Raheem Morris makes strong statement

Whether you realize it or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just made a pretty strong statement to their entire roster.

Coach Raheem Morris announced after Tuesday’s practice that running back Derrick Ward has been released.

“After practice today we were able to notify Mr. Ward,” Morris said. “It’s just like any other profession when it is time for you to depart. It’s not a surprise anytime in our profession anytime we tell you to go -- can’t say you’re surprised. You have every day to go out there and prove yourself. ”

I think the last part of that quote, about proving yourself, is hugely significant. Ward was signed to a big free-agent deal last year and the initial plan was for him to be the No. 1 running back. But Ward really didn’t do much last season as Cadillac Williams came back from injury and firmly grabbed the starting job. Much like former receiver Antonio Bryant, Ward didn’t always handle things the way the Bucs would have liked.

In a dismal preseason, he didn’t score any points with the coaches by pouting. The Bucs have a healthy Williams, a promising prospect in Kareem Huggins and they always can fall back on Earnest Graham, who can play fullback or tailback.

Yes, they could have hung onto Ward as insurance in case anything happened to Williams. It would have at least given them a veteran alternative that wouldn’t force a change at fullback. But Ward didn’t do anything to show the Bucs he was a guy they wanted on the field, and he put up a pretty convincing case that he wasn’t a guy they wanted in their locker room either.

Morris was hired last year and took a lot of criticism for being too friendly with his players and that label might have had some truth to it. He put up with some things last year that other coaches wouldn’t have. But it’s pretty clear Morris has learned from some mistakes in this area.

Last year, maybe he spent a little too much time trying to be everyone’s buddy. With moves like cutting Ward (and there could be some more veterans following soon), Morris is establishing himself as everyone’s coach.