-Coming off the bye week, the hope was that the Buccaneers could get healthy and return some players from injury as they head into the second half of their season. Two of those players, wide receiver Scotty Miller and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, entered the 21-day return window from injured reserve and have started practicing. They'll need to be activated by November 22.
"Running around is fine," said Head Coach Bruce Arians of the pair's progress. "Playing football is a different thing. I've got to go watch the tape on Sean. He wouldn't use his arm Monday, and we'll see how he did today. There's really no rush to get them back out on the field; just make sure they're practicing and ready to go when we put them out there. Scotty ran around good, so it looks good for him, too."
Miller has been working diligently to get back from a turf toe injury in which he suffered multiple tears in his right foot. It happened during the Rams game in Los Angeles but Miller is now ready to take the next steps.
"Really just prove that I'm ready to the coaches and everybody," he said. "It's different going through rehab and everything [and then] to get out there and actually get in the huddle and to run the plays. So, just prove to everybody and myself that I'm 100 percent and ready to go."
Murphy-Bunting is also aiming to be ready when his number is called. The secondary in particular took the brunt of the injuries, entering into an almost constant rotation week to week. Despite that, they've steadily decreased passing yards allowed per game, allowing an average of 257.8 now. They've gone from the last-ranked unit in the league up 10 spots to No. 20. That's thanks to a number of guys stepping up when it mattered.
"I think every guy that we've had in our room has stepped up and has done everything that we've asked them to do each and every week, each and every day, whether it's Dee Delaney, Pierre [Desir], Richard Sherman, Ross [Cockrell]," said Murphy-Bunting. "Guys are just stepping up and being accountable, being that next man up and not having a lack in performance. I think everybody has done a really good job of that and I think it's only going to continue to grow once we get everybody back healthy and ready to ride."
-Injured players aside, the bulk of the team was itching to get back to work after a heartbreaking divisional loss in New Orleans before the week off.
"I think coming off the loss guys were already wanting to come back," said running back Gio Bernard. "Obviously, the Bye Week, guys needed the time off, but I think everybody had that sour taste in their mouth to come back and get to work. In the overall aspect of coming off a Bye for guys, I think guys are just ready to get back to work. Obviously, a lot of guys are coming back healthy. I think it's an opportunity for us to regroup, come back together and come back to work. But that's one thing I never felt about this team that we lacked was hard work. Guys are always working and that's one thing that I've noticed day-in and day-out on how hard these guys work continuously. You still hear the JUGS going off. Guys are still working. It's just one of those things that we have the players to do what these guys did last year, so it's just a matter of putting all the pieces together."
-Now, they'll face a struggling Washington team, who is also fresh off their own bye week. It'll be the first time the two teams have seen each other since the wildcard round of the 2020 playoffs. The game marked quarterback Taylor Heinicke's first start for Washington and he proved to be a bit of a problem for the Buccaneers.
"Not having film on a guy, you never really know what to expect," recalled Murphy-Bunting. "For him – he was a dark horse. He showed up and he performed. He could run, he could throw, he could do everything. He trusted himself and the guys trust him. That trust goes a long way. I know that he's obviously out for us this year. He really wants that win. We're just going at it and getting ready to prepare for him, prepare for his legs, his runs, his passes and everything that he has to offer."
"I would say a more [confident] team," safety Antoine Winfield Jr. said of the differences he sees in Washington this time around. "That was the quarterback's first start and he had a great game when we played him, but he's more comfortable now with all the starts this year. I feel like that's probably the biggest difference is having him out there moving around, but I feel like this time it was good for us to see that. Last year, we weren't planning on him coming in here and doing what he could do. I feel like that's a different thing is being able to prepare for them."
-The Bucs also brought a familiar face back to the roster in wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The veteran receiver departed after the 2019 season in free agency. He had stops in both Detroit and Chicago before now coming back to Tampa Bay.
"That was definitely a good run," Perriman said of his last few games with the Bucs at the tail end of the 2019 season. "Coming back here just felt good. It feels like the right thing and the right place for me. It was just a great feeling to come in and see everybody's faces. There is nothing but good energy here, so I am really happy and blessed to be back."
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