Quick-strike Bucs pose problems for D-line

The Vikings' pass rush has proved to be one of the best in the league, but it will face a challenge with Bucs QB Jeff Garcia, who has been dishing the ball quickly.

The Vikings defense ranks sixth in the NFL this season with 25 sacks and had four in last Sunday's victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Minnesota's defensive line, however, is going to get a tough test this Sunday against Tampa Bay. The Bucs offense calls for quick passes that allow for little time to get to veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia. The Bucs have given up only 10 sacks this season.

"Jeff does a great job of running that offense," said right defensive end Jared Allen, who leads the Vikings with eight sacks. "They get rid of the ball quick. Their whole offense is really a lot of short passes. I think they only have four or five plays over 10 yards this year, as in throwing the ball down the field."

Ray Edwards, who rushes from the left end, said that "once Garcia hits his back foot, he's looking to get rid of the ball."

The Buccaneers offense will try to move at a fast pace in order to wear down the Vikings defensive players in the Florida heat. Working in the Vikings' favor is that the forecast for Sunday in Tampa calls for a comfortable high of about 67 degrees.

"They have an up-tempo offense," Edwards said. "They look to go up-tempo and throw the defense off. Don't let you sub guys and match their packages that they have on the field. We just have to stay upbeat and get after them."

NOTES

  • DE Jared Allen was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a shoulder sprain. Allen, however, played through the pain of a third-grade sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder last Sunday against Green Bay and is expected to do the same this Sunday in Tampa Bay.

  • WR Robert Ferguson has been a healthy scratch for the past two games and it's not clear when or if he will be able to work his way back onto the field. The veteran has caught only three passes for 25 yards this season.

    "It's tough for anybody who doesn't play, not just me," said Ferguson, who is playing under the terms of a one-year, $1 million contract.

  • CB Charles Gordon's roster spot remained open Thursday, three days after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Vikings attempted to claim DB Leigh Torrence and WR Adam Jennings off waivers this week, but both were taken by teams with a worse record than the Vikings. Torrence went to New Orleans and Jennings to Detroit.

  • TE Garrett Mills has been able to practice at full speed after being slowed by an ankle injury that kept him out of the past two games. It's not certain, however, if Mills will be on the 45-man active roster Sunday.

  • S Madieu Williams was limited in practice for a second consecutive day after suffering a "dinged" shoulder during the special teams portion of practice Wednesday.

  • For the Bucs, S Jermaine Phillips has a broken left forearm and did not practice Thursday. He is out for Sunday's game against the Vikings.

  • TE Alex Smith has an ankle sprain and did not practice again Thursday. He is questionable for Sunday's game.

  • LB Derrick Brooks (knee) returned to practice Thursday and will start against the Vikings.

  • RB Earnest Graham, who injured his knee against the Chiefs, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. He is expected to play against the Vikings.

  • FB B.J. Askew (hamstring) practiced again Thursday and is expected to play for the first time in seven games Sunday against the Vikings.


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