S Dexter Jackson, who wasn't on the Friday inactive list, might get his first shot to play this Sunday
The phrase 'game-time decision' is on page one of every NFL coach's terminology primer. Why make decisions now, goes the very sound theory, when the game is days away and more information might surface.
Sometimes, however, coaches are forced into earlier decisions, and that is certainly the case each week with the NFL's inactives policy. Every team must name four inactives two days before its game and four more 90 minutes before kickoff on game day (assuming the team has 53 players – the goal is to get down to 45).
Tampa Bay named its four inactives Friday afternoon, and though the list is far from surprising, it still reveals some likely game-time decisions if you look closely enough. The Bucs' four inactives so far are: RB Rabih Abdullah, T DeMarcus Curry, DE John McLaughlin and TE Todd Yoder.
What does that tell us?
For one, that first-year RB Aaron Stecker is likely to return kickoffs this Sunday in the Pontiac Silverdome. WR Karl Williams handled that duty in the opener at New England, with Stecker on the inactive list that week. However, Stecker took Abdullah's spot on the 45-man dress list last Sunday and assumed the kickoff return job, leaving the punt returns to Williams. That Abdullah has been deactivated again is a sign that Stecker will probably be dressed again on Sunday.
We also see that safety Dexter Jackson is not on the Friday list, which means he is still on track to get his first action this Sunday. Jackson could still be deactivated Sunday, and Head Coach Tony Dungy maintains that will be a game-time decision, but Jackson has made it one step further than last week.
Yoder's inclusion on the list may indicate that he is in a rotation with third-year TE Blake Spence for playing time. Spence made the dress list in New England and played primarily on special teams, while the rookie from Vanderbilt was inactive. Last Sunday, the two switched places and Yoder filled the same role Spence had during the game. It's unlikely the Bucs would deactivate both Yoder and Spence, so the former Jet looks to get another shot to prove his worth on special teams.
In addition, none of the other players on the Bucs' injury report appeared on Friday's inactive list, a good sign that the team is unconcerned about their various ailments. That includes two late-week additions to the injury report, G Kevin Dogins (foot) and WR Jacquez Green (neck). Green, in fact, was just added Friday after waking up with a stiff neck. The training room reports that the starting receiver is only on the list as a precautionary reason and should be fine.