FB Jameel Cook (ankle) Questionable
RG Cosey Coleman (knee) Questionable
DT Buck Gurley (ankle) Questionable
BARLOW HAPPY TO BE A BUC
Tampa Bay signed wide receiver/return specialist Reggie Barlow to a one-year contract on Wednesday afternoon. Barlow played with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden in Oakland last season, which means it will not take him long to learn the offensive system. He practiced with the team today and expressed his pleasure in being in Tampa.
"One of the reasons (signed with Tampa) was because I know Tampa has a good team and they'll be a winning team and I'll have a shot at the playoffs," said Barlow. "The other reason is Coach Gruden. I'm familiar with him and his offensive scheme. I was out in Oakland with him. I wouldn't have to learn a new system. I felt like if I came here I would already know the system.
"A lot of the things that he's running here are the same things he's running in Oakland. I know the plays and the terminology."
The addition of Barlow likely ends any chance Frank Murphy has of returning to Tampa Bay. Murphy was released with a hamstring injury on Sunday, and even if the Bucs wanted to bring him back, they couldn't do so until Week 10. Bucs rookie WR Marquise Walker switched his jersey number from 84 to No. 82, which was held by Murphy. Barlow is sporting No. 84. Murphy returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in preseason and averaged 33-yards per kickoff return during preseason. But Barlow has made a name for himself as a return specialist in the NFL, and he plans on making an impression in Tampa.
"He (Gruden) knows that I can return punts and kicks. He said that I have 'those clubs in my bag.'"
Gruden was pleased to have landed Barlow on Wednesday. Tampa Bay's head coach suggested Barlow could return kickoffs for the Buccaneers on Sunday when the team hosts the Saints.
"(Reggie) Barlow is a versatile guy from the standpoint that he can return punts and kicks," said Gruden. "His resume' speaks clearly that he can do those two things. He returned a punt for a touchdown this preseason. He's got home run ability. He's got some good understanding of what we want down as a receiver. He's a quick study and he'll be ready to go."
BRING ON THE SAINTS:
The Buccaneers players have had September 8th marked on their calendar for several months, but that date is quickly approaching. Tampa Bay will open the 2002 regular season at home on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
"Every game is special," said Johnson. "Starting the season, you would want to find a way to win. You want to get off to a great start individually. You only get one first game each year. That's the great thing about it. It doesn't matter what you did three years ago. It doesn't matter what you did last year, good or bad. It's a new beginning."
Not only is Sunday's game the first of the regular season for both teams, but it's a division game as well. The Bucs and Saints were realigned into the NFC South Division during the offseason.
"It's big," Bucs WR Keenan McCardell said of Sunday's game. "This is a division game. Your first goal is to win your division and the only way you can win your division is to win your division games."
Brad Johnson agreed that a win against the Saints on Sunday could go a long way for the Bucs in terms of winning its division and making a serious playoff run.
"You want to win your games at home and you want to win your division games," said Johnson. "It's a huge game from that standpoint. All the games are big, but come December and January, that could come into play."
While the Bucs are excited about playing in their new division, some will miss the NFC Central Division.
"It does sound weird (being in the NFC South Division)," said Bucs strong safety John Lynch. "But it's a reality now. I'm going to miss the NFC Central Division. It was a tough division and we used to beat each other up pretty good. We want to win that first NFC South title and it all starts this week."
DON'T EXPECT ANOTHER BLOWOUT
Tampa Bay slaughtered New Orleans in Ray-Jay last December, 48-21. The Saints finished the '01 season in disarray. Despite the fact that the Saints were outscored 160-52 in the final four games of the '01 season, the Bucs are expecting to see a much different Saints team on Sunday.
"They're a whole new team," said Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman. "They have a whole new defense and a new defensive coordinator. They've got a good team, so hopefully we can go out there and get the job done."
ARE THE BUCS READY FOR THE REGULAR SEASON?:
The Buccaneers' starters didn't get much playing time together during preseason, which has some wondering if they'll have the stamina to play a four-quarter football game in what will likely be very hot and humid temperatures.
"It will be the first time (we play together 60 minutes)," said Brad Johnson. We'll probably have to hydrate a little more this week. It's going to be a hot day. We've had enough work in all the mini-camps and training camps. It preseason, I think we played the right amount of snaps."
Johnson said he has noticed a change in pace in terms of Tampa Bay's practices this week.
"The tempo has picked up quite a bit," said Brad Johnson. "I think the attention to detail is the biggest part of it. The physical part will be done. We'll take 95 percent of the reps this week. That's the biggest difference this week."
Tampa Bay wide receiver Keenan McCardell said the excitement of the game along with the extra reps during practice should be enough to carry the Bucs through four quarters of football.
"We're getting the majority of the reps, not all the reps," said McCardell. "We've got to be ready to go in the fourth quarter. We haven't been in the second half yet. But it's time to go. This is what you get paid for. It's the season opener and everyone is going to be fired up and ready to play."
As for preseason, the Bucs players are glad it's over.
"I treat it like another day, but I get ready for opening day," said Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. "Preseason is boring. You get in for two series and then you have to sit around for what seems like forever. You want to win (in preseason), but you really don't give a (expletive) if you win or lose. It's preseason."
YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ANYTHING YET
For the fans that weren't impressed with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense in preseason, there is some good news. The players said Wednesday that fans haven't seen anything yet.
"We've been holding back a lot of stuff," said Bucs running back Michael Pittman. "We held back a lot of stuff because we didn't want to let people prepare for it."
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