WR Joey Galloway, a former Cowboy, will play on Sunday for the first time since Week Two
Head Coach Jon Gruden said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would take a very close look at Joey Galloway upon arriving at Texas Stadium on Sunday morning. Galloway has missed the last five games with a foot injury, and he wasn't going to be cleared for his long-awaited return if he was mostly ready. Galloway, said Gruden, would have to prove that he could play "60 minutes, wire-to-wire."
Apparently, Galloway did just that in the last hour, as he has indeed been cleared to play for the first time since sustaining his injury against Atlanta in Week Two. In addition, two other important offensive contributors, WR Ike Hilliard and RB Warrick Dunn, were evaluated alongside Galloway and also cleared to play. Hilliard has apparently passed every important test since his frightening concussion last week and Dunn has proved that his strained back won't limit him from producing against the Cowboys.
The Buccaneers are thrilled to be closing in on full health on the offensive side of the ball – FB B.J. Askew is still out, as is WR Maurice Stovall, both with hamstring injuries – but they also have gained confidence by continuing to win even without some of their key performers. The Bucs have won their last two and four of their last five and could tie a team record today by moving to 6-2 at the halfway point.
According to Gruden, that has a lot to do with the mental makeup of this particular Buccaneers roster.
"We have a team full of guys who play hard and are accountable to each other," said Gruden from the Bucs' Texas Stadium locker room. "We know we have to keep our focus, hold the chalk steady, strap 'em up and go play. That's what we're going to try to do today; we're going to give them our best effort.
"This is a very hard league. You have to be able to sustain your top effort for 60 minutes, and you have to have players who can do that. We think we have that type of player. We have a chance to prove ourselves today as underdogs against a very good team."
The Cowboys are 4-3, have lost three of their last four and are dealing with some significant injuries, most notably starting QB Tony Romo's broken pinkie. They are still a very talented team and a formidable opponent, however, a team that ranks third in the NFL on offense and 11th on defense. The Cowboys have lost one of their starting safeties, Roy Williams, to a season-ending arm fracture but still have a long list of defensive difference-makers, including DE DeMarcus Ware, S Ken Hamlin and LBs Zach Thomas and Bradie James.
"The best thing they do on defense is get after you," said Gruden. "They can come at the quarterback hard and they're near the top 10 in total defense. With Ware and [Greg] Ellis, we classify them as a team with five defensive linemen on the field on most plays. They have a lot of looks and they can hurt you bad if you don't figure them out."
The Bucs will at least be able to field most of their offensive weapons against that defense. Galloway has not yet been re-inserted into the starting lineup, so Antonio Bryant will continue to start at split end with Michael Clayton opening the game at flanker. The Bucs will have five receivers active, with those three plus Hilliard and Brian Clark, who played in his first game of the season last week.
Tampa Bay's eight inactive players will be Askew, Stovall, WR Dexter Jackson, QB Josh Johnson, RB Michael Bennett, T James Lee, DT Greg Peterson and designated third quarterback Brian Griese. Askew and Stovall are out due to injury.
Dallas is without several usual starters, including Romo. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by former Buccaneer Brad Johnson, who also led the Cowboys' offense in last week's loss at St. Louis. Starting left guard Kyle Kosier is also out and will be replaced by fourth-year man Cory Procter. On defense, the Cowboys are without injured left cornerback Terence Newman again, meaning rookie Mike Jenkins, a former University of South Florida star, will get the start. Dallas is also replacing Pat Watkins at strong safety with sixth-year veteran Keith Davis.
Dallas' eight inactive players are Romo, Newman, Kosier, RB Felix Jones, S Daren Stone, G Joe Berger, T Doug Free and LB Anthony Spencer. Romo, Newman, Kosier, Jones and Spencer are out due to injury.
The Buccaneers and Cowboys will kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. You'll find the NFL.com Game Center, complete with live play-by-play and statistical updates, at this location once the game has begun. On the Buccaneers.com home page, we'll post a review of all the action at halftime and an extensive game story, with links for stats, photos, scoring information and more, shortly after the final whistle.