Bucs News And Notes: Thursday

December 12 – Tampa Bay starting strong safety John Lynch surprised some of his teammates by returning to practice on Thursday, but he's still listed as doubtful for Sunday's game at Detroit. In other news, the Elias Sports Bureau stripped Tampa Bay's defense of a sack it recorded against Atlanta last Sunday. Read about this and more in this notebook full of news and notes from One Buccaneer Place.

The weather conditions at One Buccaneer Place were cool and rainy, but that didn't stop Tampa Bay starting strong safety John Lynch, who missed Wednesday's team workout with a neck strain he suffered against Atlanta, from returning to the practice field on Thursday.

Despite returning to practice, Lynch, who has started 72 consecutive games, still is listed as doubtful on the team's injury report. While it still appears as though backup S John Howell will start in place of Lynch against the Lions on Sunday, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden was encouraged by Lynch's return on Thursday.

"(Lynch) took some snaps with our service squad," Gruden said. "He's still doubtful for the game, but he is improving. That's exciting."

In other injury news, Tampa Bay wide receiver Joe Jurevicius (ankle), who was also held out of Wednesday's practice, returned to practice on Thursday. Both he and defensive end Ellis Wyms (ankle) are expected to play against the Lions.

How many times have you talked about what a great sack Bucs S John Howell had on Falcons QB Michael Vick on third-and-1 in the first quarter of last Sunday's Bucs-Falcons contest? Well, while you could never downplay the magnitude of Howell's play, you'll have to start referring to it as a tackle.

After reviewing Howell's play on Vick, the Elias Sport Bureau deemed Vick's naked bootleg a designed run, which turned the play into a 6-yard loss instead of a sack. While the play changed Tampa Bay's sack total (39) on the season, it made Tampa Bay's run defense looked even better. Because of the stat change, the Bucs' defense held Vick to nine yards on six carries last Sunday.

If the playoffs started today, the 10-3 Buccaneers would grab the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC and they would win the NFC South Division. Despite the fact that the Bucs pretty much control their own destiny with just three games remaining in the regular season, the Pewter Pirates wouldn't mind receiving some help from several teams this Sunday in order to increase its chances of winning the NFC South Division and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Bucs fans will want to keep an eye on these four NFC match-ups on Sunday:

Washington at No. 1 Philadelphia (10-3) 1:00 p.m. ET
Minnesota at No. 5 New Orleans (9-4) 1:00 p.m. ET.
No. 3 Green Bay (10-3) at No. 4 San Francisco (9-4) 4:15 p.m. ET.
Seattle at No. 6 seed Atlanta (8-4-1) 1:00 p.m ET.

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