After struggling through the middle portion of the season because of fatigue and ankle injuries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster again is starting to play at a high level, according to head coach Raheem Morris.
"He's starting to come back around and play fast and play physical again,'' said Morris, who believes Foster's success has come under conditions few other young Tampa Bay linebackers have faced.
The rookie from the University of Washington has been one of the few bright spots for the slumping Bucs, who are 4-10 and have lost eight straight heading to Carolina on Saturday.
"(Foster) was thrust into kind of an awkward situation,'' Morris said. "Derrick Brooks had Hardy Nickerson, you know, and (Shelton) Quarles had Derrick. Those guys had established guys around them that were beasts and in some cases got a chance to sit behind.
"But (Foster) was thrown right in. And he's done a nice job of handling it as a young football player and he's done a nice of job of fighting through all the aches and pains that you have to deal with in the NFL.''
Foster has a team-high 114 tackles, including three for a loss. He has two sacks, four quarterback pressures, one interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Morris' take on Tebow
Morris got his first good look at Broncos QB Tim Tebow on Sunday and came away with a unique perspective on his unique style play.
"He's like LeGarrette Blount running the ball at the quarterback position,'' Morris said, referring to the Bucs' physical running back. "It's no different than when you're dealing with a guy like (Panthers QB) Cam (Newton).
"Cam is a little bit different, because he does a great job of not taking those hits, whereas Tebow, he's an axe murder with the ball in his hand. It's two different dynamics, but it's certainly fun to watch.''
Comings and goings
Three days after losing free agent Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins, the Tennessee Titans signed former Bucs DT Jovan Haye as a replacement on March 2, 2009. A few days later, Haynesworth and Haye literally crossed paths on their way to their new teams.
"The day I traveled to Tennessee, I'm at the airport and I'm going down to baggage claim and Albert walks right past me, and he gives me that look,'' said Haye, who is now teammates with Haynesworth after signing this week with the Bucs.
"I thought, 'That's funny; you're leaving and I'm coming.' It's always been a business. That's just the way it is in the NFL.''
Let's be honest
Asked about potential Pro Bowl candidates among the Bucs, Morris suggested P Mike Koenen, RG Davin Joseph and CB Ronde Barber would be worthy of such an honor this year. Morris isn't holding his breath, though.
"Usually those things go to winning football teams,'' he said. "We're more interested in getting back into the race and becoming a team that matters again. That's what we want to do to be honest with you.''
DE Michael Bennett (toe), LB Geno Hayes (knee), DT Haynesworth (knee) and DT Brian Price (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. WR Arrelious Benn (concussion), QB Josh Freeman (shoulder) and WR Sammie Stroughter (knee) fully participated and are expected to play Saturday.