Humility, thy name is
The sophomore Redskins running back has never bought into the hype of his sensational rookie season, frequently dismissing the praise with a smile, saying things like, “I’m just Alfred.”
Heading into the team’s offseason activities, Morris said he wanted to become a more complete running back, working on his pass protection, pass receiving and breakaway speed.
“A lot of people come out of college and they just don’t spend the time on catching the ball. He has spent a lot of time in the offseason catching the football, running routes and you can see that hard work has paid off because he’s a lot more natural,” Shanahan said. “It gives you another dimension.”
Thanks to his offseason dedication, Shanahan said Morris has a much better chance of staying in the game on third down, as he brings the most weapons to the huddle.
“[Morris] has always been a blocker – he’s got that strength – but he does have a different type of gear and he does have excellent hands. You just couldn’t see it right away because he didn’t work on it,” Shanahan explained. “There have been a lot of backs in the past that have been in colleges that really don’t throw the football a lot. They emphasize the running game and Alfred was one of those types of guys.
“He’s elevated his game and he will be able to catch the ball and be a lot more instrumental in our passing game.”
With almost a month to go before games count, the coaching staff elected to rest him in the team’s first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
Even as the team’s franchise back, Morris had the itch to play Thursday night, and told Antwaan Randle El on the Redskins’ in-game broadcast that it felt weird to wear sweats while his teammates went to battle.
After all, Morris still has a starting job to win.
“[Training camp] is a little different from last year, you know. Going in, nobody knew who you were, you’re fighting for a job,” he said. “Now, since you do have a job, in my mind I’m still not the starter.
“My mindset going into camp is the same way I came in last year. I have to earn my spot.”
Coming out of the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Morris was discounted by most as roster fodder last preseason, but rode a number of impressive preseason performances to the starting job.
From there, he took the ball 335 times for a franchise record 1,613 yards, tacking on 13 touchdowns along the way.
This year, Morris looks at the rest of a diverse and talented running back field and looks forward to proving that he is still the team’s top back.
“I have to be the best that I can be…it’s been going great so far,” he said. “I wish I was out on the field today, but they decided that I wouldn’t play.
“I’m looking forward to next week.”
One of Morris’ biggest assets in improving on last year is the continuity along the offensive line, where the unit returns all five starters from last year.
This may actually be the first time Morris has ever returned with the same group of guys for two years in a row.
“Back in college and high school, I had to deal with new guys coming in. I think after my second year starting in college, I had a whole new O-line,” he said with a chuckle. “It makes it a lot easier when they know what they’re doing, like I said, once again getting back to running behind them and just having that camaraderie and jelling with them makes it a lot easier.”