Jeff Garcia last practiced with the offense on July 31 at training camp
Like many of their neighbors in West Florida, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent Tuesday waiting to see which way the winds would blow.
For most, that meant watching the progress of Tropical Storm Fay, whose imminent landfall caused Bay area schools and many businesses to close for the day. For the Buccaneers, it also meant predicting the comings and goings of several injured starters.
Both factors impacted the Bucs' practice on Tuesday.
With Fay moving inland in the Naples area earlier in the day and the Buccaneers expecting heavy rains in the afternoon, practice was moved up by about two and a half hours. Gusting winds whipped the field as the Bucs worked until about 12:45 p.m., but the practice was otherwise uninterrupted.
"We modified practice today to try to defeat the weather," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "It's an obstacle right now but I thought our players came out and did a good job."
On the other hand, it will be several more days until the Bucs know how much they will be affected by a handful of injuries to key players. On Tuesday, one starter – guard Davin Joseph – was held out but three others – quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Joey Galloway and defensive tackle Jovan Haye – returned for the first time in weeks.
It was an interesting coincidence that Garcia and Haye returned to full-team drills on the same day, as both were also injured in the same practice during the first week of training camp. Garcia sustained a calf strain and Haye suffered a groin strain during the morning workout on July 31; both players missed the Bucs' first two preseason games.
After Tuesday's practice, Gruden wasn't ready to predict whether either starter would progress enough during the week to play in the third preseason game against Jacksonville on Saturday. For Garcia, however, it was a major step forward simply getting back to midweek reps with the offense. Garcia seems to believe he'll be able to make an appearance, at least, against the Jaguars.
"I think the main thing that I've missed out on are the practice snaps," said the veteran passer. "If you look at last year, I didn't play a lot in the preseason – a series against New England, I think; a series in the second game. So it's not like I missed out on a lot of game-time experience [this year]. I'm just going to hopefully get as many of these snaps as I can this week, mentally prepare myself, get back into a rhythm and hopefully have a good solid half of going out there and competing on Saturday."
Gruden did say that Garcia looked good in his first full practice in almost three weeks. Often it is the second or third day of practice that is most telling for a player returning from an injury. The Bucs will gather that information before deciding whether or not to put Garcia in the line of fire on Saturday.
"We'll make that decision in the next few days once we see him for a couple days," said Gruden. "We'll talk to him and see how he looks."
Gruden's assessment of Haye's chances were almost identical.
"Yep, he's back," said the coach. "He's going to work himself back into it. Whether or not he plays will be a decision we make late in the week."
Galloway, who missed all of camp with a groin strain but has been gradually ramping up his running on the sidelines, took another step forward on Tuesday by getting involved with the offense in a limited fashion. He will need to make further strides, however, before he becomes an option on game day.
"He was participating to a degree, but not full, no," said Gruden after practice. "He's a work in progress. He's getting better. He's not a hundred percent and therefore it's hard to play. But he is back in a limited capacity.
The most significant concern, depending upon the results of a battery of tests, could be the foot injury suffered by Joseph, the team's starting right guard and a linchpin of the offense, against New England on Sunday. As of Tuesday, the extent of the injury wasn't yet determined.
"He's getting X-rays and examinations and all those things at this point in time, but I don't have anything concrete in terms of what the injury is," said Gruden. "When we do know, we'll let you know."
Joseph wasn't on the practice field on Tuesday. If he can't play, his spot in the starting lineup would likely be filled by either rookie Jeremy Zuttah or fourth-year man Dan Buenning. Both Zuttah and Buenning spent all of training camp 'cross-training' at center and the two guard positions, and both drew good reviews for their work. The Bucs will know later in the week whether a lineup change is necessary.
"We've got to find out what the injury is," said Gruden. "When I know, we'll address it and make a decision on where to go."