Bucs News And Notes: Wednesday

October 23 - Will Bucs RG Cosey Coleman start against the Panthers Sunday? Who will be Carolina's quarterback? Want an update on Tampa Bay's injury front? PewterReport.com has compiled a notebook with news and notes from One Buccaneers Place.

QB Brad Johnson (left rib fracture) - Doubtful
WR Keenan McCardell (left scapula fracture) - Doubtful
C Jeff Christy (right knee sprain) - Probable

*Johnson and McCardell did not practice Wednesday. Bucs running back Aaron Stecker and cornerback Dwight Smith also missed practice Wednesday due to a stomach virus.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden hasn't decided whether or not starting right guard Cosey Coleman will play against Carolina Sunday. Coleman was arrested Monday night and charged misdemeanor battery of his girlfriend. Gruden and the team are expected to make a decision on Coleman's status later in the week.

"We don't like to see our players involved in those kinds of incidents," said Gruden. "It's detrimental to the league and to the society.

"At the same time, Cosey is truly very apologetic and he has responded in the right way. This is a young man that is very remorseful about what has occurred, so we'll see what happens."

The 5-2 Buccaneers and the 3-4 Panthers could possibly have something other than the fact that they're both members of the NFC South Division in common on Sunday. Both teams could have new starting quarterbacks.

The Buccaneers will likely start second-string QB Rob Johnson in place of QB Brad Johnson, who suffered a broken rib against the Eagles last Sunday. The Panthers will probably start rookie QB Randy Fasani, who saw action last Sunday after QB Chris Weinke suffered a concussion against Atlanta. Weinke was filling in for starting Panthers QB Rodney Peete, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.

The Bucs don't have much NFL film to watch on Carolina's fifth-round draft pick out of Stanford, but Tampa Bay strong safety John Lynch said there were other ways to prepare for Fasani.

"Knowing Monte (Kiffin), he'll go back and get some film and we'll be watching Stanford-Cal from last year," said Lynch. "We'll get a little bit of a feel for him. But it all goes back to us and how we play."

Carolina offensive coordinator Dan Henning won't likely rest the entire offense on Fisani's arm against Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked defense. That said, Tampa Bay's defense expects Carolina to call plenty of running plays for Panthers running back Lamar Smith, who is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season.

"With a rookie quarterback I'm sure they'll try to run the ball," said Lynch. "It will be our job to stop the run and get after the quarterback."

Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks said the defense will basically prepare for Carolina's offense the same way they've prepared for every other offense they've faced this season.

"It's the same plan as every week, take away the running game, make a team one-dimensional," said Brooks. "And then we'll get after the quarterback. Obviously, the quarterback now that's coming in is a lot more mobile than Rodney Peete or Chris Weinke, and I'm glad we got to see a little bit of that when Weinke got hurt last week. We're just going to go out and do our job."

Fisani has completed 6-of-18 (33 percent) passes for 100 yards and he's thrown one interception. He's also rushed eight times for 58 yards (7.3 avg.).

Tampa Bay's game at Carolina will be the team's fifth road game in eight contests this season. It's been a tough, but yet successful stretch thus far. The Bucs are 3-1 on the road this season and they're just one road win away from tying the team's road win total of four from last season. Tampa Bay tight end Ken Dilger said winning on the road is something teams have to do in order to be successful.

"Winning on the road is something you have to do," said Dilger. "It doesn't matter if it's against Philly, Carolina or whoever. We need to go on the road and play well because in the playoffs you might have to go into a hostile environment, play well and get a win."

With a win against the Panthers, the Bucs can finish the first half of the 2002 season with a 6-2 record, which would tie Tampa Bay's 1979 team for best start in franchise history.

"Yeah, 6-2 and sounds real good, "said Lynch. "We haven't seen that around here in long time."

The fact that Tampa Bay will play five of its final eight regular season games at home should bode well for them and their effort to secure a spot in the playoffs.

"We've got a nice November," said Lynch. "It's setting up real nice for us. We always love playing at home. But we've got to go and take care of business on the road in a tough divisional game. Then we'll get to come home and sleep in our own beds for a while."

If you don't like to watch defensive football games, you might want to change the channel when the Bucs and Panthers take the field at Ericsson Stadium Sunday.

Both teams' defenses are ranked in the top five in overall production. Tampa Bay's defense is ranked No. 1 in the league and Carolina's defense is ranked a few spots below the Pewter Pirates at No. 4.

Carolina's defense, which features defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker, who have combined for 13 sacks sacks through seven games, has been so good because of the play of its defensive line. The Panthers have recorded 26 sacks this season and they're getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to blitz too often.

"What they can do is get pressure on you with four and cover with seven, so it's tough," said Bucs QB Rob Johnson. "It's going to be a challenge for us this week. I think they are top five in the league in most defensive categories."

While Tampa Bay's offense respects Carolina's defense, Jon Gruden's unit, which is currently ranked 24th overall, believes it will be up them to dictate how Sunday's game is played out.

"It's more about what we do offensively," said Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. "They have a great defense. Julius Peppers is obviously a guy you have to account for. So we just have to take care of the offense, and once we do that the defense will let us do so much. But we need to continue to keep pounding it and pounding it and eventually we'll put some points on the board."

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