Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Raheem Morris, Relationships, Emotions Both Part Of Football
ASHBURN – Dezmon Briscoe arrived in Tampa Bay early in the 2010 season with plenty of talent – and just as many questions about his maturity.
Briscoe had a reputation of tardiness and disinterest while at Kansas, and that carried over to Cincinnati during his first training camp. The Bengals balanced the positives and negatives of the 6-foot-2 receiver and decided, ultimately, he wasn’t worth the risk.
Raheem Morris did. Then the Buccaneers’ head coach, Morris signed Briscoe early in the season, and to offer assistance to the young rookie, the two would meet each Friday and discuss the events in Briscoe’s life.
“It was all about what was going on, questions here and there,” said Briscoe, now with the Washington Redskins. “He wanted to see what was going on and was keeping up, checking in, week-by-week.
“I think it helped me out a whole lot. I matured as a person coming out of college. He just made sure I stayed on the right course.”
Morris, with his carefree attitude and his easygoing personality, was the prototypical players’ coach. Just 32 when he was hired to lead Tampa Bay – an incredibly young age by NFL head coaching standards – he oversaw the Buccaneers for three seasons, leading them to a quick turnaround and a 10-6 record in 2010.
That success didn’t stick. Morris was fired after the team finished 4-12 last season, and 10 days later, Washington hired him as its defensive backs coach.
He will return to Tampa Bay for the first time on Sunday when the Redskins play the Buccaneers.
“Being that I was pretty much raised and grew up and born in Tampa, it feels like, this will be the first time that I actually go anywhere it’s a meaningful game,” Morris said Friday. “It’ll be fun.”
Morris began his tenure in Tampa Bay in 2002, when he was a quality control coach the year the Buccaneers defeated Oakland in the Super Bowl. He was a defensive assistant and then the assistant defensive backs coach before leaving to become Kansas State’s defensive coordinator at in 2006, but returned in 2007 as the defensive backs coach and was named head coach in 2009.
“He’s very personable, and that goes over very well with the players,” said Ronde Barber, who has been with the Buccaneers since 2007, is a year and a half older than Morris and considers him a friend. “If you’re in the locker room with him, if you play for him, you just can’t help it. It’s just his personality, and I think the guys appreciate him for who he always is going to be.”
Morris made his mark with the Redskins immediately upon his hiring, freshening up meetings with his witticisms and his banter. Early in training camp, noted trash talker DeAngelo Hall said Morris had even upstaged him.
During one practice, Morris taunted quarterback Robert Griffin III when the defensive backs shut him down in the end zone. Not long after, Griffin scrambled for the touchdown himself, then playfully threw the ball at Morris.
“Anybody who comes out there and goes out of their way trying to talk and stuff, it can wear on people, but not Raheem,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s how he is 24/7. That’s how he is all the time.”
Morris said he still occasionally talks to people associated with the Buccaneers, including some in ownership and management. It’s hard not to, he said, given the relationships he developed during his career.
In football, Morris has learned, emotions are a big part of the game.
“A lot of people in this game had a lot to do with me coming to Tampa, and knowing these guys, it’s always emotional,” Morris said. “But I’ve got a bunch of good guys there, and it’s just the Washington Redskins going in and trying to get a victory to make us 2-2 at the end of this first quarter [of the season]. That’s the most important thing.”