"John Lynch did not practice and we've downgraded him to doubtful for this game," said Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden. "The extensive tests done over the weekend came back negative and we had hoped that maybe he would be able to run around and be ready to go this week, but that appears doubtful.
"We're confident he'll be back soon, hopefully Sunday. But it doesn't appear that will be the case this week."
In a statement released by the Bucs on Wednesday afternoon, Lynch indicated that there is a strong possibility he will not be able to play against the Lions due to his injury.
"I feel much better and am making a lot of progress," Lynch said in a statement issued Wednesday. "I am going to do everything I can to get ready to play, but it is unlikely that I will be ready for this week's game at Detroit. I was concerned when I went down, but am very relieved that all of the tests came back negative and I'm excited to get back on the field."
But Lynch has surprised his teammates before and some think he might do it again this Sunday. Lynch suffered a dislocated left shoulder against Chicago on November 19, 2000 and even though no one expected him to play the following week, he shocked everyone when he was introduced as a starter before the team's contest against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 26th.
"I've known Lynch to not practice all week, go out and warm up and he's in there on Sunday," said Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks. "So I'm not counting John Lynch out of this game right now whatsoever. If he can't go, we've got to show the strength of our depth and depend on John Howell and Jermaine Phillips stepping their role up along with everybody else."
It doesn't look like Lynch will play against Detroit this Sunday, but after watching backup S John Howell fill in for him last Sunday against Atlanta, the league's No. 1 ranked defense doesn't believe it will miss a beat.
After Lynch suffered the neck strain late in the first quarter of last Sunday's game, he was replaced by Howell, who was tested immediately by Atlanta's offense. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick ran a naked bootleg to the strongside of the field on a third-and-1 play, but Howell stay disciplined on the play and sacked Vick for a 6-yard loss. Not only did his impressive play cause the Falcons' offense to punt, but it also gave Howell tremendous confidence. .
"You go in for a guy like John Lynch, who has been just as big a part of bringing this defense to where it is today as anyone, and you have to play like a guy like that, that's a lot of pressure," Howell said of replacing Lynch last Sunday. "There is a lot going on in your mind. So to get a big play like (the sack on Michael Vick) right in the beginning (last week), that just gives you confidence."
Howell, who was Tampa Bay's fourth-round selection out of Colorado State in the 2001 NFL Draft, said his coaches have done a great job of preparing him for a situation like this one.
"That's one thing they really preach here," Howell said of players coming off of the bench. "(Monte) Kiffin and Mike Tomlin and all of the coaches tell us that when you get that opportunity and you're on the field, whether it's for one play or 60 plays, you have to play like a starter. You go in for a guy like John Lynch, who's been such a huge part of making what this defense and what this team is today, you know, a four-time Pro Bowler, that's a lot of pressure. You've got a lot going on in your mind.
"I'm definitely preparing like I'm going to start this Sunday against the Lions."
If Howell starts Sunday, it won't be his first time. As a rookie, Howell started at free safety against Pittsburgh in place of Dexter Jackson, who was sidelined with an injury. While the Bucs lost its contest against the Steelers, Howell made the most of his first start as a pro, notching a team-high 13 tackles.
While he's started once before, Howell said the practice time with Tampa Bay's defensive starters this week would help him get ready to fill Lynch's shoes.
"It just helps you get that feel and comfort level when you're out there with the starters," Howell said of getting to practice with the starters. "It's a little overwhelming to begin with when you're out there with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and all of these guys. You just kind of look around and you're star struck for a moment. But when you can practice with them all week long, it kind of helps to calm you and relax you, and it gets you more ready for Sunday."
In other injury news, Buccaneers wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who hauled in eight passes for 100 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Falcons last Sunday, was held out of Wednesday's workout. Jurevicius has a right ankle sprain, but the team expects him to play against the Lions.
"We held Joe Jurevicius today," Gruden said after Wednesday's practice. "He's got some soreness again in the same leg that he's soreness in for the last couple of months. Hopefully he'll back tomorrow."
TAMPA BAY INJURY REPORT:
Probable (Player has a 75 percent chance of playing)
Questionable (Player has a 50 percent chance of playing)
Doubtful (Player has a 25 percent chance of playing)
Out (Player will not play)
S John Lynch (neck strain) – Doubtful
DE Ellis Wyms (right ankle sprain) – Questionable
WR Joe Jurevicius (right ankle sprain) – Probable
CB Dwight Smith (right knee sprain) – Probable
G Kerry Jenkins (right knee contusion) – Probable
WR Keenan McCardell (left quad contusion) – Probable
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