S Damien Robinson's hip injury didn't slow him during Thursday's workout
Speed. That has been this week's prized vocabulary word. Mostly it's been applied to the St. Louis Rams' offense and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense, and whether one was lethal to the other. However, it has also been a useful construct as applied to the Bucs' practices in this most crucial week. Tampa Bay was a little slow-paced in Wednesday's workout, due to nagging injuries and the need to learn about the Rams. On Thursday, they picked up the tempo.
Coach Dungy faced the growing media throng after Thursday's workout and indicated that the team had a strong middle workout. "We did," said Dungy. "And it was a good day as far as working and getting some good tempo work. We really didn't have any health problems, per se."
That's an important issue, as the Buccaneers' injury report swelled to 11 players this morning when DT James Cannida was added as questionable due to a hamstring injury he suffered during Wednesday's practice. Most of the players listed are considered 'questionable' with various muscle strains, but those types of injuries are hard to fully predict. Coach Dungy has not professed any worry about his key regulars missing Sunday's game, but it was comforting nonetheless to see the team's starting defense intact on Thursday afternoon.
"Warren (Sapp) got back and looked like he did okay," said Dungy. "Brad (Culpepper) made it through okay. Damien Robinson practiced. So, overall it was pretty good."
On Wednesday, Sapp and Culpepper raised momentary concerns by leaving practice early, but Dungy assured on-lookers that it was according to plan. Sapp is fighting a tweaked hamstring while Culpepper has been plagued by a plantar facia injury in his right foot for the last month. During the regular season, that duo combined for 18.5 sacks, the most by any pair of defensive tackles in the league.
Even the wind picked up speed on Thursday, as a calm Wednesday gave way to winds of 35 miles per hour, gusting to 40, from the northwest. That could have led to a sloppy practice, with windblown passes and kicks, but Dungy was pleased with his team's focus. "I think our guys know the urgency and the magnitude of the situation," he said. "There are only four teams playing right now, and we're one of them. It's special, and with everything going on media-wise, you know it's a big game. I think our guys will be ready."
Dungy paused once during his briefing to wait out the deafening noise of a plane taking off at Tampa International Airport, which borders the Bucs' practice field. It was a brief approximation of the decibel levels that have been reached inside St. Louis' Trans World Dome in recent weeks. Besides the team's practice location, the Buccaneers have ample experience dealing with the dome issue.
"We're fine in the domes," said Dungy. "Fortunately, playing in the NFC Central, we play Minnesota and Detroit every year. We played Seattle this year. We played Atlanta a couple of years ago. So we've played a lot of dome games in the last three years and I don't think it will be a factor."
The dome will be a factor in keeping the Bucs' warm. Temperatures in St. Louis dipped into the teens on Thursday, a far cry from Tampa's perfect 70-degree practice weather. With the possibility even of snow this weekend, the Trans World Dome eases the mind of at least one Buccaneer.
Asked if he enjoyed kicking in domes on artificial turf, the Bucs' Martin Gramatica focused more on the climate than the surface. "You can sleep better at night knowing rain, snow or whatever aren't going to affect you."
Dungy can also rest easier tonight knowing his squad is in good shape for the most important game of his four-year tenure with the Buccaneers. With one full day of workouts remaining before a short Saturday walk-through, Dungy is happy to see his team's health and preparation getting up to, yes, speed.