No QB changes this bye, at least

The arrival of the bye week the past two seasons meant a quarterback change. Not this year, as Jeff Garcia is still healthy and effective. But the Buccaneers do need the bye week to get their remaining injured players healthy for a stretch run that could lead to a playoff berth.

At least the Bucs won't be replacing their quarterback during the bye week.

After losing quarterbacks Brian Griese and Chris Simms the game prior to their break the past two seasons, the Bucs don't have that concern with Jeff Garcia.

But with a slew of other players injured, coach Jon Gruden has scheduled just one practice on Wednesday during the bye week.

At 5-4, the Bucs own a half-game lead over Carolina (4-4) and red-hot New Orleans, which won its fourth game in a row Sunday.

Gruden is hopeful of getting several players back in the lineup for the Nov. 18 game at Atlanta, including Michael Pittman (ankle), Michael Clayton (ankle) and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder). Defensive end Greg Spires (calf) may miss a few more weeks.

"It's been a problem. On Wednesday, we haven't had a practice the last two weeks, we've had more of a walk-thru because of the injuries," Gruden said. "They have mounted at certain positions. So we have used Wednesday as a day where we've gotten our reps in, maybe even some bonus reps, but not full speed, physical or normal. We've not been accommodating; we've done what we've needed to do to prepare our team to play. What we want to do is get back to a normal schedule if we can following this bye week and to do that we need guys to practice."

Pittman's return could take some of the workload off running back Earnest Graham, who rushed for 124 yards on 34 carries -- both career highs.

"He allows us to move formations," Gruden said of Pittman. "He's a joker; he's a guy that can line up in any eligible position and function. He's just going to supplement what we are doing and give us a good runner, an excellent receiver and certainly a very good pass protector."

Normally, the Bucs would practice at least twice during the bye week, giving backup players like quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and running back Michael Bennett some extra reps. Two years ago, Gruden used it to get Simms ready to play after Griese suffered a season-ending knee injury. Last season, Gradkowski needed the work to prepare to replace Simms, who underwent a splenectomy.

Instead, the Bucs will get an early look at the Falcons Wednesday, take a team picture at Raymond James Stadium and be dismissed for a four-day weekend.

"We just look at each game, honestly, because the Saints have won four in a row and are probably playing as well as anybody in the league," Gruden said. "What can I say? There's some real surprises going on in pro football the first half of the season. That means there will probably be some the second half of the season. We'd like to be one of those surprise teams.

"Our players deserve some time off. They've played really hard and I'm proud of them. And at the same time, I think we all understand we need to play better to be a really good football team. We're good right now but I think to be a really good football team, there's a lot of things we've got to do much better."

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Gaines Adams made his first NFL start Sunday against the Cardinals and recorded one sack and a pass defensed. The Bucs didn't sack QB Kurt Warner, but Adams had several pressures.

"He had a couple of pressures," coach Jon Gruden said. "He was excellent on a couple of zone-blitz drops, he almost intercepted a pass. It was his first start; I thought he did some good things. We're going to need a lot more from him but anytime you hold a quarterback of Kurt Warner's status to 10-for-30, he came in with a 95 or 96 rating, he's been throwing the ball well. A lot of it had to do with excellent coverage and we certainly got some hits and a pretty good rush but it's still not good enough."

--T Jeremy Trueblood was penalized and ejected when he made contact with a referee during a shuffle near the end of the game Sunday.

"There's a certain etiquette that is a part of football, at least the competition committee goes over those things every year, (on) what's good for the game, and what occurred late in the game was ugly," Gruden said. "I'm not going to be tolerant of us getting a 15-yard ejection penalty when we have a chance to ice the game. But we do appreciate loyalty, and guys believing in one another, but there comes a time where you have to settle those things outside the lines. That's just not good enough yesterday, we have to show more poise than that."

--The Bucs had a 19-play drive that resulted in no points against the Cardinals when TE Alex Smith dropped a TD pass and K Matt Bryant missed a 26-yard field goal.

"We've had three 18-, 19-, 20-play drives, two in Detroit and one yesterday and got no points. We fumbled the ball first-and-goal on the 1, we had a penalty and a missed field goal in Detroit, and we missed a wide-open play yesterday," Gruden said. "We dropped the football, missed a short-range field goal. As I say to other players, for us to win and beat good teams and move on, we're going to have to make those plays. I'm really pleased with the drives we've mounted and some of the results that we're getting, but there is nothing like going the whole day working throughout the week and not getting paid; and we have to cash in on our hard work and some of this play-making I'm talking about is routine plays and those are inexcusable."

QUOTE TO NOTE

"I'm disgusted. I'm embarrassed. I'm way too good of a football player to be a part of something that we just did out there on the field." -- Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, who was 10 of 30 for 172 yards and two interceptions.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Bucs held the football for more than 43 minutes, a club record for a non-overtime game.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--TE Alex Smith aggravated an ankle injury in Sunday's game against the Cardinals but should be ready for the Nov. 18 game at Atlanta.

--RT Jeremy Trueblood suffered a shoulder stinger against the Cardinals but returned to the game. He is not expected to miss any practice time.

--RB Michael Pittman, who has missed three games with an ankle sprain, is expected to return against the Falcons Nov. 18.

--WR Ike Hilliard has a right ankle sprain but is expected to play against the Falcons Nov. 18.

--DE Greg Spires could miss another game with a calf injury, meaning rookie Gaines Adams could make his second pro start.

--WR Michael Clayton is expected to return from an ankle sprain Nov. 18 against the Falcons.


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