Flynn's Focus: Extra Time Will Allow Bucs To Heal

September 16 – Because the NFL postponed all 15 of their scheduled games last weekend and the Buccaneers have a bye week this weekend, it looks like Tampa Bay will not play a football game for another two weeks. Although the Buccaneers were wounded just as badly as the rest of the country by last Tuesday's tragedies, the postponement could help the team heal in other ways.

Last Tuesday's tragic events in New York City and Washington D.C. left every American citizen scarred, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' players and coaches. But by the time the Buccaneers play their second game of the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on September 30, three weeks will have passed since they defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.

Tampa Bay was scheduled to host the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday in the Bucs' home opener, but last Thursday, the NFL postponed all 15 of last weekend's games, including the Bucs-Eagles matchup.

While the NFL did the right thing in postponing those games, the Buccaneers will unfortunately not play their second game of the season until September 30, which will be 21 days after their first.

There are some pros and cons to this type of situation, but Tampa Bay can indeed benefit from the extra time off.

Tampa Bay was banged up early and often throughout training camp, preseason and even after their first game of the regular season against Dallas..

One of those players was QB Brad Johnson, who missed the first week of training camp while waiting for stitches on his leg to dissolve. It appears as though Johnson will now be able to make up for the lost week of practice with the postponement of the Bucs-Eagles game.

The Buccaneers were without Pro Bowl C Jeff Christy (left knee sprain), DT James Cannida (left knee sprain), CB Dwight Smith (right foot sprain) and G Russ Hochstein (left foot fracture) when they visited Dallas on Sept. 3.

Besides being without Christy, Cannida, Smith and Hochstein, the Bucs had also just gotten Pro Bowl FB Mike Alstott (strained hamstring) and P Mark Royals (MCL sprain) back from injury. In the first quarter of the Bucs-Cowboys game, WR Keyshawn Johnson suffered a bruised thigh and was his status for Tampa Bay's next opponent-the Eagles, was uncertain.

Although he was going to miss most of the practices leading up to the Philadelphia game, K. Johnson insisted he would play against the Eagles. But how much could he have helped Tampa Bay's offense if his bruise did not heal as quickly as he hoped? Johnson will now have two additional weeks to allow his thigh bruise to subside.

Christy has made good progress in recovering from his leg sprain and was given a good chance of starting against the Eagles, but the game was canceled. Smith, who provides solid depth at the cornerback position and adds a spark on special teams, had the same optimism of returning from a foot sprain.

The most long-term injury Tampa Bay has is Cannida's. He suffered a left knee sprain in the preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons. The day after the game, Cannida was said to be out 4-6 weeks.

By the time the Buccaneers play their second game of the season, they should have Cannida, Christy, K. Johnson, Smith and maybe even Hochstein back 100 percent healthy. Not only should the Bucs have these players recovered from their injuries, but Alstott and Royals will have had plenty of time to work off any rust they had built up while they were out.

Speaking of rust, how much of it will Tampa Bay build up since they will likely go three weeks without playing a game?

Head coach Tony Dungy said the team went into training camp mode as soon as they heard their game against the Eagles was canceled. Dungy said the team will now enjoy their bye week and then prepare for the Vikings next week.

Having two weeks to prepare for the Vikings should bold well for the Bucs. Tampa Bay has not won in Minnesota since 1997. The Vikings dropped their first game of the season to the Carolina Panthers and will play at Chicago the Sunday before they host the Buccaneers. By the time the Bucs and Vikings meet on Sept. 30, Tampa Bay should be well prepared for Minnesota.

Perhaps the best part about not having a game when the NFL resumes play this weekend will be the fact that Tampa Bay will not have to deal with endless questions concerning safety in stadiums and the concern of another horrific act occurring. Not only will the Buccaneers have an extra week to mentally recover from what happened last Tuesday, but they will also not have to fight their emotions through the pre-game ceremonies that will likely accompany each of this weekend's games in light of the tragedies.

After Tuesday's tragic events, it is hard for anybody to find something positive to pull away from the situation. But while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will still be wounded like all American citizens when football resumes this weekend, they will have been able to heal in other ways.


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