DT Donnie Abraham returned to practice on Thursday.
Okay, Monday was Monday, but since Saturday and Sunday were off days, Tuesday became Wednesday. That makes Thursday Friday. Got it?
Ever had one of those weeks where Thursday felt like Friday? The Buccaneers did this week, and it was their own doing. Because Tampa Bay's NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Washington Redskins is on Saturday, and the team had a bye last week, this week's schedule has been skewed forward by a day. That meant that Thursday's practice resembled what the team usually does on Friday, which in turn means that the week's worth of full practices is now complete. The team will have a short walkthrough on Friday before heading to the team hotel that evening.
So, with a much larger than average crowd of media representatives on hand Thursday, Tampa Bay Head Coach Tony Dungy sized up this most important week of work.
"I'm pleased with our effort," said Dungy on Thursday. "We were a little bit sluggish when the week started, after the bye week, but the extra practice on Monday helped that. The team is very focused and I think we'll be ready on Saturday."
A game of this importance magnifies the scrutiny on every injured player, but Dungy was optimistic overall regarding his team's health. As Buccaneers.com reported yesterday, QB Trent Dilfer has been ruled out after experiencing soreness in his shoulder and arm, but most of the rest of the team's 51-man roster is expected to play. Following Thursday's workout, Dungy went down the list of injury concerns, including CB Donnie Abraham, WR Reidel Anthony and DT Warren Sapp, who was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday.
"Donnie practiced and seemed to do okay, so we're optimistic about that one," said Dungy. "We rested a couple of guys. Warren came in with a little bit of a tight hamstring; nothing to be concerned about, I don't think, but we rested him. (WR) Jacquez (Green) has had that planter fascia injury (in his right foot), and it's kind of been our normal routine to rest him on Friday. But he had a good week of practice and he'll do fine. Reidel, we think, re-pulled his quad in the last part of practice. We'll have to see how that goes, but right now he looks doubtful. Other than that, we should be in good shape."
Anthony was officially downgraded from probable to questionable on the team's injury report on Thursday, and he will be re-evaluated on Friday. Dungy indicated that rookie WR Darnell McDonald would play if Anthony is unable to suit up. McDonald replaced Anthony two weeks ago in Chicago after Anthony first pulled his right quadricep, and the rookie turned in a key 15-yard reception on a third-and-14 situation against the Bears.
Abraham had been held out of the Tuesday and Wednesday practices due to his sore hamstring, but was able to rejoin the team on Thursday. He is also expected to play. Dungy also expressed satisfaction over the conditions of DT Brad Culpepper (foot) and G Jorge Diaz (knee). Diaz, in fact, could be in line for his most extensive action since being replaced in the starting lineup for the December 6 Minnesota game by Kevin Dogins. Diaz saw significant action with the first team offensive line at right guard during practice, but Dungy did not indicate who would start.
"He's going to play more," said Dungy of Diaz. "I haven't talked to (Offensive Line Coach) Chris (Foerster) yet on who's going to start, but (the Redskins) have some big guys inside, so we're going to need everybody."
Dilfer was one of two Bucs placed on the Thursday inactive list, along with DT James Cannida, meaning the Buccaneers will not have his playoff experience as a backup to rookie QB Shaun King. That also fails to concern Dungy. "Our guys have a lot of confidence in Shaun," said Dungy. "We don't really look at things like that, what's been done in the past (by rookie QBs in the playoffs). Shaun's won some games for us here, and we feel like he gives us our best chance to win. I think our guys feel good about going into the game with him. He'll do fine. We've kind of stopped worrying about him."
Talks of the Buccaneers injuries naturally led into a discussion of the Redskins' relative health. The foremost topic was RB Stephen Davis, who was upgraded on Washington's injury report from doubtful to questionable. Davis is suffering from an ankle injury incurred in last Saturday's win over Detroit.
"We think Davis will play," said Dungy, "and if he doesn't play, they do the same things with Skip Hicks. Hicks played against us in the game last year and they beat us. We're ready for them to run the ball at us, and we don't think that's going to change their game plan, but we certainly do expect Davis to play."
And the Bucs' think they'll be ready for Davis. All in all, it was a very productive Friday…I mean Thursday.