Greg Schiano preaches ball security

Updated: March 29, 2012, 7:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has a message for starting running back LeGarrette Blount: Protect the ball, or you won't play.

Schiano, speaking Wednesday morning at the NFL's owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., praised the running back's ability, but also put him on notice.

"I think LeGarrette has tons of ability," Schiano said. "No one who touches the football will get touches if they don't protect the football. That is one of our core covenants -- the ball. It's so important they named the game after it. We make a big deal about it."

Blount rushed for 781 yards and five touchdowns last season but fumbled five times and lost three of them in the team's disastrous 4-12 season that led to the firing of coach Raheem Morris and hiring of Schiano.

Schiano on Wednesday talked about how Ray Rice turned around his program at Rutgers. He also talked about how he likes to have a "bell-cow" back.

"So I do believe if you have the right (running back), you just feed him. And great backs want the ball," Schiano said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Schiano was asked about Alabama running back Trent Richardson, a possibility for the Bucs with the No. 5 overall selection. Richardson fumbled just once in 614 career touches with the Crimson Tide.

When asked if Richardson is a "bell-cow" back, Schiano said: "He could be. He's done it in what is arguably the toughest league in college football."

ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas contributed to this report.