Scouting the Bucs II

The Bucs' series against the Panthers is littered with disasters in the kicking game. But with kicker Matt Bryant still nursing a hamstring strain, the Bucs plan to keep Todd France on the active roster for Sunday's game at Carolina. "I've never really been comfortable with hamstrings even to comment," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.

"Every one of them is different, especially when you are talking about your kicker. So, we'll keep Todd France on the roster and we feel very, very comfortable with him going into Carolina.

The first field-goal attempt for France against the Saints, a 43-yarder, was blocked. It was his first kick in an NFL game since Oct. 23 with the Eagles, where he went 6-of-7 in three games.

France made a 28-yarder in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a 10-3 lead. Ronde Barber's interception on the goal line with 1:20 remaining sealed the win.

"We've got to be a little more stout in our protection," Gruden said. "But trajectory was an issue there. He did kick off well and made a key field goal."

France was signed last week to the Bucs' practice squad after Bryant strained his hamstring on the opening kickoff against the Bears, an injury that may have contributed to his miss of a 29-yard, game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter.

It wasn't until Saturday that France learned he would be signed to the 53-man roster.

This week, he is looking for more of a routine.

"Practicing at home by myself is different from practicing here with the team," France said. "And practicing here with the team is different than playing a game. The game is not something you're fully prepared for until you do it, so any experience is good."

* * *

--QB Chris Simms will make his seventh start of the season at Carolina Sunday. Simms is 3-3 this season as a starter, 3-0 when the Bucs win the turnover ratio. This will be the first time Simms faces a team he's already played in the regular season.

--QB Luke McCown will be the No. 2 quarterback for the Bucs at Carolina. McCown has not played in a game this season.

--RB Cadillac Williams needs 188 yards to reach the 1,000-yard rushing milestone as a rookie. Williams has 298 yards in his last three games.

--RB Michael Pittman could see more touches against Carolina Sunday. Pittman rushed four times for 40 yards against the Saints.

--FB Mike Alstott is tied for fifth in the NFC with six rushing touchdowns, first among fullbacks.

--TE Anthony Becht has a sprained right knee but is expected to play Sunday against the Panthers.

--WR Joey Galloway bas 382 receiving yards on third down, which ranks first in the NFL.

--WR Michael Clayton has not caught a pass in the last two games for the Bucs.

--P Josh Bidwell has had a punt of at least 50 yards for 13 straight games.

--PK Todd France will remain on the active roster against Carolina in case Matt Bryant isn't healed from a hamstring strain.

--DE Simeon Rice has 31 multi-sack games, which ranks first among active players.

--LB Barrett Ruud will continue to occasionally give starter Shelton Quarles a rest in games like he did Sunday against the Saints.

Panther Insider Top Stories