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Josh Freeman says arrests not a reflection on Raheem

Raheem Morris

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris yells at an official during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


Raheem Morris has become one of the hottest young coaches in the NFL, thanks to a team that has won nearly three times the games in 2010 that it won in 2009 and a demeanor and temperament conducive to compelling sound bites.

But the rash of player arrests, which to date has not resulted in Bengals-style scrutiny of the Buccaneers, could bite Raheem in the butt when it’s time to cast ballots for the AP coach of the year award.

The Monday arrest of linebacker Geno Hayes is the latest in-season legal snafu. Previously, rookie receiver Mike Williams was arrested for suspicion of DUI, and tight end Jerramy Stevens was arrested on drug charges not long before he was due to check in to the team hotel.

It’s not an aberration. The Bucs have provided safe harbor to multiple guys with character questions. Williams fell to round four after being kicked off the team at Syracuse, and Stevens has had more entanglements than a brush in Don King’s hair.

Throw in players like Aqib Talib and LeGarrette Blount and Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Trueblood and Tenard Jackson and Dez Briscoe, and it’s easy to wonder whether the Bucs have decided to take a page out of Mike Brown’s approach to building a team. By ignoring the red flags that have scared other teams away, talented players can be had at a lower price and/or draft position.

Quarterback Josh Freeman insists that the rash of arrests isn’t a reflection on coach Raheem Morris. “Raheem is a great coach,” Freeman said Wednsday, via “I mean everybody has the utmost respect for Raheem and the talk has really been stop screwing this guy over by getting in trouble off the field. That’s basically been the only wrinkle.”

So should Morris have any responsibility for the situation?

“Not at all,” Freeman said. “I don’t think it says anything about the type of coach Raheem is. I think some people could look at it that way, but honestly the circumstances where the stuff occurred it is all on the player. I mean his job is to coach us and put us in position to win football games. He’s done just that. When we get done with football you can’t expect Raheem to go to everybody’s house at a certain hour. It is the NFL we have to take a higher level of responsibility on ourselves from college. As team captains and leaders we’ve been stressing that a lot lately.”

We disagree with Freeman. It’s hard for Morris to put players in position to win football games if they aren’t able to play because they’ve been suspended. And so it becomes incumbent on the head coach to get through to his players on his own, to insist that the organization take action to prevent these situations, and to do a better job of hiring men who can be aggressive, talented players on the field and not potential menaces to society when off the field.

Yes, Morris bears some of the blame for this, as does the rest of the organization.

Then again, it’s not as if the Bucs have to worry about people not buying tickets if they fail to address the situation.