"Anthony McFarland practiced in very limited fashion," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday. "Yes, he's questionable, and that's a fact – he is questionable. I don't know, I'm hopeful that he's going to play."
McFarland, who suffered the injury on Oct. 27 against Carolina, said he wouldn't likely be able to tell whether or not he can play against the Saints until later in the week.
"That's the million dollar question, huh?" McFarland said when asked if he would play Sunday night. "We'll answer later on in the week."
Bucs backup defensive tackle Chartric Darby and DE/DT Ellis Wyms have done an admirable job of filling in for McFarland at the nose tackle position, but Booger was happy to take a step closer to returning to action when he made it through practice with no problems.
"It was okay," McFarland said of returning to practice. "I was trying to get out and knock the rust off a little bit. It was fun being back out."
So, what exactly does McFarland have to show Gruden and Co. in order to be cleared to play?
"He needs to go out here and put his hand in the grass, get off blocks and play football a little bit," said Gruden. "Wake up for a couple of days. We'll get some feedback from the doctors to see if this is the right thing to do this week. If it is, he's playing. If it's not quite right, we'll wait and see how it is next week. We're going to be very smart here, get all the information that we can from Anthony and the doctors and we'll move on accordingly."
If McFarland is able to play Sunday, he'll have to wear a cast that will protect his forearm from further injury. As a nose tackle, McFarland must use his arms to maneuver his way past offensive linemen, which means he could play, but some wonder how effective he would be without full use of his right arm.
"He would have some creative padding and protection there just to shield that injury from further damage," said Gruden. But, again, we want to make sure before we set him loose that he's been cleared by our doctors. To do that, we've got to gain information here in the next few days."
Tampa Bay seems like they're in a bit of a rush to get McFarland back into action. Is it a coincidence that Tampa Bay under tackle Warren Sapp, who is often the beneficiary of double-teams McFarland draws, has not recorded a sack since Booger was injured (three games)? He was originally supposed to be sidelined 6-8 weeks with the injury, but a return to the field Sunday would mean he missed just five weeks of action. But Gruden emphasized the importance of not rushing "Booger" back into action too soon.
"We are being cautious and we aren't rushing him back," said Gruden. "If we're overly cautious, he won't play again this year. That's the bottom line. We are being very cautious with him. I wanted to play him right after the injury occurred. I wanted him to miss one series and get his butt back in there. But we're going to do the right thing. We are being very cautious with him. We realize he is a significant piece to this puzzle here and we would never jeopardize that."
In other injury news, Wyms (ankle sprain) and running back Aaron Stecker (hamstring strain) did not practice Wednesday. Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson saw limited action in practice Wednesday due to sore ribs.
"Ellis Wyms did not practice today," said Gruden. "Aaron Stecker did not practice today. Keyshawn Johnson was very limited. But we got off to a pretty good start and hopefully these guys can get a little more work in tomorrow and be ready for the game."
If Wyms cannot play, Darby and defensive tackle Buck Gurley will rotate on the defensive line. While Gruden believes Johnson will be ready to play by Sunday, WR Joe Jurevicius would see more playing time against the Saints if Johnson were unable to go.
"I would never bet against him," Gruden said of Keyshawn Johnson. "I would assume that he'll play. But he is legitimately sore and his movement is somewhat reduced right now with this injury. Hopefully, he comes around a little bit physically here in the next couple of days."
In Saints injury-related news, running back Deuce McAllister is listed as questionable for Sunday night's game with a sprained ankle. He did not play against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. McAllister has rushed for 950 yards and he's averaged 4.6 yards per carry this season in addition to scoring nine rushing touchdowns. He has also hauled in 38 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Needless to say, New Orleans' offense will not be as potent if McAllister is unable to play against Tampa Bay.
"He hasn't played in a couple of weeks, he's staring at 1,000 yards and he wants to get it going," said Sapp. "He's loaded and they're playing well. We've got to neutralize it. He plays well – 109 yards on us on 31 carries. It's real evident to us that he's an excellent back in this league and we've got to be on our game."
PewterReport.com has listed the Bucs-Saints injury report below. We will update this report Friday.
Probable = 75 percent chance of playing
Questionable = 50 percent chance of playing
Doubtful = 25 percent chance of playing
Out = player will not play
BUCS INJURY LIST:
FB Jameel Cook (ankle sprain) - Questionable
WR Keyshawn Johnson (rib contusion) - Questionable
DT Anthony McFarland (forearm fracture) - Questionable
DE Corey Smith (knee sprain) - Questionable
RB Aaron Stecker (hamstring strain) - Questionable
DE Ellis Wyms (ankle sprain) - Questionable
SAINTS INJURY LIST:
G LeCharles Bentley (ankle) - Questionable
RB Deuce McAllister (ankle) - Questionable
WR Jerome Pathon (concussion) - Questionable
LB Darrin Smith (ankle) - Probable
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