It doesn’t take long to spot new Washington Redskins defensive backs Raheem Morris on the field down here at this week’s Senior Bowl practices.
While the South team’s defensive backs ran through drills, the 35-year-old Morris barked out instructions almost non-stop. Later, during seven-on-seven drills with defensive backs making plays against receivers, Morris bounded around downfield and cheering while jogging over to give players high-fives and airborne shoulder bumps.
“He’s got a great personality, he’s very charismatic, knows how to talk to the players,” says Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has known Morris since 2004 when they served as assistants in Tampa Bay. “[He] really can deal with anybody, and I’m excited to have him here.”
Shanahan said he was “fighting hard” to get Morris in Washington after the coach was fired as head coach in Tampa Bay earlier this month. But he wasn’t the only person in the organization with good familiarity with the coach. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen held the same title in Tampa Bay from 2004 to 2008. Paul Kelly, the Redskins director of football operations, held a similar title in Tampa Bay from 2004-08. And coach Mike Shanahan said he’d had Morris on his radar for years.
“I’ve always kept an eye on Raheem, and obviously when he got to be a head coach, I thought there’d never be a chance to have him on my staff,” Shanahan said. “But he was available, and we tried to get him and I think he’ll bring a lot to us.”
Morris interviewed with the Redskins roughly a week after his exit in Tampa Bay. He then interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator position, but wound up accepting the Redskins’ offer two weeks ago, before the Vikings finished interviewing candidates.
“I’m really excited to come in, be a part of a great staff,” Morris said on Tuesday. “Mike Shanahan’s a great coach, he’s been doing it a long time. One of the guys that’s been in this business for forever, so I can definitely learn a lot from him. Having the opportunity to be with Coach Haslett in the 3-4 system, and getting a chance to grow in my career and freshen and develop is something I’m looking forward to. And also being a contributor and helping the guys get better in the secondary. That’s what I look forward to.”
Morris said his fellow Redskins coaches have already embraced him into the family and made him feel welcome, something he believes will further help him make a smooth transition.
As defensive backs coach, Morris will coach cornerbacks and safeties for the Redskins. He’ll look to improve a secondary that last season recorded only 10 interceptions, which ranked among the worst in the league.
But Morris believes he has talented players to work with, especially at cornerback, where he already has a strong rapport with DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Morris coached Wilson at the Senior Bowl in 2007, and he developed a relationship with Hall, who as a member of the Atlanta Falcons faced Morris’ teams twice a year.
“Obviously, I have very close relationships with both of those players. I feel very strongly about them,” Morris said. “Hopefully when I get back to the facility, I get a chance to watch tape, get a chance to develop and grow with those guys, we can make improvements together.”