In light of linebacker Geno Hayes’ weekend arrest, the team’s third arrest in as many months, quarterback Josh Freeman told the media Wednesday that team leaders are emphasizing off-the-field behavior.
And they’re taking the heat off head coach Raheem Morris in the process.
Whispers of Morris’ lack of discipline and professionalism have passed through the media recently, given the team’s off-field issues.
Freeman said it’s on the players, not Morris.
“I don't think it says anything about the type of coach Raheem is,” said Freeman. “I think some people could look at it that way, but honestly, the circumstances which the stuff has occurred, it's all on the player.”
Tight end Jerramy Stevens was released after his arrest in late October, but he had a long history if issues with the law. Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams was arrested just before Thanksgiving and charged with driving under the influence despite a blood alcohol content below the legal limit.
Hayes’ December arrest for disorderly conduct marks the third consecutive month with an off-field incident for the Buccaneers, by far the youngest team in the NFL.
Freeman said the mood at practiced has changed a bit in light of the recent issues, but the focus is still on football and securing a playoff spot, and their motivation to stay out of trouble is as much about their respect for Morris as it is professional responsibility.
“It doesn’t speak well on the type of coach Raheem is,” said Freeman. “Everybody has the utmost respect for Raheem, and the talk has really just been ‘we really have to stop screwing this guy over by getting in trouble off the field,’ and that’s basically been the only wrinkle.”
Hayes addressed the media Wednesday, apologizing for the incident.
The Buccaneers are right in the thick of the NFC playoff race, just one game behind the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, all 9-4, for the final playoff spot. Either the Eagles or Giants will win the NFC East and the Bears will likely win the NFC North, leaving either the Giants or Eagles to fight with the Buccaneers, along with the 8-5 Green Bay Packers.
It would take a monumental collapse for the Buccaneers to overtake the New Orleans Saints (10-3) for the other Wild Card spot, but the teams do play in Week 17 at New Orleans.
The Buccaneers host the Detroit Lions Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.
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