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Bucs coach Morris takes on Ward, Piscitelli

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Aug. 30, 2010 @ 9:52 a.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Some thought Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was on the brink of being fired before his team rallied to win two of its final three games last season. He was retained, despite Tampa Bay's 3-13 record, and Morris appears more willing than ever to exercise the authority he has been given — in public and behind the scenes. In recent days Morris has called out two players who haven't performed up to expectations since he was hired. Being bluntly honest, even when what he's saying may not sit well with players, is a role the second-year head coach appears to be quite comfortable in, despite his relative inexperience.

Morris criticized RB Derrick Ward, a seven-year veteran, for being overweight on Aug. 25. Ward, who has been a major disappointment, disagreed with Morris' characterization of his condition, but there are reports that he is on the roster bubble about a year and a half after Tampa Bay signed him to a four-year, $17 million deal. One day earlier, Morris took a shot at SS Sabby Piscitelli. After officially losing his starting job to free-agent addition Sean Jones, Piscitelli questioned whether he had been given a fair shot to keep the starting job. Morris fired back.

"If (Piscitelli) thinks that way (about the starting job), that's probably why he didn't get it." Morris said.

Some coaches shy away from publicly critiquing players, opting to protect them from media scrutiny at all costs. Morris' approach could lead to more friction between the coach and the two players than would have otherwise existed, but we're told GM Mark Dominik is fine with the way Morris has handled those situations.

Those who have watched Morris throughout the offseason and training camp say there are signs that he is growing into a job that seemed to overwhelm him at times in 2009. He appears to have the full support of ownership, and Dominik is in his corner.

Morris' job is secure for now, but the Bucs are going to need to produce more wins in his second season and give a frustrated fan base a reason to believe if he's going to enjoy the same sense of security for the duration of the 2010 campaign. The Bucs' schedule, which looks far more manageable than last season's slate, could get an assist in that goal.

 

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