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Backup Plan

With Ryan Nece ailing, the Buccaneers are examining their linebacker options for Sunday’s game, plus updates on other injuries and the return of Scott Jackson


The Bucs could play Barrett Ruud in Ryan Nece's place on Sunday, moving Shelton Quarles to the outside

Two days before Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers strongside linebacker Ryan Nece remains questionable, and the team is examining its options if Nece is unable to play, said Head Coach Jon Gruden after Friday's practice.

"Well, we'll announce that at game time – whether we re-shuffle and go with Barrett Ruud in the middle and move Shelton [Quarles] outside or go with Jamie Winborn," Gruden said. "We'll decide that here after we have all the information. We've got to see if Ryan is indeed out of this football game, and if he is ruled out, we'll make that decision."

Should Gruden elect to move Quarles, the team's starting middle linebacker, to the strong side, Ruud would make his second start of the season Sunday. In Week One, Ruud filled in for Quarles, who was kept out because of a groin injury, and notched nine tackles against the Baltimore Ravens. After that performance along with a preseason where he was involved in several big plays, Ruud certainly looks ready to fill the void should he be called upon.

And Quarles is no stranger to the strong side. He started at that position on the Buccaneers' defense for three seasons (1999-2001) before being moved into the middle in 2002. Quarles' production as a strongside 'backer was outstanding, with 203 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defensed, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

The other option is to call on Winborn, a backup outside linebacker with five years of experience who is listed behind Derrick Brooks at weakside linebacker on the depth chart. Winborn signed with the Buccaneers in April after enduring several injury-plagued seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars. A second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2001, Winborn has been an effective run-stopper and blitzer, when healthy. In 2004, he played in 14 games and totaled 104 tackles and 4 ½ sacks.

The Buccaneers may also once again turn to ninth year cornerback Juran Bolden, who played last week for an injured Brian Kelly. Kelly remains questionable with a turf-toe injury and did not practice Friday.

"We're hoping that he gets well quickly," said Gruden of Kelly. "It's a toe injury that hasn't healed for some time, and all we can do is hope time heals it. Whether or not he can go Sunday remains to be seen. We do have a bye week coming up, and we're hoping some time off his foot heals it."

Also on the Buccaneers' list of concerns is the status of its defensive line. As of Friday, defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Anthony McFarland were listed as questionable, as was defensive end Simeon Rice. All three starters did practice on Friday to some extent but the Bucs are confident in their backups if any of the three are unable to suit up.

"We've got some very capable players," said Gruden. "We think Dewayne White is an outstanding player. Ellis Wyms has been here for years and played well for us. [Julian Jenkins] is next in line so he's on our radar screen. If need be, those guys will step up."

And as for making any roster moves to address the Buccaneers' potentially depleted defensive line, Gruden wouldn't rule anything out.

"If we feel the need to do that, we'll do that, but I'm not going to speculate any further than we've got some men who are questionable," Gruden said. "We've got some guys who we think might play, and if they can't play, then obviously we'll have to do something."

One roster move the Buccaneers did make this week was the re-signing of offensive lineman Scott Jackson to their practice squad. Jackson began this season on the practice squad but was signed to the active roster prior to the season opener because of injuries to guards Davin Joseph and Dan Buenning. After tight end/long snapper Dave Moore was injured against the Baltimore Ravens, Jackson was cut so that the Buccaneers could make room for long snapper Andrew Economos, who was called up from the practice squad. This week, Jackson again joined the Buccaneers' practice squad, filling the spot vacated by Economos.

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