Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Big Names Still Out

The Bucs were without Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks on Thursday; their progress on Friday will be closely watched


RB Warrick Dunn watched most of practice from the edges on Thursday but may get more involved on Friday

Though there were plenty of other candidates, it could at least be reasonably argued that Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive and defensive MVPs in 2000.

The Bucs might be without the services of one or both of them this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

The only thing that was certain on Thursday, three days before the game in Nashville, is that there would be no solid answers until at least Friday.

Neither Dunn nor Brooks practiced with the Buccaneers on Thursday and, while Dunn is the more serious case on the team's injury report, Brooks is not yet a sure bet to play on Sunday. The two players have fairly similar mid-foot sprains to overcome.

Head Coach Tony Dungy hopes to have Brooks back in practice on Friday, a development that would almost surely signal his availability against the Titans. As of Thursday, the team was yet to grow concerned.

"We think he's going to be able to practice and get some work in tomorrow and get better by the weekend," said Dungy. "Our thought is that he should be able to play. If he doesn't practice tomorrow, it could be problematic."

Dunn, who missed last Sunday's game against Green Bay with a sprain suffered in Minnesota on September 30, may also return to work on Friday but Dungy sounded less sold on the chances of his tailback's recovery in time. Though Dunn participated lightly in the first part of Thursday's session, Dungy does not want to put him back into a game until he is 100 percent healthy.

"He's pretty much right on schedule," said Dungy, who said on Wednesday that Dunn would surely be back for the October 21 game against Pittsburgh. "We thought Friday would be the day we'd find out one way or another, with he and Derrick."

Actually, the team had originally expected to use the same timetable on safety John Lynch (hip) and wide receiver Jacquez Green (groin), but both were back in practice on Thursday and working with little trouble.

"Jacquez and John Lynch were actually a day early," said Dungy. "They did a lot of things today and that's pretty good.

"James Cannida actually went through some individual work and did okay. Marcus Jones we held out (due to a neck strain suffered on Wednesday), but he should be fine tomorrow. So, really, I think we're looking at Warrick and James as being the issues."

Against Green Bay, the Bucs compensated for Dunn's absence by moving Mike Alstott to tailback and putting rookie Jameel Cook in front of Alstott at fullback. If Brooks is also unavailable, the team would likely just slide sixth-year veteran Jeff Gooch into the weakside safety slot, even though Gooch is battling his own light hamstring injury. Gooch was upgraded on the injury report on Thursday from questionable to probable.

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