Former Raider Morris Fighting for Starting Spot - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/7/02

Former Raider Morris Fighting for Starting Spot

The words spouted from Sammy Morris' mouth without hesitation. He realized how trivial the phrase sounded, but he didn't care. It was the kind of altruistic, unassuming statement Bills fans have become accustomed to during the 25 year-old running back's two year stint in Buffalo.

"I will do whatever it takes to help this team win," Morris said. "I know that sounds like the biggest cliche, but it's the truth. Whether it's by getting 15 - 20 carries a game or by contributing one play a game, I just want to help this team win games."

Morris, a fifth round draft pick in 2000 out of Texas Tech, surprised Buffalo two years ago as a rookie, amassing 341 yards on the ground and leading the team in rushing touchdowns with five. Morris' fortunes turned last season, however, as a nagging ankle injury limited him to 20 carries.

The after-effects of that injury are gone, and Morris is engaged in perhaps the most heated positional dogfight of Bills training camp. Morris is caught in a logjam at running back, where he, Travis Henry, Shawn Bryson, Richard Huntley, Joe Burns, and Curtis Alexander are jostling for playing time.

As his self-proclaimed noncliche says, Morris will bend over backward for the team. That attitude has not slipped past his coaches and teammates.

"There's a lot of competition at the position, but he's the type of person that will fight for the job," running backs coach Steve Fairchild said. "He's the nicest guy to be around, and the perfect kind of guy you want to coach. His mind is in the right place."

"He's such a fighter," fullback Larry Centers said. "He brings so much to the team. We need him to produce for us."

Morris' breakthrough season in 2000 shocked most observers because of his lackluster college career. Morris was eligible for only two seasons -- his freshman and senior years -- because of academic reasons. He was a gamble in the fifth round, but Morris persevered. He shined in training camp and eventually started eight games.

Morris has shown flashes of that hard-nosed rookie in training camp. His ankle fully healed, Morris has regained full mobility. On one play Friday, Morris bounced a broken play to the outside, shaking off three defenders before sprinting up the sideline. The next play, Morris plowed up the middle, barreling over a linebacker.

"His versatility makes him stand out," Fairchild said. "He brings a lot of things to our team."

Fairchild and Morris have made a concerted effort during training camp to get Morris the ball more often as a receiver. Morris caught 37 passes in 2000, giving Buffalo the potential for another receiving threat behind Centers out of the backfield.

"I think I'm the most effective when I can get into the open field, catch the ball, and match up on a linebacker," Morris said. "Ever since I first started playing, since second grade, I've done well catching the ball."

Should Morris' quest for playing time at running back fall short, his selfless outlook will allow him to contribute. As last year's special teams captain, Morris excelled at covering punts and kickoffs. His versatility makes it tough for the Bills to cut him. One way or another, Morris believes his work ethic will earn him a spot on the field.

"The more you can do, the easier it is to stick with a team," Morris said. "If I'm a starter, that's great. If I'm a third down back, that's fine. If I'm just a special teams guy, that's fine, too. I just want to help this team get to the next level."

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