TE Dave Moore catches a pass in front of LB Alshermond Singleton, who only practiced on Friday because it was a slow-paced workout
In the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training room after practice on Friday, Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli struggled for several minutes to cut the tape off WR Karl Williams' left hand.
Removing tape is generally an easy task, accomplished quickly with the use of one of the many tape-cutters that litters every football locker room. In this case, however, Williams was trying to relieve himself of a wrap made of fiberglass tape, which hardens almost into a cast-like structure when in place.
Toriscelli was able to slice the tape off, and Williams grimaced just a bit but moved his thumb around with little problem. Over the course of the week, Williams has gradually worn smaller and smaller contraptions on the thumb he sprained against the St. Louis Rams on Monday, and he has shown little trouble catching the football with any of them. Friday's solution was basically a tape-wrap and a foam splint. On Sunday in Green Bay, he may use only the tape.
"We've been working it down as the week's gone on," said Head Coach Tony Dungy of Williams' thumb protection. We had a very light one on today – a little splint – and it looks like it's going to be okay."
It was a significant question after the Bucs' last full practice of the week because, in addition to being the team's fourth receiver, Williams is also its primary punt and kickoff returner. Dungy reported that Williams had no more trouble fielding punts than he did catching passes.
The only other Buccaneer in the training room at the time Williams got his thumb liberated was third-year guard/center Todd Washington. Washington was awaiting treatment on his right hamstring, which he pulled in practice on Thursday afternoon. The injury was significant enough to force the Bucs to put the backup lineman on the injury report as questionable.
Washington's injury adds another ball to the subtle juggling act Dungy has performed with the offensive line in recent weeks.
At Miami on December 10, starting left tackle Pete Pierson suffered a left calf pull and didn't practice until the end of the week before the Rams game. Because his status was uncertain, the team chose to deactivate rookie guard Cosey Coleman on Saturday for the first time this season. Realizing that he might have to keep an extra tackle active against St. Louis, Dungy chose to delay the inactive decision on Kevin Dogins, since Dogins, like Washington, can play either guard or center. Coleman plays guard only.
Eventually, the team decided Pierson wasn't quite ready to play and chose to keep T DeMarcus Curry active while putting Dogins on the Monday inactive list.
This week, Pierson has shown added improvement, but guard Frank Middleton (ankle) and now Washington have left practices due to leg injuries. Those situations could lead to more difficult decisions for Dungy, though the coach expects Middleton to come around in time. Middleton did practice on Friday after sitting out Thursday's workout and half of the Wednesday session.
"Frank did okay, and he really wants to play, so unless there's a setback, he should be ready to go," said Dungy.
"Pete did fine. Karl Williams has been doing fine with his thumb. Al Singleton got back and did a few things, but I'd say he's probably still questionable, too."
Singleton is recovering from the same medial collateral ligament (knee) sprain that sidelined FB Mike Alstott for almost a month, and he appears to be on almost the exact same recovery schedule. Singleton's swift return could be an even bigger surprise than Alstott's because, while the nature of their injuries was almost identical, Singleton's was just a bit more severe.
Singleton joined in with the scout-team defense on Friday, but only because much of the week-ending practice is done at a slower pace. He wore a brace on the knee and limped noticeably. However, Toriscelli believes he will be back in practice next Wednesday if the Buccaneers are required to play in the Wild Card round.
Tampa Bay made a minor roster move on Friday.
TE Randy Palmer was signed to the team's practice squad. To make room on that five-man unit, the Bucs released DE Mawuko Tugbenyoh from the practice squad.
Palmer, a second-year pro, was recently released from the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. He saw action in three games with the Cleveland Browns as a reserve TE last season. Prior to signing with the Browns, Palmer originally entered the NFL as a college free agent with the Raiders. A native of Pleasanton, Texas, Palmer played collegiately at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The Bucs named their four Friday inactives a few hours after practice ended early in the afternoon.
Singleton, of course, headed the list again, and Washington was the first offensive linemen to go down. The other two were RB Aaron Stecker and WR Frank Murphy. Stecker's inclusion on the inactive list is another indication that the Bucs have confidence in Williams' ability to field kickoffs and punts.
The Bucs must name four more inactives on Sunday, 90 minutes before the game in Green Bay kicks off.
The Bucs' Green Bay travel itinerary calls for the team to arrive back at its Tampa headquarters shortly after 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, should everything go as planned. Barring a Sunday blizzard, Buccaneer coaches and players who celebrate Christmas will be able to rejoin their families late on Christmas Eve.
On Monday, Christmas, the players will have the entire day off, though that doesn't quite hold true for the coaching staff.
"Monday's going to be nice," said Dungy. "We're going to give everybody off to spend it with their families. As a coaching staff, we may have to come in later in the evening, but we'll have most of the day off."