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National Audience Awaits Buccaneers

Posted Oct 22, 2013

Tuesday Notes: The Bucs' return to Thursday Night Football calls for a quick turnaround from Sunday but gives the team a chance to prove itself to the rest of the league…Plus, injury updates and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Bucs are 2-1 all-time in Thursday night games, having won last year in Minnesota on NFL Network's nationwide broadcast
  • A lengthy Tampa Bay injury report includes three of the four safeties on the depth chart
  • DE Da'Quan Bowers is likely to play more this week and is progressing steadily, according to Head Coach Greg Schiano
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' most recent win in a nationally-televised prime time game took place on a Thursday night.  The Buccaneers' first win in a prime time game in franchise history also took place on a Thursday night. And that comes very close to summing up the team's experience with Thursday Night Football, no matter what network platform.  In two days, Tampa Bay will welcome division-rival Carolina to Raymond James Stadium for a Thursday-night affair, marking just the fourth time in 38 seasons that the Buccaneers have suited up on that particular day of the week.

The Bucs are 2-1 all-time in Thursday night games, playing once each on ABC (Sept. 11, 1980), ESPN (Oct. 19, 2000) and the NFL Network (Oct. 25, 2012).  A 10-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Stadium in 1980 not only avenged a Buccaneer loss to L.A. in the 1979 NFC Championship Game but also accounted for the franchise's first exposure to nationwide prime time in the regular season.  Thursday Night Football came to Raymond James Stadium in 2000, but in a disappointing fashion for the Buccaneers as they dropped a 28-14 decision to Detroit to extend a four-game losing streak.  Last year, the Bucs took advantage of NFL Network's greatly expanded Thursday-night schedule to post a big win in Minnesota, starting a four-game winning streak with a 36-17 victory.

And now, Thursday Night Football is back.  Like every team in the NFL since the expansion of the NFL Network's game schedule, the Buccaneers are sure to get at least one prime time game per season.  As it turns out, Tampa Bay's next two home games will be played in the national spotlight; Monday Night Football also comes to Raymond James Stadium, along with the Miami Dolphins, on November 11.

As for this week, the Buccaneers are hoping that getting the midweek game at home, and the experience of winning on a Thursday just last year, will help them produce their first win of the season.

“Conventional wisdom would tell you yes, right?" said Head Coach Greg Schiano, when asked if having the Thursday game at home this time around was an advantage.  "You don’t have to travel, you have that time. We did do it once before and we were successful at doing it, but everything’s an independent event. You have different guys, different set of circumstances, different teams, but you go through it a second time, hopefully you learned some things the first time.”

-Buccaneer players are actually looking forward to getting right back on the playing field
Of course, the Bucs did travel back from Atlanta on Sunday while the Panthers enjoyed a home game, and the contest in the Georgia Dome proved to be a very physical one.  The Buccaneers have their lengthiest injury report of the season (see below) and not much time to recover.  As Schiano points out, however, the demands of a Thursday game are roughly the same for both teams, so it's a matter of finding the best way to meet those demands.

“I just think whoever adapts best to it has an advantage, so that’s our goal," he said.  "I just play when they tell us to play. I worry about the players, but I always do. This game is such a physical game, but everybody does it, so it’s fair.”

The condensed week certainly changed the Bucs' practice schedule – and, in fact, Schiano said most of this week's preparation would be "between the ears."  In some ways, that is a welcome change in the locker room – there's no doubt that most players enjoy the games more than the practices.

“It’s always tough to turn around [this] quick; you know how physical the NFL is," said linebacker Mason Foster.  "[You] try to get your body right and everything, and get back to 100 percent for Thursday. I love to play football so any chance you get to go out there and play, I love it. You get to play [on] national TV on Thursday night at home– it doesn’t get any better than that. It kind of helps ease the transition.”

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy claimed to actually be glad that the Buccaneers were going to be right back on the playing field just four days after the last game, in part because he wasn't too thrilled with the way that last game ended.

“I hate waiting a week to play another game," said McCoy.  "To lose the way we did in Atlanta, or to lose the way we have lost games in the past, it sucks to sit and wait. You’re like, 'Ugh. Okay, I want to go make up for it tomorrow, but I’ve got to wait.' So, I’m a huge fan of this Thursday [night game].”

And, when it comes down to it and the lights go on at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, the electrified atmosphere will likely help ease any remaining aches and pains.  The Buccaneers' season has obviously not gone the way they wanted it to, but this week's game offers the team an opportunity to show the entire league that it can still be a force.

“I think the guys recognize that every other NFL player watches this game, at least if they’re a football fan they do," said Schiano.  "The Thursday night game is a part of their week.  It’s a big part of our league. When you get the chance to be the only show in the league, everybody understands that, sure they do.”

* The aforementioned Buccaneers injury report is 13 players long, and it rather noticeably includes three of the four safeties on the depth chart.  Mark Barron (hip) participated fully in practice on Tuesday but Dashon Goldson (knee) and Keith Tandy (concussion) were still limited.  The Bucs still hope all three will be available, along with the recently-added Kelcie McCray.

“If those guys all play we’ll be fine," said Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan.  "I couldn’t speak to the injuries … and really we don’t know. A lot of it is day-to-day and all that kind of stuff, but if those guys play, it will be great.”

Wide receiver Mike Williams was limited in practice, as well, due to a hamstring ailment, but he was able to play through that injury on Sunday in Atlanta.  Fellow wide receiver Chris Owusu (foot) is also on the injury report for the first time this week with a foot ailment.

The full injury reports for both teams are below.

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Mike Adams

Knee

Full Participation

S Mark Barron

Hip

Full Participation

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Toe

Full Participation

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Full Participation

RB Jeff Demps

Groin

Out

S Dashon Goldson

Knee

Limited Participation

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Full Participation

RB Doug Martin

Shoulder

Did Not Participate

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

WR Chris Owusu

Foot

Limited Participation

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Full Participation

S Keith Tandy

Concussion

Limited Participation

WR Mike Williams

Hamstring

Limited Participation

 

Panthers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

LB Chase Blackburn

Hamstring

Full Participation

DT Dwan Edwards

Hamstring

Did Not Participate

S Colin Jones

Not Injury Related

Did Not Participate

WR Brandon LaFell

Knee

Full Participation

S Robert Lester

Hamstring

Full Participation

CB D.J. Moore

Knee

Not Listed

TE Greg Olsen

Foot

Full Participation

CB Josh Thomas

Illness

Did Not Participate

 

* DE Da'Quan Bowers is on the injury report for the second week in a row, but he participated fully in practice Tuesday after sitting out most of last week.  Limited in his preparations last week by a toe injury, he eventually played only six snaps in Sunday's game in Atlanta.  The injury was ill-timed – as most are, of course – because Bowers had quietly been showing improvement in his play.

"That injury was unfortunate timing because I thought he was ready to take off," said Schiano. "He’s kind of had that bad luck, or whatever you want to call it. Every time I feel he’s ready to take the next step, something happens. Let’s hope that that’s behind him and now he can [move on] the rest of the year.”

Bowers' contributions on defense so far this year, at least statistically, consist of three tackles and two quarterback hits.  But Schiano sees a player on the rise and thinks Bowers could contribute more as soon as this Thursday.

"I look forward to him playing more this week," said Schiano.  "He’s feeling better. I actually think Da’Quan has gotten better and better. I know that [from the] outside, looking in [and asking] ‘Why isn’t he playing more?’ I think he’s improving, not as fast as everyone would like, but he’s improving and he has natural ability. He’s going to play more and more as the year goes on, as long as he keeps improving."

* Buccaneer fans woke up to some good cheer on Tuesday morning, at least they did if they tuned in to the NFL AM show on NFL Network. 

As part of the Network's "Behind the Pom Poms" segment, team captain and four-year veteran Ashlee of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad appeared on the show via Bucs Cam, chatting with hosts Nicole Zaloumis and Terrell Davis.  The three discussed such topics as Buccaneer Cheerleaders swimsuit calendar shoot, the team's efforts in the community and her role as a captain.  

"I think we're all just very excited to be in the calendar," Ashlee told the hosts.  "If you put your best foot forward you're going to have your best picture, and just a great experience."

Ashlee also described her most memorable game in four years on the squad and finished up by taking – and acing – a quiz on "famous captains."  Check out the video here.

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