Tampa Bay starting quarterback Brad Johnson missed practice for the second consecutive day on Thursday, which doesn't bode well for the Buccaneers as they prepare to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
Buccaneers backup QB Shaun King took the majority of the practice reps for the second straight day and if Johnson is physically unable to play against the Steelers, King will start in his place.
"I didn't see him out here today, but I think he's making some progress," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "He wasn't able to do anything today. Shaun King took just about all of the snaps and Rob Johnson took a few. We'll see where he is tomorrow. Nothing has really changed since yesterday."
Gruden, who expressed his pleasure with King's performance during practice on Wednesday, echoed those same sentiments after Thursday's practice.
"He looks pretty good to me," Gruden said of King. "We're working through some things right now and it's very exciting for him. I think our players are responding. He's showing very good awareness and he's making good decisions. He's keyed in on a lot of the looks we want him to be keyed in on."
Gruden said some things might change in terms of Tampa Bay's offensive game plan if King starts in place of Johnson. But the Buccaneers' head coach said fans should not expect any drastic changes in the team's offense is led by King on Monday night.
"I don't know if we're going to adapt a lot in Week 15 on short notice," said Gruden. "But there are certain things that we might highlight with Shaun King that maybe are a little bit different than Brad. At the same time, there will be similar things that we would do with both quarterbacks."
So when exactly will the Bucs know who their starting quarterback will be for Monday night's contest? While the Bucs hope to know sooner rather than later, there's a strong possibility that Tampa Bay will make a game-time decision on whether or not Johnson will play. The decision, Gruden said, will ultimately be Johnson's to make.
"Well, the game is at 9 o'clock on Monday night," Gruden said. "We're going to use what we feel is the proper judgement here, medically. "Brad and I have a pretty good understanding and a pretty good relationship. I feel very strong about it. I'm going to go with what he tells me because only he knows how he feels. There's no question that in the meeting room he's all over it. He's on top of what we want to do structurally. If Brad Johnson is ready to play, he's playing. If he's not ready to go physically, it will be Shaun King."
In other injury news, Tampa Bay defensive end/defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (ankle) had a strong practice on Thursday, according to Gruden. The Bucs will depend on Wyms to help DT Chartric Darby fill the void left by Bucs DT Anthony McFarland, who was placed on the injured reserve with a broken foot last Tuesday.
"Ellis Wyms had a good day of practice today," said Gruden. "He looked explosive, he looked like the Ellis Wyms that I remember. That's good for us. We're going to need his lively legs out there."
Bucs backup middle linebacker Nate Webster, who has seen significant playing time as of late, missed practice for the second consecutive day. But the team expects to have Webster back at practice on Friday.
"Nate did not work today," said Gruden. "We do believe Nate will be back tomorrow. He could have worked today had we wanted him to work. It's was more precautionary than anything."
BUCS' 2003 PRESEASON GAMES TO BE TELEVISED BY NEWS CHANNEL 8 IN TAMPA BAY AREA:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Thursday that they have signed a multi-year deal with WFLA-TV/News Channel 8 to become the official television station of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Starting in 2003, WFLA-TV will be the official home of Tampa Bay's preseason games, which means UPN-44 will no longer televise the Buccaneers' exhibition contests as they had done for the last several years.
WFLA-TV is the first television station in the bay area to become a Pewter Partner with the Buccaneers.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON…
Buccaneers fans will want to keep an eye on the following match-ups this weekend:
Buffalo at Green Bay: Sunday at 1:00 PM
*Tampa Bay can clinch a bye week in the playoffs with a win on Monday night and a Green Bay loss on Sunday.
New Orleans at Cincinnati: Sunday at 1:00 PM
*Tampa Bay can win the NFC South Division title with a Saints loss or a win against the Steelers on Monday night.
Philadelphia at Dallas: Saturday at 8:30 PM
*The Buccaneers can take over the top spot in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if Eagles lose to Cowboys and the Bucs defeat the Steelers on Monday night.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden when asked how quarterback Brad Johnson was doing after missing two straight days of practice:
"If you know Brad Johnson, he throws four touchdown passes, he has a sore back, you never know how's he's doing. Do you know what I mean? He's right down the line and there's not going to be a hair raised on his head, I promise you that. But I don't know how he's doing. Even if you probe him, it's hard to find out. He'd be a great secret agent because he's a hard man to read."
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