KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
SERIES: 14th meeting. Carolina leads the series, 8-5. Tampa Bay is 2-4 at home and 3-4 away. The series has featured two overtime meetings.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Bucs WR Joey Galloway said he hopes an improved running game leads to more big plays in the passing game -- and that wish could be granted against a Carolina secondary proving to be as vulnerable as expected. This should be the week coach Jon Gruden opens the playbook for QB Jeff Garcia to be more aggressive downfield. ... The Bucs' Cover-2 defense is routinely carved up by Smith, who likely will be catching passes from backup QB David Carr this week. To ease Carr into the game, expect Carolina to be run-heavy early -- which isn't a bad idea with RB DeShaun Foster averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
KEY INJURIES: Bucs: RB Cadillac Williams (ribs) and CB Brian Kelly (groin) expect to start. Panthers: QB Jake Delhomme (elbow) appears unlikely to play; MLB Dan Morgan (heal tendinitis) will be a game-time decision.
--DE Patrick Chukwurah, who missed three games with a knee sprain, said he is ready to play Sunday at Carolina. But the Bucs have not decided whether Chukwurah will be active.
--WR Ike Hilliard was limited in practice Thursday with an ankle sprain. He is expected to play Sunday at Carolina.
--DE Greg Spires was limited in practice Thursday with an ankle injury. He is expected to play Sunday at Carolina.
--WR Joey Galloway returned to practice on Thursday and will start against the Panthers.
--LT Luke Petitgout returned to practice Thursday and will start against the Panthers.
--DE Stanley McClover declared himself back to 100 percent Thursday, and said he will play this week. "It's been a long time coming," said McClover, who has missed the first three games with a strained groin. "I'm finally feeling good and I'm ready to go out there and help the team win." He should help Carolina's sagging pass rush.
The Panthers have just two sacks in three games, both of those belonging to defensive tackles.
--RB DeShaun Foster was pleased the Panthers were able to run out the clock last week in the fourth quarter. Foster carried for gains of 12, 11 and 13 yards to close out the Falcons on the final drive. "When you can close out a game like that, it's kind of exciting," said Foster, who ranks seventh in the league in the NFC in rushing with 238 yards. "Both sides of the ball know what is going is going. You just want to get in and run the calls. Hopefully we will be in that situation again this week."
--QB Jake Delhomme did not participate in Thursday's practice. Look for David Carr to start in his place.
--MLB Dan Morgan did not participate in Thursday's practice. Look for James Anderson to start in his place.
--DE Mike Rucker (toe) returned to practice on a full-time basis Thursday.
--OT Travelle Wharton (toe) returned to practice on a full-time basis Thursday.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Bucs are preparing to face quarterback David Carr in Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Carr, the Texans' free agent, is expected to start against the Buccaneers after Jake Delhomme missed a second straight day of practice with a strained elbow.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2002, Carr started 75 games in five years for the Houston Texans and was sacked a mind-numbing 249 times.
He said he already feels at home with the Panthers.
"Honestly, I do feel better on this team," Carr said. "I'm more relaxed. I'm not being pressed to do things I don't need to be doing. I feel like I can go out with my mechanics and all that and just throwing the football in general, I feel like that just comes naturally and I don't have to think about it.
"That's freeing as far as playing quarterback. Now, it's just completing balls and throwing to the right guy."
Although the Panthers have not officially ruled out Delhomme, they are preparing for a more mobile quarterback in Carr, who came off the bench in last week's win over Atlanta.
"He's a talented guy," coach Jon Gruden said. "He was obviously the starting quarterback for an expansion team; that's tough. He took some licks there in Houston, it was well-documented, but he also had some great moments. He's a great competitor and he's a super kid. (He's an) athletic guy (that) can run."
After five losing seasons in Houston, Carr said he longed to be with a winning franchise.
"Playing against them, they had a good football team. Their defense was phenomenal," Carr said. "I really felt we could build on it and when I had the chance to come out here, I wanted to be a part of winning. Of all the teams I was looking at, they were the team I felt was the most solidified as far as just being in playoff contention year in and year out and that's really what I wanted to be a part of. And their offensive line was solid and when they were all healthy, they were one of the best in the NFL so it was a no-brainer for me."
Quarterback Jake Delhomme didn't practice again Thursday, adding to speculation that David Carr will get his first start for the Carolina Panthers this Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Carr worked with the first team at practice on Thursday, while rookie Matt Moore saw action as the No. 2 quarterback. Delhomme wore a red practice jersey, just like the other quarterbacks, but watched practice from the sidelines and did not participate.
Coach John Fox would not comment when asked if Delhomme attempted to throw a football at any time on Thursday. Delhomme did not speak to reporters during open locker room because he was receiving treatment.
Fox will release an official injury report on Friday, in accordance with the new league rules.
Delhomme isn't the only concern this week for the Panthers.
Two other starters -- middle linebackers Dan Morgan (ankle) guard Jeremy Bridges (turf toe) -- did not work for a second straight day, nor did backup middle linebacker Adam Seward (calf).
It's expected James Anderson will start for Morgan.
Of the four who missed practice, Bridges probably has the best chance to play.
However, if he can't play, the Panthers could turn to rookie Ryan Kalil, who started the first two games of the season at right guard while Bridges was serving a two-game suspension. Geoff Hangartner and Evan Mathis are also capable of playing guard.
Meanwhile, defensive end Mike Rucker and Travelle Wharton both "practiced full" on Thursday and are expected to play this week against the Bucs.