Each day during training camp, the Redskins Blog will be highlighting one rookie as they participate in their first professional camp and try to find their way onto the final roster. Today’s spotlight is on running back Alfred Morris.
A majority of those currently on the Washington Redskins’ training camp roster are enjoying the luxury of carrying around an iPad playbook instead of the ultra-heavy, ultra-clunky traditional paper playbook that is contained within a large binder.
Not rookie running back Alfred Morris.
Though Morris loves the latest technology as much as the next man, the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic said nothing beats the simple pen-and-paper approach.
“I like taking notes,” Morris said this week after a walk-through morning practice at Redskins Park. “Like going over a play, I like writing notes on that play — if we’re talking about a certain play — I like writing notes on that play so I can come back to it, so I know where it’s at and I can flip through and find it whenever I need a refresher.”
It’s that simple approach that has pushed Morris — sought more as a linebacker than a rusher out of high school — into the Redskins’ training camp rotation of running backs.
‘Things are starting to slow down’
The Redskins Blog first caught up with Morris after his first full workout with the team during Organized Team Activities.
At the time, Morris admitted he found himself a little bit winded just trying to keep up with his veteran teammates — and his energetic coaches.
Since that time, however, Morris said he’s definitely gotten used to the pace.
“Things are starting to slow down,” Morris said this week. “The more I’m owning it — the playbook, the plays and knowing what I’m doing — everything is starting to slow down now. I’m still not always there, but it’s better.”
Morris used the expression “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse” to describe his experience so far with the Redskins.
“More so than anything is just the pass-protection, being able to read all my keys and stuff and knowing what protection I got and who I’m picking up and what I need to do, if I’m getting out or staying in,” he said. “Just getting more comfortable with that and slowing down even more.”
Morris said he’s welcomed the added challenge of putting on the shoulder pads for the team’s afternoon practices.
After all, Morris said he craves contact as a running back — something not all rushers can boast.
“It something I thought demanded my respect,” Morris said of playing physical. “I don’t really do it much in practice, but in gametime I go out there and I lower my shoulder on anybody. I don’t care if you’re a D-lineman, linebacker, cornerback — I’m going to lower my shoulder and eventually you’re not going to want to tackle me.”
Those second thoughts by defenders are important, Morris said.
“It makes it easier just to run around you or make you miss,” he said. “You misstep, you know, you’re kind of hesitant. That’s how I’ve always been at running and it works for me.”
But Morris trucking a defender is also something that gets the entire team — and its fan base — fired up.
“That’s something I never really paid that much attention to — just how much a like running someone over really pumps the team up — until I got to college and I would run a guy over and keep going and stuff and it would really fire up the O-linemen,” Morris admitted. “It made them want to block even more. They wanted me to get the ball so we could make bigger runs. It just fired them up.”
Even Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan has been fired up by Morris so far in practice.
“Once Coach Shanahan gave a me a high-five, I was like, ‘Oh, now that the coach is getting into it,'” Morris said. “That’s another aspect.”
Working with the vets
Many are penciling in Morris as the Redskins’ fourth running back so far, behind veterans (in no specific order) Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster.
At some point during the offseason and training camp, Hightower, Helu Jr. and Royster have sat out practice due to any number of issues — and Morris has been right there to take the reps.
Morris said he’s enjoyed competing against his teammates so far.
“I’m not worried about the horse race, but competition definitely makes everyone better,” he said. “I do watch them, some of their stuff. And they coach us up, the young guys. Hightower was helping me yesterday on route-running. And I definitely watch Helu because he’s a great route runner — yesterday he was making the linebackers look silly. So I definitely try to use their game, but try and make into my own game.”
Morris said his main competition on the field is not against Nos. 25, 29 or 35 — it’s against No. 46, his own number.
“I can’t beat them,” Morris said. “I can only beat myself. I just try to do the stuff they do and make it so it works for me.”
Technical mumbo jumbo
Catching passes out of the backfield is one of the more important aspects of Shanahan’s offense. Just ask Helu Jr., who caught a franchise-record 14 passes in a single game as a rookie last season.
Morris said he wasn’t relied upon much to catch the ball in college, so he’s been focusing on that aspect in training camp.
“It wasn’t like I couldn’t catch it,” Morris said. “(I’m) just working on being consistent. But I definitely have being doing great at it. I haven’t dropped a catch all camp — knock on wood. I’m just going out there and having fun and not worrying about it.”
Morris said his coaches have been teaching his how to catch the ball away from his body.
“I’ve got to make sure I look the ball in,” he said. “A lot of times people drop passes is (because) they touch the ball but they don’t look — they’re already looking up field. Just making sure you look the ball in while you’re tucking it, then making something happen after. Secure the catch first.”
Morris hails from Penscaola, Fla., where he played high school ball at Pine Forest High School as a standout running back and linebacker.
Other larger schools — like Florida and South Florida — showed interest in Morris as a linebacker, but he wanted to instead deliver some pain to linebackers in college.
So he decided on Florida Atlantic.
“I just felt that was where I was supposed to be,” Morris said. “Everything kind of fell into place. … I don’t think I would have had a better college experience anywhere else. It was a smaller school, didn’t get much of publicity and stuff. But I didn’t mind, I got to play football and now I’m here.”
But before he stepped foot on Florida Atlantic’s campus, Morris rocked the dreads at Pine Forest:
“I cut it off twice,” Morris said about his hair when he was given this photo after practice this week. “That was, I think that was high school, right? That was my high school picture, so I cut my hair before I went to college, like a couple weeks before camp. And then I cut it again in 2010, around September. So I grew it back and then I cut it off again.”
Five W’s and one H:
Who is your favorite cartoon character?
“Man, that’s a tough one. Bugs Bunny. I probably have to go with Bugs Bunny. I love that guy.”
What do you hope to do with your Exercise Science major?
“Probably go back to grad school and be a physician assistant. I’ve always been interested in the health field, and even when it comes to jobs. The health field is always going to be around. It’s always going to be a growing industry, so just staying around health — and I’m always fascinated by the body. So I will definitely get into that.”
When did you go to your first prom?
“First prom? Wow. I think seventh grade.”
Where were you when you were drafted by the Redskins?
“I was at home in Pensacola at my parents’ house.”
Why did you choose Florida Atlantic?
“I had a couple other bigger schools coming after me, but it was all for linebacker. How everything played out, everything just felt right. I mean, I enjoyed it. I don’t think I would have had a better college experience anywhere else.”
How fast is the Redskins’ front seven defensively?
“Pretty fast. Yeah, they move. In order to get some yardage on them, you really have to set them up on your block. That’s something coach definitely hits on a lot: you press and press and then [snaps] make your cut. That’s the only way you’re going to get yards. Other than that they’re fast; Orakpo and Kerrigan and all those guys. And Mr. Fletcher, London Fletcher, he’s got to be the smartest linebacker I’ve ever seen. Just to see it in person. I see why he’s been playing, fifteen years. He’s smart.”
Go to training camp
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