On injured players
I guess we have to announce [that] Luke Petitgout and Joey Galloway did not practice. I don't have any injuries to report on that front but that's part of their in-season practice schedule. Brian Kelly and Greg Spires were limited. Spires has a slight ankle [injury] and Brian Kelly still has just a little groin issue. Both were limited.
On the Bucs-Panthers rivalry
Well, I think the NFC South in general has taken shape and all the conference games are rivalry games. There's familiarity amongst ourselves, especially in this series. Carolina has maintained a lot of continuity; we've seen [Jake] Delhomme a lot of times now. We almost feel like we know Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. It's a good opportunity for us to go out there and play a very good football team at their place in this stage of the season.
On how Jeremy Trueblood is playing
He's doing a good job. We think Julius is great – he's one of the premier players in the whole league. Mike Rucker's back now and they're formidable to say the least. We'll have our hands full. But we like the development of Jeremy Trueblood."
On if the offense is gaining confidence running to the right side
We're doing some good things running the ball. Around the league it's not easy to run. Some of the best runners in football haven't gotten off to very good starts. We had some great exhibits, I guess, in the second half the other day. We had some nice runs in general, right and left, so we're pleased with the progress we're making. We also understand what we're up against this week and we've got to be at our best.
On Raheem Morris bringing enthusiasm to the defense
I think he's an excellent teacher and an excellent coach. We're better in the secondary than we've been. Tanard Jackson's here. Phillip Buchanon started the season with us and has had a full training camp. Brian Kelly's back. Our players are better and Raheem is helping us tremendously.
On the chance to get a leg up in the division
It's an endurance contest. I'm not going to make any more of it. We all know what it is – two teams at 2-1 playing for outright first place. They're not canceling the season and awarding you anything after the game, I know that. We've got a grind of a schedule ahead of us. We also have won two games in a row for the first time in quite some time around here, so we'll see what happens.
On what David Carr might bring to the table if he were to start
Well, he's a veteran guy. He's started a lot of games. He's gone wire-to-wire as a starter with the Texans for a long time. He's very mobile. He did a good job coming in there and playing for Jake [Delhomme] when he got hurt. He's an athletic guy, capable of scrambling and making big plays running. He's done a nice job on the tape that I've seen, throughout the preseason and early in the season here. You're not dealing with a novice. You're dealing with a veteran that has a lot of career starts and has had some real success. When you look at the running game and you look at Steve Smith and Keary Colbert – hell, [Dwayne] Jarrett, the second-rounder, hasn't even dressed yet, so they must be pretty damn good.
On if he will be attending the USF game on Friday
Well, I don't think I'll be able to attend, but I'm really happy and proud and certainly impressed with Coach [Jim] Leavitt and what he's done with his staff and that program. The USF Bulls beating West Virginia on the road and beating Auburn – no wonder Cadillac's off to a slow start. His feelings are hurt. Good job to the Bulls. We've got a big game this week. I know my dad and my boys will be at the game, and some of our players. I'll do my best.
On how critical it is to corral Steve Smith
It's difficult to corral. He's great; he's just great. He's covered some of the time – the Houston Texans had him gang-tackled with four players and he got an 80-yard touchdown out of it. The damn guy is great and I've never seen anything like him. He's unbelievable. He can take one of the most fundamentally basic, simple passes, a one- yard little hitch route, and go 80 yards and make six guys miss. He's magnificent. I love playing against him because he's one of the great performers and competitors in our game.
On special teams
Well, we're much better. Matt [Bryant] is kicking it great. Josh Bidwell, in the last two games, has punted the ball so well. He's only yielded only eight or nine yards in returns. There haven't been any return opportunities against us, which is astounding, it's tremendous. Our kickoff coverage was as good as it's been here since I've been here last Sunday. It's a credit to Rich [Bisaccia] and some of the athletes that we have running down there.