Friday, Dec. 28
Galloway out, injury update, 5:07 p.m.
First of all, the Buccaneers designated WR Joey Galloway as out for the game, calling it a team decision. He doesn't appear to be injured. But Galloway will not play on Sunday against Carolina.
Here is the final injury report for Sunday's game:
BUCCANEERS: Questionable — FB B.J. Askew (ankle), DE Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring), RB Earnest Graham (ankle), WR Ike Hilliard (knee), CB Brian Kelly (knee); LB Ryan Nece (groin), RB Michael Pittman (ankle), DE Greg White (quad). PANTHERS: Doubtful — Chris Harris (neck); Probable — QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles), T Jordan Gross (ankle).
I would suspect that half of the Bucs that are questionable won't play at all on Sunday. Some may even be inactive. It's interesting that Testaverde hasn't practiced all week but is still probable. It leads me to believe that we may see Testaverde at some point on Sunday, as he appears to be retiring after the season.
A precarious situation, 10:05 a.m.
You think Tampa Bay has it tough with all of its decisions about playing time this weekend? Look at their playoff opponent, the New York Giants.
The Giants have already clinched, and any other year would probably rest their starters this Saturday against New England. But this is no ordinary game. The Pats are 15-0 and the Giants are their last road block to a historic 16-0 regular season. The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network, and simulcast on NBC and CBS. Practically the entire country will be watching.
So, no pressure on these Giants to put up a fight on Saturday, right? Head coach Tom Coughlin made it sound as if his Giants aren't going to lay down.
"That's the whole thing," Coughlin told the media. "As I say, there is only one way to play this game. I don't think there is any other way. I've been asked a million times about these kinds of questions. Quite frankly, they don't sit well with me. I don't think that way. I don't have that – maybe that's something missing in me. I don't think like (backing off)."
Could this be good news for the Bucs? Tampa Bay will likely rest many of its starters and key players after the first quarter on Sunday against Carolina (if they play at all). The Giants will be involved in a physical showdown with a Pats team trying to make history. The Giants already have some injury issues — Plaxico Burress is nursing a chronic injury in his ankle — and a full-tilt game could create more injuries.
The best-case scenario for Tampa Bay is for the Giants-Pats game to remain close, forcing the Giants to keep their starters on the field all four quarters in an attempt to beat the Pats and stop their undefeated season. At the least, it could wear down the Giants' front-line players for that Wild Card playoff game in Tampa next week.
The Bucs will take any advantage they can get at this point.
At Bucsblitz.com, 10 a.m.
LB Adam Hayward is one of several young players who is likely to benefit from extended playing time on Sunday. Find out what Hayward thinks in this free feature.
A Pro's Pro, 9:54 a.m.
Jeremiah Trotter has played little this season, but many young Buccaneers defenders say the signing has paid off for Tampa Bay. He's valuable depth at middle linebacker and the veteran's knowledge of the game is unparalleled. Read more at orlandosentinel.com.
Gearing up for the Pats, 9:53 a.m.
The New York Giants appear to be a team that is gearing up for a full-throttle game against the undefeated New England Patriots. The Giants can end the Pats' undefeated season, but they also have the Bucs to prepare for in the postseason. It's a Giant-sized dilemma for head coach Tom Coughlin. Read more at nashuatelegraph.com.
Jumping at the chance, 9:49 a.m.
Some Buccaneers, like RB Michael Bennett, LB Jeremiah Trotter and LB Quincy Black jumped at the chance to play in a meaningful game last Sunday — and hope to do so again on Sunday against Carolina. Read more at Tampabay.com.
Thursday, Dec. 27
Injury report, 5:08 p.m.
Here is Wednesday's injury report (the 49ers have not reported their injuries yet):
BUCCANEERS: Did not practice — PK Matt Bryant (illness), WR Joey Galloway (team decision), RB Earnest Graham (ankle), WR Ike Hilliard (knee), CB Brian Kelly (knee); Limited in practice: FB B.J. Askew (ankle), DE Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring), LB Ryan Nece (groin), RB Michael Pittman (ankle), DE Greg White (quad). PANTHERS: Did not practice — Chris Harris (neck), QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles); Full practice — T Jordan Gross (ankle).
Bryant, Galloway, Graham and Hilliard worked out in some form on Wednesday. White was not listed at all on the injury report on Wednesday. Gross practiced fully for the first time this week.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden did comment on the quarterback position, in terms of reps for Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown, both of whom figure to play this week.
"We're splitting the reps and getting both guys ready to play, trying to get both sharp and both ready to roll," Gruden said.
Anyone get the feeling this is going to resemble a preseason game on Sunday?
Looking ahead to Gaines in '08, 8:05 a.m.
Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams has 6 sacks this season. That total is best among rookie defenders this year. In my opinion, you should see Adams on plenty of all-rookie teams this year. He certainly won't be Defensive Rookie of the Year. That will likely go to Patrick Willis of the 49ers.
Barring a complete explosion on Adams' part, it will be the second-most productive season by a rookie defender, in terms of rushing the passer, in team history. Santana Dotson finished with 10 sacks his rookie season in 1992. Dotson finished his three-year career with 23 sacks. That is the 10th best career total in team history.
Obviously, these Bucs have much bigger plans for Adams, as proved by the rookie's six-year contract that could be worth up to $48 million.
So, is Adams' season a successful one? I would say so. Before the season I researched defensive ends taken in the Top 10 of the last 15 drafts and found the average sack production for those ends as rookies was 6 sacks. Adams is right on the average, and a sack or two on Sunday would put him over it. Of course, I had believed the Bucs would pair Adams' production with that of a resurgent Simeon Rice. But that tandem never materialized.
I've watched and re-watched every game this year and I've seen progress in Adams' play, especially once the Bucs added him to the starting lineup. He is no longer completely reliant on his speed, as he was in the preseason. He is using his hands more to create separation with blockers. He is using speed AND leverage to get around tackles and create problems on the back side for quarterbacks. He's proved to be a fairly capable run defender. And he's proved versatile enough to move to the left end position on third downs to make room for Greg White.
Most scouts agree that defensive ends, if they grow into elite or above-average ends, make their biggest jump in production in Year 2. If so, and Adams is an end that is capable of being an elite player, the Bucs should see a definite increase in production and quality of play in 2008. There's no way to know for sure until then. But it's clear that Adams took advantage of coaching and opportunity to make progress in 2007.
Back to San Fran for a moment, 8:01 a.m.
Boy the Bucs really did a number on Shaun Hill. The 49ers QB didn't practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. The Niners called it one of "several health issues" for the QB. Read more at mercurynews.com.
A feel-good story?, 7:57 a.m.
Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune writes that it's a stretch to call Jerramy Stevens a "feel-good" story. But the tight end — who appears to have finally put his off-the-field problems behind him — does have the Bucs feeling good about his play the passt few games. Read more at TBO.com.
You can also read my take on Stevens at Bucsblitz.com.
Gearing up for the Giants, 7:53 a.m.
Many of the key players for the Buccaneers will be sitting on Sunday. But how much time will they spend on the bench? No one is really sure, and players like Jeff Garcia aren't prone to speculate. Read more at Tampabay.com.
Wednesday, Dec. 26
Trying to read the code, 5:01 p.m.
I'm not sure how to read Jon Gruden anymore. It's obvious to anyone that Jeff Garcia will play little, if at all, on Sunday. But here's Gruden's take on Garcia's status:
"I'm not really going to comment on that other than Jeff is practicing today," Gruden said. "We're trying to keep him sharp. We've got a number of injuries that will impact who plays at every position. The best I can say right now is we'll prepare Jeff, we'll prepare Luke (McCown) and we'll make the announcement later in the week."
If Gruden doesn't announce anything by Friday, expect Garcia to play at least a little. Since he's not on the injury report, I don't think Gruden can simply make Garcia the third quarterback on Sunday unless he makes McCown the starter in advance of the game.
Here is Wednesday's injury report:
BUCCANEERS: Did not practice — CB Brian Kelly (knee); Limited in practice: FB B.J. Askew (ankle), DE Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring), WR Joey Galloway (team decision), RB Earnest Graham (ankle), WR Ike Hilliard (knee), LB Ryan Nece (groin); Full practice — RB Michael Pittman (ankle). PANTHERS: Did not practice — T Jordan Gross (ankle), Chris Harris (neck), QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles).
Plenty of Bucs on the injury report means we probably won't see many of them on Sunday. Most have been on the report before and the Bucs may take advantage of that by making some of them inactive on Sunday.
Roster moves, 3:30 p.m.
The Buccaneers signed WR Chad Lucas and WR Brian Clark off the practice squad to take the roster spots of WR Maurice Stovall and TE Keith Heinrich. Stovall was placed on injured reserve and Keith Heinrich was released on Monday.
Christmas Day at the Grudens, 3:28 p.m.
Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden admitted that he snuck into the office on Tuesday to prepare for the Panthers game. Yes, on Christmas Day.
But perhaps he had another motive.
"After the kids opened up all that stuff and made that mess in the house, I was out of there," Gruden said.
Peppers out for Sunday, 2:12 p.m.
The Carolina Panthers announced that defensive end Julius Peppers was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, ending his season. Peppers is said to have a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
He missed last Saturday's game against Dallas due to the injury. Rookie Charles Johnson will likely start in his place against Tampa Bay.
Johnson had a solid game against Dallas, but he's no Peppers. Of course, Peppers hasn't been himself for most of this season.
Graham on 1,000 yards, 1:05 p.m.
Everyone was wondering if RB Earnest Graham was anticipating a 1,000-yard season. He's sitting on 898 yards, but given how the Bucs played their veterans last week, it seems like a long shot that Graham will hit the milestone. He's considered a key member of this team now, and head coach Jon Gruden will be more likely to sit Graham. He left the game in the second quarter.
He said the decision is up to Gruden.
"I'm just going to do what coach asks me to do," Graham said. "They make the calls and we have some big games in front of us. The mark is meaningful, but we all have to put some things on the back burner to get ready for those games."
Trotter wants an award, 12:57 p.m.
Jeremiah Trotter hasn't had much to do this season being Barrett Ruud's backup. But many younger players are giving Trotter a lot of credit for being a pro in a tough situation. The former Pro Bowl selection is used to playing. He finally got some playing time last week and he admitted he was a little amped up.
"Oh, man, listen," Trotter said. "It's been 15 weeks of pent-up anger. I know one time I flew over the pile on a kickoff (coverage) and Ronde (Barber) was like, ‘What are you doing?' I was like, ‘Listen, man, you sit on the sideline for 15 weeks and see what you do.' I was trying to take out anybody."
Trotter said that despite the playing time, he's had an enjoyable seasons in Tampa Bay.
"I absolutely love coming to work," Trotter said. "When you have an environment like this, it makes it a lot easier. Every week I'm trying to get scout team player of the week. It hasn't happened yet, and I've got one week left. So keep your fingers crossed."
Askew in the locker room, 12:55 p.m.
I didn't get a chance to speak with him, but Bucs FB B.J. Askew looked a lot more mobile moving around the locker room on Wednesday. He wasn't wearing a cast on his injured ankle, unlike the last two Wednesday, so that's a positive sign. Still, I cannot imagine the Buccaneers playing him on Sunday, as I'm positive they want him back for the postseason at as close to 100 percent as he can be.
Bucs moves, 10:35 a.m.
Along with placing WR Maurice Stovall on injured reserve, the Buccaneers placed TE Keith Heinrich on waivers. That leaves the Buccaneers two open roster spots to fill before this weekend's game and the playoffs. You can bet at least one will be a receiver.
The locker room will be open soon. The talk of the day will likely be how much the vets will rest against Carolina.
At Bucsblitz.com, 10:30 a.m.
Today, we're drafting — as in the NFL Draft. You can find the second volume of my Q&A with Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber on the site. In the free "Quick Hit," I ask Steuber why he now was Boston College OT Gosder Cherlius going to the Buccaneers. You can read his explanation by clicking here.
Then, go further inside his mock draft in our premium Q&A. Here, I ask Steuber about other options for the Bucs at other key positions, like wide receiver and cornerback. He explains why the Bucs might go in a few different directions on draft day, depending on who is available. Of course, we need to realize that the juniors have not declared for the draft yet and a lot will change between now and April. But Steuber has some great insight and, if you're a subscriber, you can read it by clicking here. If you're not a subscriber yet, you should consider it. The draft is coming soon and Bucsblitz.com will be at the Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine and have draft features every day until draft day — and much of that will be premium analysis by our experts.
Finally, it's Film Session day. Go inside four of Sunday's touchdown passes and how they happened by clicking here.
The younger Kiffin, 10:28 a.m.
First-year head coach Lane Kiffin — son of Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin — is certainly having a rough season in his first go-around in Oakland. But he's not losing faith that his approach will eventually work. Read more on Lane in this article at TBO.com.
Stovall's status, 10:26 a.m.
I reported in this blog on Monday that WR Maurice Stovall was done for the season. The Bucs placed Stovall on injured reserve on Monday, ending his season. Now, find out if the Bucs have a contingency play in this article at Tampabay.com.
The hope for January, 10:24 a.m.
St. Pete Times columnist John Romano makes the case that if the Bucs are to dream of a long, fruitful playoff run in January, they must put their faith in their rejuvenated defense. He has a point. Read more at Tampabay.com.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.