TAMPA – The departure of veteran middle linebacker Barrett Ruud left Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris a bit nostalgic Sunday, even as he looks forward to a young player stepping up to claim the role of defensive quarterback.
Ruud, who led the Bucs in tackles for each of the past four seasons, signed with the Tennessee Titans Saturday night as an unrestricted free agent.
"Obviously, personally, I'm going to miss him to death,'' Morris said after Sunday morning's walk-through practice. "Barrett was more than just my Mike backer, he was a close friend. I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he goes on to prove us wrong and makes it happen.''
Unless Tampa Bay signs a veteran, the competition to replace Ruud will feature a group of inexperienced players.
"It's time to move on,'' said Morris, "and it provides an opportunity for one of these young guys – a Tyrone McKenzie, a Mason Foster, a Derrell Smith, Player 'X,' somebody who's going to step up and show out when we put the pads on.''
Smith, 23, is an undrafted free agent from Syracuse. The Bucs drafted Foster in the third round out of Washington and McKenzie, 25, has never started an NFL game