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Wednesday Notes: Nicks Practices

Posted Sep 18, 2013

G Carl Nicks is hoping to make his 2013 debut on Sunday after taking a significant step forward in practice, but it's too early to tell if this will indeed be the weekend the Pro Bowl guard returns to action...Plus Dashon Goldson's reaction to his successful appeal, and other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Carl Nicks' first practice in pads in roughly a month has raised hopes that he will make his 2013 debut Sunday against New England
  • The Bucs' defensive prowess in the red zone so far this season could be an edge against the Patriots
  • S Dashon Goldson will continue to play aggressively while working to keep his hard hits within league rules

Carl Nicks, one half of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pro Bowl duo of offensive guards, practiced in pads on Wednesday for the first time since a foot infection sidelined him midway through the preseason.  After practice, Head Coach Greg Schiano acknowledged Nicks' progress but indicated that it was too early to tell whether or not Nicks would be able to make his 2013 debut on Sunday in New England.

Nicks understands that he must get clearance from the Buccaneers' medical personnel and coaching staff before he makes his eagerly-awaited return to the lineup.  However, in his mind, playing on Sunday became the goal the moment he walked out to practice on Wednesday.

"I made a decision for myself when I stepped on the field today," said Nicks.  "That's how I feel."

Joking – or perhaps half-joking – that it would be 'a travesty' if he isn't in the lineup against the Patriots, Nicks reported that his first real practice in about a month went well and left him even more confident in his progress.  He said his previously troubled left foot – a toe injury preceded the foot infection and also kept him out of the second half of the 2012 season – felt fine and that he was closer to being football ready than he expected.

"Yeah, [I made] a lot more progress," said an upbeat Nicks in the post-practice locker room.  "I went full-go; I was kind of limited, but I had pads on and I was hitting, so it was good to be out there running around and playing football today.  I was actually surprised at how good of shape I was in today.  But it's still a big priority because the game is way different than practice.  It's definitely a high priority."

Though the timetable on Nicks' return to action is based solely on his own current and long-term health and not on the team's fortunes without him, he admits that the Bucs' offensive struggles through two weeks have made him particularly anxious to get back.

- G Carl Nicks practiced in pads Wednesday for the first time in a month

"When you're out there and you're seeing your team struggle and you know you could have done something to help, it's frustrating," he said.  "Like I said, if I get back out there this week, it should be a little different.  I think [the team has] been playing hard since Week One.  It's just a couple mental blocks, messing up, getting out of our character.  Once we solve those things, those football issues, everything else will work out."

The Buccaneers signed Nicks to a lucrative long-term deal in the early hours of free agency during the 2012 offseason, envisioning a dominant interior line that already included Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph.  Unfortunately, Nicks and Joseph have only shared the field for a handful of snaps during the 2012 preseason, thanks to Joseph's knee injury last August and Nicks' own troubles with his foot.  Now, however, it appears that the offensive line the Bucs believed they were building is close to finally being intact.  That obviously sounds very appealing to another former Pro Bowler on the line, left tackle Donald Penn.

"I'm excited to get him back, excited to play with him," said Penn.  "We've got two of the best guards in the league, so getting him back is going to be real important and it will help us a lot.  I'm excited.  It's going to take a little load off me.  I'm excited to focus more on my game, very excited."

* Officially, Nicks was "limited" in practice on Thursday, though he obviously participated significantly more than he did last week.  Nicks was one of six Buccaneers who were limited on the practice field on as Patriots week began; another three were held out completely.

Most notably, tight end Tom Crabtree participated in a limited fashion as he attempts to return from an ankle injury suffered in the preseason.  Crabtree did not practice at all in the previous two weeks.  Defensive end Adrian Clayborn was also limited due to a hip injury, though the same ailment did not keep him from playing or recording his first sack of the season last weekend.  Linebacker Mason Foster (toe) and tight end Luke Stocker (hip) are new additions to the injury report this week.

Veteran defensive tackle Derek Landri, who has been playing extensively in the team's interior-line rotation to this point, did not practice Wednesday and has already been ruled out for Sunday's game.  Schiano indicated that Landri has an injured MCL and is likely to miss "several weeks."  Below are the full official injury reports for both teams:

 

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Did Not Participate

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Did Not Participate

DE Adrian Clayborn

Hip

Limited Participation

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Limited Participation

LB Mason Foster

Toe

Limited Participation

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Limited Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Limited Participation

TE Luke Stocker

Hip

Limited Participation

 

Patriots:

WR Danny Amendola

Groin

Limited Participation

RB Brandon Bolden

Knee

Limited Participation

CB Marquice Cole

Not Injury Related

Did Not Participate

G Dan Connolly

Finger

Limited Participation

DB Nate Ebner

Ankle

Limited Participation

TE Rob Gronkowski

Back/Forearm

Limited Participation

WR Matt Slater

Wrist

Did Not Participate

TE Zach Sudfeld

Hamstring

Full Participation

T Will Svitek

Knee

Limited Participation

RB Leon Washington

Thigh

Limited Participation

 

* The Buccaneers' defensive ranking through two games – tied for 13th in the NFL – is an obvious improvement over last year's 29th-ranked finish.  Those basic rankings are based on yards allowed, but the picture looks even better when one focuses on the more crucial statistic of points allowed.  There, the Buccaneers find themselves in a tie for eighth, having surrendered an average of 17.0 points per game so far.  Tampa Bay's defense has surrendered just two touchdowns through two games; only Kansas City and Seattle have been better in that regard.

We've got two of the best guards in the league, so getting him back is going to be real important and it will help us a lot. It's going to take a little load off me. I'm excited to focus more on my game.
-- Donald Penn

One reason the Buccaneers' points-allowed ranking is better than their yards-allowed ranking is the fantastic work the team has done in the red zone this year.  Tampa Bay opponents have made six incursions inside the Buccaneers' 20-yard line so far this year, and only one of those has resulted in a touchdown.  That 16.7% red zone TD percentage is best in the league; five other teams are tied for second at 33.3%.  Against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints' high-powered offense last Sunday, the Bucs' defense faced four red-zone situations and gave up a total of three field goals and zero touchdowns.

That creates an interesting matchup within this Sunday's game at New England.  The Patriots are 2-0 and tied atop the AFC East, but their usually explosive offense is averaging only 18 points per game so far.  Part of the problem has been red zone inefficiency – the Patriots rank 31st in the NFL in offensive touchdown rate inside the 20, having found the end zone on just two of eight opportunities.  While Tom Brady and the Patriots' attack are not likely to continue struggling in 2013, the Bucs could find their red zone prowess to be an advantage this week in Foxborough.

 

Overall, the Buccaneers are feeling confident about the strength of their defense in 2013.

"We're very good, we're very good," said cornerback Darrelle Revis.  "We've still got a lot of work to do, but we're playing great football.  We've got to continue to do it consistently.  I think that's the big word – all 11 of us have to be consistent out there on the field."

* S Dashon Goldson was obviously pleased to have his one-game suspension overturned on appeal, though he still faces a fine from the NFL for his hit on Saints running back Darren Sproles on Sunday.  Goldson's appeal was heard by Matt Birk, a former standout offensive lineman in the NFL, and the Buccaneer safety appreciated the two-way nature of his conversation with Birk.

"The appeal went okay," said Goldson.  "I had a good argument, I felt.  I explained my side, and they went ahead and explained the rules and we met halfway, pretty much.  The good thing is I'm not suspended, I get to play this week, which is the most important thing.  I'm just facing a fine.

"I was very confident in what I had done.  It was just me getting my point across and us taking the time and really seeing what's right and what's wrong.  I think those guys did a good job – Matt Birk heard my story and did a good job of explaining the rules and mediating the whole thing.  It went well."

Goldson is aware that there is going to be added attention on him for the remainder of the season, and he knows it is incumbent upon him to play smart while still retaining his aggressive style of play.

"I've been on the side of hearing commentators talk about how I'm doing it the right way, and it's just unfortunate that, in these last two weeks, I'm a 'dirty player' all of a sudden," he said.  "But it is what it is and I'm going to continue to do me and just be smart at the same time.  I'm an aggressive player, we all know that throughout the league, but my intentions are never to go out and hurt anybody.  I try to keep my hits within the rules, and that's what I'm going to do, week-in and week-out.  I just have to make sure I get guys on the ground but at the same time be careful."

* The Buccaneers have one roster move so far this week, though it doesn't affect the 53-man depth chart for Sunday.  The team has signed tackle Randy Richards to the practice squad, filling an open spot on that crew what was created when rookie cornerback Deveron Carr was promoted to the active roster on Saturday.

Richards entered the league this past spring as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri State, signing with the San Diego Chargers in May.  He remained with the Chargers throughout training camp and the preseason but was waived during the roster cutdown to 53.  The Buccaneers signed Richards to their practice squad on Tuesday.

An all-conference selection for the Bears in 2012, the 6-4, 310-pound Richards also earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press.  He started all 22 games over the past two years after transferring to Missouri State from the College of the Sequoias.

 

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