.  "The team is ready, the staff is ready and our organization is ready as a whole.  It's time to go out there and be your best self, like we've talked about all offseason.  We've been talking about it for a long time, and now we're here.  We've got one last walk-through tomorrow, one last warm-up, and then we'll go play our game."

The Buccaneers understand that there are many NFL observers who are still not convinced they're ready, mainly due to the team's youth.  Tampa Bay will start two players (Gerald McCoy and Mike Williams) it just drafted in April, plus five more (Josh Freeman, Roy Miller, Kyle Moore, E.J. Biggers and Sammie Stroughter) from the not-so-distant 2009 draft.  The Bucs' average age is 25.6 years old and their average NFL experience is just under three seasons played.

Some will use those numbers to contend the Bucs are a season or two away from competing.  That's not the mentality inside One Buccaneer Place, however.

"There's no excuse for being young," said Morris.  "We've got to go out there and start faster than anyone expects or anyone believes.  It's just got to be about us in that room.  It starts with the whole philosophy of what we talked about in the offseason – [playing] fast, smart, hard, consistent.  Those are the things that are going to help you grow up faster than you should."

There are still plenty of experienced players on the Bucs' roster – the likes of Ronde Barber, Barrett Ruud and Earnest Graham – and there is an encouraging maturity level among such young starters as Freeman, McCoy and Williams.  Morris believes that will help his young team overcome the unexpected obstacles that arise during a game.

"I talked about it today," said the coach, describing his team meeting before Friday's practice. "I said, 'It's going to be one of those deals where it's the first game of the season and everybody wants to start out fast.  And something may go wrong early on in that football game, but it can't matter.  It can't bother you.  It can't be all about panic, all disastrous.  We've got to stay together.'"

Youth didn't hold back such young teams as Green Bay and Indianapolis last year, both of which made the playoffs.  Obviously, those teams were loaded with young talent, and the Bucs are now in the same mold.

"Keep thinking we're young, and too young to make things happen in this league," said McCoy.  "I embrace it.  I had a huge challenge on my hands coming in, being drafted so high, and I still do because I haven't played a regular-season game yet.  So I love it.  I embrace challenges like that."

The entire Buccaneers team is about to get its first real challenge of 2010.  Coach Morris believes they're ready for it.


Price Prepares for Dual Role

The Buccaneers' 4-3 defensive front includes two interior linemen, one considered the "nose tackle" and one the "three-technique tackle."  It was out of the three-technique spot (also commonly called the "under tackle" at that time) that Warren Sapp terrorized opposing quarterbacks for Tampa Bay for years.

The nose tackle is also sometimes called the "zero-technique" because the player often lines up directly across from the center rather than in a gap between offensive linemen.  The middle of the center's body is the zero position, outside his shoulders is one, and so on.  That is also the genesis of the three-technique term, because that player lines up off the shoulder of one of the guards and tries to quickly penetrate the backfield between blockers.

Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, is the latest player to inherit the three-technique position, which has been admirably filled by several players but not truly *dominated *in the post-Sapp era.  Second-year man Roy Miller will start at nose tackle.

The Bucs' second pick in this year's draft was also a defensive tackle: UCLA's Brian Price.  Price is listed on the depth chart as Miller's back-up, but in fact he will see playing time at both interior positions.  Price played the three-technique in college and the Buccaneers believe he can help them in two ways – as a rush mate out of the nose with McCoy and as a player who can spell McCoy and get the same sort of pressure out of the three-technique spot.

"He's prepared and ready to do all those things," said Morris.  "Any time you play those inside positions you've got to be prepared to move around a little bit.  He plays the nose tackle for us to spell Roy, he can play some three-technique to spell Gerald.  We also have Ryan Sims who will be able to play those positions as well.  We'll have those guys in different packages for different things we do here on defense to exploit their best talents."

Price never batted an eye in the spring when the Bucs explained that he would be starting out primarily at nose tackle given the presence of McCoy.  He's willing to take on whatever role the team has in mind, and he knows he can make an impact at either spot.

"I'm a rookie at nose guard," said Price.  "This is my first time playing it so they're showing me the ropes.  The sky's the limit.  It's pretty fun playing the zero-technique, the nose-guard position, because the quarterback is right there.  I like challenging myself to split the double-team.  And Gerald McCoy is a great athlete so we should be a good tandem in there.

"But football is football, as everybody keeps telling me.  I'm just excited to get out there and play. There are only four D-tackles dressing, so I'm sure we'll all see a pretty good  amount of plays."


Injury Update

As is the NFL procedure, the Buccaneers released a more detailed injury report on Friday, the first one of the week that includes such game-status designations as "out, doubtful, questionable and probable."

Not surprisingly, given how light the report has been all week, there was little of concern on Friday's update.  Only three Buccaneers were listed, and all of them are considered probable to play against the Browns.

Linebacker Niko Koutouvides was actually removed from the report on Friday after appearing on it earlier in the week due to a neck ailment.  Remaining on the final report were Freeman (thumb), Price (hamstring) and wide receiver Maurice Stovall, all of whom participated fully in practice on both Thursday and Friday.

"Everyone has practiced this week," said Morris.  "Everyone has been a go at different times and everyone's been out there playing.  We look forward to seeing all our guys with healthy bodies, ready to go out there and get us a win."

The Browns submitted a lengthier injury report on Friday, including two players – linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (chest) and safety Nick Sorenson (head) – who have already been ruled out for Sunday's game.  A third Brown, reserve guard Shawn Lauvao, is considered doubtful for the game due to an ankle injury.

Cleveland also designated three players as questionable for the game: linebacker Marcus Benard (shoulder), defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (ankle) and guard Floyd Womack (knee).  Rogers and Womack are listed as starters on the Browns' depth chart.

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